Among the major bicycle brands, Giant Bicycles of Taichung City in Taiwan is perhaps my favorite. Having been around since the early 1970s as a contract manufacturer for US brand Schwinn, they slowly developed their own brand to face global competition head-on – and, along with it, the Taiwanese bicycle manufacturing industry. On a less macro scale, Giant just gets many things right: manufacturing quality, good value for money, and reliable, repeatable construction.
That said, as much as I do not hesitate to recommend Giant and its products, they are not perfect. Today, I talk about some of my pet peeves.
OVERDRIVE2 FORK STEERER TUBES
Most bicycles nowadays are built around forks with steerer tubes that are 1-1/8″ in diameter. Within that set, a sizable number of them have these same steerer tubes flare outward to 1-1/4″ in diameter. My best guess is around 80% of bikes have headset bearings and stems built to these dimensions. In particular, stems made to clamp a 1-1/8″ steerer tube are super plentiful.
In the quest to deliver greater stiffness up front, Giant introduced OverDrive2. This is their name for a tapered fork steerer tube measuring 1-1/4″ diameter up top, growing to 1-1/2″ diameter as it meets the fork crown. Look at Giant’s lineup of road bikes and chances are their top-spec models all use OverDrive2 forks, as they have done so for many years now.
You’d think that stems made to clamp around a 1-1/4″ fork steerer tube would be plentiful if you knew exactly how long OverDrive2 has been around. You’d be wrong. The aftermarket has been amazingly slow to adopt this steerer tube diameter. Not many days go by without someone online asking where one could get a stem compatible with OverDrive2 forks.
On the mountain bike side, the lack of aftermarket support for OverDrive2 meant that Giant got rid of it. I wish they’d do the same on the road. I don’t see roads getting any better (hello, gravel bikes), and an OverDrive2 fork steerer tube is a poor fit for particularly bad surfaces. Sure, you might gain more stiffness, but do you really need it on such crap roads?
NON-STANDARD PARTS…AND SPARES SUPPORT
Hyro’s 2014 TCX chassis just happens to be Giant’s first implementation of their innovative “D-Fuse” concept. The idea goes that reprofiling the carbon composite seat post from a round cylinder into a D shape will allow it to flex more along the flat side (up to 12 mm as per Giant’s claims), which now points toward the rear of the bike. More flex in the seat post means it offers more of a suspension effect.
It’s not immediately apparent, but the D-Fuse concept does work, especially when more of the seat post is outside the confines of the frame’s seat tube. It’s simple, yet very clever engineering; Giant has even adopted the basic D-Fuse carbon tube shaping concept and put it into their gravel bikes’ drop handlebars.
Unfortunately, D-Fuse is effectively a proprietary system. On a bike like Hyro that will not accept a standard round seat post, if something happens to your D-Fuse seat post and you need a replacement…well, you’re not exactly out of luck. But it’s also not as straightforward as it should be, given that Giant’s retail strategy is to have a network of bike shops that exclusively carry their bikes and related wares. Replacement becomes much less straightforward as your bike frame ages.
That said, at least there are places online where you can get spares of Giant’s parts, proprietary or otherwise. Bicycle Warehouse in the US (Delaware, to be precise) carries a modest selection; I was recently able to secure from them a second D-Fuse SL carbon seat post, an exact replacement for the unit Hyro already has. For more comprehensive parts needs though, the best place I’ve seen is GiantBikeSpares.com, a website run by UK outfit Revel Outdoors. The major drawback with ordering from them is the higher shipping costs, however, and some of the parts they have on offer are on backorder as of this writing due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.
While it’s great that these two places give your aging Giant bike a fighting chance of getting relevant spare parts, Giant’s local bike shop network should really be doing this for its customers. And, while I now have a spare seat post, what I’d really want to see are compatible saddle clamp parts for mounting saddles with oval carbon rails with. Just so somebody like me has the option, mind you.
Also, before you say I forgot – I don’t think the D-Fuse handlebars are “trapped” by the same proprietary nature. I’m also pleased to report that the 2021 TCX models can now accept a 30.9 mm round seat post, should you need to, or should you want to fit a dropper seat post.
AREAS FOR ADDING MORE VALUE
While Giant has a generous 10-year limited warranty for many of its bikes, when compared to brands like Merida or Trek, the company’s road bike frames are a little lacking in terms of protective features being baked in.
No matter how careful you are with riding or how clean you keep your bike, there will be instances where you get inside chain drop, or – even worse – chain suck. For the uninitiated, chain suck is an egregious phenomenon where the chain refuses to release from the rear lower part of the chainring as it spins…and holds on long enough to meet the upper run of the chain, and jam the entire drivetrain to a halt.
Merida is quite the example in this department, with some of their bikes featuring metal plates bonded onto the drive-side chainstay near the bottom bracket shell area. These will act as a sacrificial layer of protection in case of chain suck, saving the paint of the frame underneath against uncontrolled motion of the chain being in a place where it shouldn’t be. Many other brands offer a simple built-in chain catcher to defend against chain drop on the inside, where the chain will usually scratch up the paint around the bottom bracket shell pretty badly.
In fairness to Giant, though, one way they’ve created value for the past few years is to set up many of their bikes tubeless right out of the gate. They have been notable for taking care of the tubeless tape, tires, valves, and sealant – all you need to do is ride the bike.
Compared to my criticisms of Cannondale, these pet peeves with Giant are nitpicks and nowhere near egregious enough to be deal-breakers. The main takeaway I took from engineering pundits like Hambini, Raoul Luescher, and Peak Torque on YouTube was that Giant builds good bikes, and it does so reliably and repeatably. That, I feel, can make up for the generally more mature, arguably slightly less exciting approach the company has to designing its bikes.