Eurobike 2014: Giant Defy gets disc brakes

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Eurobike 2014: carbon fibre Giant Defy range now only available with disc brakes

World's biggest bicycle manufacturer overhauls 'endurance' platform for model year 2015

Giant have overhauled the popular Defy ‘endurance’ bike for model year 2015 – with the reworked carbon fibre frame now only available with disc brakes.

We’ve already brought you a round-up of the many disc-equipped road bikes we saw at 2014 Eurobike show but while the majority of brands had one or two models on display, Giant had a whole Defy range – and when the world’s biggest bicycle manufacturer makes such a commitment to disc brakes, it’s time to sit-up and take note.

‘Disc brakes are here’

“Disc brakes are here and we were ready to develop a new platform,” Giant UK’s product and training manager, David Ward, told RoadCyclingUK.

The Defy is Giant’s ‘endurance’ bike and the application of disc brakes to one of the Taiwanese firm’s best-selling platforms continues the trend we’ve previously noted that the industry is steering disc brakes towards cyclists who want to ride big miles in comfort – and who, significantly, aren’t restricted by the UCI’s current ban on disc brakes in road racing.

“We are 100 per cent behind discs,” said Ward, “and it was perfect to do it on the Defy. Shimano and SRAM both recommend a 420mm chainstay length [when using disc brakes] and the Defy had that already. The only thing we’ve not changed on the new Defy is the geometry – that works incredibly well with disc brakes – but otherwise stiffness is up, compliance is up and weight down.

All in all, four frames are used through the model year 2015 Defy range and, as we said at the top, the three carbon fibre models, are available with disc brakes only. The entry-level aluminium-framed Defy, available in six Cyclescheme-friendly models from £499 to £999, comes with caliper rim brakes.

‘You can have it all’

So, what of the disc-equipped Defy? There are essentially three frames, the flagship Defy Advanced SL, the second-tier Defy Advanced Pro, which uses a slightly lower grade of carbon fibre to add a little weight and subsequently bump down the price, and the range-opening Defy Advanced.

“You can have it all,” boast Giant of flagship Defy Advanced SL frame, which we’ll focus our attention on, as it’s said to combine low weight – it’s the lightest frame Giant have ever made – and comfort, with what Giant are calling “pin-point” control thanks to those disc brakes.

The frame has been overhauled so little remains of the old Defy, save for the ‘endurance’ geometry. Otherwise, it was back to the drawing board as far as Giant were concerned. The result in the flagship Defy Advanced SL is an impressively light frame (made from a T-800 woven in Giant’s composite factory), with a claimed weight of 890.2g, which compares very favourably with rival ‘endurance’ frames of Cannondale, Specialized and Trek, with Giant claiming figures of 1,044.2g, 998.4g and 1,106g for the Synapse Hi-Mod Disc, Roubaix SL4 Disc and Domane 6 Disc respectively. That makes the Defy Advanced SL more than 100g lighter than it’s nearest major competitor according to Giant’s numbers.

“We took the outgoing Defy frameset two-and-a-half years ago and the plan was not to add more than 50g in weight, but we took out 50g so we’re 100g less than our target,” said Ward.

Giant have also sought to ensure the Defy Advanced SL is a stiff, responsive ride, and the frame borrows the oversized OverDrive 2, which tapers from 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″, and the MegaDrive downtube from the TCR range. As a result, Ward says the Defy Advanced SL is the second-stiffest road frame Giant have ever made, ahead of the Propel Advanced SL (the weapon of choice for Giant-Shimano sprinter Marcel Kittel) and only beneath the TCR Advanced SL. Compared to the competition (and the same bikes which Giant put the Defy Advanced SL on the scales against), the frame is claimed to be ‘best in class’, though we can’t verify any figures.

As for comfort – and, that, ultimately is a key consideration in any ‘endurance’ bike – the Defy’s tube profiles and, beneath the surface, carbon fibre layup have been engineered to improve compliance (compliance, Giant say, is the amount of vibration that a frameset is able to soak up, thus producing a smoother ride and inducing less fatigue).

Key ‘comfort’ features include the Defy’s low-slung seatstays, which are said to offer more flex, while also reducing weight as the seatstays have been slimmed to the minimum size as they don’t have to cope with the braking forces of a caliper, and the ‘D-Fuse’ seatpost, first employed on the TCX Advanced cyclo-cross bike launched last year, and with a D-shaped design to dissipate vibration. That D-shape  is also used on the Defy’s toptube, again in a bid to smooth out the ride.

Once again, Giant have put the Defy Advanced SL in the lab against the Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Disc, Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc and Trek Domane 6 Disc, and claim only the Cannondale comes out better as far as compliance is concerned.

Keeping quick releases

While disc brakes have undoubtedly arrived, the industry remains split as to whether to keep conventional quick release axles, or adopt the thru-axles used in the mountain bike world, on disc-equipped road bikes. We saw some disc-ready machines at Eurobike with quick releases at the front and rear, some with thru-axles at both ends, and others with a thru-axle at the front and a quick release at the back.

Giant have opted for QRs at the front and rear. Ward says they couldn’t find a single thru-axle system which met their needs, and, in fact, the Defy doesn’t need thru-axles, used by some brands for a claimed improvement in front-end stiffness and safety by effectively locking the wheel in the fork. “The front dropout on Defy, rather being vertical, faces down and forward at 45 degrees, which means there’s no need for a thru-axle system,” said Ward. “That small change has counteracted any twisting in the hub.”

Sticking to a conventional quick release setup also gives riders a wider choice of aftermarket disc wheelsets. “We’re not tying people into a single system,” said Ward, who also said that Giant have used a disc-specific extrusion on their own-brand disc wheelsets and that’s allowed them to keep the weight down as the rim does not have to also effectively act as a brake pad.

UK models and availability

The 2015 carbon fibre Giant Defy range will be available in the UK from next month, with two models based around the flagship Defy Advanced SL frame, three bikes using the mid-range Advanced Pro chassis and three built around the entry-level Advanced frameset.

You can find all models on the Giant website so, for now, we’ll focus on of each of the Defy Advanced SL, the Defy Advanced Pro and the Defy Advanced.

The flagship machine in the entire range is the Giant Defy Advanced SL 0 at £7,999, which is equipped with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, paired with Shimano R785 hydraulic disc brakes, Zipp 202 Firecrest Disc wheels wrapped in 25mm Giant P-SLR1 front and rear-specific tyres, Giant finishing kit and a Fizik Aliante saddle.

Of the mid-range bikes, the Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1 sits in the middle at £2,599 and comes with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset, Shimano RS685 hydraulic disc brakes, Giant’s P-SL0 Disc WheelSystem with 25mm Giant P-SLR1 front and rear-specific tyres, Giant finishing kit and a Fizik Aliante saddle.

Finally, the Giant Defy Advanced 3 is the most affordable machine in the 2015 carbon fibre range at £1,199. It has a Shimano Tiagra mechanical groupset, TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes, Giant S-R2 Disc wheels shod with 25mm Giant P-R3 front and rear-specific tyres, Giant finishing kit and a Giant saddle.

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Website:  Giant Bicycles

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