Giant’s Defy range of comfortable, but naturally quick, road bikes has been a huge success in recent seasons. The Defy 2 is the third bike in the closely spaced £550, £595, £925 alloy branch of the family, with signiﬁcant upgrades over the Defy 3 that are well worth paying for.
Ride & handling: Well-balanced handling, perfect for high mileage racing
We’ve ridden the Defy in previous years so the immediately high-class feel of the smoothly shaped and tapered frame tubes wasn’t a surprise. The way it glides rather than clatters over rough sections without sacriﬁcing power delivery or handling precision is still extremely impressive. This translates directly into less fatigue and more energy on longer rides, making it a great choice for high mileage training or racing. The reinforced tyres and hefty rims are usefully tough if your Defy is going to be doing a lot of mileage on dirty city streets or dark country lanes too.
More challenging riding situations are no drama for the Defy either, as the handling is also extremely well-balanced as well as accurate. The well-shaped cockpit translates a surefooted but responsive feel that reassures and encourages in equal measure if a descending road turns twisty and tasty. Add the extra stability and shock absorption of the bigger tyres, and we were happily pushing the Giant much harder on descents than a lot of multi-thousand-pound superbikes we’ve ridden.
We know from experience that the Defy frame transfers rider effort dynamically with little dilution too. The Overdrive headtube, big bottom bracket/downtube section mean it can make the most of your muscle, whether it’s just through the pedals or with some shoulder-wrestling thrown into the mix too.
You can also feel this through the pedals of the Defy 2, but the heavy wheelset deﬁnitely takes some of the zip out of the ride. That’s not to say it doesn’t accelerate or gain altitude with reasonable enthusiasm and even the steepest, longest hills on our extended Dales test loops were dispatched with efﬁciently. The current wheels deﬁnitely dull the potential sharp edge we know the bike has, and they’d deﬁnitely be the ﬁrst thing on our upgrade list if you want to fully exploit the performance potential of the Giant. It’s a tribute to the ride quality of the frame and fork that something as signiﬁcant as the wheels are well worth upgrading though, and the excellent ride character of the Defy is something you won’t grow tired of quickly.
Frame: Delivers a benchmark performance/comfort balance
The frame of the Defy is the same throughout the range and it’s a really nice piece. It uses a lot of complex hydroformed (pressurised hydraulic tube shaping) shapes throughout, including the tapered top and down tubes. It has a tapered headtube and fork that uses a 1.5in bottom bearing for extra stiffness, but a standard diameter 1.125in bearing at the top to keep the weight the same. In common with the Defy 3, the 2 also gets the ‘Advanced Grade’ carbon-legged alloy top fork as a very worthwhile ride-improving and serious 700g weight-saving upgrade over the entry-level Defy 4. The result is a very light complete chassis, competitive with many bikes twice the price.
There are threaded mounts for rear rack and mudguards, although there’s no room for full mudguards under the low proﬁle brakes.
Equipment: Heavy wheels and tyres dull the responsiveness we know is there
The Giant is a little more expensive than some of its peers, but this extra investment pays off handsomely in kit as well as chassis terms. The most signiﬁcant is the use of a Shimano Sora chainset with external bottom bracket cups for a lighter, stiffer performance. Compact rings give a friendly range of gears in combination with the 9-speed rear cassette too.
Giant bars, stem seatpost and saddle all get their jobs done ﬁne without adding excess weight too. The Giant wheelset – including high-volume puncture-proofed tyres – adds a fair amount of weight where you want it least, though.
The Defy frameset is the benchmark of ideally balanced comfort and performance in the mid-price bike market and the Defy 2 adds quality forks and transmission to create a very attractive package. The heavy wheels do dull its responsiveness noticeably though, so look to upgrade them as soon as possible to release its full potential.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine.