Giant’s Propel is one of the most striking looking bikes of recent years and it’s got the smooth charisma, scorching sprint and easy cruising speed to carry it off 99 percent of the time too.
Highs: Stylish, effortlessly fast frame with kit to match
Lows: Occasionally unnerving handling on large size, inconsistent braking feel
Buy if: You want stop-and-stare looks with full gas performance
While Boardman, for instance, drops its fancy integrated brake fork designs to drop the cost of its AiR 9.4 Di2 Ultegra Di2 bike, Giant is still fronting the Propel with full aero effect.
The custom TRP mini V-brakes on the trailing edges of the fork and seatstays are particularly good too. That’s not just in terms of bags of very controllable power but also through the choice of two cable insertion notches that let you flick between narrow training wheels and full fat aero in a split second.
There are also other equally practical touches on the frame, such as the swollen down tube segment to shroud the water bottle from the wind and Di2 battery in the aero seat tube.
While it’s a skinny wind slicer in places, the Propel is stout where it matters with an oversized Overdrive 2 fork steerer and stem, massive bottom bracket block and big chainstays. It’s an impressively light chassis too.
Additional weight saving comes from Giant’s own brand aero wheels, though their braking and high-speed handling caused some concerns in the big hills. Giant’s own front and rear specific tyre combo is trustworthy though, and the aero section bars feel good when you’re churning a big gear on the climbs.
Giant’s aero wheels shave some extra grams – but did they contribute to the propel’s occasional sketchiness?:
Giant’s aero wheels shave some extra grams – but did they contribute to the Propel’s occasional sketchiness?
The Fizik saddle is well-loved by our test team, and the only deviation from a full Ultegra Di2 setup is a KMC chain that adds a split link to the system for easy cleaning.
Having a transmission where TLC is easy is probably a wise move too as the Propel has a seemingly insatiable appetite for miles of any sort. It doesn’t saunter up to distance devouring speed gently either.
While it will tap tempo up steady climbs or middle-of-epic-day stretches without grumbling or jolting you sulkily through the saddle, every pedal turn is transmitted directly to the tarmac. That makes it almost impossible not to just squeeze each revolution round a little harder, lifting the speed a fraction every time as the light wheels accelerate with equal eagerness. Or you can straight stand up stomp the Propel knowing that all your wattage is going where you want and the riders you’re with are probably going backwards.
While you have to strain to feel it on some aero bikes, there’s no doubt that the Propel loves to get into its stride and stay there hauling the horizon towards you at an unholy rate and levering big gears over climbs with the theatrical swagger of a circus strongman.
Once you’re up to that speed the Propel is whisper-quiet too, with the deliberately asymmetric ‘Dynamic Balanced Lacing’ spoke tension of the fat section carbon wheels noticeably damping chatter and clatter on rougher surfaces. Even with the close cut wheel hugger seat tube it’ll still squeeze 25c rubber in too, and set up like that it was a pleasure to ride even over some of northern England’s rougher roads.
Having scored some significant ‘up and over’ Strava KOMs with a previous basic model, medium sized Propel on those same roads we were surprised to run into high speed handling issues with the Advanced Pro 0. Whether it’s the taller carbon, rather than alloy, steerer, larger frame or front wheel (it’s certainly less of an issue with a shallower one) or a combination of all three we’re still trying to work out.
Whatever the reason, a few 50mph-plus ‘tank slappers’ in the UK and Majorca and a hesitant, underweight feel to the front end in high speed corners definitely undermined flat-out confidence in our sample Propel. It also suffered with erratic carbon rim feel under really hard braking in hot weather.