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Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1 review

25 Mar 2020

Page 1 of 2Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1 review

Verdict:

Giant’s latest Defy is future-proof, versatile, fast and far less expensive than equivalently specced alternatives

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£4,799
For 
Fast • 32mm tyres • Predictable handling • Well priced
Against 
Slightly heavy • Fiddly seatpost bolt

If ever there was a brand that could see into the future, it would surely be Giant. Back when rim brakes were standard across the board, the Defy came out equipped exclusively with disc brakes, and weighed just 7.25kg.

At the time that was mildly mind-blowing, and yet today it looks all too conventional. And while the new Defy doesn’t look any different, rest assured, this is no less a vision of the future than its forebear.

‘Aside from the D-Fuse seatpost, the headset bearings and the rear derailleur hanger, pretty much every part of the bike has changed,’ says David Ward, product manager for Giant UK. Sure enough, while the 2020 Defy cuts a similar silhouette to the previous version, every tube shape is actually slightly different.

 

The main difference in design, though, is that the maximum tyre clearance has gone up from 25mm to 35mm – a clearance that just a few years ago would only have been found on cyclocross bikes. The Defy comes off the shelf with 32mm tyres and is equipped with tubeless tyres as standard, which I heartily applaud.

Aside from the alloy dropouts, most of the frame is made from Toray’s T700 carbon. That’s a slight step down from the higher-quality, stiffer T800 fibres Giant uses in the top-tier Advanced SL versions of the Propel and TCR race bikes.

For the Defy, there is no Advanced SL level frame, and the less expensive Advanced tier actually uses an identical frame to this one. That’s encouraging for those looking for a lower spec bike that doesn’t compromise on performance.

Very much on trend with the latest batch of aero bikes, the front end cables are completely concealed. This hasn’t been achieved through clever internal routing of gear cables, though, but because Giant’s top two tiers of the Defy use wireless Sram groupsets.

Buy now from Tredz for £4,799

Lower-spec bikes make do with an external set of gear cables at the front, but for me that’s a smart fix, as it saves on the cost of developing a complex internal cabling system through the stem. Intriguingly, the bike wasn’t tested in the wind-tunnel, so the change is more a nod to aesthetics than it is to pure performance.

It’s odd to think of the rugged Defy putting style ahead of substance, so I was hoping that wouldn’t adversely affect the ride quality.

 

A Giant leap for mankind

There were a few niggles as I prepared for my first ride. The frame made a clicking noise when I turned the bars, which turned out to be the front and rear hydraulic brake cables flicking against each other inside the head tube. Easily fixed, but frustrating.

Then there was the seatpost bolt, which sits in the top tube at an angle that leaves it facing the seatpost. Its positioning means certain types of allen key, torque wrench and multitools are not compatible. For a brand with such a wealth of experience in manufacturing, tiny niggles like that are disappointing.

Riding the Defy for the first time, though, I felt as if I was aboard an aero bike on 25mm tyres – so much so I actually measured the tyre widths to confirm they were as wide as stated.

I’ve ridden many road bikes with 30mm+ tyres over the last few months and often feel a slight drag compared to narrower tyres. I’m impressed that Giant has managed to deliver such a racy feel on such a wide tyre, and I put that down to a mix of frame stiffness and the very good Giant-branded Fondo tyres. It’s easy to underestimate just how much difference a good tubeless tyre can make. The bike simply feels fast.

The more time I spent with the Defy, the more impressed I was with the effortless ride quality. With the 32mm tyres at around 70psi, I seemed to almost float over the tarmac. That in turn was reflected in the speed of the bike.

I felt confident to ride through minor potholes and road scarring, which allowed me to relax and focus on putting down watts – I often found myself drifting off the front of my riding group, while the responsiveness of the frame had me sprinting up inclines.

Giant has given real thought to how the wider tyre clearance affects geometry. To counter the extra height from the tyres, Giant has lowered the BB by 5mm from the previous generation.

The head tube has also been lowered, which makes the bike appear less tall, even though the stack and reach are actually identical to the last Defy. The result is geometry that’s tall at the front yet aggressive enough to deliver a quick turn of speed. My ride stats backed that up, too.

 

On a still winter’s day I posted one of my fastest times ever up a local 300m climb. That surprised me given the bike’s relatively portly 8.2kg weight. On a descent on the same ride, meanwhile, I hit one of my highest speeds. Perhaps because of the wider tyres, the sense of control and simply being planted to the ground was almost surreal.

With that in mind, I had no fear taking the Defy off-road either, and given more time with the bike I’d like to experiment with different tyre widths, extending to 35mm or even trying to squeeze in 38mm tyres to take on really testing terrain.

The Defy seemed capable of anything. Indeed, after a month of riding it, the only criticism I could muster was that it wasn’t quite as exciting as some of the competition among endurance racers.

The Specialized Roubaix or Trek Domane seem to capture a little more pro cycling glamour, and perhaps feel a little racier, too. That said, if I rode all three on the same segment I wouldn’t be surprised if the Defy proved just as fast, despite being easier on the wallet.

In this guise, with Sram Force AXS, the Defy is £2,000 cheaper than a Trek Domane with the equivalent spec. The same value runs through the range right down to the entry-level Defy, which shows the benefits Giant attains by making almost every component itself.

Giant may not be a brand that makes riders go misty-eyed with romance or sweaty-palmed with excitement, but there’s no denying that the latest Defy is simply a very good bike indeed.

Buy now from Tredz for £4,799

Spec

Frame Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1
Groupset Sram Force eTap AXS
Brakes Sram Force eTap AXS
Chainset Sram Force eTap AXS
Cassette Sram Force eTap AXS
Bars Contact SLR D-Fuse 
Stem Contact SL Stealth
Seatpost D-Fuse SL
Saddle Contact SL
Wheels Giant SLR-1 Disc, Gavia Fondo 1 32mm tyres 
Weight 8.24kg (size ML)
Contact giant-bicycles.com

Page 1 of 2Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1 review

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