A lot has been written about the Giant Propel, and it’s gained universal praise in every component spec. Here we have the rarified SL 0 model, which is about as close as mere mortals can get to Marcel Kittel’s steed of choice.
The burly German sprinter has watts in abundance, but obviously sees no point in wasting them on air resistance, choosing instead to max out his straight line speed when charging for the line.
Giant’s frame has a sculpted look to it, almost like you’d imagine a clay wind tunnel mock up to be, with beautifully smooth tube transitions, but a very narrow frontal profile, particularly the hourglass head-tube, slim fork crown and integrated seat mast. Bespoke TRP-made mini-V brakes are shaped to stay hidden from the wind behind the fork crown and seatstays too, although the protruding cable seems a compromise.
Zipp’s superb 404 rims are among the best clinchers around, though we’d have expected 25mm rubber
Asymmetric chainstays, Giant’s Powercore bottom bracket shell and a deep head tube area are the cornerstone of the Propel’s performance. With the back wheel tucked in to the seat-tube cutout, the rear end is super responsive, giving it a mule’s kick when attacking, and great climbing efficiency.
Giant has always produced fast road bikes with surefooted, neutral handling, and the Propel doesn’t disappoint, with seemingly added traction and balance through the corners, allowing you to carry more speed, and more time to alter your line.
Zipp 404 Firecrest clinchers are still among the fastest wheels available, giving a rapid and refined ride with excellent directional stability in changeable wind conditions. They spread the 23mm rubber of Giant’s P-SLR1 tyres to make the most of its tread, too, although 25mm clinchers would be an advantage. Zipps also have an excellent braking surface, giving consistently powerful and quiet stopping all the time.
Giant’s RS RideSensor magnet will transmit speed and cadence data to any ANT+device
In this guise, with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and satellite sprint shifters, the Giant flies. The one-piece carbon Contact SLR bar and stem is a good shape and rigid enough, but means you’ll need to position your levers and shifters carefully. We found that, as fitted, the sprint shifters were great when sprinting, but interfered with our braking grip a little when on the drops. But that’s something that’s easily customisable.
For an aero bike, its 7kg weight is impressive, and with tubulars and some tweaks could easily equal the 6.8kg UCI limit. The Propel has a habit of goading you on when you’re up to speed, and at high velocity, you can really feel the bike cleaving through the air, which we know sounds unlikely, but there’s a real sense of aerodynamics in action. It’s surprisingly comfortable and composed over the rough stuff, but a potholed descent brought about a little front end shimmy that was easily brought under control.
By definition, no road aero bike will ever be a true all-rounder, but the Propel comes pretty close, so if you’re a racer who doesn’t ride cobbles or mountains regularly, then it could be your perfect bike.