Our ‘Family Bike Guy’ guest reviewer is back this week with another road bike road test.
The Bench Mark – Giant Defy 1
If you’re in the market for a £1000 road bike it’s quite likely that you will have done a bit of research, maybe even read a few group test reviews online – I’d be willing to bet that the Giant Defy 1 will have been selected as the winner in most if not all of them. It certainly did in the group tests I’d read. So, naturally I was keen to find out what the fuss was about and when the Cycle Centre offered me the opportunity to test ride a Defy 1 in a frame size that was right for me I couldn’t say no.
I’m going to start with a little note about the frame size and what Giant offer in their size range. Why? Well, the frame size is always important but for a road bike it is absolutely critical. Get it wrong and you’re never going to be able to find a comfortable position on the bike. Giant offer the Defy in 5 sizes, from S to XL. I took an M, which was also labelled as a 50cm frame. This is a little misleading as this measurement is taken from the seat tube which is relatively short due to the sloping top tube – the horizontal top tube measurement was 53.5cm. So in reality the frame is probably closer to a 54cm standard geometry bike. I’m 175cm tall, with a 83cm leg measurement and a relatively short torso. Even before getting the bike fitted and changing the pedals, it felt right for me.
The 2013 Defy 1 is available in two colour schemes. The lovely striking white, black and red version I rode and a less than lovely light green (not actually as bad as it sounds).
The geometry on the Defy frame is a splendid balance of comfortable and sporty. Ideal for anyone wanting to cycle for fitness and fun but still be able to ride with a bit of head down racing aggression.
Giant have apparently perfected a technique of working with aluminium that results in all sorts of wonderful ‘class leading’ benefits. They call it ALUXX SL-Grade aluminium. The frame tubes are quite unusual but the bike is relatively light and stiff where it needs to be, so they must be doing something right. It is certainly capable of holding it’s own against carbon fibre frames in a comparable price bracket.
The Other Bits
One of the things I really liked about the Defy 1 was the level of group set and other bits that comes on it. The Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs are a joy to use and offer a near perfect combination of durability and performance versus weight and price. The Defy 1 also comes with carbon fibre forks and seat post, which help to bring the weight down a bit and soak up road vibrations a little. The front crank is a compact 50-34. Initially I was a bit frustrated by the dramatic difference in gearing this system offers. Frequently I’d change down and find my legs madly spinning in a cartoon-like fashion. However, used properly the compact crank allows a leisure cyclist like me to tackle steeper climbs without fear of having a heart attack or falling off because of a lack of forward momentum. (I’ve subsequently learned that down shifting from big to little cog requires a simultaneous double upshift on the rear cassette to minimise comedy leg spinning.)
I took the Defy out on a beautiful afternoon with the aim of just doing a few good miles. Over 30 miles later, I had fallen for this bike in a big way.
I know I’m not an experienced roadie, so this test is all relative, but I just couldn’t find fault with the Defy 1. Everything worked so well. I felt comfortable over the distance, I could accelerate hard with confidence, the brakes (Tektro R540s) stopped me well enough. Handling was brilliant; responsive yet stable.
Carbon fibre is already dominating the road bike market above the £1k price point and is available on many models at Defy 1 money. So why is the Defy 1 winning all the tests and why do I love it too? Well, to get the same level of components on a carbon bike you’d have to spend at least another £500. A £1k carbon bike will have the cheapest groupset and/or components plus the frame itself won’t be as durable as an aluminium one. Basically, you get much more for your money with an aluminium frame and the Defy 1 in particular.
Not only did I really like this bike, I didn’t want to give it back. I never thought I’d actually want to own a road bike. That changed with the Giant Defy 1. So much so, I’ve actually bought this bike from the Cycle Centre! As far as test ride conclusions go, that has to be the ultimate proof of a how good a bike is!
Written by Henry Aarvold – Family Bike Guy.