Giant Defy Advanced 1 review

A mixed bag braking system holding back a great frame

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £1,999
Three-quarter view red and black road bike

Our review

A brilliant bike let down by its slightly disappointing brake system
Pros: Smooth ride, great position and good value with it
Cons: The cable-hydraulic brake system lacks feel and adds weight up front

Aside from the impressive Defy frame, the main highlight on Giant’s Advanced 1 model is its almost full Ultegra groupset, which is rare to find on bikes costing less than two grand.

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What’s allowed Giant to spec such a premium drivetrain is the mix ‘n’ match nature of this bike’s braking system, which is made up of Giant’s own Conduct hydraulic disc brakes hooked up to the cable-actuated Ultegra brake levers.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a mistake – the one system does work with the other by virtue of Giant’s converter unit integrated into the face plate of the stem.

D-Fuse seatpost on red and black road bike
The D-Fuse carbon seatpost delivers a smooth ride
David Caudery/Immediate Media

The brakes work well. Their power is impressive and the 140mm rotors, although basic, stayed quiet when warm and ran without rubbing, even in filthy winter weather. They are, however, lacking in feel compared to a full Shimano setup.

The lever action feels a bit more on-off and doesn’t have the fine control that a ‘proper’ hydraulic system offers. If anything, it feels more like a well sorted rim brake system than a disc set-up.

The rest of the groupset works perfectly well, with all the slick and accurate shifts you’d expect from Shimano’s second-tier gears.

Giant Defy Advanced 1
The new frame and fork have more generous tyre clearances than previous models
David Caudery/Immediate Media

The finishing kit is all from Giant and includes the D-Fuse carbon seatpost and alloy handlebar combination, which both go a long way towards taking the sting out of rough roads, and is assisted by the PR-2 wheelset shod with 28mm Gavia AC1 tubeless tyres.

When it comes to the Defy frame, the highlight is its rear-end compliance. Its slender, slightly dropped seatstays work in conjunction with the D-Fuse seatpost to produce just the right sort of suppleness to soak up bumps.

Sadly, the front end doesn’t have the smoothness to match. It’s not harsh or uncomfortable, it just feels somewhat dead compared to the lively back end. The extra weight of the cable-hydraulic converter built into the stem may be to blame.

Giant Defy Advanced 1
Shimano Ultegra brake levers control Giant’s own Conduct brakes
David Caudery/Immediate Media

That sensation of diluted agility at the front end may take some of the racy edge off the Defy but it remains a great all-round endurance machine.

Its 28mm tyres help keep you rolling smoothly and being setup tubeless helps to keep what is a fairly modest wheelset feeling more sprightly than it otherwise would, especially on the climbs.

There are plenty of practical touches built in to the Defy too – the new frame and fork have more generous tyre clearances than previous models (Giant says there’s room for 32mm tyres but I think you could probably go even wider), there are mounts for mudguards and Giant’s RideSense speed and cadence sensor comes fitted to the non-driveside chainstay.

Male cyclist riding red and black bike in countryside
The ride position is on the sporty side of the sportive bike spectrum
Robert Smith

The ride position is on the sporty side of the sportive bike spectrum – it’s a little longer and lower than some of its similarly sized rivals. But its 72.5 degree head tube angle and 58mm fork trail imbues the handling with a decent balance of stability and speed, while its excellent rear end ensures you stay comfortable while you’re racking up the miles.

All in all, the Defy is perfectly capable of carrying you far and wide in comfort, and it’s a great price, it’s just that the bike’s overall performance is somewhat undermined by its braking system.

Giant Defy Advanced 1 specifications

  • Sizes (*tested): S, M, ML, L, XL*
  • Weight: 9.4kg
  • Frame: Advanced carbon
  • Fork: Advanced carbon
  • Chainset: Shimano RS510
  • Bottom bracket: Shimano Press Fit
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-34
  • Chain: KMC X11
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
  • Wheelset: Giant P-R2 Disc
  • Tyres: Giant Gavia AC 1 tubeless 28mm
  • Wheel weight: 1.43kg (f), 2.11kg (r)
  • Stem: Giant Connect
  • Bar: Contact SL D-Fuse
  • Headset: OverDrive
  • Saddle: Giant Contact (neutral)
  • Seatpost: Giant D-Fuse carbon composite
  • Brakes: Giant Conduct SL hydraulic disc, 140mm rotors
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Giant Defy Advanced 1 geometry

  • Seat angle: 73 degrees
  • Head angle: 72.5 degrees
  • Chainstay: 42cm
  • Seat tube: 56.5cm
  • Top tube: 57.5
  • Head tube: 22.5cm
  • Fork offset: 4.75cm
  • Trail: 6cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 7cm
  • Bottom bracket height: 27.5cm
  • Wheelbase: 1,035mm
  • Stack: 62.4cm
  • Reach: 39.8cm
  • Price: £1,999 / $2,520