Featured User Review: Giant Defy Advanced 3 Road Bike
by TeamNJS

Price: $1500.00 at Pro Bikes, Monroevil
Overall Rating:
5 of 5
Value Rating:
4 of 5

Favorite Ride:
Anywhere near Ligonier, PA

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.

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.

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).

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).

Similar Products Used:
2010 and 2011 Felt Z5
2011 Cannondale Synapse 6
2011 Jamis Xenith Endura 2
2011 Scott CR1 Team
2011 Felt Z85

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