New UCI rules for 2023 and a reincarnation of the supposedly dead aero trend? With the Propel Advanced SL, GIANT introduce their latest aero weapon, featuring a revised concept and a claim to victory. We tested the high-end racing bike and tell you what sets GIANT’s latest generation of aero bikes apart.
GIANT’s bike portfolio runs the gamut, including everything from kids and entry level bikes to high-end road and mountain bikes. Moreover, they don’t just manufacture their own bikes, but also serve as OEM producers for other brands. So, it’s not surprising that GIANT are well-established in the road bike sector considering the depth of their know-how. In addition to the TCR Advanced SL, the Propel Advanced represents the spearhead of what’s currently possible. That said, GIANT aren’t just known for high-end bikes, but also for their moderate prices, and most of their more affordable models come well-specced. We tested the uncompromising and admittedly very expensive Propel Advanced SL for a whopping € 11,999.
GIANT Propel Advanced SL – Performance to the hilt
The Propel couldn’t look more uncompromisingly targeted at racing! Just looking at the front section, there’s no denying that GIANT spared no effort in minimising wind resistance as they developed this bike. Head on, it looks graceful and slender, standing in stark contrast to the deep aero profiles of the side view. The large surfaces of the head and down tube are designed to channel airflow as efficiently as possible. While the front profile looks big and beefy, that doesn’t apply to the rear. The top tube tapers off drastically towards the back until it meets the svelte rear end. The fact that the seat post/seat tube doesn’t have a deep profile is unusual for an aero bike. Speaking of which, GIANT rely on an integrated seat post with a saddle clamp, which must be cut to length by the rider. It doesn’t just promise to save weight but also offer aero gains and improve comfort. That said, taking a hacksaw to the integrated seat post requires a steady hand, though small measuring errors can be compensated for by adjusting the height of the seat post clamp. Putting the icing on the marginal gains cake, GIANT include aerodynamically optimised bottle cages that are specially adapted to the frame shape.
Giant Propel Advanced SL 2023
Seatpost Advanced SL Carbon ISP D-Shape
Brakes Shimano DURA-ACE R9200 160/140 mm
Drivetrain Shimano DURA-ACE R9200 2x12
Stem GIANT Contact SLR Aero Carbon 110 mm
Handlebar GIANT Contact SLR Aero Carbon 440 mm
Wheelset CADEX 50 Ultra Disc Carbon 12 x 100/12x148 mm Through Axle
Tires CADEX Aero 700 x 25C 25
Cranks Shimano DURA-ACE R9200 175 mm
Cassette Shimano DURA-ACE R9200 11-28T
Size S M ML L XL
bespoke integrated bottle cages
The racing concept is reflected in the components. GIANT’s in-house brand provide both the CADEX 50 Ultra Disc wheels and CADEX Aero tires, fitting the concept like a glove. The cockpit, on the other hand, looks a little out of place as bikes at this price point come specced almost exclusively with fully integrated, one-piece cockpits. However, GIANT chose to rely on a classic two-piece setup. The all-carbon stem looks a little chunky compared to the rest of the bike. In contrast, the handlebar is superbly ergonomic and comfortable to hold in any of the various hand positions. GIANT spare no effort with the remaining componentry either and consistently reach for the top shelf. The Shimano DURA-ACE groupset suits the concept to a tee and currently sets the bar in terms of shifting performance. Befitting a race bike, the GIANT Propel Advanced SL comes equipped with a power metre, too. The discreet “Stardust” paint job underlines the overall package masterfully. The band on the front and the GIANT lettering on the down tube shimmer in different shades of blue depending on the angle of the light, standing out from the glossy black on the rest of the frame. In summary, the GIANT Propel Advanced SL features a high-end finish that does justice to the eye-watering price tag.
Race bike handling and a rock-hard frame = classic aero bike?
The GIANT Propel Advanced SL delivers what it promises. It wants to go fast in a straight line, and that’s what it’s designed for. Characterised by its pronounced straight-line stability, the bike keeps tracking reliably and instils you with confidence on the straights and descents. That said, the GIANT feels less comfortable at slow speeds such as on climbs and when pulling away. The rider also needs to put in more effort than expected to implement fast direction changes and navigate tight corners. It’s a compromise that allows you to stay calm and keep your fingers off the brakes on fast descents. Ultimately, it’s a bike designed for high-speed straights. The balanced and aggressive riding position suits the bike equally well, underlining its fast handling. The comfort is also what you’d expect, it offers little compliance while still beating the rockhard bikes of the past. This allows it to excel on smooth roads, but it’s likely to push most riders to their limits when things get bumpy. According to GIANT, the integrated seat post should mitigate this to some extent, and after several kilometres aboard the Propel we can confirm that it is indeed somewhat more compliant. However, while the seat post does a commendable job of absorbing vibrations, it doesn’t turn the GIANT Propel into an all-road bike.
In terms of crosswinds, we were struck by the minimal effect they have on the bike. The moderate rim depth and slender rear end of the frame allow the bike to remain stable during heavy gusts from the side. All in all, the new GIANT Propel is a very well thought-through and fun race bike.
Tried and tested
Known for their conservative but well-designed bikes, GIANT don’t have many surprises in store when it comes to geometry. As such, the Propel relies on classic road bike figures that haven’t changed significantly compared to its predecessor. Here, GIANT rely on that which has been tried and tested, and rightly so.
Giant Propel Advanced SL
|Seat tube||680 mm||710 mm||740 mm||770 mm||790 mm||820 mm|
|Top tube||520 mm||535 mm||550 mm||565 mm||580 mm||600 mm|
|Head tube||120 mm||130 mm||145 mm||165 mm||185 mm||200 mm|
|Chainstay||405 mm||405 mm||405 mm||405 mm||405 mm||405 mm|
|BB Drop||70 mm||68 mm||68 mm||65 mm||65 mm||65 mm|
|Reach||376 mm||383 mm||388 mm||393 mm||402 mm||412 mm|
|Stack||517 mm||528 mm||545 mm||562 mm||581 mm||596 mm|
GIANT Propel Advanced SL – For pros and hobby racers
Like most aero bikes, the GIANT Propel Advanced SL is designed for a specific use case. It feels most comfortable on flat and straight roads, which plays to its numerous strengths and its need for speed. Thanks to the moderate weight, it can also climb and perform well on hilly terrain, where it’s sure to put a smile on your face. Of course, that’s not to say it’s a do-it-all bike. The GIANT Propel Advanced SL is mercilessly tuned for speed. It wouldn’t be our first choice for alpine passes, but it will bomb back down into the valley at a blistering pace. The same goes for comfort: as a race bike, this isn’t a top priority of the design. However, thanks to the integrated seat post and slender seat stays, it’s capable of absorbing small impacts and vibrations, nonetheless. While we wouldn’t call it comfortable, it’s no comparison to the stiff aero bikes of old.
If you want to splurge on the high-end version with the Shimano DURA-ACE groupset and CADEX wheels for just under € 12,000, you will get a fast and comparatively versatile aero bike.
Our conclusion on the GIANT Propel Advanced SL
GIANT have managed to conjure up a carefully considered and contemporary aero bike with the Propel Advanced SL. While not the most affordable, you get a complete package that leaves nothing to be desired. Equipped with a power metre, DURA-ACE drivetrain, and CADEX wheels, the bike is ready to win races. The Propel delivers a convincing performance based on looks, too. The unobtrusive yet fetching design is rounded off with clean lines and an eye-catching paint job to match.
- aerodynamically integrated bottle cage
- harmonious and organic design language
- components, finish, and performance match the overall concept
- no flops
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Words: Calvin Zajac Photos: Robin Schmitt