At first glance, the 2021 Giant Contend AR3 doesn’t quite match some of this year’s other bikes when it comes to the level of its groupset, and this year’s bike is also £150 more expensive than last year’s model.
Though, as we’ve seen elsewhere over the last few months, that sort of year-on-year price increase no longer raises eyebrows around here, which itself is quite a statement. But we know from experience that Taiwan’s Giant knows more than a thing or two about making high-quality bikes whatever the price.
Giant describes this Contend as a “versatile all-rounder… for those road riders who have a thirst for adventure” with a “balanced, smooth-riding frame” designed to take you “from fast pavement to bumpy backroads with confidence and control”.
Giant Contend AR3 geometry
Giant has as much experience as anybody in setting up an all-rounder and the geometry nicely balances the need for speed and distance-riding comfort.
Seat angles throughout the Contend’s five-bike range are close to the classic 73 degrees, with the head angles only slightly shallower at around 72.5 degrees.
But the wheelbase is longer than you’d have seen on a road bike a decade ago, with even the smallest Contend’s wheelbase over a metre long, which adds stability to the liveliness offered by the geometry.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74||73.5||73||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||71.8||72||72.5||72.5||72.5|
|Seat tube (cm)||46.5||50||53.5||55.5||58.5|
|Top tube (cm)||53.5||55||56.5||58||59.5|
|Head tube (cm)||13.5||15||17||19||21.5|
|Fork offset (cm)||5.3||5.3||5.3||5.3||5.3|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||8||8||8||8||8|
Giant Contend AR3 kit
The Contend comes with a Shimano Sora groupset, and while most bikes around this price are specced with Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra, fortunately, the differences between Tiagra and Sora aren’t really that noticeable if you’re just out riding; they’re mechanically similar and you don’t really notice the lack of a gear.
This is partly because Sora’s shifting is just as accurate with a similar feel and also because the Giant maximises gear range with the 11-34 cassette giving a one-to-one ratio for a low bailout gear.
Another up-to-date feature is that the frame, fork and rims can take 38mm tyres. It may not be a gravelling all-rounder but with the right tyres you could easily take this off of the tarmac and onto grit and gravel tracks.
Giant Contend AR3 ride impressions
The Contend AR3’s long-distance comfort is exemplary. This is down to a combination of the compact aluminium frame, Giant’s own D-Fuse seatpost that’s shaped to absorb road shocks and vibrations and the volume of the 32mm tyres.
If you’re riding competitively or looking mainly to maximise your speed then 28mm tyres are your best call, but I’d go for 32mm rubber for day-to-day riding. This hits the sweet spot between narrower race tyres and wider, slower tyres.
You’re getting extra comfort without carrying too much extra weight and the Giant’s tyres also coped superbly with some truly dreadful countryside lanes.
The Giant’s single strongest quality is its handling, which is hard to better. Of course, lighter would always be better, but the Contend still climbs well.
The 34×34 bottom gear lets you stay in the saddle and spin, while the stiff, compact frame comes into its own when you’re cranking out of the saddle.
Descending is confident and controlled with decent grip from the 32mm tyres and there’s good braking from the Tektro mechanical discs.
The AR3 is not necessarily a bike for throwing aggressively into corners like more race-focused bikes, such as the Vitus Zenium or Van Rysel EDR AF, but the Giant’s hour-after-hour comfort is welcome on day-long rides, while there’s enough stiffness for a final, exhilarating sprint home.
Giant Contend AR3 bottom line
Of all the bikes I had on test, the Contend was the one that really turned heads on its arrival. People were wowed by the Contend’s ‘garnet’ paintjob, which stands out in comparison with the blander-looking, largely monochrome bikes it’s up against. It is also available in black – inevitably – if the thought of colour makes you blanch!
It’s an ideal long-distance commuter – especially with its mudguard/fender compatibility – and would be equally good as a fitness and leisure bike, where the long wheelbase, low gearing and tyre clearance gives it some rough-stuff capability.
It has a plush ride that you will never grow tired of and it tackles potholes and winter-scarred roads with a ‘so-what’ attitude.
If you look purely at the headline numbers though, this Giant can’t compete with other similarly specced bikes when it comes to value, but the Contend AR3 is still a bike worth your serious consideration.
|Price||AUD $1599.00GBP £1099.00USD $1250.00|
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Handlebar||Giant Connect alloy|
|Tyres||700x32 Giant S-R3 AC|
|Stem||Giant Sport alloy|
|Seatpost||Giant D-Fuse alloy|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Sora|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano BB500 sealed cartridge|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Sora|
|Frame||Aluxx-grade aluminium, 12mm thru-axles|
|Fork||Advanced-grade composite, OverDrive steerer, 12mm thru-axle|
|Cranks||Shimano Sora 50/34|
|Cassette||Shimano CS-HG50 11-34|
|Brakes||Tektro MD-C550 mechanical discs, 160mm rotors|
|Wheels||Giant S-R2 Disc wheels with tubeless-ready rims|