Giant has a distinguished place in the history of aluminium road bikes, but can the Defy 3 live up to its provenance?
Giant is one of the biggest bike firms in the world and what its designers don’t know about aluminium road bikes probably isn’t worth knowing. In fact, the Giant TCR was the first modern ‘compact’ road frame — that means it was the original road bike frame where the top tube sloped down to the seat tube, like a mountain bike. Before that innovation, all road bikes sported level top tubes.
This Giant Defy 3 follows in the TCR’s hallowed tyre marks, and while its basic frame shape is what we’d expect, its tube profiles are a little interesting, with a selection of square-sided examples. Combined with a lack of any on-trend niceties such as internal cable routing, it comes across as quite a utilitarian offering. Don’t be fooled by appearances, though.
Buzzing and bumping
From the saddle it’s certainly a very positive affair. In terms of the kind of feedback that comes from the road, everything is more than acceptable. General road buzz is dealt with very well, but anything that could be classified as officially ‘a bump’ does make itself known. It feels like what we’d expect from a very good aluminium frame — although it doesn’t take comfort levels into the stratosphere.
The upside of that is it reacts very keenly to power input. The Defy 3 gets up to speed eagerly and is a very good climber. Helping matters is the excellent Shimano Sora gearset, with a compact chainset and a cassette that features a whopping, hill-friendly 32-tooth biggest sprocket.
The Defy’s overall control is superb, too. It weaves through turns very ably. In fact, it’s a very enjoyable bike to ride, combining the chance for thrills with an underlying security. So you can push, but it’ll forgive you if you push a little beyond your limits. Again, sensible speccing helps here, and Giant’s decent own-brand tyres hang on well in corners, although bumps mid-turn can leave that exciting frame just a little unsettled.
We’re big fans of Giant’s own-brand wheels and normally you can expect silky smooth running across the range, but these low-end hoops have just a hint of friction coming from the hubs. Faring better were the unmarked brakes — normally something to strike fear into the heart of every portly descender. However, they’re actually Tektro R312 calipers and while not as fearsomely powerful as top-end brakes, they work really rather well.
But the most interesting aspect of this bike is its wide range of abilities. As with all the bikes on test there are rear rack mounts, and the Defy 3 would make an incredible fast commuting bike during the week. Then whip off the rack on Friday night and you’ve got a perfect weekend road bike, too.
The Defy is a very impressive all-round road bike with a fine spec, at a very decent price. It is quick and comfortable enough, so any new road riders hedging their bets really won't go far wrong.