Giant's Defy range has been a quiet riot in the world of cycling, long established as a 'Sportive' bike it has quietly provided those of us with humbler ambitions than UCI jerseys with an alternative set of wheels to ride bikes.
Its inception, utilising longer head tubes, more compliant rear end, and a posture friendly geometry, ushered in a new generation of bikes for the non-pro riders. The idea was to promote a more comfortable ride and soon incorporated a performance edge. It started a whole new platform, one that has benefitted the most from the expansion in cycling over the past years
For 2015 Giant committed fully to disc brakes on its Defy range as other manufacturers carefully dipped their toes. Where others have made small adjustments to frames to accommodate a rear and front disc without compromising production of non disc frames Giant have dived in, and in doing so have reinvented their biggest seller.
Committing fully without any further need for the old frame design has seen a number of changes that have changed the Defy from a bike-for-your-dad to a race winner in its own right.
The Defy Advanced has benefitted hugely from ditching the old road brakes. A look at the old and new side by side show a very different appearance.
Obviously its got disc brakes but don't look at those, look at where the old ones used to be. The rear seat stay requires no bulk to house a calliper and handle braking forces*. The result is a dramatically slimmed down and flat seat stay (10mm thick) which has greatly improved rear compliance without compromising lateral stiffness. and comfort. Obviously a leading brake force like a front disc is capable of generating some big forces**, so...
Compared to last year the new head tube looks like Dwayne Johnson's forearm. It's been beefed up considerably to handle more force. The happy side effect is that it won't twist and budge when you start pedalling hard and wrench the bars about. Same goes for the down tube, this means more power at the cranks.
Compared to last year the new top tube is flatter and thicker as it joins the seat tube. It's nice but surely stiffness here is going to make it less comfortable? Well...
The effect of the rear brake being moved from the top of the seat stay has meant a whole re-think about the intersection of the stay/seat tube/top tube. The aero seat post and tube have gone, replaced by a thinner post and the tube to house it (unless it's an ISP) this allows for much more fore-aft compliance and, with the thinner stays, does an amazing job of stopping road buzz from getting to your rear end.
The application of discs wholesale to the Defy mark a huge leap in frame design for Giant and for bike design in general. The Defy has graduated from a sportive bike with a reputation as a comfortable easy-rider to serious piece of endurance equipment.
The Defy Advanced
The Defy Advanced range is the starting point for Giant's new frame and are all constructed from Giant's Advanced Grade Carbon.
Defy Advanced 3 - £1199 takes a Tiagra chainset and SR-2 wheels...
Whilst Defy Advanced 2 - £1399 takes the natural step of using Shimano's 105 shifting and upgrading to PR-2 wheels.
Defy Advanced 1 - £1649 lays on Ultegra for under £1700 and retains the PR-2 Wheels of Advanced 2.
All three use TRP Spyre mechanical brakes and whilst not hydraulic still represent good value when you consider the tech invested into the frame.
Defy Advanced Pro 2 - £1899 features and Advanced Grade Frame and 105. The fork is now full carbon and the wheels are upgraded to P-SL1 for improved accelerating performance. The finishing kit contains SL components for further weigh saving over the Advanced line. Still with a mechanical disc brake.
Defy Advanced Pro 1 - £2599 has the same frame and and SL finishing kit but makes a significant leap to Shimano hydraulic brakes. A wheel upgrade to P-SL0 also edges the bike into new performance grounds with Ultegra providing the muscle.
Defy Advanced Pro 0 - £3249 has the Advanced Grade Frame and carbon fork, SL finishing kit, and P-SL0 wheel set. Electronic shifting is present this time with Pro 0 sporting Ultegra Di2.
Defy Advanced SL 1 - £3499 It all changes here. The Advanced SL frame and fork switches to SL-Grade carbon and has an integrated seat post to further improve vibration reduction. Finishing kit is SLR and a P-SLR0 set of wheels gets driven by Ultegra.
Defy Advanced SL 0 - £7999 Just look at it. It looks incredible and it's not short of praise from the industry press either. An Advanced SL frame and fork with integrated seat post, SLR finishing kit enhances the weight saving and Dura-Ace Di2 means buttery smooth shifting. Add a set of ZIPP Firecrest wheels and it becomes race winner.
*Braking force - imagine spinning a bicycle wheel very fast then grabbing either side of the rim to stop it. The chances are the wheel wouldn't stop but would carry your hand with it until you either let go or hurt yourself. Stopping the wheel without hurting yourself requires that you reinforce your arm with extra material making it heavier and stiffer.
**If you grab the front brake of a bike at high speed the wheel effectively slows down first whilst the inertia of your body weight moving at speed wants to overtake it. If the front end of a frame isn't strong enough the conflict of these forces can force the wheel under the bike breaking the fork or head tube most likely. The advent of the 1�1/8 - 1�1/5 steerer and decent materials thankfully mean that this is now a rare occurrence but a lack of stiffness can affect power output and steering.