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Reviewed: Giant Propel Advanced Disc

Words by David Hicks

on 13/04/2018 10:00:19

Giant Propel Advanced Disc Review

Review by Malcolm Smith. Find out more about Malcolm >

The Giant Propel Advanced Disc 2018 is a bike I have really been looking forward to getting my hands on for the 2018 season. My season will comprise road racing, circuit racing and time trials plus lots of training. Over the last few years my machines have been Cervelo S2, Scott Foil and Scott Addict. The Scott machines were race ready equipped to Ultegra level and I put my Rotor in-power cranks on them with Q rings and power meter. I typically run two sets of wheels – one for training and one for racing. These have been tubeless over the last two seasons. The Giant Propel, as a rim brake version, was a good-looking bike but I shied away due to the reputational difficulties of setting it up with hidden brake callipers behind the fork crown.

The Giant Propel Advanced Disc 2018 is a brand-new racing beast. I got hold of it on Good Friday and was immediately smitten by its lines. There are no cables on view other than a few inches where they appear from the frame to reach the brake callipers. The lines are clean and elegant. It just looks fast, and I imagined how it might feel under pressure. My imagined sensations were all very positive and the first ride did not disappoint but more about that later because you need to understand what you get out of the box...

The exact bike Malcolm has been riding is no longer in store but non-disc version is still in stock.

Giant Propel Advanced 2 2018 Carbon Road Bike Red

Giant Propel Advanced 2 2018 Carbon Road Bike

The Giant Propel Advanced is an aero machine, allowing you to do everything fast! With the Propel Advanced you can fly with total control!

  • Frame - Advanced-Grade Composite
  • Fork - Advanced-Grade Composite, Hybrid OverDrive Steerer
  • Drivetrain - Shimano 105 2x11 Speed
  • Brakes - Shimano 105 Calliper

RRP: £1599.00 Now £1098.99

Shop Now > See the Propel range >
See all Giant Road Bikes >>>

Out of the box

The machine I collected was assembled by Sam at Rutland Cycling in Peterborough with only that stuff which came out of the box from Giant other than my own saddle as I planned on racing the new bike on Sunday and wanted it ready to go. The key aspects of the machine which caught my eye upon collection were:

1. The integrated front end. There are no cables on view at all. They are hidden under a cap which finishes off the stem. The stem is a chunky, almost Soviet looking piece of amour, which clamps onto a pair of handle bars which are tear drop in shape; something I like anyway. In combination the bars and stem look as though they are one piece, but they are not which makes them practical to set up and maintain.

Giant Propel Advanced Disc Review

2. The forks. Shaped for low drag and without the crown callipers they immediately inspire a sense of perfect balance and smooth air displacement. The forks are designed specifically for the disc brake callipers which are mounted low down near the hub of the front wheel.

3. The wheels are astonishing. The bike is equipped with a set of Giant SLR 1 deep section carbon wheels which are toned to the frame. The hubs run smoothly, and they look great. The Propel Advanced Disc is supplied with a 42mm front and 64mm rear wheel. These are beautiful wheels in any event; to be included on this bike, out of the box on a £3,000 bike is unbelievable (a word I choose to use carefully as things that are unbelievable normally have a catch). The RRP of the wheel set is £1050.The wheels are built for tubeless tyres and are supplied with Giant Gavia Race 1 rubber set up with the latex and ready to roll.

4. The frame is bright red! It's loud and might not be to everyone's taste, but the finish is stunning. Giant have a new painting process which is creating the most deep and intense paint jobs. The paint on the Propel Advanced Disc is a flat colour, almost matt. My experience of matt paint has not been positive to be frank. It looks beautiful in the shop but is a real test of brand loyalty to get clean again; to the extent that you don’t want to ride the bike on wet or dirty days. How does it clean up? Read on to find out.

5. All new tubes. The new Propel Disc shares no tube shapes with the previous generation Propel. Its truncated-airfoil design is similar to what is used on other aero-road bikes: a rounded leading edge with flat back. The shape — Giant calls it a truncated ellipse — was developed over three years by Aero Concept Engineering, an independent company that helps Giant with aero designs. Giant claim the shape works better overall at wind angles from zero to 30 degrees than a traditional teardrop shape. The Propel shares other details with its competitors as well, including dropped chain stay attachment and a rear wheel cut out. The bottom bracket cup is substantial and looks like it anchors the stiffness of the bike. The seat post is also shaped and looks as though it is integrated into the frame, but it is not. I am pleased about this for the looks and the practicality for travelling purposes.

6. Latest Ultegra groupset. Alongside the hydraulic brake levers and calipers, the new front mech needs a mention; it has had a redesign for disc brake road bikes because the chain angle from the chain ring to the extremes of the cassette has increased, driven by the need to travel a further 5mm without rubbing. This redesign caused me to scratch my head to figure out how to micro adjust. Once it was done it was silent. In fact, I was assisted in this by the workshop staff at Rutland Cycling.

Giant Propel Advanced Disc Review

The first ride

This was Saturday 31st March that day after I got the Propel Advanced Disc and the day before its first race. It was lashing down with rain!

I tested the Propel Advanced Disc over the first part of the Tour of Cambridgeshire Gran Fondo route for about 3hrs, where the rolling countryside was quite revealing. What most struck me was how the Propel felt like a normal race bike. Aero frames, disc brakes, aero wheels, aero-shaped handlebars — these things usually work against a bike’s handling. But the Propel felt like a good modern race bike. It was lively, compliant, precise, and fast. That it also has class-leading aerodynamics is a big claim and disc brakes to boot, makes me think that Giant has stuck a seam of gold with this product. Punching hard up a rise, the frame’s bottom bracket stiffness and power transfer felt excellent. Giving everything in a flat sprint, the bar and stem yielded little, the front wheel tracked true, and there was little discernible wind up in the front triangle.

Handling was sharp and fast — never twitchy or unpredictable — and the Propel Disc was not unsettled by rougher corners. The ride was not particularly windy, so I couldn’t evaluate the bike’s cross-wind stability. The frame did an admirable job of both dulling normal vibrations and sucking up bigger impacts, but enough rumble and grit filtered through to prevent a flat feeling, and remind you that, yes, the Propel Disc is a race bike.

Aerodynamics are tough to evaluate from the seat however, with my power meter I was able to sense the speed of the machine on the flat without discernible effort, the Propel Disc had the feeling of easier speed I associate with aerodynamic improvements. But, as is often the case with cycling equipment, aerodynamic improvements are more a matter of faith in the data than feeling faster. I tried three or four big sprints on the local roads. Some in a big gear and forcing the issue and some spinning up on smaller gears. Though very stiff and reactive — this bike certainly goes — it doesn’t quite feedback the sense of explosive quickness, that fiery snarling grunt, that I associate with the race bikes favoured by out and out sprinters. To be fair, no aero road bike (and very few disc-equipped race bikes) have this trait either. That the Propel Disc comes close is noteworthy.

Giant Propel Advanced Disc Review

Though I’ll say the Propel Disc is the most impressive disc equipped, aerodynamic road race bike I’ve ridden, there’s still a gap between it, and the top race bikes but the Propel Disc is within striking distance of those leading race bikes — many of which are still non disc, and not fully aerodynamic — and it offers the control of disc brakes, and the efficiency of a fully aerodynamic frame. It’s almost game changing, and definitely class leading. My only criticism and this is really minor and highly unlike to ever affect a sensible rider is that the wheels filled with water while I was out. I mentioned that it was raining when I set off, well it was torrential and had been raining for a while. If anyone knows the Bullock Rd / Morbonne Hill cross road at all and its propensity to flood? Well it was flooded, and I misread the depth of the water so piled on through as I do on my winter training bike. The water came up to the hubs and whilst I nearly came to a wet halt I just manged to keep going without embarrassing myself in front of a bunch of riders who were stood looking at the water wondering what to do. All the way home there was a sloshing sound. My fault I know, and I really can’t blame Giant for this design oversight because I’m sure most bike manufacturers don’t build fast race wheel for these conditions.

OK, so here is the big one. How did the paint scrub up after having had it maiden voyage out on the dirty, flooded roads around Peterborough? Perfectly is the answer! A wipe over with a dry cotton rag was all it took. No smudgy road effects visible at all. Even some grimy diesel looking deposits just wiped straight off.

The verdict

In short, I wonder how Giant have brought such a well specified, high performing bike to the market at this price. It is a game changer. I was thinking about what I’d want to change on the Propel Advanced Disc for any other reason than personal preference and for now the answer is nothing. I’m looking forward to its race debut tomorrow with great anticipation. I like the colour too.

Giant Propel range

View the Propel Range >>>
Malcolm Smith

Malcolm Smith

Starting out as a competitive track runner, Malcolm turned to cycling following an ankle injury in his early 20s, and started off with some 3rd category racing and a burgeoning sportive scene around Paris, where he was based for work. On his return to the UK, and with more free time to ride in his early 40s, Malcolm progressed through the ranks of British Cycling and LVRC racing, winning the LVRC National Road Race Championships. In 2014 he won the British Masters Road Race title, the LVRC time trial title and was 4th in the World Championships road race in Llubljana. Malcom’s pursuit of Masters road glory led to him setting up a sports marketing business with Tom Caldwell in 2015 and establishing the Tour of Cambridgeshire as a pathway for British age group riders to compete in the World Championships.

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