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Giant Defy 0 2014

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Tested by Neil Watterson

Review

Getting a bike in to review just as the ranges are about to change is always difficult. You're never sure quite what next year's model will have, or whether it will make your review obsolete. So picking up the 2014 Giant Defy 0 late in the season did cause me a bit of consternation, but I needn't have worried; the 22-speed endurance bike has proved itself to be a very competent bike indeed.

Now, it's difficult to write a review of an 11-speed bike without leaning towards the cliché of Spinal Tap and being able to turn it up to 11. But, of course, that doesn't work with bikes: you can't just change a gear and magically expect to go faster. And anyway, the only way you'd stand a hope of getting your bicycle to go faster would be to use a smaller cog on the rear - or a larger on the front.

Changing the front is a no-no - the 50-tooth big chainring has proven itself to be versatile gear suitable for general riding and speeding down hills. And an 11-gear on the back is about a small as you can realistically go, taking into account bearings, axles and chain dimensions. So, why bother with 11-speed?

Well, Giant's Defy 0 is perfectly placed to illustrate the benefits. With its aluminium frame and 'advanced-grade composite' forks, coupled with lightweight wheelset and Shimano Ultegra shifters, you'll be rolling along rapidly in no time at all.

Because, with 11-speeds on the cassette you're bound to find a front/rear cog combination that perfectly matches your cadence - so you'll find yourself bowling along faster than you normally would as the jump to the next gear is never too far.

On top of that the Defy 0 is a mere 9.2kg with pedals fitted, so you know you're not going to struggle up hills either.

The lack of weight is noticeable the moment you pedal away from the kerb. The wheels seem to spin up instantly and you're quickly changing gear, then another, then another. Single-speed afficionados would hate it, but if you're like me and prefer to pedal a set cadence it's gloriously quick to get rolling and your legs up to speed. And the Ultegra shifting is very precise - no missing gears here, even with a month's worth of commuting grime coating the Shimano Ultegra chain.

On hills, the 11-28 cassette gives you plenty of scope to stay in the big ring on the front - or you can drop down to the almost standard 34-tooth one and power up it. Of the kit on this bike the FSA Gossamer Pro chainset is the only bit I don't really like - not because of performance, but aesthetically it frustrates me, with the paint rubbing off the crank arms too quickly.

The frame itself is a bit funky. The top tube morphs from a rounded triangle at the headset into a flat box section at the seatpost, with the rear brake cable running along its underside. The downtube is a more standard tubular shape, tapering towards the oversize bottom bracket, housing the FSA press-fit unit. The rear triangles are pretty conventional straight affairs - not the sculpted profile so common these days. All this goes to make a very stiff frame - a joy to ride fast.

And it stops well, too. The Shimano BR561 rim brakes grasp the Giant P-Elite C Wheelset tightly, keeping your speed in check on downhills and allowing you to brake assuredly before corners. The 700x25mm Giant P-R3 tyres roll quickly, and grip well - another thing willing you to ride further and faster. The very slightly - by racing bike standards - oversize tyres do give a bit more comfort over jolty surfaces, but will accept inflation up to 120psi, should you want them properly firm. That said, the bike does get a bit skittish at those pressures.

Like the forks, the seatpost is a composite unit, helping keep the weight down and this is topped with an own-brand saddle - comfortable for shorter commutes and longer rides.

The Defy 0 that I tested has just been superseded with the 2015 model, sharing a similar spec, but with a Shimano chainset - answering my aesthetic complaint - and a couple of 105 parts including a slightly wider spread 11-32T rear cassette.

If you're in the market for a new bike, but don't mind last-year's model and you can find one of these, give it a ride. It might just convince you that old is the new new.

At a glance

Verdict Fast accelerating lightweight bike that will have you grinning all day long
Value
Performance

Geometry

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Size Stack Reach Head
Angle
 
43cm 523 mm 365 mm 71 ° details
46.5cm 545 mm 374 mm 72 ° details
50cm 566 mm 377 mm 72.5 ° details
53.5cm 580 mm 382 mm 72.5 ° details
55.5cm 599 mm 392 mm 72.5 ° details
58.5cm 618 mm 400 mm 72.5 ° details

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