Review: Giant Defy 1

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.  

Giant Defy 1 from Cycle Centre

The Defy 1 on test in Northumberland

The Frame

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.)

The Ride

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.

Defy 1 from the Saddle

my favourite view from the saddle – an empty county road

On board the Giant Defy

They Defy’s view up my nose.

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. 

The Conclusion

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. 


7 thoughts on “Review: Giant Defy 1

  1. Nice review. I got the green one and love the colour. It’s nice to have a modern road bike that doesn’t conform to the usual black, white and red.
    Anyway more importantly I too love this bike. I got a Defy 2 last year, upgrading from a hybrid for my 40 mile commute. I loved that too but wanted something for Sportives and when the Defy 2 was being serviced. So I decided on the Defy 1 and it is superb for the money. The one issue with the Defy range is the factory fit tyres. I had problems with them and had to replace them with gatorskins or GP4000s after a few hundred miles.

    • Thanks Andy, we like the Green Defy 1 too (even if Henry isn’t as keen). And we really appreciate your comment. Often the tyres those kinds of bikes are less than top end, so it is a good idea to consider upgrading them to suit your preferred riding style/conditions.

  2. Appreciate the review and all other comments as am trying to decide on a £1000 ish road bike for the first time; have been riding a TREK MTB for the past 20 years and now want to get more out of my on the road time. I realise that there is quite a road bike selection in this price range but the key bits/components and their differentiators is what I’m struggling with so the review was particularly helpful in this regard. Ali frame with ‘relaxed’ riding position, carbon forks, 105 set etc is the baseline.

    Am keen too on buying something local to me (in Bath, UK) and there is a good ‘Giant’ outlet here. I don’t want to be disappointed with the bike and am unlikely to get another in a few years time therefore my purchase is going to be a one-off. All in all, I’m going for the Defy 1 as soon today if poss.

    Ta once again.

    • Hi Paul, thank you for the comment and kind words. The new 2014 Defy 1 is now available in most Giant resellers. So if you’re lucky you might be able to pick up a 2013 model for a great price. As far as we can tell the only thing that has been changed on the 2014 model is the paint schemes – the Defy 1 is now available in a stealthy looking red and black or an ice cool blue. A real shame you live so far south or we could have helped get you on to your first Defy! We know you’re going to love it regardless of whether you get onto a 2013 or 2014 model. If you find the ride a bit hard, consider putting 25mm tyres on – your local shop may be able to swap the 23mm factory fit tyres for you as part of the sale.
      All the best
      Cycle Centre Team

      • Well I bought my Defy1 – in stealthy black/red – and am so glad I did. Even with me strapped to it the machine gives an easy, comfortable and speedy ride that really pleases and doesn’t fatigue this old bloke. I have the 25mm tyres on it and have completed a couple of 30+ mile rides locally on paved roads and have thoroughly enjoyed the riding experience without needing to stop and push even when grinding up the hills around here. The deal too from my local bike shop was also exactly what I wanted; personal service, informed advice and good options.

        Next step now is to swap out the caged pedals for some SPD or similar and road shoes as I’ve decided to undertake and hopefully complete the C2C next month. Decisions, decisions!

        Many thanks once again for your timely and spot-on review.

  3. Do you still rate the defy now you’ve had a season with it? I bought a specialized allez last spring which was my first road bike, been a faithful servant but I’m looking for an upgrade now, but want to stay in the C2W budget of £1000. Got a shock when I weighed the allez last week (was curious as looking at New bikes) to find it was 11.2kg in a size 58 cm.
    I guess my question really is do you feel you want to upgrade it, as I’m not sure it’s enough of an upgrade for me if that makes sense.

    • Hi
      Yes, I definitely still rate the Defy 1. I’ve done at least 1200 miles on mine since buying it. The 2014 Defy range has two choice for the £1k wallet. You can either go for the new version of the above bike or the Defy Composite 3. The first will give you a mostly 105 groupset and state of the art aluminium frame. The composite version will get you onto a lighter carbon frame but with a lower spec groupset. Geometry will be same great mix of endurance/sport with a relaxed fit if needed for either choice. If you plan to use your bike all year then the aluminium frame makes better sense. If you have a winter bike already then I’d go for the Composite.

      I’ve only made one significant change to my Defy and that was a wheel upgrade. The Giant wheelset that comes with either Defy model are fine for general use but they are heavy with fairly basic hubs. The difference to the ride with much better wheels is huge and well worth saving up for! Cheaper than a new bike too.

      Hope that helps.


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