Giant's Defy has been the dominant bike in this price category for the past few years, but the big bike brand haven't rested on their laurels, and the all-new 2012 frameset sets new benchmarks for alloy responsiveness and ride quality at this pricepoint.
- Highs: Superb chassis creates a responsive but flowing ride backed up by balanced handling and excellent components for the money
- Lows: The wheels are okay for now but the frame and component quality mean it's worth upgrading to something lighter
- Buy if: You want the best riding bike we know of for this price
Rather than one frame doing duty throughout the range, trading up to the Defy 1 from the excellent Defy 2 gets you smooth triple-pass welds and a press-fit bottom bracket. The latter means a 50g increase in weight over the Defy 2 but it's worth it as the increased stiffness of the wider frame shell (and stiffer Shimano crank axle compared with the skinny FSA axle) is immediately noticeable on climbs.
The complete bike weight of 8.87kg is another big factor in how well the Defy defies gravity, picking up speed immediately and encouragingly in any gear. The relatively short stem, tapered fork/ head tube and big down tube mean you can really brace your shoulders against a gear without feeling like you're going to tear the front end off.
Cornering accuracy is similarly precise, with a playful and responsive steering feel in tight turning situations that still stays the right side of stable at higher speeds on greasy roads. You get some spoke twang from the wheels the first few times you do it, but once they've settled, the Giant branded rolling stock performs fine, albeit at a relatively high weight.
Giant's PR3 tyres are proving a useful addition to their growing own-brand collection too: predictable, trustworthy grip underlined with puncture protection. It's this ride quality that really makes the Giant stand out from its peers. We're not talking princess and pea differences either; there's a flow, fluidity and vitality to the Defy frame that puts it in a different class to anything else we've ridden in its category so far this year.
The riding position is really well balanced between comfort and combat, with a compact bar and full-carbon-shaft seatpost augmenting frame comfort. The component spec is excellent considering the quality of chassis that you're getting for the money, and touches like Defy-specific close-clearance mudguards and an aftermarket seat collar that includes rack mounts complete a superbly designed package.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.
Credit: BikeRadar.com Road Bikes & Gear