Giant is one of the big bike brands that has invested heavily in its “endurance” road bike line, and its Defy line up consistently yields bestsellers for the company. From the Defy Advanced SL used by the Rabobank pro team during the Spring Classics to the entry-level, aluminum Defy models prized by beginner riders and bargain hunters, these bikes are designed to offer more upright positioning and greater vertical compliance to keep riders comfortable over longer distances, no matter what their budget.
Hearty welds let you know that this is an aluminum frame, but it’s paired with a carbon fork to help reduce front-end road chatter for additional comfort.
Crafted from Giant’s ALUXX SLgrade aluminum, the Defy frame features a dramatically flattened top tube that is actually thinner than the chainstays and nearly as slim as the seat stays. Giant’s engineers opted for these skinny tube shapes to help deflect as much road chatter away from the rider as possible. To maintain some level of performance, however, the square-shaped downtube is quite large where it meets the head tube, which is intended to increase front-end stiffness, and the frame is paired with a carbon composite fork. And for those interested in some truly long-distance rides or those seeking extra versatility, the Defy frame comes with rack mounts. As you’d expect at this price point, the Defy 3’s parts list includes mostly house-branded items. These include an aluminum seatpost, handlebar and stem combination, as well as Giant’s S-R2 aluminum clinchers and S-R4 tires. The drivetrain is nearly all Shimano, with Sora shifters, derailleurs and a compact crankset, and a nine-speed HG-50 cassette. The build is completed with a KMC chain and Tektro TK-R340 brakes.
A Shimano Sora drivetrain provides all of the shifting performance that you’ll need for an all-day ride, and compact gearing will have you tackling any climb you meet.
Giant christened this model the “Defy” because it wanted to challenge its customers to test their personal limits. Riding long distances requires comfort above all else, and the Defy offers that in spades. Our size-small test bike featured a 145mm-tall head tube, which allowed us to ride in a more upright position than we would have on, say, a dedicated racing bike. Its flattened tube shapes did indeed provide plenty of vertical compliance, and the Defy became particularly enjoyable to ride during some of our longer days in the saddle. But the Defy is not simply an endurance bike that gets you from point A to a very far-off point B.
It offers a surprising bit of performance as well. While its bottom bracket and rear-end stiffness aren’t on par with more expensive options, the Defy’s front end is stiff enough to make it pleasantly adept at technical descents, equal to many bikes we’ve ridden that cost twice as much. This makes the Defy capable of being ridden aggressively, and in the right hands, it can hold its own on many a fast group ride. Two other items worth noting are Giant’s proprietary wheel and tire combination, an all around solid offering, and the Tektro brakes, which aren’t so much. These stoppers get the job done, but don’t reflect the performance of what the rest of the bike is capable of, so we recommend an upgrade.
The Defy 3’s Tektro brakes get the job done, but they don’t hold up when it’s pushed to its limits on steeper descents, where a little more stopping power would go a long way.
Besides the $1020 Defy 3, Giant’s aluminum Defy range includes three additional models with various retail prices: the Defy 1 at $1370, the Defy 2 at $1160 and the Defy 5 at $700. You’d be getting a great deal by opting for any of these builds, but we feel the Defy 3 has a particularly high value due to its sub-$1100 retail sticker, highly functional drivetrain and greater performance characteristics than most bikes in its price range— and many above.
• Superb all-rounder for long days on the road
• Brakes don’t live up to the rest of the parts list
• Proof that (very) good bikes needn’t cost a fortune
Weight: 20.2 pounds
Sizes: XS, S (tested), M, M/L, L, XL