In 2019 Giant released their latest iteration of the Giant Propel. A now fully integrated aero racing bike with disc brakes to compete against the ever growing market of machines built for speed. With the design remaining the same going into the 2021 season I thought a review of my 2019 Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc would be useful for those interested in purchasing this model.
Giant has historically offered fantastic value for money and the Propel continues in this same light. Although the new 2021 model has increased its price to £3,299 from £2,999 when I purchased the bike, it still offers a great option in the market. Additionally, due to the size of Giant it is likely that you can still pick up the 2019 or 2020 model from many Giant retailers across the country at an even better price. It is for this reason that a review of the bike seemed to be useful despite it not being the most updated version.
2019 to 2021
The Propel frame has not changed at all in the three years that this model has been in production. Much like the Canyon Aeroad, a frame design can stay in circulation for a number of years before it is changed. The noticeable change is the colour with the 2021 version now in a matte black instead of the charcoal grey of 2019. However, a little frustratingly the wheels have also been downgraded from the SLR 1 to the SLR 2 wheels. Given the increase in price I would have liked to have seen the SLR 1 wheels remain on the newer model, but at least they have kept with the 65/42 depth wheels which are a fantastic pairing with this aero frame.
As pictured, the Propel comes with a full Shimano Ultegra R8020 groupset, Giant SLR 1 aero wheelset (65/42), Giant Gavia AC Tubeless tyres and Giant’s finishing kit for the handlebars and saddle. This is a pretty impressive package for a bike that costs just under £3000.
The only amendments I have made to my Propel is a change of saddle to the Fizik Arione R1 which is purely down to personal preference. Although the Giant contact saddle which came with the bike is actually very similar in shape to the Arione. I am sure I could have ridden with it quite comfortably, however a saddle is always an area that I think it is best to stick with what you know.
I have also changed the tyres to Continental GP 5000 clinchers due my personal preference of runner tubes instead of a tubeless set up.
The Propel is fast. It just feels fast and the numbers show that it is fast.
I could probably end the review there as I know speed is everything for some people but there is much more to the bike than just its blistering speed. I am lucky enough to ride a TCR SL Advanced disc, Trinity Advanced Pro and a Defy Advanced disc in addition to the Propel and so I have a fairly good comparison of how different bikes ride in similar terrain.
Although the Trinity is obviously the fastest when set up in a full race mode, the Propel does not sit a long way behind it. On my regular training ride of an out and back 30km stretch of road the Propel is comfortably 2kph faster than the TCR which is fascinating when it is nearly three times less than the price of the TCR.
The Propel comfortably sits over 30kph and it is when you have it up to speed that is when the Propel really comes into its own. Along fast flat pieces of road you can see power and HR drop whilst the speed remains constant. This is as close to real world aero testing as I can achieve and I believe that it is really genuinely fast.
However, a fast bike can be an uncomfortable bike and an uncomfortable bike is a bike that you will not want to ride. The Propel however is fantastic and having completed multiple 200km rides on it without any discomfort I really think this provides a great all round package.
The first step in judging comfort of a bike is whether you have a good fit. If your position is wrong then no matter what comfort features the bike has, it will be uncomfortable. Once your position is dialed in, then I believe you can really judge whether a bike is comfortable or not.
The Propel is absolutely not an endurance focused bike like the Defy, but it also doesn’t bounce you around all day leaving your shoulders and neck in a world of pain. You will still be very aware that it is a race oriented bike with the firm ride and direct feel that you have with the road, but it really is a great bike for eating up huge miles.
As a real world explanation of comfort, my father, a 60 year old man with a day job sitting at a desk picks this bike every time over the TCR or Defy. He is not an experienced cyclist and rides a few times a month, but happily sits on the Propel for 50km plus rides without any discomfort at all.
The handling of the bike is best compared with the feeling of being stuck on a train track. Once you are moving, the Propel feels absolutely stuck to the road and just wants to move forward. However, this can sometimes make for a slightly sluggish feeling and can be a little slow in responding when navigating incredibly tight descents. This is in comparison to the TCR which is phenomenally fast and twitchy handling bike and really sits at the upper end of handling.
Despite this slowness, the Propel is still a joy to ride when working through hair pins and technical descents. There is a real assertiveness with your movements and where the bike goes.
The now commonplace disc brakes are a real benefit on this bike and a significant upgrade from the previous models. The Propel was one of the first aero bikes made and it neatly hid the brakes behind the fork and rear stays. However, these brakes weren’t the best at actually stopping, which to many can be seen as important… Having the confidence in the ability to stop whatever the weather and whatever speed you’re flying long at with this bike it is great to have that confidence.
The Gavia tyres which are set up tubeless are a really good touch to the bike. Tubeless tyres are absolutely the way to go and I had no issues riding on them at all. I only changed as I personally prefer runner clincher tyres with an inner tube. If I wasn’t so picky then I would absolutely keep the tyres as are.
Finally the Shimano Ultegra groupset on it is just brilliant. Ultegra just works without fail and is incredibly reliable. Slightly lighter than the cheaper 105 I think it is a groupset worthy of a £3000 bike. There are enough reviews out there also stating just how good mechanical Ultegra and I am firmly in that bandwagon.
Where is it best?
The Propel excels in fast rolling terrain. Any opportunity to ride for extended periods of time over 30kph and this bike is really quite impressive. However, if you are riding somewhere where it is incredibly hilly and average speeds are closer to 20kph then I would advise going for the TCR and the Defy. The slightly heavier propel can be harder getting up hills and it is slightly let down in this area.
I have ridden this bike a huge amount both in the Surrey hills and around Dartmoor. For me, the Propel is perfect for Surrey given the very flat nature of the terrain. I know Leith Hill is quite steep, but other than that Surrey is pretty flat. The Propel comfortably holds speed up Box Hill in the big chainring and would always be my choice when I visit London. However, riding around the very hilly roads of Dartmoor and also the technical country lanes, the TCR would be my preferred choice given the lighter weight and the slightly faster handling.
The Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc is a really impressive piece of kit. It offers fantastic value for money, provides a really enjoyable riding experience and is incredibly fun to ride. I hope that no matter how old I get, going fast will always be something that I find exhilarating. The Propel offers speed in abundance and it is for that reason I would absolutely recommend this as a bike to buy!
Disclaimer: I am a Giant Twickenham Sponsored athlete and have received significant support towards the purchasing of my bikes. However, the Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc is a bike that I bought at full RRP and these views are entirely my own.
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