We’ve already waxed lyrical about just how good Giant’s Defy Advanced is. It was a resounding sales success for Giant in 2013, so for 2014 the manufacturer has taken the decision that apart from a lick of paint the Defy should remain unchanged.
If you are on the lookout for a new bike, though, the fact that Giant has snipped a chunk off retail price should make the Defy even more tempting – tempting enough for it to be one of the top five bikes in Cycling Plus magazine's Bike of the Year 2014 awards.
- Highs: Brilliant mix of racy handling and endurance comfort
- Lows: Nothing, bar Shimano’s not-so-hard wearing component finish
So what makes the Defy such a great all rounder? First its all about the way in which it handles. Up front the Overdrive head tube and steerer combo is resolutely stout, tapering from an inch and a quarter to a massive inch and half. Dimensions like this under less skilled design engineers could produce a bike that’s uncompromisingly stiff upfront and lacks any concession to comfort. Giant however has produced a front end that’s rock solid when you want it to be, hammering through corners at full chat, sprinting and swinging on the bars, or out of the saddle attacking ascents.
In all of these scenarios the Defy feels every inch as good as the best pro-race bikes. The beauty however is that when you just want to relax on the hoods and cruise along, or motor over coarse broken tarmac the Defy is the definition of smoothness.
The Defy is a bike where nothing feels like it doesn’t belong: every part is chosen for a purpose, not for accountants and certainly not for fashion. The Fi'zi:k Aliante is one of the most comfortable saddles ever made. The 25c tyres enhance comfort, all-weather performance and all-round grip. The tyres, like the wheels, are top-notch performers – just because they bear the same name as the bike itself (own brand equipment is usually a sure fire sign of cost cutting), you shouldn't underestimate them. These tyres are as supple and sticky as the best brands out there, and the quality of the wheels (built in partnership with DTSwiss) are as good as any at this price.
The Defy’s advanced frame range uses an in house high-grade carbon weave (derived from Toray T700 filaments no less) and a highly developed layup schedule. This means the Advanced frame can meet all of the requirements of light weight, stiffness and comfort giving compliance.
For this year Giant has even livened up the livery, adding a splash of red and bolder graphic flashes. The frame is compatible with electronic drivetrains and even comes with an ANT+ speed and cadence sensor fitted into the rear non-drive side chainstay.
Giant’s policy of using complete groupsets is one we agree with: it's Shimano 105 throughout, even the cassette. Our only quibble with the drivetrain is the black finish to the 105 chainset – we like the matt/gloss highlights, which add an air of class, but we did find the finish was rubbed and polished down to the bare metal after a few hours riding... making it all too quickly look second hand. Hardly the fault of Giant, but we hope Shimano is listening.
The gearing is spot-on for most riders. With an 11-28 out back and a 50/34 pairing at the front this gives the all round range we want for both inclines and descents.
We’re still enchanted every time we ride the Defy. It’s a Ferrari when you want to get rapid, and an air-suspended Rolls Royce when you don’t. For 2014 it even looks more exciting than last year's model.
If you want a bike that’s got everything – comfort, speed and handling in perfect balance – you should be taking a closer look.
The Defy Advanced 2 is not available in the USA.