Review: Giant Seek City Bicycle, and Maybe the Clip Folding Bike
A little while back, we borrowed a Giant Seek and Clip for a few weeks to ride around town.
The Seek, shown above at left, is Giant’s mountain bike based alloy commuter/city bike that’s made to tackle pretty much any urban environment. The Clip is (or possibly was) their entry into the folding bike market for the U.S. I say “possibly was” because it no longer appears directly on their U.S. website unless you Google it first. We’re checking into whether it’s still available, or if it’s gone Dodo on us and been replaced by the much less cool looking ExpressWay folder. Please Giant, keep the Clip.
For now, we’ll provide our review of the Seek, and if we hear back from the Big G that the sweet, sweet Clip still exists, we’ll post that review. If you’re looking for a bullet of a pavement pounder, jump past the break and let’s get rollin’…
The Seek has an aluminum frame made of Giant’s ALUXX-SL aluminum with a cromoly fork w/ alloy steerer. It’s a disc-brake only design with full fender and rack mounts across the frame and fork, which adds a lot of potential functionality to the bike. The wheels are standard 700c road wheels with fatter 700×32 tires for better bump absorption. Weight is around 25lbs.
We tested a size Large Seek 0, their top of the line model that retails for $1,175. There’s also a Seek 1 ($870) and Seek 2 ($600) with lesser spec but the same fork and an ALUXX (non-SL) alloy frame. There are a few differences in the Seek 0′s frame that we’ll touch on later.
If I were buying the Seek for myself, I’d go with the XL. The Large (shown) was just a bit small for my 6’2″ frame. It was entirely rideable, but I’d want something a bit bigger for regular use. The plus was that my 5’7″ wife could also ride this one fairly comfortably. We rode a round trip of about 30 miles on it and the Clip, taking turns on each bike half way, from my parent’s house in FL to A1A Burrito Works pictured at the start of this post. Here’s a map, and here’s why I highly recommend it:
Starting at the front, one of the biggest standouts is the fork. The height of the crown (along with conversations with local Giant rep MD) that you could put a suspension fork on here if you want. Of course, it’d kill the aesthetics, but it wouldn’t affect the geometry much with an 80mm travel 29er fork.
The rear of the fork has a fender mount. The cockpit is fairly straightforward. The front is a single chainring, so there’s no front shifter on the Seek 0 (The 1 and 2 have triples). Handlebar, stem and post are nameless black alloy components topped with a Giant “Sport Comfort” saddle. It wasn’t bad.
The grips are an attempt at Ergons, but they don’t compare. There’s no locking end, so they kept rotating down under the weight of my palm. I’ve experienced this with several “comfort grips” on other bikes as well. If there’s no locking end, they’re gonna spin. These tended to rotate fairly quickly, about every 20 minutes or so I’d have to yank them back into position.
The frame is stout throughout. Rear rack and fender mounts complete the utilitarian functionality, now it’s time for fun and fashion:
Our model had bronze anodized cable containers and matching water bottle cage bolts. Unfortunately, it looks like the current Seek 0 has a new color scheme with black bits and a matching black fork. It still has the clear coat raw aluminum finish on the frame, though. Down below, the Seek 0 has an eccentric bottom bracket, the first main difference between it and it’s little sisters.
The EBB is necessary because this model comes with a full Shimano Alfine 8-speed drivetrain. It gets the Alfine rapid fire shifters, Alfine cranks and Alfine rear hubs, and that’s why it’s over a grand. Sure, there’s a new 11-speed Alfine hub available, but the 8-speed gear cluster gives a great range for city riding. I could drop it down and spin up the hills easily. Or, like highway cruising in a Porsche, it was all too easy to hammer along well over 20mph.
Another highlight on the “0″ is the KMC Z51 Rustproof chain, an upgrade from the lower models. The other models have standard bottom brackets and normal derailleur and cassette transmissions.
The brakes are Giant’s ROOT hydraulic brakes, and they worked pretty well. There was a bit of noise from them on occasion. Note the replaceable rear dropouts; it doesn’t come with parts for putting a standard hub and derailleur on it, but it adds some flexibility in the future if you want it (presumably, parts kits are available from Giant, but they’re not listed on the website). The dropouts, calipers and brake levers were all bronze color-matched to the other bits and pieces on the bike.
The top tube has a frame guard that’s slightly recessed into the tube and should help keep dings and scratches at bay if you routinely lean it against a lightpost to lock it up.
The Seek 0 is a great bike for getting around town quickly and comfortably. I’d put the max distance I’d want to ride it at around 20 miles, but that’s likely well beyond most people’s bike commute and errand running distance anyway. Change out a few parts (grips, saddle, add clipless pedals), and that range could increased significantly for some light touring. There are a lot of perfectly fine, brandless parts on here, and that means you could upgrade this thing to drop some pounds if you’re serious about your commute.
Fantasizing aside, the Seek handles sharply when necessary but rides smoothly and predictably even on rough roads. The frame is plenty stiff for hard pedaling without beating you up over cracks in the road (the cromo fork and thick saddle help with this, I’m sure). It delivers the road manners you’d expect from a purpose built city bike, and it’ll surprise you with just how fast you can get it to go.
Like many folks my age (mid-thirties), we often consider how the bike will fit into a growing family. The good news is it has lots of reflective bits on the frame and rims to help keep you safe. If you have a trailer or tow-behind tandem that mounts to the seatpost, you can ignore this, but here’s the bad news: If you have a trailer like mine that mounts to the chainstay, you might want to look for a different bike or go with the Seek 1 or 2. Here’s why:
The design pushes the clamp pretty far forward, and as a result, my heel kept kicking it and one time actually knocked it loose (thank goodness for the backup strap). I could mount it to the seatstay, but that puts the spring on the clamp at a pretty severe angle. Yes, using this on any bike with disc brakes pushes the clamp further forward than the ideal, but the Seek 0′s design exacerbates the problem. (FYI, that plastic wrap is there to keep the frame from getting scratched. Giant, you’re welcome.)
Overall, the Giant Seek 0 is a great commuter and city bike that can easily be accessorized to fit your particular needs. With a few upgrades it could be a great little half-day touring bike. It handles well, goes fast and slow with equal aplomb and is fun to ride. I really liked the simplicity of the Alfine drivetrain and single gear crankset, and it made the bike look much cleaner than the 1 or 2. If you’re the type of person that likes to commute quickly and easily (whether it’s for fitness or because you’re always running late like me), the Seek’s a great option.