Giant Escape City (2015): First Impressions

I’ve been through quite a few bikes over the past few years. I wore out the drive train on my Trek 7.2. I wrecked my Raleigh Clubman (and wound up spending 3 days in intensive care). I currently have an entry-level road bike, an aluminum Specialized Allez, and a cheap city bike, a Jamis Commuter 1.

Neither the Specialized nor the Jamis is suitable for light touring, the 200 and 300 mile rides I want to do this spring. You can’t mount a rack on a Specialized Allez. The Jamis is made of high-tensile steel. It only has 7 gears, and it weighs a ton.

Last month, I bought a Giant Escape City.

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My requirements were the following.

  1. Cheap. As much as I would like to buy a Trek Madone with full Dura Ace, it’s out of my price range.
  2. My tires of choice are 700 x 28s or 700 x 32s. I don’t like 700 x 23s or 700 x 25s. At 6 feet and 190 pounds, I’m not exactly Chris Christie. But I’m not a waif. 700 x 23s flat too easily.
  3. A rack. A rack adds weight. It guarantees you’ll break spokes. But I never get on my bike without my laptop and a change of clothes, and I loath backpacks.
  4. Fenders. I live in the Northeast. It rains.
  5. Decently fast. I’ll take 30 miles rides on my Dreadnought-like Jamis Commuter 1. But teenage kids on skateboards laugh at me. And if I get caught in heavy traffic, I can’t get enough speed to take an intersection without using the crosswalk.
  6. A good bike mechanic. Where you buy a bike is almost as important as which bike you buy. Assembly is probably more important than the individual components. The closest bike store, Hilltop Bicycles in Cranford, NJ, sells mainly Giant and Cannondale. Cannondale seems overprice.

Over the past week, the snow finally melted. Wednesdays rain storm washed away most of the salt. So I decided to take the Escape City for a test run. I chose my most difficult ride, 25 miles through the Watchung Hills, a course I regularly take on my Specialized Allez, a series of moderately to severely steep hills that will challenge even a good rider on a fast road bike.

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The view from beautiful Summit, New Jersey.  It’s a town full of Ivy League Republican dads and entitled soccer moms with kids destined for Harvard and Wall Street. In other words, if the SUVs don’t get you the BMWs will.

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Some day I’ll be rich and hip enough to live in New York.

How did the Escape City do?

  1. I was worried about steep hills. I shouldn’t have. The SRAM VIA drive train has 24 gears, and is, perhaps, best in the lower gears.
  2. The Escape City is much slower than my Allez going down hill. There’s no way a flat bar hybrid is going to be as fast as a drop bar road bike. But I’m not the type who takes downhills at 40mph anyway.
  3. It’s not as much fun as a road bike. The extra low gears actually make it easier to take steep hills than it is on the Allez. But you don’t feel as cool doing it.
  4. The brakes are excellent, and have plenty of stopping power.
  5. The internally routed cables have a bit of a rattle. This is a well-known issue on the Escape City and really nothing to worry about.
  6. The SRAM VIAs shift smoothly enough, but, once again, this isn’t Dura Ace or Ultegra. The front derailleur takes a bit of getting used to. Shift too quickly onto the second sprocket and the chain occasionally has a bit of trouble catching. But I think this was probably more due to my lack of familiarity with the SRAM shifters than to any need of adjustment.
  7. The aluminum fork doesn’t bother me. They cut corners here and put it into the drive train.
  8. The bike is surprisingly light, much lighter than my old Trek 7.2fx. As such, it’s quite fast. It accelerates well. It corners easily. It’s not as fast as my Allez on flat roads, but it’s fast enough.

In other words, so far so good. This bike will be serviceable for light touring and 50-100 mile day rides. Who knows. Next month I may hate it. But right now I don’t feel as if I missed out on anything paying 585 dollars for the Escape City instead of 1200 dollars for a Trek 720 or a Surly Long Haul Trucker. In fact, the bike feels so solid that over the summer (when I plan to buy a new drop bar road bike) I may look at the Defy 3 instead of another Specialized.

Note: I’m not a bike mechanic or an expert on bikes. I’m simply a guy who likes to ride. So don’t mistake this for a professional review.

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7 comments

  1. So…it has been over 3 months since your initial review of the Giant Escape City. As someone who is hoping to purchase this bike in a couple of months….do you still like this bike?

    1. The fender mounts are a bit flimsy and the pedals are cheap. Aside from that it’s a good fast hybrid that can carry a decent amount of stuff, and yet still go long distances.

      Also, make sure you get a tuneup during the first three months. The SRAM drive train on my initially went out of adjustment, but properly tuned, it’s worked fine ever since.

  2. Hey, from a devoted follower. I am not a bike expert. I have a functional one-speed that I have to remind myself to use.

    However, I’m big into other people riding bikes, as part of my local campaign to make our streets, sidewalks, public parks, and all public land more wheel friendly. I’m told in Israel all the streets are graded, because there are so many elderly and handicapped people. Is that true?

    I’ve been taking pictures of local bike racks (very few and far between) and of public safety hazards on public land, which I’ll post on blog soon.

    Our dilapidated streets and sidewalks make for treacherous movement for everyone, pedestrians, wheelchairs, shopping carts, delivery carts, skateboards, bicycles, even cars.

    I hope bikers and others who support this cause will start making noise in their own communities. I’ve found embarrassing the politicians into behaving is a most effective strategy. When I get the courage, I plan to start e-mailing my pictures to the County Commissioners.

    We apparently have a local law preventing bicycle riders from riding in public parks. To me, this is crazy, because the streets are so much more dangerous for everyone. Savannah prides itself on being a tourist town. What better way to see the city? I’d love to change this rule to allow non-motorized bike traffic in public parks, and addition of bike racks to support this taxpayer-friendly way of reducing traffic congestion and accidents.

    Could you comment on local laws in your area about bicycle riding?

    1. The only law as far as I know in my area requires people under 18 to wear a helmet.

      There are plenty of potholes but nothing I can’t get around. Biggest problem is traffic.

  3. My husband is renting this for the New York bike tour next month. Looking at your post, seems it will do well!

    1. Pretty good bike for its price. If you have another 500 bucks you can go for something like a Trek 520, which is still, a bit heavier and a bit more rugged.

  4. Reblogged this on Writers Without Money and commented:

    This is the now most viewed post on my blog, surpassing my post on Being a Failed Writer (which got “Freshly Pressed” on the WordPress front page), my use of the John List murders to frame my review of The Omen (which got linked by the biggest newspaper n New Jersey) and my review of Saturday Night Fever (which was one of the first things I wrote for this blog, way back when it was called “Pair of Outsiders” and which consistently gets hits on Google).

    I suppose what it proves is that the Internet is still a practical place. The Giant Escape City is a useful, cheap hybrid with a good drive train and an already installed rack. You can find it on the Giant Bikes website, but there aren’t many reviews. In fact, it’s difficult to find a good review of almost any bike that costs under $2000 dollars. Cycling magazines tend to prefer the exotic, custom titanium bikes with breakaway frames, $10,000 dollar carbon road bikes that weight less than my foot (I was going to say “less than my dick” but carbon fiber engineering still hasn’t gotten to that advanced state), touring bikes from obscure, earthy crunchy hippie manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest. A good cheap, Taiwanese hybrid? Forget about it.

    Local bike stores are often high-end local bike stores, at least in New Jersey. I suppose it’s different in Seattle or NYC. Trying to buy a good $1000 dollar road bike or a decent $1200 dollar touring bike is a bit like walking into your local Ferrari dealer and trying to buy a Honda. Part of the reason I bought the Giant Escape City was that it already had the rack. That doesn’t sound like much, but add the cost of labor to the cost of buying a third party rack and you’re looking at spending about another $100 dollars. What’s more, bike mechanics hate little jobs like that. People who ride touring bicycles often tend to be bike mechanics, and usually just order a rack from the Internet and install it themselves. Getting a Topeak Explorer rack put on my late, totaled Raleigh Clubman (I survived a catastrophic crash. it did not.) took what seemed to be forever. It was a great deal at REI back in 2011. The rack ate up all the savings.

    On the whole, the Giant Escape City has served me well. I broke one of the fenders changing a tire and decided just to take the other one off. The gearing can be complex and the chain used to slip a bit before I got the most recent tuneup. But if you want a hybrid with a rack, touring bike gearing, and nice clean looks, I’d recommend it over something like a Trek FX. In any event, I’m planning to do a lot of long distance riding over the Summer and will report back extensively.

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