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Giant Defy Review: We Test Ride the Defy Family

   Words by Mark

   on 05/01/2015 09:11:00

defy-family

★★★★★ 5/5

What makes one Defy different from another? What separates them and makes them applicable to different kinds of rider? We gave three different riders, three different bikes from the Defy range and told them to get the miles in for three months before reporting back.

At Rutland Cycling we’ve always been big fans of the Giant Defy. Designed to be comfortable without compromising on performance, the Defy platform launched a new focus, not just for Giant, but for the industry as a whole upon its release. It’s now Giant’s best-selling road bike and has won countless awards, including Bicycling Magazine’s prestigious Editor’s Choice award for five consecutive years.

Mark Test Rides the Giant Defy 3:
Alloy Frame – Carbon Fork – Shimano Sora

★★★★★ 5/5

Mark, Rutland Web Team – “knows more inane facts than it’s possibly conceivable to know”

defy3-mark

I own and ride a fixie. This has nothing to do with being a hipster. I don’t have a beard or ironic comedy moustache, cycle specific turn-ups, a sleeve tattoo, and I like my cocktails in a glass, not a jam jar. I ride a fixie because they require no looking after and there is very little to break. I basically like no-fuss cycling, the more tech, the more to go wrong. With this in mind I was given the Defy 3, the cheapest out of the three bikes, and told to give it a thorough going over.

With the exception of the chain, the entire drive train is Shimano Sora 9 speed. A far cry from Dura-ace 11, but it won’t require a race set up if I take the back wheel out to fix a puncture. Also, bigger gaps between the rear cogs means less crap is likely to hang about there. Sora may be heavier, but instead of “heavier” simply read “won’t wear out after 30 miles”. The frame is Giant’s Aluxx aluminium - it’s a decent enough weight, not feather light but it’s hardly an anchor either, and shouldn’t encumber me too much on the hills. The rest of the components on the bike are Giant’s in-house gear, again they’re not made for the weight conscious, but it works for me.

The price point is great, it’s only £449 which sounds like an absolute bargain – but, obviously it’s only a bargain if it works for the rider riding it.

Riding.

An initial pedal out was encouraging. The Geometry of the Defy has always been based around keeping the rider comfortable and it certainly did its job. At first I felt a little odd being perched, but after I had got used to it I found it preferable to some other bikes in the shed. You really do enjoy the road more with your head up a little bit. It was less head down and doing miles for the sake of it, and more going for a ride just because I enjoyed riding under the trees of The Old Head Wood. The ride wasn’t as smooth as other bikes I’ve had in my time, but is certainly one of the smoother aluminium frames. The seat stays unite with the top tube at the same point and I was expecting feedback from the rear wheel to be direct. The longer wheel base for stability brings longer stays, which flex just enough to take the sting from the decaying road surface. The Defy 3 handling is very stable, no handed riding goes for miles as the front and rear wheels get held by the stretched frame. Climbing gave no issues, the only time I would say the weight showed its hand was on cornering. You can feel it bed down slightly on an apex and it needs a bit more of a kick on the pedals to see it through the bend.

Living with it.

I’ll admit that I may have felt that it was a bit of a raw deal getting the cheapest ride on test, but in reality it turned out to be a good, fun bike. God knows how many miles I did but it did nearly every kind. It got ridden down lines on the OS map that you could hardly describe as ‘roads’, and it did it with aplomb. Distances? Check, and I still had gas in the tank thanks to the geometry. Commuting? Panniers fitted no problem and the handling wasn’t really affected due to the wheel base. It got rained on, covered in mud, dropped (on some days we both got dropped), left outside to rot and the most attention it got was an occasional showing of the hosepipe. I deliberately did zero maintenance apart from puncture repairs, spoke change (thank you pothole) and an initial gear cable tension. It took all kinds of abuse and kept going. Shimano 9 speed didn’t once put a cog wrong even when coated in autumnal grime.

Wrap up.

The Defy 3 is much like a pit pony. It got the bare minimum in terms of looking after and just kept going, carrying me wherever I wanted to go with no complaints. The times I passed over other bikes in the shed because the Defy was handily perched by a drain pipe. Is it a thoroughbred? No it isn’t, but if you own one you’ll never have an excuse not to ride. You don’t need to care about it, you just enjoy it.

It’s a perfect hack bike that’ll put a smile on your face.

I’m strongly tempted to say I’d change the wheels, just to help the through corner speed. But, the minute I put a set of Mavic Ksyrium wheels on it, will be the minute I will start worrying about servicing, keeping it clean, and sleeping with one eye on the bike shed door - which for me defeats the object of a quality built budget bike.

defy3-closeup

View the Giant Defy 3

Alex Test Rides the Giant Defy 1:
Alloy Frame – Carbon Fork – Shimano 105

★★★★★ 5/5

Alex, Rutland Cycling Bike Category Manager – “he loves bikes, I mean he really loves them, a lot”

defy1-alex

I’m typically a MTB rider and compete in Enduro events, so whilst I’m not really used to a lot of time on the road, I do partake on the tarmac for fitness reasons. I race on a fairly well spec’d Whyte, so breathed a sigh of relief when Mark was given the Sora equipped bike. I don’t really like anything sub 105, my height and the fact that I’m not really the softest peddler, means that 105 smoothness means less broken chains. I’m was content with an alloy frame though, as 6’7” and 96kg going through a carbon bike causes quite a lot of flex.

Firstly, the bike looks great, it’s black which means that it frequently suits my cheery demeanour as I’m from Mansfield. Secondly, the geometry suits a treat, a seemingly permanent back twinge from abusing trail centres can leave me feeling sore after extended periods in the saddle. The Defy needed a bit of fine tuning on the saddle position from our bike fitter Shoz at Whitwell, but it quickly felt like an old pair of slippers. Much like Mark, I expected to wince when picking up the Alloy frame, but was pleasantly surprised with the weight aspect.

Riding.

I was only ever going to use the Defy 1 for 10 to 20 mile bursts. I don’t have any ambitions of being a long distance sportive rider and my goal on drop bars is mainly focussed on maintaining fitness through the off-season. So, what surprised me the most was doing 50 miles with a road going friend. I had been reluctant to go past the 20 mile mark, as my back will begin to cry out. But, having completed some early fitness rides without discomfort, I decided to push the envelope a little. What began as a one off Sunday ride out has now become a regular weekly fixture with a group of riders - there are even murmurs of a cycling holiday. The most important thing for me is comfort and the Defy well and truly delivered (with the help of Shoz) on this. I found the bike to have sharp handling and it had no problem on tight corners - even making the back wheel step out was pretty simple.

Living with it.

Unlike Mark, who drives a knackered Fiesta with a missing wing mirror, I did look after my ride. The Shimano 105 remained buttery smooth, I did however get through a chain and cassette in the time I had it, but the bottom bracket told the tale that this was probably down to my stamping pedal style, rather than regular wear. I had always plumped for road bikes with a race geometry (being a racer) and accepted that the back problem was par for the course.

Wrap up.

The relaxed geometry was a revelation and has seen me out on the road more this winter than I have done in previous years. When it comes down to it that is really all you could ever want from a bike.

defy1-closeup

View the Giant Defy 1 >

Aaron Test Rides the Giant Defy Composite 3: 
Carbon Frame & Fork – Shimano Tiagra

★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Aaron. Rutland Cycling Online Content Manager – “he’s basically a glorified poster maker…”

defy-comp-aaron

I’m comparatively new to cycling, but as a seasoned long distance runner I’ve always been keen on fitness and sometimes struggle to curb my competitive streak. I rode a Specialized Tarmac prior to joining Rutland Cycling, however riding this was limited to a few cheeky triathlons. The Composite 3 is the carbon offering of the three bikes being compared, and was my first experience riding a carbon bike.

I couldn’t help laughing as we all stood weighing up our bikes up. Alex and Mark nodding sagely, weighing their bikes in their hands as I nearly threw my Comp 3 in the air. I only weigh 58kg (pure muscle though…) and with a light bike under me I was already dreaming of conquering climbs and dancing on the pedals.

Riding.

The Composite marks the point where the Defy range stops being about comfort and starts focusing on endurance. Any physical gains you get from being in a good position seem to be channelled into speed. The carbon moulding process enables an oversized BB shell that takes any spare energy I’ve got from sitting comfortably and moves it to the cranks. It didn’t take long for my personal bests on the old bike to take a tumble, even on the climbs. Mark and Alex didn’t find the weight penalty too much of an issue on the climbs, but both of their builds differ to mine. As someone with a slighter body, I felt they probably relied more on just pushing down on the pedals hard rather than a climbing technique. The weight saving definitely helped me get the altitude. The Shimano sits just between both Alex’s 105 and Mark’s Sora on the scale - still 10 speed, but without the mechanical refinement of 105. The shifting was good but it didn’t quite have the seamless shift of Shimano’s higher ranges. However, considering its price this and the cables coming sideways out of the shifters is a small niggle.

Living with it.

Given that I live 10 miles from work, most of my riding began to take the form of commuting. No mounts and an aero seat post meant it was backpack time, which would have ruled out any sort of touring or overnight journeys - longer day rides were a piece of cake though. The country roads en route are hardly billiard table smooth, but the lowered seat stays did a tidy job of isolating noise from the road surface.

Wrap up.

Loved it – as an all-rounder the Composite 3 did a fantastic job: it was fast, nimble and responsive, but remained comfortable on longer rides. Plus it confirmed that I am quicker than the other two on two wheels, as well as on two feet!

defy-comp-closeup

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