Giant have plenty of 100% aluminium and 100% carbon framed bikes in their ranges but, with this hybrid Alliance range, they are trying to offer the best of both worlds. They have come up with a machine with some of the forgiving ride characteristics typical of a carbon frame yet at a price that’s only slightly higher than an aluminium framed equivalent.
The Zero model tested here is their top dog road bike with mostly Ultegra kit but there’s also an Alliance 1 with Shimano 105 (£1,050) for those on a tighter budget along with a Dura-Ace Trinity TT version (£2,000).
At a quick glance it would be hard to tell that the compact Alliance uses two different materials in the construction of its frame with its flashy all over paint job. Many manufacturers usually try to scream about their use of carbon and do everything to make it stand out. That is not the approach taken here. The change from aluminium to carbon is subtle and the Giant is certainly easy on the eye, but what’s underneath this sleek blue, silver and black jacket?
The top tube, seat stays, seat junction and post are all made from carbon composite while the head and down-tubes, chainstays and bottom bracket are made from top grade 6613 aluminium. The two are bonded together in order to reduce weight and offer a little more compliance. The joint junctions where the composite meets the aluminium are particularly neat. Giant have used a carbon filament wrap at each for a smooth finish and once painted it’s hard to tell where these joins are. Another nice touch you wouldn’t see without a thorough inspection is the seat-tube, which is aluminium with a composite insert moulded on the inside. This is to help dissipate road vibration and do away with any harshness of ride, which can turn into the numbness you might feel after a few hours in the saddle with an all aluminium frame.
The Alliance loses a little weight over a regular all-aluminium frame while retaining much of the lateral stiffness, thanks to the aluminium bottom bracket, down-tube and chainstays. The main advantage though is the more comfortable ride, especially over big distances thanks to the road vibration absorbing characteristics of carbon.
The Zero comes equipped with mostly Shimano Ultegra components, the second from top in the Shimano hierarchy, the only non-Ultegra components are the chain and cassette, which are 105. Both are more than capable but a few grams heavier. All of these worked superbly as we’ve come to expect so there were no worries with the drivetrain or braking on the Alliance.
Steering the Zero is Giant’s own handlebar and stem combo. The handlebars felt okay – to be honest, they’re a bit nondescript in that they didn’t feel particularly bad but there wasn’t anything amazing about them either. They did the job more than adequately.
As for seating arrangements, Fizik’s Pavé Sport saddle does a good job of keeping your cheeks happy even after long hours, although we’re not sure how well the red and black goes with the blue, silver and black frame. The 23c Michelin Lithiontyres take care of rubber duties offering plenty of confidence when banking the Alliance through high-speed corners.
These complete Mavic Aksium wheels come with 20 spokes up front and 24 at the rear. The 6061 aluminium rims are 21mm wide, use single eyelets, come with Mavic’s standard UB control braking surface and are laced using stainless steel spokes with brass nipples. The front is laced radial pattern while the rear is two cross. As for the hubs, these are Mavic’s own with aluminium bodies, steel spindles and quick release skewers. This provides a good solid set of wheels.
While these are relatively cheap, they perform well and can certainly take a reasonable amount of abuse. They feel stiff in a straight line and, while there’s a little bit of give when cornering hard, they’re by no means flexy. They really do punch above their weight and are a definite asset on the Alliance.
The weird thing about the Alliance, especially when you first ride it, is that its handling is less about what you notice and more about what you don’t notice. It really doesn’t have the harsh ride of an all-aluminium frame, so the additional carbon tubes must be doing their job as Giant planned.
Then again, it doesn’t have the aggressive racy feel of some aluminium frames. It’s certainly a good middle ground and one that will satisfy those who want a smooth ride but can’t afford the jump up to full carbon. The Alliance definitely feels light and nimble. As a result it climbs well whether you’re sat down or out of the saddle. Much of the lateral stiffness is retained thanks to the aluminium bottom bracket, downtube and seatstays. The power goes straight where you want it when you put the hammer down or get out of the saddle sprinting.
The 72 degree head angle on the small frame that we tested felt fine. Steering wasn’t overly quick but reliable and smooth without being twitchy, even when hammering into tight hairpins at high speed throwing it from side to side. What the Alliance Zero offers is a very comfortable yet sprightly ride. It’s the sort of bike you can just get on and pedal for hours and not have any grumbles. It’s a trusty steed. A good, safe bet. Maverick riders might want something a little more dangerous on the handling front, but most will love the Zero.
The marriage of aluminium and carbon in this instance comes together, along with a great component package, to offer a really useful all round set-up. The price says it all and you’re getting a great deal for your cash. It will work well for most with its safe ride characteristics and no harsh quirks. The forgiving ride makes it perfrect for big weekends, sportives and long hours in the hills. While it’s not as snappy as some, we’d certainly be happy enough to ride it at the local crit too.