The Defy is Giant's most popular road bike when it comes to sales, the everyman road offering that we buy instead of the ultra-stiff flyweight TCR or the powerfully rapid aero Propel.
Somehow though, it never gets the same recognition as its stablemates, and it’s hard to fathom why. For one, it’s a damn fine-looking bike, understated maybe, but the lines are clean and it looks race bike quick rather than recreational bike relaxed.
Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 spec as tested
- Weight: 8.78kg (XL, including Garmin mount, two bottle cages, Shimano 105 composite pedals)
- Frame: Advanced-Grade Composite
- Fork: Advanced-Grade Composite, full-composite Overdrive 2 steerer
- Handlebar: Contact SLR D-Fuse
- Stem: Contact SL Stealth
- Seatpost: Giant D-Fuse SL composite
- Saddle: Contact SL (neutral)
- Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra, hydraulic
- Brake levers: Shimano Ultegra Di2, hydraulic
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 11x34
- Chain: KMC X11SL-1
- Crankset: Shimano Ultegra with Giant Power Pro, 36/52
- Bottom bracket: Shimano Press Fit
- Wheels: Giant SLR-1 Disc Wheel System, 12mm thru-axle, Centre Lock
- Tyres: Giant Gavia AC 1 tubeless, 700x28, folding
- Extras: RideSense Bluetooth
A new frameset for 2019
The differences between the new model and the previous generation (which was one of the first mainstream brand bikes to go completely disc-only) look minimal when it comes to the frame.
It has the same sculpted angular tube work and the same skinny dropped seatstays, but tweaks have been made here and there. My XL test bike is 3mm longer than its predecessor, and the bottom bracket drop has grown to 70mm (up 5mm). Both changes help accommodate bigger tyres (up to 32s) and it comes equipped with Giant’s impressive 28mm AC1 tubeless tyres, which are set up in their proper manner — tubeless.
The new head tube shaping and stem may take their design cues from the aero optimised Propel unit, but here it’s all about keeping the cables fully internally routed rather than cutting a wind-cheating path. It all adds up to a seriously clean looking machine.
The ride — smooth, without compromising on speed
On the road, the Defy immediately impresses; the chassis is all about purposeful solidity, the response under pedalling feels just as instant and snappy as my own TCR Advanced SL Disc, and yet when you hit a coarse section of tarmac the Defy absorbs the chatter superbly.
It's easily a match for rivals like Cannondale’s Synapse and Canyon’s Endurace, and close to the Trek Domane, the Specialized Roubaix, and the Lapierre’s Pulsium without having to resort to pivots, elastomers, or any other added on widgets.
My two days of test riding in Italy included ascents of the Gavia (from both sides) and the Mortirolo, and a whole bunch of rolling terrain between them. The Defy Advanced Pro 0 comes across as the bike built for this terrain. You may be able to find lighter (my XL test bike replete with pedals, Garmin mount, and two bottle cages weighed in at 8.78kg), but that’s really immaterial because it rides lighter than the numbers would suggest.
Some of that will be down to the fine Giant carbon SLR wheels and impressive 28mm rubber that offers a lively ride, with quick pick up, smooth rolling and little detrimental lateral flex.
On a beast of a climb like the Gavia I think you learn more about yourself than you do about a bike, and I learned that I’m now a bigger fan of Shimano’s ever-so-versatile Ultegra Di2 group than I was before. The 52/36 pro-compact up front combined with a super wide 11-34 at the back was pretty much the ideal range for me.
I’d like to be able to say the 34 was superfluous to proceedings in all but the steepest double-digit gradients, but I used it far more than that. Having a gear you can spin when your legs are loaded with lactic acid is a boon and I’m all for taking advantage of technical advancements like this.
The big surprise on a bike at this price is Giant’s own in-house developed power meter. When I picked up my bike it was set up with Giant’s own GPS, which had me wondering, but I switched that out for my trusty Garmin, synced in the power meter (which has a proper name not just a code number), calibrated it from my Edge 1030 in seconds and rode away without any hitches or surprises.
Comparing it to my usual meter readings (a Quarq D-Zero) the Giant unit read a couple of watts higher on average, and the left/right balance a bit more pronounced (I’m 45/55 on the Quarq, 43/57 on the Giant), but close enough for me not to have any concerns.
When the road starts to fall and you get into the meat of a descent, the Defy is an impressive handling bike. Despite the front end being too tall for my liking — the test bikes were box fresh and we couldn’t cut down the steerers — it still responded quickly with spot on balance to hold a fast line, and it really cut into the corners with confidence.
On the climbs the new D-Fuse bar feels as stiff as any carbon bar, so Giant’s claims of its compliance seemed just, claims. But the D-Fuse bar came into its own on the descent of the Gavia.
This legendary climb is for the most part pretty smooth, but at the first steepening of the descent, the road becomes a mixture of ripples, split surfaces and some devilishly deep ruts and potholes where line choice is all important and you need to throw in a bunny hop or two to clear hazards.
When in the drops of the D-Fuse bar, the flex afforded when you hit a bump in the road is pronounced and it works in conjunction with the D-Fuse post making for a smooth path through the worst surfaces.
If you do find the D-Fuse bar a little too compliant it can be rotated a little fore and aft at the stem, which will offset the D-shape meaning less force acting on the flexing area and therefore a little more stiffness.
As much as I am mightily impressed with the new Pro 0, it's not without its niggles. The Contact SL saddle in its neutral version felt a bit flat and firm to me, and that’s despite a generous layer of high density padding. I’d prefer either a more swoopy Fizik Aliante style shape or a short more padded saddle like Specialized’s Power, Prologo’s Dimension, or Selle Italia’s Novus Boost.
Saddles are a personal preference of course, and what I would like to see changed is the disc rotor up front.
Riders who need an XL frame will be 6-foot-2 plus and by default they’ll be on the heavier end of the spectrum. The 140mm rotor fitted did admittedly stop me every time without fail, but it soon started to screech in protest at being relied upon.
I run all of my own bikes with a 160mm at the front and I prefer the increased control it affords. It's also far less anti-social when it comes to unwanted noise.
Early verdict — everything you could want in an endurance bike
Overall, though, the Defy is everything I’d want in an endurance bike; it’s got class leading handling, smoothness, compliance, and in this range topping version arguably class-leading value to boot.
If you’re not looking to race, but still want to get round that sportive, fondo, charity ride, or club run as quickly as possible then the Defy certainly deserves your attention.