GI­ANT CON­TEND SL1

£999 › The same fine frame­set as last year with up­dated com­po­nents

Cycling Plus - - ROAD TEST -

Gi­ant’s Defy-re­plac­ing Con­tend has been a con­tender for top bike test hon­ours for the last few years, and the 2019 in­car­na­tion looks like fol­low­ing in its pre­de­ces­sors’ tyre tracks. On the sur­face, it ap­pears very sim­i­lar to last year’s model, bar­ring the new colour-scheme Gi­ant calls “matte car­bon smoke”. Look a lit­tle deeper, though, and you’ll see Gi­ant has made a few changes that po­ten­tially add to its com­fort and climb­ing qual­i­ties, plus it has the new R7000 ver­sion of 105.

The heart of it re­mains the same. The com­pact light­weight frame is neatly made in Tai­wan from Gi­ant’s own SL alu­minium with full in­ter­nal cable rout­ing and it comes with Gi­ant’s D-Fuse car­bon seat­post, which takes its name from its Dshaped pro­file. The car­bon fork has an alu­minium Over­Drive steerer, which han­dles beau­ti­fully, but is a lit­tle weight­ier than the full-car­bon ver­sion. What has changed are the gear­ing, brakes, wheels and tyres.

There’s lit­tle no­tice­able dif­fer­ence be­tween last year’s brakes and these, Gi­ant hav­ing swapped one set of Tek­tro cal­lipers for an­other. These are okay but we’d still pre­fer Shi­mano’s ex­cel­lent 105 units and we would up­grade the pads to Shi­mano R55s or Swis­sS­tops. The cas­sette has ex­panded from 11-32 – it­self an im­prove­ment on 11-25 – to a wider­still 11-34. It’s not a huge change, but ev­ery lit­tle helps on the hills when you’ve got 55-year-old pins. The chain­set is Shi­mano’s RS510, which re­sem­bles 105 in looks and per­for­mance, but is a lit­tle heav­ier.

An­other wel­come change is the move from 25mm tyres last year to 28mm-wide rub­ber this year. The dif­fer­ence sounds min­i­mal but ac­tu­ally rep­re­sents a nearly 20 per cent greater vol­ume of air in the tyre – and this is vir­tu­ally 50 per cent greater than the vol­ume of a 23mm tyre that was stan­dard a few years

ago. When we got out the Vernier caliper we found they were closer to 30mm wide. Ride over rut­ted roads and pock-marked tar­mac and, along with the ex­posed car­bon seat­post, these tyres take a lot of the sting out. The wheels are the same PR-2s that were on the Gi­ant TCR Ad­vanced 3, our 2018 Bike of the Year. Al­though their wide-ish rims are strong and com­fort­able, the whole wheelset pack­age isn’t es­pe­cially light.

The ride is where the Con­tend ex­cels, neatly hit­ting the sweetspot be­tween per­for­mance bike and en­durance ma­chine. Frame an­gles are steep­ish and the wheel­base just un­der a me­tre, which is quite racy – get out of the sad­dle and sprint for your cho­sen fin­ish line, and there’s a great sense of poise, power and pre­ci­sion. Helped by the wheel and tyre combo it also smooths out cob­bles well (yes, we’ve got cob­bles in Bris­tol) and hard-packed grit and gravel. The low bot­tom gear meant our tester could stay in the sad­dle even on the 10%-plus climbs that hide in the Mendips.

The Con­tend was never less than as­sured at all times, up­hill and down, over rough roads and smooth. It’s ideal for fun-filled rides over rolling coun­try­side, as you sit in the sad­dle and spin along at 15-20mph or so. It would make a nifty com­muter bike too, as there are front and rear mud­guard fit­tings – though space is tight with 28mm tyres – and Gi­ant also makes a neat D-Fuse-spe­cific clamp for a rack, up­ping its all-round cre­den­tials even fur­ther.

Be­low The GI­ant has the new R7000 ver­sion of Shi­mano 105 Bot­tom The tyres have gone up from 25mm to an even plusher 28mm for 2019

The ride is where the Con­tend ex­cels, hit­ting the sweetspot be­tween per­for­mance and en­durance

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