Giant Defy 3 Review

In our last post we discussed how to buy a beginner road bike and all of the different things to look at during the buying process.  Now I’ll reveal which bike I chose as my starter road bike: the Giant Defy 3.  I’ve had it for several months now, so now I’ll share my Giant Defy review with you.

As I mentioned before, after 20 years without sitting on a bike, I started out last summer looking for a bike under $200.  However, my quest for a decent quality bike lead me to spend about double that amount for a hybrid bike.  I enjoyed riding the hybrid bike so much that I decided I needed a road bike for longer rides and better performance.  However, I still was in sticker shock at the price of bicycles and I was still not sure how committed I would be to riding a road bike.  So, I was definitely looking for a beginner road bicycle at a novice price, but one that I would enjoy riding.  For me, the Defy 3 fit the bill and was the best beginner road bike for me.  Men’s Fitness also named the Defy 3 to its list of Best Bikes ’09.

So, now I’ll walk through the criteria referenced in my article on buying a beginner road bike (see that article if the terminology below needs explanation):

  • Money. The Defy 3 has an Average Retail Price of $810.  With a little haggling, and after the end of the summer, I got mine on sale for $715 for a 2009 Defy 3 right near the end of the model year.  If you had told me a year ago I would pay that much for a bike, I would have said you were crazy.  However, I did my homework and now I know you really get what you pay for with bikes.  Actually, you’ll have trouble finding a bike-store-quality bike for under $700 unless you catch a great sale or end up buying a used bike.  Readers in Southern California can usually find some good prices on Defy 3 and other bikes on this site.
  • Handlebars/Frame. The Defy 3 has classic road bike curved handlebars.  The shifters are integrated into the brake levers.  There are no levers “on the tops”, so you spend a decent bit of time gripping “on the hoods”.  I’m over 200 pounds and hadn’t been on a road bike since the ’80s, so my local bike shop spent a decent bit of time to fit me where I could ride comfortably.
  • Brand/Components. With my Giant hybrid, I really liked the quality, and I think Giant is a good brand.  One thing that makes beginner road bikes cheaper than their multi-thousand-dollar cousins is that they usually use less expensive components (crank, shifters, cassette, brakes, etc.).  The Defy 3 has Shimano 2200 shifters, 2203 front derailleur, and Shimano Sora rear derailleur.  These are the cheaper versions of Shimano, so the shifting may not be as smooth as more expensive models.  However, it is certainly serviceable — as are the Tektro R350 brakes.  Though many people assume a stock seat will need replacing, I’m a big guy and the Defy’s seat has been fine for me so far.
  • Crank. The Defy 3 has a triple crank which is helpful for a novice like me in a hilly area.  The rear cassette is 8 gears — so you have 24 “speeds” in all.
  • Frame. The frame is light-weight aluminum with a carbon fork.  Frame geometry is relaxed to allow a more upright riding position.
  • Fit. Due to the frame geometry, the bike is more comfortable than I had imagined.  However, as I mentioned above my local bike shop did spend a decent bit of time measuring me and adjusting the bike to be sure that I would be positioned correctly.  This matters a lot when you may spend 3 or more hours every Saturday on the bike.
  • Extras. While many road bikes do not come with pedals, the Defy 3 comes with pedals with a “cage and strap” system — you don’t have to have special shoes for these pedals, and strapping in allows you to use some power on the upstroke of your pedaling also.  This is better than just flat platform pedals.  However, I’ll be looking to upgrade to “clipless” pedals and bike shoes in the near future.

All in all, the Defy 3 has been a great beginner road bike for me, and I highly recommend it to other beginner cyclists.  I can’t wait for the snow to melt so I can get back on mine and ride!

P.S.: For those looking for a slightly less expensive option, you might consider the Diamondback Podium road bike.  Those who are really watching their budget might try the Schwinn Phocus road bike.

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