Strengths: Incredible frame.
Amazing combination of ride and handling (excels at both without ever making you feel like you compromised).
New 105 stuff works great.
"Giant" wheelset is better than you might think.
Swoopy styling (if you like that sort of thing).
Weaknesses: Alloy steerer adds unwanted weight.
Some cost cutting in the componetry when compared to the competition.
Brand snobs will turn their nose up at the "Giant" P-R2 rims.
Swoopy styling (if you're not into that sort of thing).
I needed to upgrade my 1980's era steel road bike. The Columbus frame has always been buttery smooth, but it's hard to keep up with modern bikes when you're still running downtube friction shifters. I focused on the "endurance" road bike category since I tend to do long distance rides. That lead me to the Jamis Xenith Endura 2, Felt Z5, Cannondale Synapse 6, Scott CR-1 Team, and the Giant Defy Advanced 3.
On paper, the Giant was the least attractive. It was the only bike with an alloy steerer (the others have full carbon forks), and instead of a full 105 or Apex build, it makes due with an FSA crank and Tektro brakes. I was also skeptical of the "Giant" brand rims, and before riding it, the aggressive styling struck me as being form over function. Of the group, the Giant was the bike that I DIDN'T want to like.
After my first ride, I was totally blown away by the Giant's frame. It may have swoopy aesthetics, but it functions magically. The ride always feels connected, communictive, and never numb. At the same time, it glides smoothly over road imperfections and has an uncanny ability to soak up bumps. None of the other bikes could approach the superb ride/handling characteristics of the Giant.
The Jamis had a plush ride but felt incredibly numb. The Scott, Cannondale and Felt rode and felt like racing bikes with a taller head tube (excellent handling and road feel, but not particularly compliant over rough roads). The Giant was the only bike to get it all right.
This bike isn't the lightest ride out there, but it isn't a pig either. My Giant is a M/L and weighs in the upper 18 pound range (19.4 lbs. with pedals and bottle cages). That's about average for this price point, but roughly a pound heavier than all but the Jamis. The alloy steerer is probably to blame. Still, fancier wheels and tires would easily bring the weight down into the mid-17 pound range.
On the road, the added weight isn't noticable at all. The Giant actually seems to climb and accelerate better than the others. I have a feeling that the "Giant" brand wheels have less rotational mass than the Mavic CXP22/Shimano R500 wheelsets found on the other bikes, but can't confirm this. They're built with Sapim spokes, feel really stiff while climbing, and have been bullet-proof thus far. Brand snobs may disapprove, but the "Giant" wheelset is as good -- if not better -- than those entry-level Mavic and Shimano hoops. I should note that at 200 lbs., I'm not a lightweight.
The new-generation 105 drivetrain is great. I don't think gear changes are as buttery as the previous version (perhaps due to the cables being routed under the bar tape), but to me, the shifts have a crisper, more immediate feel. The new 105 brifters are certainly more comfortable than the old. The FSA Gossamer crank may be a tiny bit heavier than a 105 crank, but it's stiff and seems to perform just as well. The Tektro brakes work great, but I think 105 brakes have slightly better feel and stopping power. Do I wish the bike had a full 105 build? Yes. Did I notice a significant performance difference between the Giant and the full 105 spec'd bikes? Absolutely not.
If you're looking for a comfy geometry bike that won't beat you up, but DON'T want the numbness and disconnected road feel common to "plush" bikes, this is your ride.
Similar Products Used: 2010 and 2011 Felt Z5
2011 Cannondale Synapse 6
2011 Jamis Xenith Endura 2
2011 Scott CR1 Team
2011 Felt Z85
Bike Setup: Stock with New Shimano 105 (5700) shifters, derailleurs, chain & cassette (11/28), compact FSA Gossamer Crank (34/50) with Press Fit BB86 bottom bracket, Tektro R540 brakes, Giant P-R2 wheelset (Formula hubs, Sapim spokes), Kenda Kriterium 700x25 tires.
a Recreational Rider
Date Reviewed: June 26, 2011
Strengths: Comfort, smooth shifting,( Ultegra Rear) good paint job, 3 model has same exact frame as 1 version ($3800, Dura Ace )for a great frame.
Weaknesses: Weight is heavy 19 lbs w/o pedals. Saddle is junk!
Paint did chip on the chainstay, but did not chip or crack Carbon weave.
I bought this last August 2010 at a BMX style shop. BIG MISTAKE! They did not set me up well on it. But after trying the '09 Tarmac Elite, CAnnondale CAad 9 AL, and Synapse, Orbea Onix 54 CM and lastly the Trek Madone 4.0 ( 2010) The Giant Defy Advance 3 ( '09) Bike felt the best. I could not find a specialized roubaix to try. I paid 75$ for a Specialized bike fit plus 50$ for the Footbeds. Well worth the fitting. I added a new Specialized Body Geometry saddle Phenom Expert( great and stiff with some light padding) Plus Speedplay Zeros. BIke rides great on hills, fast on downhills, good road shock absorbtion. Nice upright position for long rides,but not as nimble as the Canondale Caad 9 or Tarmac.
Strengths: Smooth. Excellent seating position. Perfect front end rake.
Weaknesses: No crazy about the aluminum FSA crank set.
As an older rider with stiffer muscles and bones, I couldn't believe how plush this bike rolled on my demo ride. Perfect seating position! Stiff side to side and just as plush as can be over road bumps and such. This bike is fast as well. The streamlined mast and rear triangle really cut nicely through the wind.
Strengths: Stiff frame, great customization potential, smooth as butter ride, fast, comfortable.
Weaknesses: Components are heavy and ok. Just swap them out with carbon components which you get get for discount on ebay
Bought this bike as my first carbon bike after having ridden a steel frame Lemond Zurich for fun and a Cervelo Dual tri bike through six years of tri's up to Ironman Florida. After reading the specs at Giant it was clear the only difference between the 3 and the 0 was the components. The frame is the real gem here and that is my focus for this review. I was able to buy the whole bike less expensive than buying just a frame. I rode the bike with the spec components and they are below what I require but would be adequate for many cyclists. I changed the components for my SRAM Force drivetrain, put Bontrager Race Lite handlebars on along with a Ritchey WCS stem and Mavic Kseerium equipe wheels, and a Bontrager saddle (all components i already owned). Now I have the bike with carbon components it goes like a bullet. Climbs like a mountain goat, corners where pointed and flows like a rocket on the flat. I like the more upright seating but you can still put yourself in the drops and ride really fast. Tried the TCR but I'm not racing anymore just need a bike for weekend long rides, maybe a century a year and LBS rides during the week.
There are many ways to customize this frame depending on your ability which is why i love it. From a beginner to a serious racer the frame can meet all of the spectrum of needs just use different components or wheels etc.
The price and Giant name are a credit to this machine. It was better priced and offered the same ride as much more expensive Treks, Specialized and Cannondales. The roads here are a bit choppy but the carbon frame soaks all of the chatter. If you have components already go for the 3 and just swap them out.
Strengths: Feels very stiff, without sacrificing comfort. Easy to ride for your 50+ rides.
Weaknesses: Maybe the assembly. For 2 grand, wish I had all Ultegra, FSA and Shimano parts in Drivetrain can be dicey, stock seat isn't top notch.
Bought this as my going away gift from Kansas. Shipped it to Germany and had two teeth on the big chainring get bent. After having several people ruin . . er look at it, it was determined that the plate that holds the front derailleur in place had a bolt loose and stripped. While it is impossible to tell how this happened, it wasn't the end of the problems. I also had the crank fall out while I was 20 miles from my house. Oops. Again hard to say who was at fault here, since three different people worked on the bike. Now it is a joy to ride, very comfortable for long rides, smooth bike.