High End Bicycles: presenting the Giant Propel with Shimano Ultegra

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Chillout! Its Friday! And for this relaxed end of week feature, we showcase the Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc of a friend, equipped with the Giant SLR wheelset and Shimano Ultegra groupset.

Presenting the Giant Propel

Giant is currently the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world. Headquartered in Taichung, Taiwan, the company has innovated many technical developments in the industry. Including the first road bicycle with a sloping top tube featuring a smaller rear triangle in 1995. This then new design had a tighter chainstay-seatstay configuration which is not only stiffer than the more conventional design, but its smaller size also meant that less material is needed, and thus also lighter. The improvements in handling were quickly recognized – more responsive cornering, more immediate and direct acceleration, and the Giant design became widely adopted by other makers. Giant not only makes bikes under their own name, and their subsidiary brand Liv, but also as OEM manufacturers for many European and American bike brands. Their expertise in mass production carbon layup and manufacture is considered one of the best in the world.

The Propel is their current top of the line racing aero bike. Launched in 2013 at the Tour Down Under, it was one of the pioneers of aero road bikes – stiff, fast and agile. The current version was launched in 2017 at the Tour de France. The silhouette is largely unchanged from the previous version, but it was only available with disc brakes.

Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc frameset

The MRSP for the complete Giant Propel Advance 1 Disc, according the the website 99Spokes was USD 4.200.

The bike we show here is the property of Sugi Kusumadi, a good friend, who is also the owner of Red Army Watches and Watch Wonderland, two specialist watch retail shops in Singapore. The frame is a complete bike, offered by Giant as the Propel Advanced 1 Disc, and Sugi has the 2019 model. The bike is in a black colourway, and size XS. With perhaps the exception of the tyres and the Ultegra clipless pedals, the bike is completely stock, as delivered by Giant.

As presented, complete with Ultegra clipless pedals, and bottle cages, the bike weighs in at 8.5kg. Though this weight is a bit heavier than many top racing bikes, it is still within the acceptable upper limit for high end aerodynamic bikes. Aero bikes optimize aerodynamics over all else, and tend to be a bit heavier than climbing bikes which are tuned for lowest weight. Giant makes the TCR as their climbing bike, offering a lighter, but non-aero (not as aerodynamic) tube set.

Trying to do the currently popular, flare photograph.

The Propel Advanced 1 uses what Giant calls their Advance Grade Composite carbon fibre for the frameset, integrated seatpost and fork. Given that the industry does not use any form of standard nomenclature on the type of carbon used, it is difficult to cross compare between brands. For e.g. Pinarello quotes their carbon as Toray T1100, while Trek say theirs is OCLV and Specialized have FACT. While brands like Look and T3 weave their own. And one is hard pressed to be able to compare the carbon specifications. Though within the same brand, comparison may be easier, but still a challenge as the terminology is just obscure jargon.

The cockpit is Giant’s proprietary Contact SL, with nice flat tops to rest the palms when not exerting maximum effort on a ride. The cables are also mostly hidden within the bars, though a small section cuts across from the top of the bars to the side of the head-tube. Sugi has mounted a Wahoo Element Bolt in front of the bar setup.

Giant SLR1 Wheelset

The Giant Propel is equipped with the Giant SLR One Aero Composite wheelset. This is full carbon, and the front wheel has a 42mm rim, while the rear is 65mm. The rims are tubeless ready and the tyres fitted are tubeless Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL in 25mm. These are quite standard racing and training rubbers.

The wheels are proprietary, featuring hookless rim design and an in-house carbon layout, laced to their proprietary hub, with aerodynamic bladed spokes.

Shimano Ultegra

The groupset installed is the ubiquitious Shimano Ultegra R8000 hydraulic brake 11 speed groupset with mechanical shifting. This is a mid-level groupset offering an excellent balance of the features offered by Shimano’s top of the line Dura-Ace. Shimano trickles down Dura-Ace level tech to Ultegra, making it the best value for money groupset in the lineup. Often, the compromises made are in the slightly heavier materials used and a lower level of finishing. But also as a consequence, sometimes Ultegra parts are longer lasting and more rugged than their lighter, race intended Dura-Ace ones. As an example, on my Pinarello Dogma F10, I replaced the rear cassette when my original Dura-Ace one wore out after 30,000km with an Ultegra one. It is slightly heavier as it uses an all steel construction for all 11 sprockets, instead of the last 5 sprockets in titanium for the Dura-Ace.

Sugi’s Propel has a 52/38 front chainring, with mechanical shifting.

And the rear is 11-30. This wide gear ratio is excellent for climbing. Interestingly, Giant fitted the KMC X11EL-1, instead of the standard Shimano Ultegra 11 speed chain.

Riding impressions

Although I did not ride Sugi’s Giant Propel, I have test ridden the Giant Propel at the local dealer’s, Tay Junction, who are the authorized dealer for Giant. They had a test day in 2019, and I tried out the Propel equipped with the Shimano 105 Groupset.

The test Propel Advanced 1 I tried. This was the rim brake version.

The Giant Propel felt very stiff, and thus power delivery is immediate and snappy. This is a function to the carbon layup of the frame and the wheelset. Stiff is always very desirable, especially for a race bike. Some have remarked that with the SLR 1 wheelset, the Propel Advanced 1 is a bit too stiff to be comfortable. Also, it is a bit heavier than many would prefer. And I tend to agree on both counts. For more comfort and a lighter (better climbing), perhaps the TCR might be a better choice. This is rather evident in Giant sponsored World Tour riders, with sprinters choosing the Propel, and climbers and General Classification riders preferring the TCR.

The wheelbase is smallish, and toe overlap is evident, especially for the smaller frames, and for those wearing larger shoes. But for me, this is not a problem, as I am used to toe overlap. My Pinarello features a generous toe overlap as well. This has to do with the frame geometry, and the way it affects the handling of the bike. Some novice riders are fearful of toe overlap, but with a little care, avoiding crashing due to toe overlap becomes second nature.

Concluding thoughts

The Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc is a serious bike for a serious rider. While it is not the top of the line offering by Giant (that honour goes to the Propel Advanced Pro 0) the Advanced 1) is an excellent choice. The package is compelling, especially at the rather reasonable price point and will serve a good bike for the serious road warrior looking for a fast, relatively comfortable bike for group rides.

Sugi, looking the part of the road warrior on his Giant Propel.

The bike looks beautiful, the black paint and high profile wheels looking the part of the very aero machine.

Photo Notes

The Giant Propel was photographed on-site in East Coast Park, Singapore. The small, pocketable Leica C was used.



  1. Lovely bike, the blue one you tried is also very striking!
    I love this series, Peter, thank you for creating it and to your friends for sharing their rides, great stuff!