Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Weekend Affair With The Giant Defy Advanced 1

At first it felt like I was cheating on my trusty 2010 Trek2.3, coffee shop-seeking, aluminum roadie.  The folks at Coates Cyclery in scenic Pomona, California were kind enough to throw me a 2012 Giant Defy Advanced 1 for three days of road surfing.  Three days on carbon.  Three days away from my Trek aluminum. 

So, what did I learn? 

Let’s start with the good.  Beefy, stout, thick, firm, pick your description, as the carbon frame was an amazing piece of work.  Every tube on the bike was huge compared to my daily rider.  I am used to riding aluminum until I am numb, so my rides over many of the same jumps and chasms (you know them as city streets) were like the proverbial night & day.  What used to rattle my teeth loose was nothing more than an extremely minor hum on the Giant.  Even launches from stops, climbing, and standing out of the saddle produced nothing but smooth, forward motion.  The bottom bracket area is beefy and stout, and this is something I wish alloy frames had.  The Giant’s 16 pound weight over my 18 pound Trek (20 pounds when I bought it) also had a lot to do with the ride sensation, I am certain.

And now for the So-So.  After three days of mashing the SRAM Force gruppo (34-50 Compact, PG-1070 11X28 cassette), I was reminded of eating my veggies as a child – It was love or hate.  What began as hate, turned to a kind of tolerance, to a “Hey, this ain’t so bad,” scenario.  Upshifts were firm and positive, while downshifts not so much.  Yes, you can indeed drop multiple gears at a time, however, this mild-mannered rider has yet to find a reason to do so.  Swapping chain rings took way too much attention and effort, too.  In fairness, the front and rear derailleurs were not set up correctly, and after I fiddled with them a bit, the shifting became much better.  The Defy also follows the trend towards internal cable routing, however, this was not a major concern for me, save for aesthetics. 

The wheels (P-SL0 clinchers, 1595 grams), tires (P-SL1’s) and tubes were all Giant badged products, and all very light and lively, but durability was definitely suspect.  The tires and tubes are extremely light.  Maybe too light.  I punctured twice.  Sometimes light weight is achieved with sacrifices in durability. 

The competent bars and stem were also proprietary Giant offerings, and the Fizik Arione was nice, but I was expecting more from a saddle used by so many professional peletons the world over.  I just could not get comfortable on it.  In fairness, I currently ride a 2011 Ritchey Carbon Streem saddle, and it took me a good six months to get comfortable on that saddle.

And as for the bad?  Nothing really.  I could point out the SRAM Force group, however, due to setup issues, I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt.  The internal cable routing through the head tube did hinder the turning circle a bit, which I made a mental note of while riding.  So, overall, the Giant did not have any real negatives.

In conclusion, this was one impressive bicycle, but was it enough to get me to convert to a carbon frame?  Well, yes, and no.  Over the battlefield grade asphalt which is Greater Los Angeles, yes, it sure was a performer there.  But, my current bike fits me like a favorite pair of jeans, and that is a hard thing to give up .  The Defy did all things well, just not one thing exceptionally well.  This is one bike you could indeed ride off the showroom floor without changing a thing.  My Trek 2.3 needed a host of upgrades to get it where I wanted, however, it was not designed for the same market as the Defy.  While the Giant is smooth, the Trek bucks and bites. 

But then again, I like a bike with a bit of attitude. 

List price for my loaner was $3700.00 in basic black and white.  You can also get one with Shimano Ultegra Di2 for $4500.00 in a killer looking silver, orange and black, if you like.

Coates Cyclery
760 East Foorhill Boulevard
Pomona, CA 91767
Phone: 909-624-0612
Fax: 909-624-9311
M 12-5, T- F 10-6:30, SAT 9-5:30, SUN 12-5

Giant Bicycles:


  1. Thanks for your review I just went from a 1984 Chromoly to giant defy composite 1. Has everything you liked and doesnt have the internal cabling or fitzik saddle. I'll upgrade that myself.

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  3. I know this is an old thread, but for Googlers . . . I also had a Trek 2.3, and bought a 2014 Defy Advanced 1. My Defy has full Ultegra gruppo, and it is smooth and precise, upshifting and down. The Trek beat me up on long rides; the Defy is like silk. The one weakness was the wheelset. I weighed 265 when I bought the bike, and kept breaking spokes. My LBS recommended a set of 32 spoke Velocity Deep-V wheels with Race hubs, which have been absolutely bulletproof after 2000 miles. As a result, I've lost 30 pounds. If you're not a Clydesdale, the stock Giant wheels are probably fine. I also swapped the Fizik Aliante saddle for an Aliante Versus, with the central channel. The Versus is more comfortable on long rides with its pressure relief. The Defy Advanced is a fabulous bike.