Giant Propel Advanced 2 2016
This season I've been lucky enough to be riding one of Giants aero road bikes, the Propel Advanced 2, for the All Terrain Cycles Race Team. My first impressions were good, it looks the business, with its aero shaped tubing and nice Giant PSLR deep section wheels making it look fast before you even pick it up. And when you do pick it up, its light..... very light, and this isn't even the top of the range 'Propel Advanced SL'. Out on the road and the first thing I noticed was the stiffness of the frame. I'm a big guy, at 6'4" and around 90kgs, (14 stone in old money!) I'm not your usual racing cyclists build, and I'm also reasonably strong, (I have to be to get 14 stone over the hills in races around Yorkshire!!!) so I'm fairly used to feeling the bottom bracket flex on many of the bikes I've ridden, and I was fairly sceptical about the claims from Giant about the PowerCore they build into the frames. But how wrong I was. The frame is noticeably stiffer than anything I've ridden before, and the first few sprints and short climbs I hit had me grinning like a Cheshire cat as it felt like I'd gained an extra 20 watts of power for free! The bike is kitted out with Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, which is well renowned for its smoothness and needs no introduction here. The ride is a little harsher than many endurance bikes, although this is to be expected if you're buying an aero bike, they're built for speed not comfort, but nothing a change to some wider tyres won't improve if that's a concern.
So it looks fast, it feels fast, but is it really fast? Well of course for an average person like me it's impossible to tell, because you don't know how another bike would do on the same day with the same conditions without the benefit of a few scientists and truck full of equipment to measure it all out! According to Giant it can save you 12-36 seconds over a distance of 40km at a speed of 40km/h compared to its competitors, and I cant argue with that. It certainly makes me think I can go fast, and isn't that half the battle!
So what's the catch? Well I have to confess the brakes were not my favourite feature, there's no quick release mechanism like you have on 'normal' brakes, and they felt a bit like they were either on or off, they certainly weren't as smooth and progressive as the Ultegra brakes I'd been riding on my last bike. I understand that Giant have now revamped the brakes, and improved them considerably from the models I was riding, making them smoother and adding a second setting to give you an option for wider rims, and if that hasn't sorted out the problems I guess there's always the option of an upgrade to some aftermarket ones such as the Fourier brakes the Pro team use. The Propel also doesn't quite have the clean lines that some of the latest offerings have, for example the Trek Madone with all of its cables completely hidden away and the neat head tube system that hides the front brake, but then again the Madone price range starts at around the same price point the top of the range Giants are placed at, and gets much higher!
Overall this is a great bike, and its good value too with high quality components and Giants own brand of finishing kit that is of excellent quality. Its carried me to some great results this year, and has certainly been the envy of some of my fellow racers! If you're looking for a great aero bike that turns heads and feels fast, (and isn't going to wipe out your life savings!) then this is the one for you!
Thursday 8th September 2016