Unlike a lot of bike manufacturers, Giant doesn’t tinker much with its designs year on year – and the Defy 1 from 2012 through to 2014 was pretty much unaltered.
But for 2015 the Taiwanese giant has rung the changes on what is the bread-and-butter bike in its extensive road portfolio. Then again, we like a bit of bread and butter – so what do these changes mean for what's been a much-loved ride here at BikeRadar?
The star of the show here is Shimano’s 11-speed 105. Our jaded, seen-it-all tester has used 105 for decades on his own bikes and test machines, but this really impressed him. It feels just like Ultegra – and that’s very good indeed. The extra sprocket means you can have the same spread of gears as last year – 12-30 – but with smaller jumps. And the cassette has also been upgraded from Tiagra to 105. A win-win. It really is lovely, and a genuine all-round improvement.
It’s not all 105. The brakes are still Tektro’s callipers and could do with better pads, but whereas the last three years’ models all had Shimano’s non-series R565 chainset, the 2015 Defy gets an upgrade to FSA’s Gossamer Pro, which looks swankier and shifted perfectly.
But it’s not just the kit that has had a makeover. If you made a flickbook of earlier Defy frames the only noticeable difference would be the paintwork. For 2015 not much has altered at the front, but the rear end is radically different. The seat tube has lost girth, the seatstays have been dropped à la BMC, and the carbon seatpost has reduced in diameter and changed profile. Whereas you might have expected the seatpost to go aero (Giant’s TCR had an aero post in the 1990s), it has now got a squared-off rear – the ‘auto-aligning’ D-Fuse, in Giant speak. Why? Giant claims it offers more (ta-da!) ‘compliance’ and vibration damping. The word ‘comfort’ isn’t used, though that’s what this redesign is about.
But the geometry has been kept, and that was a major part of the Defy’s winning formula. The near 73-degree angles, the 1m wheelbase and 420mm chainstays are all present and correct. It’s a fine, almost unbeatable balance of handling, speed and performance, and our tester’s ultra-experienced posterior reckons this Giant is more comfortable than its predecessor – smoother over rutted roads and perfect for long days. You can even squeeze in 28mm rubber if you want extra plushness.
For this kind of outlay you can get a good carbon frame with lesser kit, or an online alloy bike at a great price. But few can match this as an all-round package you can ride home on from your local bike shop. The Defy is a bike you can ride all day on, commute on in comfort, race on, and have fun on. We’d have liked a lighter, all-carbon steerer and 105 brakes, but Giant has improved the comfort and value on what was already an exceedingly impressive machine. Not only that, Giant is also one of the few manufacturers to make its own frames in its own factories – which it backs up with a lifetime frame warranty.