The Mike Burrows-designed Giant TCR introduced the compact frame to the peloton – and the wider cycling world – back in the 1990s. Before then the horizontal top tube was dominant on road bikes. The TCR, with its radical slope from head tube to seat tube, allowed for lighter, stiffer frames to be made. It was a spectacular success.
While Giant still make TCRs for competitive riders, a few years ago they created a little brother in the shape of their OCR bikes – which later morphed into the Defy range. These are designed to be more comfortable and aimed at less competitive riders.
- Frame: Fluid-formed aluminium frame typical of bikes at this price. Fairly light but paired with an overly heavy chromoly fork. Rack and mudguard eyelets up the versatility (8/10)
- Handling: Defying its 10.7kg weight, the Giant excels in pretty much all areas. With your eyes closed you could easily be riding a top-of-the-range aluminium bike from a decade or so ago, it’s that good (9/10)
- Equipment: Shimano 2300 with a triple FSA chainset results in a huge gear range. Solid own-brand components are prominent elsewhere, with Tektro supplying the brakes (6/10)
- Wheels: The Formula hub/Giant rim combo rolls okay, but the tyres are a little shiny and lacking in grip – sometimes an issue in winter (7/10)
The Giant is a versatile machine, boasting a few touches that aren’t present on all road bikes at this price. It has mounts for a rear rack, plus mudguard ﬁttings and the necessary clearance, making it suitable for year-round use and doubling up as an occasional light tourer.
While you’d think this might be achieved at the expense of performance, especially as the Defy has a comparatively modest chromoly fork, in practice it feels as fast as any of the competition. This is even more surprising when you consider the extra couple of pounds the Giant carries – but it carries it very well.
Although the Defy is a comfortable do-anything bike, it feels like a race bike. Yes, it’s going to be a little slower up hills, but there are no compromises when it comes to handling, and it feels surprisingly similar to a top-of-the-range TCR from the late 1990s. Really.
One of our testers raced on one for several years and was pleased that this much cheaper and somewhat heavier bike had the feel of a performance machine. Close your eyes and you could dream you’re riding in the Tour de France, not that we’d recommend this, of course…
Rather than go down the compact route, the Defy has a triple chainset. This combines the formerly standard double 52/42 outer and ‘middle’ rings with a 30-tooth inner. The result is a gear range of 31-117in. The top gear is high enough, and the 31in bottom gear is adequate for just about all situations, although the triple setup means a slightly wider Q factor.
The rest of the kit is solid and functional, as are the wheels and tyres. The wheels are classic-looking 36-spoke affairs that should prove very durable and will be easy to maintain, while the tyres are 25mm Vittoria Zafﬁros. This is a good width, providing decent rolling resistance without a serious weight penalty. They did occasionally lose grip on greasy roads and slippery drain surfaces, though.
Ignore the weight – which you rarely notice – and the Giant makes a great ﬁrst road bike, with a fast and forgiving ride. Use it for commuting, training, riding for fun, even carrying your shopping, and with mudguards you can defy the weather and ride it 365 days of the year.