Giant Defy Advanced 2 review£1,299.00

Superb-value ride that's made to Defy the rough stuff

BikeRadar score4/5

Regular readers will probably know that Giant generally makes a fine bike (and not just under its own name either – but that’s another story). Today we’re all about the Defy, Giant’s endurance model, and specifically its disc braked variant.

At a price where some brands aren’t able to offer worthwhile carbon framesets, Giant offers one with a raft of trickle-down technology from far higher up its extensive range.

If you want pedigree, then consider that the 2015 edition of Paris-Roubaix was won by John Degenkolb aboard a Defy with rim brakes.

Although shifting the brakes to the dropouts – as some riders did for this year’s event – changes the frame’s aesthetics, its ethos and the quailties that make it suited to truly testing terrain remain.

Hidden design depths

What looks in profile to be a simple, unfussy frame design is actually a collection of subtle tube shapes and junctions that flow smoothly into each other, with the twin aims of creating speed and comfort over the toughest roads imaginable, for the hardest riders there are. Obviously given the price point there’s quite a difference between the carbon used for the top spec race machines, and this Advanced 2 model, but on the road the gaps are narrower than you might think.

Dropped 'stays mean more unsupported seatpost – and greater comfort:
Dropped 'stays mean more unsupported seatpost – and greater comfort:

Dropped 'stays mean more unsupported seatpost – and greater comfort

From the outset, the Defy outperforms its spec sheet, seeming to float across the roughest broken tarmac, and feeling far lighter than it is. We’ve ridden endurance bikes costing more than double the price that don’t ride as well – the Defy’s bump-smoothing ability is incredible.

In practice, that floaty feeling starts at the wheelset’s virtual 3x spoke pattern and combines with carbon cunning in the frame’s design. Dropped seatstays allow greater deflection by leaving more unsupported seat tube, and the D-Fuse (D-shaped) seatpost flexes readily.

On top, the white Arione-shaped Giant Performance saddle feels extremely plush too, its only fault being its propensity to get stained by dirt.

A superb all-round package

As a package, it works superbly well, efficiently ticking the miles off, but always letting you know there’s more speed on tap. That compact rear triangle helps whip it up to speed, or uphill, the oversized steerer helps the front end always feel positive, and high-speed handling is predictably stable. Front-end solidity and Giant’s Powercore bottom bracket area mean that it even packs a mean sprint.

Giant’s PR-2 Disc wheelset has rims that are usefully wide and 30mm deep, and is fitted with the brand’s own P-SL1 tyres, which roll and grip impressively. Although hardly race hoops, the wheelset has a feel that balances response and comfort well, complementing the frameset.

The front end is impressively predictable and trp's spyre disc brakes are solid performers:
The front end is impressively predictable and trp's spyre disc brakes are solid performers:

The front end is impressively predictable and TRP's Spyre disc brakes are solid performers

TRP’s chunky Spyre cable-operated disc brakes, meanwhile, are reliable stoppers with good, positive lever feel, progressive power and simple maintenance. While not up to the performance of hydraulic offerings, they’re pretty much as good as their kind gets.

Elsewhere, the black 105 drivetrain is at least matched by the RS500 compact crankset, and the 34x32 lowest gear should get you over just about anything short of the side of a house. Dropping down again, Giant’s alloy cockpit proves spacious and usefully ergonomic – and well-matched to the frameset for incremental line adjustments. Hard cornering is drama-free thanks to those reliable brakes, and the great predictability of the front end and tyres.

In an ideal world we’d have hydraulic discs and sexier wheels, but at this price, the Defy Advanced 2 has a complementary combination of parts that bless it with a thoroughly satisfying ride, and deliver faultless value.

Also consider:

Cannondale CAAD12 105

With wonderful handling, a composed and smooth ride, the lightweight CAAD12 105 is the pinnacle of alloy road machines. Read our full Cannondale CAAD12 105 review.

Trek Emonda ALR6

A smooth and responsive road machine with a fine parts pick that proudly flies the flag for aluminum frame bikes. Read our full Trek Emonda ALR6 review.

Focus Cayo 105 Mix

Sporting a carbon frame proven at the elite level of riding, the Cayo 105 is a worthy canvas for inevitable upgrades. Read our full Focus Cayo 105 Mix review.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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