Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 10

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Good finishing kit

Cons:

  • Not much

Product:

Giant Defy Advanced SL 2

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£3499.00

Having developed its skills over almost 50 years, Giant now has an impressive line-up of bikes for every taste, user and pocket depth. This Defy Advanced SL 2 is its top-of-the-range ‘endurance sport’ bike.


Endurance sport? Well, this is a comfortable race bike or a comfortable bike you could race on. Or both. There are four frame options in the Defy range, from aluminium to this, the Advanced SL with integrated seatmast.



In fact, when it comes to carbon frames, Giant is happy to point out that it produces its own carbon fibre from actual carbon fibres. The firm sources fibre from Japanese company Toray and manufactures its own weave in the production of its top-spec frames like this one. How many bike brands can say that?



“Some companies are good at making money and good at making adverts, but they don’t make their own carbon fibre,” said one Giant employee, his tone betraying a mix of irritation and pride.



The compact rear triangle looks intimidatingly stiff, and the whole bike looks like a hybrid of thick’n'thin, a mash-up of the delicate and the functional. This isn’t meant as a criticism. In a world where design form trumps real-world functionality, this is a good sign. So how is it that a small rear triangle, comprised of square chainstays and more finely drawn seatstays, feels so comfortable, even though the seatstays merge into one piece as they join the seat tube in a monostay design? Traditionally, this configuration has not resulted in rear-end comfort.



By using a smaller rear triangle, the tubes – chainstays and seatstays – can be designed and built with more ‘give’, adding comfort without sacrificing stiffness. If you think about making a triangle using other materials – thin plastic strips, say – then it’s obvious that a triangle with longer sides will flex and twist more easily than a smaller triangle made from the same materials. The trick, or skill, is in designing those tubes.

No sacrifice

If the rear triangle tubes aren’t as chunky as on many other bikes, the area around the ‘Powercore’ bottom bracket more than makes up for it. The chunky head tube blends with an aero taper into the top tube. The seatpost is integrated, emerging from the seat tube with a flattened aero-bladed design, though the seat tube itself looks round and small – all it needs to be.



The front end of the bike has flat-bladed forks and a head tube that looks like the pillar of a leg of an oil platform. The impression is of a bike designed and made after taking advice from two different sets of experts – the team who designed the front end and the guys who were responsible for the back. Overall, there’s a commendable sense of function being chosen over form.



So much for the materials and the design inspiration, but how does it ride? This medium-sized Shimano Ultegra 10-speed build weighed 7.4kg on our scales. And, as anyone with a basic grasp of physics understands, a light bike with a light wheelset will accelerate and climb very nicely, thank you.



But a bike that is ‘great at climbing’ might not be so ‘great at descending’, which is the yin to the climbing yang. There’s not much fun in dancing up a hill on your ultra-light, super-rigid bike only to tense up like a frozen Arctic explorer on the descents, skittering over tarmac ripples, is there?



The handling feels like a race bike, which is to say that it is very responsive to rider input. Considering there’s not a lot of weight either in the frame or the (tubeless-compatible) wheels, this isn’t a surprise. The wheelbase is unremarkable (99.5cm) and the steering geometry is designed to respond quickly.



Add these three factors together and all you need to do is look at the inside of a corner and the bike heads that way, guided by a shift of your body weight and minimal pressure on the bars.



The combination of top tube length, stem and steering geometry adds up to a reassuring front end – you feel more connected to the front wheel, thanks in part to the weight distribution. And a bike that fits is a bike that inspires confidence in every area. Whether you are on the drops putting your back into it, scything down a descent, or feeling your way down a damp lane off some hill you’ve never ridden before, this bike feels good.

Luxury feel

The finishing kit deserves credit for generating this feelgood factor. The Giant brand P-SLR1 wheelset and especially the tyres – dual compound, front and rear specific – add enormously to the feel and handling.



The saddle is a plush Italian-made Fizik Aliante, and even the bar tape feels thick, sort of like fresh shag-pile carpet for your mitts. The Contact SLR stem is double Yorkie-bar thick, square-edged and not easy to fit a (Garmin) bike computer to without recourse to several zip-ties. Neither generates tingling fingers from road buzz. Also worth praise is the Giant RideSense ANT+ speed and cadence sensor integrated ?into the offside chainstay – ?it picked up data from either a Garmin 705 or SRM Power Meter without dramas.



You might think that ‘racing’ geometry and an integrated carbon seatpost connected to a mono-seatstay will equate to extreme rigidity. So it’s a shock that this is easily one of the more comfortable bikes I’ve ridden. This is testimony to the skill of its carbon-fibre manufacture, Giant claims.



Things that are rubbish about this bike amount to one: the wheel release system is infuriating. Essentially, the wheels are fixed by spring-loaded wing nuts. Yup, that’s right, Tullio Campagnolo might have invented an industry standard quick-release skewer system in 1927, but the boffins at Giant thought it would be a hoot to reverse the process. According to a Giant spokesman: “For most people who don’t race, the absence of a quick release system makes no difference.” Which is true, but it still feels like step back or the work of health and safety fixated lawyers.

Verdict

Given that the Defy range is attempting to define the ?endurance sport’ category, we’ve got to say that it has made a remarkably good ?fist of it. The handling is quick-steering and responsive, yet offers stability and an impressive level of comfort that your backside will thank you for.

Giant may not be the grooviest brand on the planet, but it makes some outstanding bikes. Put other brands’ flashy ads and slick marketing to one side, perhaps, and sort yourself a test ride – you’ll discover a friendly, nimble Giant.

Full Specification

Supplier:
www.giant-bicycles.com
Wheels:
Giant P-SLR1

Tyres:
Giant P-SLR1 700x23c
Stem:
Giant Contact SLR

Size Range:
S, M, M-L, L
Saddle:
Fizik Aliante Kium

Gear Ratio:
50-34 – 11-28
Group Set:
Shimano Ultegra

Frame:
Advanced SL-grade carbon fibre composite, intergrated seatpost
Bars:
Giant Contact SLR

  • AndyM

    “Some companies are good at making money and good at making adverts, but they don’t make their own carbon fibre,”

    I believe Merida now have there own carbon fiber factory too, must be for all those Specalized frames out there!

  • Neill

    Bought this model recently with £1000 off the RRP thanks to the 2014 bikes coming in! Overall I’m really pleased. It’s light and incredibly solid – a very comfortable ride, but with a stiff front end that makes climbing a joy. I had the bike fitted professionally which i’d definitely for a bike of this spec and price. The only offputting thing for some may be the ISP which I needed to get the bike fitting specialist to saw down to size for me – inevitably this makes resale a bit tougher, but I can’t ever imagine parting with this bike.

  • Daren

    Bought this very model and upgraded to the PSLR1-aero wheels for only £250. It’s been on sportives, Ride London 100, club runs and raced in a E1234 masters series. It is a comfortable RACE bike and feels every bit as racey as my alloy TCR. The perception that the Defy range is for comfort is really just marketting speak to try not to step on the TCR’s toes.

    The front wheel is EASIER to remove than QR due to lawyer lips, the rear is a bit of a pain. I love the green hints and it is suitably understated (for Giant). One final point if you are dithering, BUY NOW – next year’s model is cheaper, but does not have the full carbon front end.

  • David

    I bought this model about two months ago and have done about 1,400 miles on it (LEJOG in the last few weeks). My thoughts are:

    (1) It is remarkably smooth and mature. I’ve enjoyed covering the miles with the only concern being a numb finger. I’m changing the bar tape to improve that. I don’t get on with white bar tape anyway, so it’s back to black for me!

    (2) The power transfer has been really good – presumably from the stiffness of the bottom bracket and frame generally. I am someone who prefers to sit in the saddle when climbing and I just love the way I can spin away in higher gears than I could on my old Boardman Team Carbon.

    (3) I don’t have a problem with the lack of quick release wheels. If they are slower than QR, it’s a minor difference.

    (4) The Ultegra gearset is silky. My previous experience was SRAM Rival which was functional and light, but the non-electronic Ultegra just feels bulletproof and smooth.

    One final point which has nothing to do with performance – I personally think it looks great, with the dark metallic green flashes really setting it off nicely.

  • Nigel

    I bought one. It’s awesome and then some!