Tech of the Month January: Giant, Liv and BMC bikes plus our favourite kit of past year
We take a look back through the products that most impressed in the last 12 months
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This month we cast an eye back over the bikes and products which impressed us the most over the last 12 months. The presence of either a Liv (opens in new tab) or a Giant (opens in new tab) shouldn't be a surprise – but the fact both made it in really speaks to the current level of those Taiwanese juggernauts.
Alongside these, we have BMC's URS One gravel bike (opens in new tab), the Wattbike atom (opens in new tab), SRAM's Rival groupset (opens in new tab) and DT Swiss' 1600 Spline gravel wheels (opens in new tab).
But just before we get into all of that, we just wanted to let you know that we've partnered with Garmin to give away a Garmin Edge 530 GPS unit.
Featuring essentially all the same software functionality as the Garmin Edge 830 and Edge 1030, you benefit from the training insights, intuitive mapping, ride and route syncing and data display that are present on the German brand's range topping units. The only real differences is that the 530 is smaller than the 1030 and doesn't have a touchscreen.
To be in with a chance of winning, simply click this link (opens in new tab) or fill in the form below. We’ll get in contact with the lucky winner by the end of this month. If you don’t end up being the lucky one – don’t worry, we’ll be running it again next month.
Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0
First up is the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0, which won our four-up road bike shoot out earlier in the year. The 'Total Compact Road' platform has been going since the 90s, with the iterative updates always keeping it at the cutting edge.
The distinctive profile – with its sloping toptube blending into the seatstays – has been preserved, but the tubes themselves have been reworked to boost the aerodynamics in line with the stiffness and low weight.
As ever from Giant, the TCR also continues to represent good value for money. Although £5,199 is by no means a small sum, not many brands will give you such a combination of Ultegra Di2, carbon wheels and power meter for that price.
Read more: Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 full review (opens in new tab)
Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc 1
Although we also reviewed Liv's range topping Advanced SL Disc Red eTap Langma this year, it's the model a step down that we were most impressed by. It delivers a ride so close and comparable to that superlative bike – but at much less than half the price.
Part of that is down to the spec: Equipped with mechanically shifting Ultegra, carbon hoops and also sporting a crank-based power meter, the components are all high performance but not commanding a premium price.
The rest is thanks to the updated frame. Having ridden the original Langma and found that to be a little too flexy, we're pleased to report that that issue has been wholly solved here. Power transfer felt reassuringly direct, straight down through the pedals.
Read more: Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc 1 full review (opens in new tab)
BMC URS ONE Apex review
Another grouptest winner, the BMC URS One impressed with its excellent balance between being both fun and capable on the trails, whilst still being efficient enough to take on long distance epics
It takes a few cues from BMC's mountain bike range, such as the stubby stem and a slacker head angle. At 70mm and 70 degrees, these are still some way off what you see on modern MTBs, but for gravel it is really quite progressive.
With short, 425mm chainstays, this all adds up to a bike that can be railed around the corners – yet still doesn't feel skittish bombing down the descents.
But for all that, the URS still retains that efficiency you'd expect from a gravel bike – and is the genre's strength over cross country mountain bikes. It successfully completed the South Downs Way – a challenging one-hundred-mile gravel trail in the South East of England – and tarmac stretches on the way to the trails flew by without feeling a slog.
It isn't totally bedecked in mounts – we wouldn’t choose it for bikepacking trips measured in weeks rather than days – but for those shorter, local rides which make up the majority of the time spent on our bikes, it’s a complete blast and a pleasure to ride.
Read more: BMC URS ONE Apex full review (opens in new tab)
Senior Tech Writer, Simon Smythe didn't actually review this product; instead he bought it with his own money – which is perhaps the most emphatic stamp of approval.
Although the upfront cost of a smart bike is much more than a turbo trainer, they do have a lot more to offer. Ease of adjustment means the bike can be used across the family, there's no concern about mechanical issues or keeping the drivetrain clean, and in not sporting a pair of 700c wheels the footprint is much smaller.
Of all the smart bikes currently on the market, the balance of price and performance of the Wattbike Atom seemed the best trade-off and has proved worth every penny. Steve Shrubsall reviewed the latest iteration at the start of the year, you can find his thoughts following the link below.
Read more: Wattbike Atom Next Generation full review (opens in new tab)
DT Swiss GR1600 Spline gravel wheelset
A set of aluminium wheels might not be the most flashy of items, but these really impressed with their build quality and attention to detail. Lightweight and robust, they can function as either an upgrade to a heavy OEM wheelset or as a performance workhorse that can handle heavy usage.
The price isn’t entry level, but then neither is it restrictively high – these are still significantly cheaper than any carbon option.
Read more: DT Swiss GR1600 Spline gravel wheelset full review (opens in new tab)
SRAM Rival eTap AXS
Although the tech in terms of the number of sprockets, gear ratios, braking and shifting has been around for a while now, the trickling down of all this to SRAM's third tier Rival range of components is a pretty major step.
With this the benefits of the system – the wider gearing range, increased single tooth jumps, and the much easier set up on internally routed frames – can all be enjoyed by many more people at much lower price points.
Read more: SRAM Rival eTap AXS full review (opens in new tab)
That's all for this month, best of luck in the competition!
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After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back.
Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.
But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia.
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