Make no mistake, ever since we tried the original Di2 equipped Propel we’ve been smitten with its unique charms. No only is the Propel one of the slipperiest of aero bikes, it doesn’t forget that one magical component that marks out any potential Bike of the Year contender – the ride quality.
- Highs: Wonderful ride, fast, smooth, and brilliant all rounder
- Lows: Aggressive ride position and not as high-spec as some
- Buy if: You want to conquer climbs, speed along the flat, fly round corners, glide over potholes – and look the business at the same time
From its conception Giant wasn’t happy to simply create a slippery aero shaped racer, and the firm has spent plenty of development time refining the way the Propel rides. Not only does it share the aggressive, short wheelbased geometry of the classic TCR; it blends in the noted smoothness of the brilliant endurance focused Defy in the process. In fact the Propel is built around the mantra of being for the rider, and not to satisfy wind tunnel engineers – the fact that it’s also so damn fast makes this technical marvel a very worthy competitor.
The downside of such a brilliantly realised chassis is that it takes up plenty of the overall budget of the bike’s specification. Usually at the upper limit of the Bike of the Year price range we’d expect Ultegra, but the Propel Advanced Pro 2 gets ‘just’ 105. We aren’t down on 105 as a group, however – its slick new 11-speed form is so close as to not matter to Ultegra’s performance, and we love the gearing choice Giant has made with the Pro 2. Using a 52/36 combined with a 12-28 gives a wide range that’s more than capable of tackling the toughest of ascents yet offers big enough gears to power along at a swift lick on more rolling terrain.
Indeed, it’s not just the chassis that’s led to the 105 spec, but the wheels too. Giant’s own design P-SLR1 Aero wheelset is built by DT Swiss and features slick cartridge hubs and a 55mm deep carbon/alloy hybrid rim with a smooth CNC-machined brake track. With an overall weight of 1613g a pair, these are decently lightweight hoops – and account for a big chunk of the bike’s overall price.
In use the SLRs are seriously fast: smooth rolling, with quick pick-up from the freewheel and stable in crosswinds without the snatching associated with some deep V-wedged designs. The TRP-built but Propel-specific V-style aero brakes offer great power with a little less action – and therefore feel – than a standard dual-pivot brake, but its easy to adapt to the smaller lever movement required and the assured nature of the Propel’s handling, especially on high speed corners, means you’ll rarely need to resort to much more than the occasional quick dab to regulate your rate.
We can’t fault any of the remainder of the Propel’s spec. The Fizik Arione saddle with its long flat shape is the ideal perch for the bike’s shape and the riding style you’ll adopt on it (low-down on the drops and pushing hard), while the P-SL1 tyres are supple and grippy in all conditions (though we’d still like to see a 25c option).
The alloy Contact SL bar is very well shaped with a bulge to the top that offers a great up-top climbing position, and the material of the bar offers enough flex to kill any road buzz. Another bonus is Giant’s inclusion of its in-built RideSense cadence sensor, which, via ANT+, will send speed and cadence data to any compatible device.
The 8kg overall weight of our large test bike is somewhat more than the lightest of its peers, but the fantastically efficient ride negates any offset. The Propel pulses along under pedal power with the enthusiasm normally reserved for superbikes. That it combines such a wonderfully powerful feel with a sharp yet subtle response to handling inputs really does put it in a class above the norm.
In all, we’re still impressed with just how phenomenal the Propel is as a riding machine. Some may sneer at the price tag for a 105-equipped steed, but look beyond the labels and you’ll find a bike with as beguiling a ride as you’ll get at any price – and a seriously fast one at that.