There’s a lot of modern mountain bike DNA influencing the Giant Toughroad SLR 1’s features, and in a very good way — think hydraulic brakes, thru-axles, tubeless wheels with chunky gravel tyres.
So, what makes it a commuter bike, then? Well, Giant certainly thinks the world of urban travel is within its remit, and says of the Toughroad: “Fly through city streets. Climb a rugged mountain pass. Ride some gravel or venture into the woods. Now you can do it all on one ride, with one quick and capable machine.”
This Toughroad is also pleasingly free of a suspension front fork, an unnecessary energy-wasting addition to an urban machine.
Nips along smoothly over tarmac, grit and gravel while shrugging off potholes. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The frame is nicely finished in a brushed aluminium with orange highlights, and comes with front and rear racks for full-on touring and even a minimal mudguard under the down tube.
The short stem keeps the handling sharp enough for city roads and the flat bar isn’t too wide, so you can squeeze through smallish gaps. It’s always good to see flattened handlebar grips for comfort, and you could fit small bar-ends for touring.
The kit is very well chosen, as you’d expect from the world’s biggest purveyor of quality bikes. Giant has gone for Shimano hydraulic brakes, not Giant’s own hybrid cable-hydraulic discs. Stopping is exemplary at all times. Simple as that. Powerful, controlled, minimal effort. The gearing is slightly quirkier but very clever.
The first thing you see is a side-plate-sized cassette, the sort usually seen with 1x gearing. Here, though, Giant has paired it with a sub-compact 44/32 FSA chainset, giving a fantastic 21-113in gear range (similar to a 34 x 42 bottom/50 x 12 top). The bottom gear keeps you seated when climbing, the top allows you to keep a decent lick.
The Deore rear mech and the Giant’s super-sized wide-ranging cassette. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Shifting comes courtesy of Deore, which is about halfway up Shimano’s off-road groupset hierarchy. Gear changes are slick and positive.
The rear mech has Shimano’s Shadow Plus technology to prevent the chain slapping around, and I couldn’t get any mis-shifts even when trying to induce them.
Toughness on road and off, and room for pannier bags. Robert Smith
You’re rarely going to be speeding, but this nips along smoothly over tarmac, grit and gravel while shrugging off potholes.
That’s what 50mm tyres mean, especially as they’re tubeless. They’re comfortable, and while there’s more friction than with slicker tyres, the trade-off is a toughness over rougher stuff.
Comfort? There’s loads of it. Those super-wide tyres are accompanied by Giant’s carbon D-Fuse seatpost that’s familiar from its road bikes. You could trim weight if you’re not gravelling regularly, sticking on slicker, narrower tyres and removing a rack or two if they’re not being used. But that’s not really what this bike is all about, because the Toughroad’s upright riding position is about as non-aero as you’ll find.
What this bike is about is toughness on road and off, camel-like load-carrying abilities and bags of long-distance comfort.
Front and rear racks are standard, the brakes excellent. David Caudery / Immediate Media
I was never going to break my PB on my 17-mile commute, but I could travel with pannier rather than backpack and arrived without that tell-tale sweaty back.
Giant Toughroad SLR 1 geometry (M)
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 70.5 degrees
Seat tube: 46cm
Top tube: 59cm
Head tube: 15cm
Fork offset: 4.35cm
Bottom bracket drop: 7cm
Bottom bracket height: 29.2cm