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Giant Defy 3 review

6 Sep 2016
Verdict:

Taiwanese behemoth’s smooth operator

Price: 
£649

The ride

First impression The Defy 3 is very easy to set up, thanks in no small part to its immense standover height. Its flat, boxy tube shapes are 
also a delight to pore over, and uncharacteristic of aluminium frames. And once bum hits saddle, hands hold bars and shoes are clipped in, it’s instantly pleasing to be aboard, boding well for several hours on the poorly-surfaced back roads of Britain.

On the road This is where the Defy 3 really excels. Alloy-framed road bikes can be vibey, jarring and fatiguing, especially to riders stepping on to their first bike. But the Defy 3 smooths your passage along pitted tarmac with aplomb. The ride quality is on a par with carbon bikes costing three times the Giant’s £649 asking price. The boxy tubing offers stiffness where it counts – and the Defy is keen to jump out of corners and up short rises, too – but the rear end is particularly compliant, with no discernible flex from the own-brand wheels, either. Its relative willingness to climb is also related to it undercutting the Speedster 50 by almost a kilo in weight. The flipside of this magic-carpet comfort is that there’s a bit less communication between bike and road, but on balance, we’ll take comfort over adrenaline rush on a bike designed for leisure riding. The carbon fork also performs well, taking buzz out of the bars. Yes, the 11-32 cassette is a very wide ratio, so it suffers the same occasionally clunky cog swaps as the other bikes here, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Handling Easy-going frame geometry gives a relaxed ride, but with enough weight forced over the front by the 73.8° seat angle. Cornering isn’t up there with the most agile race bikes, but to criticise the Defy for this is to miss the point. It’s aimed at providing easy-going riding enjoyment, and it delivers on this promise. The carbon fork and tapered head tube provide direct steering, and the 990mm wheelbase offers a stable yet responsive ride. It will cosset newcomers, and more experienced riders can get a lot out of this set-up, too. Its performance is limited by its R312 brakes, however. We’d wager that fitting Sora callipers (albeit at an extra cost) would provide more consistent and stronger braking force. Giant’s own-brand S-R4 tyres are far from wooden, offering good feel and grip, especially in this 25c form. The bottom line is this bike offers great versatility, is easy to get the best from and excels in the comfort stakes.

The spec

Frameset The Defy 3 uses 6061 aluminium alloy, which is easy to work on, so manufacturers can build lightweight frames at a lower production cost. Giant is keen to shout about the optimum strength-to-weight ratio its frames boast, and that by using single-butted tubing (one thickness along their length) on this most basic frame build allows low weight with maximum strength. The welding is worthy of mention as it’s by far the neatest of all four bikes on test. Giant’s Compact Road Design essentially means the rear triangle is kept as compact as possible, so less material is used, making it stiffer and lighter, while the sloping top tube increases standover height, making it easy to get a good fit for most riders. A wheelbase of 990mm combined with a steering head angle of 72° marks the Defy out as a bike built for distance and comfort, with minimum fatigue. Mudguard and pannier rack eyelets enhance the bike’s practicality.

Groupset Shimano Sora equipment is used for the front and rear mechs, chainset and shifters, so among our test bikes, the Defy 3 has the most unified approach to its groupset. It makes a difference, and it’s impressive for this money, although jumps between gear ratios in the 11-32 nine-speed cassette are fairly pronounced.  

Finishing kit It stands to reason that one of the biggest companies in cycling, with its own production facilities in the Far East, will make its own finishing kit. The Connect handlebars are very comfortable, with a near-perfect drop and excellent vibe-cancelling. The 30.9mm seatpost doesn’t offer the same damping quality as a narrower post, but the extra length of seat tube afforded by the steep-drop top tube negates this, and we’re also quite fond of Giant’s comfortable own-brand saddle. 

Wheels The S-R2 wheelset is far from light, but the key here is to balance robustness with performance, and they pull off that trick. They’re well built, and punchy enough at this budget. The own-brand tyres engender confidence, and at 25c offer good ride quality and comfort, while also inspiring cornering confidence with a larger contact patch.

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 530mm 531mm
Seat Tube (ST) 520mm 520mm
Down Tube (DT) n/a 620mm
Fork Length (FL) n/a 380mm
Head Tube (HT) 145mm 145mm
Head Angle (HA) 72 72
Seat Angle (SA) 74 73.8
Wheelbase (WB) 990 990mm
BB drop (BB) n/a 64mm

Spec

Frame Aluxx-grade aluminium, composite fork
Groupset Shimano Sora
Brakes Tektro R312
Chainset Shimano Sora 50/34
Cassette SRAM PG 950
Bars Giant Connect
Stem Giant Sport
Seatpost Giant Sport
Wheels Giant S-R2
Saddle Giant Performance Road
Weight 9.4kg
Contact giant-bicycles.com

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