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Which Giant bike is right for you?

By Bruce Lin

Published

What do you think when you hear, “Made in Taiwan?” Do you think of high-performance, high-value, high-quality bikes? If you don’t, you probably should. Taiwan’s central city, Taichung, is the world epicenter of bicycle manufacturing. The vast majority of today’s cutting-edge premium frames and components originate here. It’s also home to the biggest, most successful bike manufacturer in the world: Giant Bicycles.

Giant road bikes TCRIf you’re looking to get the most performance for your money, Giant bikes are our top pick. Giant’s entire manufacturing process is done in-house, from raw material sourcing to final assembly. State-of-the-art and high-capacity production facilities give Giant the flexibility to innovate, experiment, and create whatever it wants, while also offering more affordable prices to its customers.

Giant’s huge catalog includes everything from grand tour-ready road bikes, to downhill-shredding mountain bikes, to reliable cruisers for your daily commute. But how do you know which Giant bike is right for you?

This overview features the most popular Giant models for road, gravel, and mountain. (Time trial, triathlon, electric, urban, and sub-$1,000 bikes are omitted. Giant simply makes too many bikes to go over all of them!) It will cover the design ethos and target rider for each bike model so you can better understand Giant’s line-up and make an informed decision when buying your next bike.

Contents

History

Giant bikes founder King LiuKing 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 with Schwinn 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.

Giant Cadex carbon road bikeThe 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 the help of 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.

The TCR used a sloping top tube, compressing the front and rear triangles. This made the frame stiffer and lighter because it required less material. TCR’s compact frame design has since been copied by most major bike companies, making it potentially the most influential road bike of the modern era.

Tom Dumoulin Giro 2018 Giant bikes winTom Dumoulin won Giant's first grand tour with the 2017 Giro d'Italia.

Today, Giant continues to lead the way with affordable and high-performance road, gravel, cyclocross, mountain, urban, and e-bikes. It supports several top race teams in road and mountain bike racing that have achieved some major professional wins.

Liv bikes

Liv Lagma Advanced Pro women's road bikeThe women's specific Liv Langma Advanced road bike.

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.

With fit data collected over decades, Liv bikes have geometry tailored to fit women’s bodies. This data has shown that women have proportionally shorter torsos and narrower shoulders than men of the same height so Liv geometry is designed from the ground up to match. These bikes also use female-specific touchpoints like handlebars, grips, and saddles that are designed to better fit female anatomy. Women don’t necessarily need to ride a Liv bike (Giants, 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.

In this overview, Giant models that have a corresponding Liv model will be covered concurrently and the description will go over any major differences that go beyond geometry, fit, and touchpoints (this mainly applies to full-suspension mountain bikes).

Giant Hierarchy

Giant uses a simple naming structure to indicate the hierarchy within model ranges.

Hierarchy example - TCR road bike:

  • TCR 3
  • TCR 2
  • TCR Advanced 2
  • TCR Advanced 1
  • TCR Advanced Pro 1
  • TCR Advanced Pro 0
  • TCR Advanced SL 0
Advanced

Aluminum bikes will have no additional name designation beyond the model name. Carbon fiber models that use Giant’s “Advanced grade composite” will add “Advanced” to the name. For example, the entry-level “TCR” road bike is aluminum, while the higher-end “TCR Advanced” road bike is carbon fiber.

0-3 build levels

Giant uses the numbers 0-3 to designate component build levels. Lower numbers represent higher-end builds while higher numbers represent more entry-level builds.

For example, a “TCR Advanced Pro 0” is a top-of-the-line option equipped with the best components (e.g. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM Red AXS, carbon wheels, carbon cockpit), while a “TCR Advanced 2” will use more budget-friendly components (e.g. Shimano 105, alloy wheels, alloy cockpit) to reduce the overall cost.

Pro

Some of Giant’s top-of-the-line “Advanced” carbon bikes will have an additional “Pro” designation such as the “TCR Advanced Pro” road bike or the “Anthem Advanced Pro” mountain bike.

For road bikes, “Pro” means the addition of Giant’s full carbon OverDrive 2 fork rather than the standard OverDrive fork that uses an alloy steerer tube with carbon fork legs. Overdrive 2 forks also use an oversized steerer with wider 1¼ inch upper and 1½ inch lower head tube bearings that increase torsional stiffness by 30% for better handling.

For full-suspension mountain bikes, “Pro” means the frame uses a carbon fiber front and rear triangle. This reduces overall weight. Non-Pro models will use a carbon front triangle and an alloy rear triangle.

SL

The top-of-the-line TCR Advanced road bikes and XTC Advanced hardtail mountain bikes may have an “SL” designation rather than the “Pro” designation. This means the bike is built using Giant’s “pro-level Advanced SL composite.” These “Advanced SL” frames are slightly lighter than standard “Advanced Pro” frames but also cost more. TCR Advanced SL road bikes also use an integrated seat mast instead of a traditional seatpost to further reduce weight.

Other designations

Disc - Road bikes that use disc brakes. E.g. TCR Advanced Disc.

AR - Road and gravel bikes with more off-road or “all-road” focused components. E.g. Defy AR and Contend AR.

29 - Mountain bikes that use 29” wheels. E.g. Trance Advanced 29.

+ - Mountain bikes that use 27.5” plus wheels and tires. E.g. XTC Advanced +.

SLR - Alloy bikes with the most budget-focused component options. E.g. XTC SLR

X/SX - Full-suspension mountain bikes that feature more suspension travel and downhill-oriented components. E.g. Trance Advanced X and Reign SX.

Road bikes

Giant TCR Road Bike

The Giant TCR Advanced.

TCR

Liv model: Langma

Giant TCR road bikeTCR 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 TCR and Langma are commonly used by Giant and Liv’s professional road racing teams. Their design focuses are lighter weight, more stiffness, and agile handling. It’s the perfect road bike 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.

Propel

Liv model: Enviliv

Giant PropelThe Propel and 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 for riders who ride mostly flat or rolling terrain, or who 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, riders on flat and rolling terrain, aerodynamic enthusiasts.

Defy

Liv model: Avail

Giant DefyThe Defy and 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 more stability, and more stack for an upright riding position. They have clearance for tires up to 35mm wide for even more comfort and traction. Endurance bikes are great for riders who want to explore more mixed terrain, or who just need more comfort for their regular rides.

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

Contend

The 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 Defy and 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.

Gravel and cyclocross bikes

Giant Revolt gravel bikeThe Giant Revolt Advanced on singletrack. 

TCX

Liv model: Brava

The TCX and Brava are cyclocross bikes that can handle everything from World Cup competition to local weekend races. They are designed for speed, handling, and versatility in all conditions. The new TCX Advanced and Brava feature redesigned, lighter frames with asymmetrical chainstays for optimal power transfer. They use level top tubes for easy shouldering while running and there’s ample tire clearance for muddy ‘cross conditions. Agile geometry helps riders pedal through tight corners and other obstacles. These bikes can even transition to road and gravel riding when race season is over.

Who it’s for: Cyclocross racers and gravel riders looking for more agile cyclocross handling.

Revolt

Liv Model: Devote

Giant revoltThe Revolt and Devote are gravel race bikes designed to provide speed and confident handling on rough terrain. A compliant full composite fork, D-Fuse seatpost, and D-Fuse handlebar help absorb bumps and vibrations. The frames have clearance for large gravel tires up to 45mm wide for maximum compliance and traction when roads are loose or rough. There are other clever frame details like the X-Defender downtube protector and Giant’s smart mount system for racks and accessories. These are high-performance all-rounders perfect for everything from gravel racing to bikepacking adventures.

Who it’s for: Gravel and adventure riders, riders covering everything from smooth dirt to light singletrack.

Mountain bikes

Giant Reign enduro mountain bikeThe Giant Reign Advanced 29 in action.

XTC

Giant xtcThe XTC is a pure cross country hardtail focused on climbing, acceleration, and speed. In fact, the XTC Advanced carbon frames are Giant’s lightest off-road frame offering. They are optimized for XC riders tackling fast courses who need maximum pedaling and climbing efficiency. Thanks to a 100mm fork, dropped seat stays, and clever carbon layup, they still provide a bit of compliance through rough roots and rocks.

Who it’s for: XC racers, riders looking for a lightweight mountain bike that maximizes efficiency.

Fathom

With a lightweight aluminum frame and budget-friendly build options, the Fathom will let riders shred singletrack and tackle technical terrain without breaking the bank. It blends the efficient ride quality of a classic hardtail with the playfulness of 27.5” wheels and tires. It’s equipped with wide rims and 2.6” tires that absorb bumps and provide more traction. The frame is designed with trail-friendly geometry that includes a slack 66-degree head angle and a 130mm suspension fork.

Who it’s for: Riders looking for a fun and budget-friendly trail hardtail.

Anthem

Liv model: Pique

Giant anthemThe Anthem and Pique are full-suspension XC race bikes designed for technical trails and riders who need more comfort and traction on rough terrain. The current Anthem is a 29er with 90mm of rear suspension travel and 100mm front. The Pique is also a 29er but has 100mm of travel front and rear and uses a women’s-specific tune for the suspension. Both bikes use Giant’s Maestro rear suspension system for efficient pedaling and predictable braking performance. The new Maestro linkage on the Anthem and Pique allows for shorter chainstays that improve climbing and overall agility.

Older generation Anthem models (pre-2018) were also available in a less race-focused 27.5” wheel option with 120mm of travel.

Who it’s for: XC racers, riders looking for efficiency, traction, and comfort over rough and technical terrain.

Trance

Liv model: Intrigue

Giant Trance trail mountain bikeThe Trance and Intrigue are Giant’s quiver-killer trail bikes. They aim to satisfy riders looking for a 50/50 split of uphill and downhill performance. The Trance 29 has 115mm of rear travel with a 130mm fork while the 27.5” version has 140mm of rear travel with and 150mm fork. The Intrigue 29 has 125mm of rear travel with a 140mm fork while the 27.5” version has 140mm of rear travel with a 150mm fork. Maestro suspension keeps these bikes efficient uphill, and progressive trail geometry featuring longer reach, slacker head tube, and steeper seat tube angles improve confidence when descending.

Giant Trace X trail bikeThe Trance is also available in a more downhill-oriented Trance X model. It uses 29” wheels like the Trance 29 but increases the travel to 135mm in the rear and 150mm in the front to make it even more capable and confidence-inspiring on tough downhill terrain.

Who it’s for: Trail riders looking for a do-it-all trail bike that is equally capable uphill and downhill.

Reign

Liv model: Hail

Giant Reign enduro mountain bikeThe Reign and Hail are downhill-focused, enduro race bikes. They're designed to go fast and stay composed on gnarly and steep terrain, send big features, while still being efficient enough to pedal back up the hill. The 29” version of the Reign (Hail is not available in 29") has 146mm of travel in the rear with a 170mm fork. The 27.5” version of the Reign and Hail have 160mm of travel with a 170mm fork. The enduro geometry  is the longest, lowest, and slackest that Giant and Liv offers (short of a full downhill bike), giving riders more confidence and control. The Maestro suspension is tuned to deliver a smooth and active suspension capable of absorbing bigger impacts.

Giant Reign SXThe Giant Reign SX.

The Reign SX is a 27.5” aluminum-only version that increases downhill performance even more with the addition of a coil shock and a 180mm fork.

Who it’s for: Enduro racers, bike park riders, riders focused on shredding gnarly downhill terrain.

Stance

Liv model: Embolden

The Stance and Embolden are made to be the perfect entry-level full suspension trail bike for newer riders. 29” and 27.5” versions all use 120mm of travel with a 130mm fork. They use budget-concious component builds that keep cost down, but don’t skimp on quality so newer riders and confidently build their skills and progress.

Who it’s for: Riders looking for a budget-friendly full suspension trail bike

 

Giant, of course, makes a lot more bikes than those listed here. If you need a triathlon bike, a basic urban bike, or an e-bike, Giant and Liv have plenty of options in every price category that can satisfy your needs. Check out our Giant collection and Liv collection to see all the Giant and Liv bikes we offer.

Which Giant bike is your favorite? What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments!

All photos courtesy of Giant Bicycles. 


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