It doesn’t feel like three years since Giant released their TCR and Defy range of bikes. A lot has happened since then, the Taiwanese company in my opinion completely and utterly lost its ‘dag tag’. I remember years ago having a friend who worked in a bike shop that sold Giant saying he would never have one. He said they’re ugly, and they’re like a certain part of your anatomy, i.e.; everybody has one. That friend is now riding a Giant TCR and wouldn’t have anything else. In fact, when I told him I was going to the release of Giant’s new range he was genuinely excited, wanting to know what they would have in store.
He wasn’t the only one. When I rode the bikes Giant put us on back then I was truly blown away by their excellence. The company hadn’t just taken a step up, they’d taken a leap. As a friend of mine from a British magazine said when we met in Spain, “I’m wondering how they’re going to improve on what was my favourite bike in 2010.” Those bikes were stiff, responsive, comfortable and importantly, Giant had taken steps to improve the paint work and decals on the bike. This has made the bikes very desirable machines.
So have Giant upped the ante yet again? Lets have a look.
What’s New? In a word, plenty! I’ll deal with each change one by one, but for a quick summary, the bike series stays the same, i.e.; TCR, Defy Avail and so on. All the models, with the exception of the women’s series follow the same hierarchy; Advanced SL 0 is the top-of-the-line, followed by Advanced 0 and the Composite 1. The womens’ bikes begin at the Advanced 0 level. Each bike has had significant improvements in design and manufacturing process and the Defy also gets a top-of-the-line race version called the Defy SL to sit side-by-side with the TCR SL. To improve front-end stiffness they’ve released a new standard in headsets, the 1 ¼ x 1 ½. The female range has also been improved for better fit and handling. Each carbon fibre model comes standard with Giant’s Ride Sense integrated bike computer. This is located in one of the chainstays and sits flat against the frame. These are compatible with any ANT system computer and if you don’t want to use it a special plug is available.
And for the past few years Giant have gradually been rolling out their parts and accessories line. For the most part this has involved Giant branded stems, bars and the like. But they’ve made huge steps in this area releasing a range of wheels, including a deep-dish carbon wheelset and also a range of race tyres. Let’s examine some of this in more detail.
TCR and Defy-Starting at the Top
You may be wondering why there are two sets of bikes when I’ve said “Starting at the Top”? The reason is that the Defy is now on equal level to the TCR race frames. The materials and manufacturing processes are identical, only the geometry is different as well as some extra compliance built into the seatmast. To my mind, this is a bold statement on the part of Giant. Many companies, Giant included, have had relaxed geometries in their bike range such as the Defy and before that OCR. The idea is that not everyone is comfortable or able to reach their full potential on a race geometry frame, so another high quality frame with more upright geometry is made available instead.
The trouble is, in many people’s mind these upright frames are not seen to be as good. Whether it’s an image problem or something else, I don’t know. But I suspect if you were able to get a look at the sales figures for all the manufacturers who provide these two options, you’d find that the upright geometry bikes haven’t sold as well as the pure race geometry. I’m predicting that this will change with the new Defy SL. It’s a big call, but with this model I believe Giant are moving close to the ‘perfect bike’.