The point Giant’s Propel Advanced Pro 1 demonstrates most clearly is what a difference a complete package makes. Plenty of manufacturers make aero road bikes and, for the most part, those bikes exist in the most expensive region of the price spectrum.
To reduce those prices and make the bikes more affordable to more people, the companies offer specced-down versions of their aero bikes, usually with a mid/second-tier groupset and shallow-profile alloy wheels. Which is all well and good but the trouble is that, although a lower-spec groupset won’t necessarily hold back a bike’s performance, lower-spec wheels certainly will. Especially when they’re part of a package that’s designed to optimise aerodynamic performance.
The folks at Giant have realised this, which is why all three complete-bike models in its Propel Advanced Pro stable come with deep-section wheels. They’re Giant’s own wheels, which obviously helps from a pricing point of view, but nevertheless they all have approximately 50mm of aero profiling. And, in the case of the Propel Advanced Pro 1, it makes a noticeable difference to the way the bike performs.
Weighing up the cost
The Propel Advanced Pro 1 goes for £2,600, which isn’t exactly cheap. But when you consider the fact that you’re getting a Shimano Ultegra groupset and full-carbon aero wheels, you begin to see what a bargain it is.
Head over to BMC and £2,649 will get you a Timemachine TMR02 with Ultegra but not with carbon aero wheels (see last issue). What about Specialized? You can get a Venge Elite for £2,400 but that’s with 105 components and shallow alloy wheels. You need to drop £5,000 into Specialized’s till before you see a Venge with carbon aero wheels. And it’s £4,000 for an Ultegra-equipped, aero-wheeled Boardman
Air 9.4 and £4,500 for the entry-level Trek Madone 9. The only company that comes close to matching the Giant on spec and price are the online-only Canyon, with their £2,699 Aeroad CF SLX. 6.0. So the Propel Advanced Pro 1 is a good package on paper. But what about on the road?
The short answer is: yes, it’s fantastic. The presence of Giant’s SLR 1 carbon aero wheels lifts the bike’s performance to another level. Whereas aero road bikes specced with shallow metal rims feel hamstrung by their wheels, the Propel Advanced Pro 1 frame has all the tools it requires to fully exploit its aero design.
The wheels complement the frame and the whole package works together to draw you ever further forwards at ever increasing rates. Accelerating feels almost effortless, as if there’s a huge source of gravity acting on the bike and constantly pulling you towards it. Riding the Propel Advanced is like getting swept along in a fast-flowing tide.
And the feeling doesn’t diminish on the climbs or through the corners. It’s a feisty bike that seems to want to take off at every moment; the only things holding it back being your fitness and fearlessness. In other words, it’s an absolute hoot to ride.
Pretty and practical
The Propel’s a good-looking bike and, somewhat surprisingly for an aero road bike, practical. While bikes like the Venge, with its humpbacked top tube, or the dropped seatstays of the BMC Timemachine immediately strike you as being out of the ordinary, the Propel could almost pass for a ‘normal’ bike.
As for the Giant’s ‘practical’ aspect, you need look no further than its brakes. Yes they’re aero models but the rear brake is an easily accessible unit mounted on the seatstays, rather than hidden behind the bottom bracket. The front brake, meanwhile, sits behind the fork, which not only makes for a sleek front end but also negates the need for any shrouding, cowling or the flaps you find on the Trek Madone 9 and the extra fuss they bring.
The brakes also have a pair of cable-entry sockets that allow you to quickly and easily switch between narrow and wide rim clearances. It’s another neat, practical touch that lets you swap in wheels of different widths without having to whip out the Allen keys and readjust everything each time. And best of all they do a reassuringly good job of slowing you down, even with the carbon rims.
All of which amounts to a thoroughly impressive package. A package that’s better specced, better value and, depending on your tastes, better looking than almost all of its rivals. And better still, it’s more practical than its rivals because you can actually get at the brakes without having to scramble around underneath
the bottom bracket or fuss around with any flaps or fairings. That alone makes the Giant Propel Advanced Pro 1 that rarest of things: an aero bike you could actually live quite happily with. But perhaps best of all, it’s a package that goes like an absolute rocket.
1 Head angle 73°; 2 Seat angle 72.5°; 3 Top tube 58.5cm; 4 Seat tube 57.5cm; 5 Standover 83.6cm; 6 Chainstay 40.5cm; 7 Bottom bracket 28.5cm; 8 Wheelbase 100.6cm; 9 Head tube length 18.5cm
Frame and Forks
Sizes available 46.5, 50, 52, 54.5, 57.5 and 59.5cm; Frame Advanced-Grade Composite;Fork Advanced-Grade Composite
Chainset Shimano Ultegra (52 x 36t); Bottom Bracket Shimano pressfit; Cassette Shimano Ultegra 11-28t; Chain KMC X11L; Derailleurs & shifters Shimano Ultegra
Front Giant SLR Aero Wheel System; Rear Giant SLR Aero Wheel System; Tyres Giant P-SL1, front and rear specific (700 x 23c)
Stem Giant Contact SL; Bars Giant Contact SL; Saddle Giant Contact CL Forward; Seatpost Giant Vector Composite; Brakes Giant Speed Control SL