From what started as a top-end race bike, the latest incarnation is now an affordable mass-market aero machine. Dan Baines gets to grips with the Giant Propel Advanced 2
If you want evidence that the cycling market is continually moving forward you don’t have to look much further than the Giant Propel Advanced 2. In a couple of years it’s gone from being a £4.5k plus superbike to something that can compete with the best at the fiercely-fought price point of £1,400.
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Giant went to town when designing the Propel frameset, and when it was launched just over two years ago we at CW loved it. Although fairly late to the aero road market, what Giant produced looked nothing like what was available at the time, but proved to be one step ahead of the opposition.
Coming in two guises, the lower specced version of the Advanced uses T700 carbon — a good standard on a bike at this price.
When we tested the previous incarnation last year, for a penny below £2k, we were very impressed — getting a bike with that much research and development for that money proved that the world’s biggest bike manufacturer was leading the field. The most significant change to the frameset from last year’s model is an aluminium steerer on the fork instead of all carbon. Giant still uses the oversize tapered system, going from 1 1/4in to 1 1/2in.
This bike may divide opinion aesthetically, but it certainly looks fast. The way the shape of the tubes morph into each other leaves you in no doubt how much attention to detail went into it.
Giant made over 80 changes to the frame, to produce what it claimed at the time to be the fastest bike in the world. Not all manufacturers of aerodynamic bikes can claim to use mannequins to replicate how a rider affects the dynamics of wind-flow, in the same way that Giant has done.
Shimano 105 11-speed forms the mainstay of the groupset. Time and time again it has proved to be excellent in use; however, to hit this price point a compromise has been made by introducing the lower spec Shimano RS500 chainset.
Although it makes no discernible difference to the workings of the bike, there is a weight penalty to be had, while it also limits the chainring choice to a 34/50, something that racers may find to be too low. It’s a shame there isn’t a 36/52 choice available in the chainset range to offer the best compromise.
Aerodynamic testing led Giant to introduce its SpeedControl SL brake calipers, tucked in close to the seatstays and on the rear of the fork, which are essentially mini V brakes.
Giant’s aero-profiled alloy P-A2 rims are in keeping with the rest of the spec and are suited to all-round riding. They are shod with their own brand tyres, which in the past have proved to be a good tyre, offering lots of grip in both the wet and dry and with decent puncture resistance.
The rest of the components consist entirely of in-house kit. It may lack some big name wow factor, but there’s little to fault in terms of performance.
Giant knows that speed doesn’t just come from reducing drag; other factors such as cornering, acceleration and compliance also play their role. From its looks you can see that the Advanced 2 is going to be a fast bike in a straight line. On the road you only have to start throwing it around corners to be reminded of that racing pedigree — the lower you get the better it turns; get your position right and it’s predictable and responsive to changing lines and tight turns. Riding hard brings out the best of the Propel — give it some welly and it offers a rewarding, exciting ride.
An aluminium steerer is the biggest difference from the 2014 model with its all-carbon fork, and along with the oversize junctions and tubes the Advanced 2 sits towards the stiffer end of the spectrum. If comfort is your top priority you’re looking in the wrong place. That’s not to say it’s uncomfortable, but compliance does suffer on anything other than silky smooth roads. It is a budget racing bike after all though, and something has to give, and if you can get the power down you can be sure most of it is going to the back wheel.
The P-A2 wheels may not set the world on fire in terms of performance, but didn’t noticeably hold the bike back either. Acceleration was good and climbing out of the saddle showed they had a good degree of stiffness. The SpeedControl brakes offer powerful stopping.
For the money this is a very impressive racing bike. It is the fastest aero frame at this price point by a long shot and you’ll have to spend hundreds more to even get close. It’s just a shame a compromise has had to be made on the fork and chainset.
At CW, we’ve long been fans of the bottom of the range Propel, and by cutting the cost by £600 Giant has moved the goalposts again. As a fast racing bike the Advanced 2 will put a smile on your face and give you the advantage. If I’m being picky, and it is only a small thing on an otherwise superb top scoring bike, it’s a shame the carbon steerer has gone from last year — it’s not a big difference but it’s noticeable in terms of compliance and road feedback.