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Giant road bike buyer's guide

By Bruce Lin

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Shredding pavement on a TCR

Giant road bikes: Introduction

If you’re looking to get the most performance for your money, Giant road bikes are a top pick. Giant’s entire manufacturing process is done in-house, from raw material sourcing to final assembly. High production volume means Giant can offer attractive bikes at affordable prices, while also retaining a significant R&D budget to ensure they are always innovating. 

Giant’s huge catalog includes everything from grand tour-ready road bikes, to downhill-shredding mountain bikes, to reliable cruisers for your daily commute. In this overview, we’ll focus solely on Giant’s significant line-up of road bikes, as well as their Liv counterparts. (Note: if gravel or mountain biking is more your thing, we’ve got what you need here and here). 

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Giant history

Giant head honchos

King Lui (right) with former CEO Tony Lo.

After losing his eel farm to a devastating typhoon, Giant’s founder, King Lui, gathered friends together to invest in a bicycle manufacturing facility in Taichung, Taiwan. Giant was born in 1972. The young brand achieved a major breakthrough in 1977 when CEO, Tony Lo, negotiated a deal to manufacture Schwinn’s “Worldsport” line of bicycles. At the time, Schwinn was one of the largest bike brands in the world and Giant impressed its American client with quick turn-around and high-quality construction.

With bike sales increasing in the U.S. and union disputes with workers at the Schwinn plant in Chicago, Giant eventually became Schwinn’s most important supplier, making more than two-thirds of Schwinn’s bikes by the mid-1980s. Seeing the opportunity for more growth, Lui and Lo decided to branch out and produce their own bike brand. Giant bikes officially launched in Europe in 1986 and in the U.S. a year later. Unhappy with the competition, Schwinn cut ties with Giant in 1987, found a new supplier in China, but ultimately went bankrupt in 1992. Giant continued to flourish, eventually growing into the world’s largest bike manufacturer.

Ye olde Giant Cadex

The Giant Cadex 980c carbon road bike.

Giant created several key innovations that have shaped the modern bike industry. In 1987, it introduced the first mass-produced carbon fiber bicycle, the Cadex 980c. With legendary bike designer, Mike Burrows (known for the Lotus 108/110), Giant introduced the TCR or Total Compact Road bike in the mid-1990s, making Giant the first brand to build the modern-looking road bikes we’re familiar with today.

Liv is Giant’s women’s specific brand. Founded in 2008 by Bonnie Tu, the CFO of Giant Bicycles, it was the first brand purely dedicated to women’s cycling. Bonnie decided to start Liv when she couldn't find gear or bikes that fit her. She saw an opportunity to make cycling more inclusive and started Liv. Liv employs an entirely female team for everything from design to marketing and builds women’s-specific road, gravel, and mountain bikes.

Liv Langma

The women's specific Liv Langma Advanced road bike.

With decades worth of fit data, Liv bikes have geometry tailored to fit women’s bodies. These bikes also use female-specific touchpoints like handlebars, grips, and saddles to better fit female anatomy. Women don’t necessarily need to ride a Liv bike (Giant, like most bikes, are technically unisex), but if you’re a woman who suffers from discomfort on unisex bike options, a Liv bike could be the solution.

Giant road bikes

TCR Advanced

The Giant TCR Advanced.

Giant TCR / Liv Langma
Giant TCR

TCR stands for “Total Compact Road” and it was the first bike to bring compact geometry with sloping top tubes to mass-produced road bikes. The Giant TCR and Liv Langma are commonly ridden by Giant and Liv’s professional road racing teams. Their design focuses are lighter weight, stiffness, and agile handling. It’s the perfect plaform for riders seeking more performance and speed for racing, climbing, and general road riding.

Who it’s for: Road racers, uphill KOM hunters, performance-focused road cyclists.

Giant Propel / Liv Enviliv
Giant Propel

The Giant Propel and Liv Enviliv are aero road bikes. The sculpted carbon frames and integrated cockpits are wind tunnel-tested and shaped to reduce drag and give riders every aerodynamic advantage possible. This is especially useful on flat or rolling terrain, or for those want a competitive advantage in fast crits and sprints. They’re also great for solo riders looking for an aero edge when they have no one to draft. The main trade-off of the Propel compared to the TCR and Lagma is a bit of additional weight due to the aero shaping of the frame.

Who it’s for: Crit racers, sprinters, flat and rolling terrain, or aerodynamic enthusiasts.

Giant Defy / Liv Avail
Giant Defy

The Giant Defy and Liv Avail are endurance road bikes that prioritize rider comfort. The frame is designed with more vertical compliance than the TCR or Propel to reduce fatigue on long rides or rough roads. They use more relaxed geometry with a longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket for stability, and more stack for an upright riding position. They have clearance for tires up to 35mm wide for further comfort and traction. Giant endurance bikes are great for riders who want to explore mixed terrain, or who just need more comfort for their regular rides.

Who it’s for: endurance cyclists, riders seeking more comfort, riders exploring dirt and rough road surfaces.

Giant Contend

The Giant Contend gives cyclists entering the sport a budget-friendly option to satisfy their needs. It uses a robust alloy frame with endurance geometry similar to the Giant Defy and Liv Avail. Cyclists who are looking to venture far off the beaten path may enjoy the Contend AR which uses ultra-wide 38mm tires to enhance the bike’s all-road capabilities.

Who it’s for: endurance cyclists and commuters looking for a budget-friendly bike.

Before you rush off to buy your Giant road bike, check out our road bike sizing guide to make sure you find the right fit. Plus, read our guide to road bike essentials to make sure you’ve got everything you need to enjoy your cycling experience.

Shop used road bikes

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