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The Giant Defy Advanced Pro 3 is an endurance-based road bike that delivers loads of comfort, and a geometry table that'll keep you feeling fresher on those epic rides. It's still sporty enough that you can ramp the speed up though and have some fun in the hills, just change the tyres for something a little livelier.
Surprisingly, in 12 years of reviewing bikes for road.cc I have never ridden a Giant Defy, and after spending around six weeks on this one it's obvious that I've been missing out. It's a cracker!
I only really have one small issue with it, so I'm going to get that one out of the way first.
This Defy comes with a set of Giant's Gavia Fondo tyres (I tested a set of Gavia Fondo 0s last year), and while they are durable and robust, they are far from the most supple or exciting. Rolling resistance isn't too bad considering it is essentially a winter training/mixed terrain tyre, but the Defy deserves something so much better, especially in the drier months.
I swapped them out for a set of Michelin Power Road Tubeless in the same 32mm width, and what a transformation. The Defy might be an endurance machine with big miles in mind, you see, but it is still incredibly quick.
At 8.45kg (ML) it's not exactly superlight, but it's no slouch, even feeling quick off the line. That means it's also surprisingly nimble on the climbs too.
With quite a tall head tube, the riding position is taller than on a dedicated race machine, although stretching yourself out on the hoods or down in the drops it still feels like you are in quite an aggressive position. This is great for getting out of the wind even when you aren't in that much of a hurry.
The front-end geometry is the real masterstroke though.
With a head tube angle of 72.5 degrees and fork rake of 50mm, the steering is quick enough for some fun in the corners without the twitchiness of a race machine, which is a bonus if you are on a long ride and fatigue is kicking in and the road conditions are crap, or just that you aren't the most confident of descenders.
Even on technical downhills the Defy is a bike that anyone can ride quickly, the 1,010mm wheelbase adding to its poise and planted feel on the road.
When really ragging it through the corners, especially tight chicanes or technical stuff, the handling isn't quite as sharp as something like Giant's speed-orientated Propel model, but you'd need to be really pushing it hard to notice the difference.
Alongside all of this well-thought-out geometry, Giant's designers have included a shed-load of comfort.
Don't get me wrong, it's a stiff bike, especially through the lower half of the frame and at the front end, but along with the fork it offers a smooth ride even on the most rubbish of road surfaces.
All in all, the Defy is just a very nice place to be. I covered a few four and five-hour rides on it throughout September and found it to be a near-perfect companion.
The handling and the riding position achievable mean you can all but switch off on the long straight sections, the bike just pretty much taking care of itself. Then when you want to get a move on, a little sprint through the traffic or attacking a climb, it becomes a completely different beast and very responsive.
The frame and fork of this Defy Advanced Pro is created using Giant's own High Performance Grade raw carbon in its composite factory.
It looks and feels to be a great quality frameset, and a peek inside the seat tube shows a smooth finish. The paint quality is also excellent.
Up front the head tube is tapered to accommodate the similarly shaped full-carbon fibre fork steerer, which increases stiffness for coping with heavy steering and braking loads.
In fact, it's more of a head 'block' than tube, as the top, head and down tubes all meet in one big junction.
The MegaDrive down tube is suitably chunky to cope with the pedalling forces, as is the PowerCore press-fit bottom bracket shell, which then leads to the oversized chainstays. It's no surprise that this frame delivers on the stiffness front.
In contrast to all of this are the very slender seatstays which look like toothpicks in comparison to the chainstays, with the top of the seat tube and rear end of the top tube being similarly diminutive.
The lack of any external seat clamp gives the frame a smooth look, as does the internal cable and hose routing.
Giant has also managed to achieve tyre clearances of up to 35mm, and the Defy will also take full mudguards thanks to mounts at the dropouts. A mount is available to bridge the seatstays for fitting the rear guard.
As well as that, you get two bottle mounting positions.
Unlike early compact Giant frames, the Defy comes in five sizes rather than three, ranging from small through to extra-large, with effective top tube lengths of 530mm up to 565mm.
As I mentioned earlier, I've been riding the ML, which sits bang in the middle. It has a seat tube length of 515mm sitting at an angle of 73 degrees; the top tube is 560mm long, while the head tube is 185mm.
Helping to create the 1,010mm wheelbase are chainstays of 420mm, and the standover height is 816mm, with a bottom bracket drop of 70mm.
All of this adds up to a stack and reach of 586mm and 381mm respectively, nothing massively out of ordinary there. Full geometry specs are on Giant's website for all sizes.
This model, the 3, comes with a Shimano 105 groupset which is a little lower down the food chain than I would normally be expecting for this kind of money.
It is now Shimano's only 11-speed road groupset, but in the spec chosen by Giant still achieves a decent spread of gears using a 50/34T chainset and an 11-34T cassette.
The shifting is precise, even under load or with a dirty chain, and the braking from the hydraulic flat-mount callipers and rotors is powerful and easy to modulate in the dry or wet.
Giant has specced a 160mm rotor on the front and 140mm on the rear.
Everything else is pretty much own-brand.
Starting at the front, an aluminium alloy aero styled Contact SL handlebar is paired with a stem of the same name. The stem comes with a neat out-front mounting system for your GPS and includes the various fittings required to suit different brands of computer.
The carbon fibre seatpost uses Giant's D-Fuse technology, as does the handlebar. They are designed to flex in a way that takes out road vibration and it works in a very subtle way, which I was pleased about. I really don't want any part of a road bike to feel 'floppy'.
The comfort and shape of the Contact Fleet SL saddle worked for me even on longer rides. Basically, I didn't notice it, which is good.
One neat little bonus is the RideSense Bluetooth sensor found integrated into the chainstay. Giant supplies the cadence and speed magnets with the bike for the rear wheel and crank, and once you have the RideSense connected to your Bluetooth-enabled computer it will receive the data. Handy for when you are riding through tunnels or heavy tree cover with limited GPS signal for speed data.
I won't go on about the tyres too much, as I've already made my point on these. If you are going to be riding in rubbish conditions, though, or using the Defy on hard-packed surfaces like canal paths then their robustness is a bonus, if you are happy to sacrifice some road feel and feedback.
Put something zippier on for the spring and summer, but keep these in the shed for winter.
Wheel-wise you are getting a set of Giant's SLR-2 42 Carbon Discs, which retail for £830 on Giant's website.
As the name suggests, they have a 42mm-deep carbon fibre rim, with a 19.4mm inner width and 23mm external, suiting the size of tyres the Defy can cope with.
The hookless rim design works with tubeless tyres, and everything you need bar sealant is supplied, although if you don't want to run them tubeless there is a bit of a grey area over whether you can use standard clincher tyres without a hooked rim.
It's a good set of wheels. They use Giant alloy hubs and 24 Sapim Sprint spokes front and rear, and with a claimed weight of 1,545g they feel sprightly and have coped with the weather and terrain fine as we have entered the colder, wetter months.
For this sort of money, I'd normally be expecting to see a bit of an uplift in the spec list to at least Ultegra – well, before it all went 12-speed and electronic only.
Last year, for example, I rode the Merida Scultura Endurance 7000-E which was equipped with Ultegra Di2 for £3,500.
The line-up has been tweaked for this year, but it is still based around the same carbon frameset that will take 35mm tyres and mudguards, and has similar riding characteristics to the Defy. For £3,350 you can get a Scultura Endurance Rival Edition which comes with a SRAM Rival eTap aXS wireless groupset and a full-carbon fibre cockpit. You don't get the carbon wheels of the Giant, though, you have to settle for alloy Fulcrum Racing 800 DBs instead.
Ribble's Endurance SL Disc is available in a range of builds, with the closest in spec to the Giant being the Sport model. It comes with a 105 hydraulic/mechanical groupset and 40mm-deep own-brand carbon wheels, and is just £2,599.
You can see how much Liam liked it when he tested it last year, albeit with Ultegra.
So, the Giant is pricier than most, looking at the spec, but the quality of the frameset is excellent, as are the ride manners and comfort. With that in mind I'd say it is worth the extra investment – just change those tyres to get the best out of it.
Ditch the tyres and you have a fast, sweet-handling endurance machine that doesn't panic at speed
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant Defy Advanced Pro 3
Size tested: M/L, 56cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Handlebar: Giant Contact SL D-Fuse
Stem: Giant Contact SL
Seatpost: Giant D-Fuse, composite
Saddle: Contact Fleet SL
Shifters: Shimano 105
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105
Brakes: Shimano 105 hydraulic
Brake Levers: Shimano 105 hydraulic
Cassette: Shimano 105, 11x34
Chain: KMC X11SL-1
Crankset: Shimano 105, 34/50
Bottom Bracket: Shimano, press fit
Wheelset: Giant SLR-2 42 Carbon Disc WheelSystem
Tyres: Giant Gavia Fondo 1, tubeless, 700x32c, folding (max tyre width possible: 35mm)
Extras: RideSense Bluetooth, computer mount, tubeless prepared
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Giant says, "Go longer, go faster, and smooth out rough roads with a frameset and integrated components that are engineered for compliance. From gran fondos to epic solo rides, this lightweight composite bike is everything you need for your most challenging days.
With the perfect blend of stiffness and compliance, Defy Advanced Pro delivers a smooth, fast ride quality even on rough roads. Its innovative technologies include a D-Fuse composite seatpost and Contact SLR D-Fuse composite handlebar (Pro 1 and Pro 2 models). These integrated cockpit components work as a system to add compliance and reduce road shocks and vibrations. The Advanced-grade composite frame is also integrated for disc brakes, with flat-mount disc brake tabs and 12mm front and rear thru-axles, plus clearance for high-volume tyres up to 35mm. The oversized and tapered OverDrive 2 steerer tube boosts cornering precision, while the MegaDrive downtube and PowerCore bottom bracket deliver precise handling and class-leading pedaling efficiency."
Giant has done a good job of delivering a very comfortable ride and easy-to-use handling while not sacrificing the racy nature of a classic road bike.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This model is the cheapest model in the Defy Advanced Pro line-up, with a Shimano Ultegra-equipped Pro 2 available for £3,999, while the Pro 1 comes with a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset and upgraded carbon wheels for £5,499.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a well-made frame and fork. A look inside shows no rough sections or burrs while the paint is durable and smoothly finished around all edges like the top of the seat tube and the head tube.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: Advanced-Grade Composite Carbon Fibre.
Fork: Advanced-Grade Composite Carbon Fibre, full-composite OverDrive 2 steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Overall, the geometry is slightly more relaxed than a race bike which makes it more controllable and easier to live with than some. Giant has still managed to keep some fun and speed in the handling, though, which means a great balance for all kinds of road riding.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures that I mention in the review are fairly typical of a bike of this size and style.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Overall, yes. The frame, fork and contact points do a good job of delivering comfort. The dead feel to the tyres takes the edge off, though.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is very impressive, especially around the bottom bracket area and the lower half of the bike.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Again, those tyres take the edge off the efficiency. Swap them out for something more supple and the ride is transformed.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? On the fun side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The geometry table would have you believe that the Defy is going to have quite a steady steering speed, and be very well behaved. It does behave like that, but if you want to push on a bit and have some fast fun in the bends it isn't going to let you down.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Swap the tyres for something more supple; the dead feeling of the Gavias doesn't help in terms of comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Giant's carbon wheelset performs well, giving no noticeable flex under hard efforts.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
It's the tyres again – get something faster and grippier to improve efficiency.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
For the money I'd expect to see a groupset higher up the range than 105, but overall you can't fault it. The performance is great, as are the ergonomics, and when it wears out it is relatively cheap to replace.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Overall, it's a good set of wheels. They roll well with no noticeable resistance at the hub, and after a few hundred testing miles I had no issues with reliability.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
The Giant Gavia Fondo tyres are durable and reliable, and that is what they are designed to be, but their ride feel, or lack of it, really detracts from the great job the frame and fork are doing in terms of feedback and comfort.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Giant uses its D-Fuse technology for the handlebar and seatpost, which are designed to absorb small vibrations and bumps in the road. It's a design that works quite well without going over the top to give a flexible feel to the ride.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Defy Advanced Pro offers a cracking ride and versatility, thanks to the generous tyre clearance, but there is some tough competition out there when it comes to value. The highly capable Merida Scultura Endurance range, for example. The closest priced model is £3,350, and while you aren't getting the carbon wheelset of the Giant you are getting a full wireless electronic groupset in the shape of SRAM's Rival eTap AXS.
Specialized's Roubaix Sport at £2,950 comes with the bonus of its lockable Future Shock 1.5 suspension system and it has decent tyre clearance too. It's not quite as versatile as the Giant, though, and you are only getting DT Swiss alloy wheels.
Another option could be the Ribble Endurance SL Disc Sport which costs just £2,599 with a 105 groupset and 40mm-deep carbon fibre wheels.
Use this box to explain your overall score
On the whole this is a great bike, and that is mostly down to the quality of the frame and fork. The ride quality is brilliant, as is the geometry. In fact the Defy Advanced Pro 3 only drops from 4.5 stars to 4 is because the tyres do it a disservice and that there is some tough competition out there value-wise.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!