A Sweat Covered 2017 Giant Defy Advanced 2 Road Bike

A Bike Optimized for Joy

Alan May
Alan May
Aug 16, 2019 · 3 min read

D-E-L-I-G-H-T-F-U-L! Through its handlebars, pleasing vibrations of the universe flow into the rider from this chariot. Riding this Giant Defy bicycle brings back the joy of riding a small BMX-style bike to elementary school as a kid. Although I’m less apt to pop wheelies, jump curbs or perform skidding stops, somehow this bike gives me the same thrill.

I went to college with a plan to become an industrial designer. I was inspired by the harmonious architecture of Alden Dow, the minimalist designs of industrial designer Dieter Rams, and the sculpture of Richard Serra, whose work cleverly illuminates aspects of the nature of his various media and the space around them. I ended up taking a different path and studied computer science, but my love of industrial design lives on. Today, I’m a behavioral designer, helping individuals accomplish their goals through the design of supporting change programs.

For more than twenty years, I participated in the sport of triathlon. Like many of my fellow triathletes, I rode a bicycle that aggressively positioned my body to cheat the wind, allowing me to maximize my efficiency. After years of racing, my non-conscious self had developed a real loathing for riding in this manner; the position put a strain on my neck and didn’t feel comfortable. It finally sunk in that this style of bike and this focus on absolute speed was no longer what I was seeking. I sold that fancy, aerodynamic, beautiful bike that was no longer serving my fitness goals.

I decided to search for a moderately-priced road bike with an emphasis on every day riding comfort, flexibility of use, and reliability over aerodynamics and nimbleness. I felt the road “endurance” category of bicycles fit the bill perfectly. I road bikes from different manufacturers including Trek, Specialized, Cervelo, and Felt. Many of these bikes used shocks or strange rubber inserts to dampen road harshness. I rode the Giant, and I was sold. It had some of the best pricing for comparable equipment, and it communicated just the right amount of feel.

The industrial design and materials engineering of this bike are brilliant. Here are the nerdy details. The designers made conscious choices for how the carbon frame would flex through thin seat stays. They beefed-up the head tube to provide sure handling. They clearly thought a lot about how the direction the carbon ran at critical points in the frame which resulted in a bike that transferred power to the pedals well, yet flexed in all the right ways. In lieu of the external additions many of the other bike vendors used to make the bike comfortable, the Giant Defy used organic tubing shapes to accomplish the same thing. They equipped the bike with Shimano 105 components which are known for their reliability and their good price to performance. The gearing is not for advanced riders but for anyone who wants to make it over that next big hill. The designers used quality materials but kept the cost down with thoughtful tradeoffs that didn’t detract from the experience. Their solution is elegant.

What blows me away is that the designers performed a hat trick of sorts, creating one of the most cost-effective and reliable bikes in its class that has a beautiful industrial design and a nuanced feel that begs you to ride the bike more. When I see my bike, I immediately want to go ride. When I’m on the road, I just want to keep doing the same. From a behavioral design perspective, this is exactly what we want to manifest; exercises that feel great while doing them. Too often in that negotiation with ourselves to be active, if we don’t like the activity, we have to convince our current selves that our future selves will benefit. That’s a tough sell.

Are you going to win the Tour De France or the local criterium bike race on this bike? No, but if you are a 40-something-year-old person who might like to ride a bike with your friends or on a nice solo exploration on the weekends, this is a bike you should strongly consider. I have no relationship with Giant Bicycle company other than being a paying customer with an impish grin on my face while indulging in the open road.

Alan May

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