Posted on
6 Jul 2015

The Aero advantage?

Once bike manufacturers reached the limit on how light a bike can be, and still be legal to race, they had to turn their imagination in different directions to come create a "better bike." If they could not make it lighter, then they would make it faster. Faster in the wind tunnel, faster on the road and faster even with a non aerodynamic body sitting on top of it. Thus, the aero road frame was born.

Almost every major manufacturer has added an aero frame to their arsenal, with a few hold outs who have done a milder version but still use some form of aero shaped tubing. One such aero frame is the Propel /Enviefrom Giant andLivrespectively. The propel is the men’s geometry version and while it looks the exact same, the female specificEnviewas built from a ground up clean slate, but coming in with the same aero advantages as the Propel. From here on the bike being referred to will be the Propel, but be sure theEnvieis right alongside on all points.

The bike we spent the most time riding is the strikingly good looking, although some may say loud, 2015 Propel Advanced Pro. This bike with it’s 55 cm deep carbon GiantP-SLR0AeroWheelSystemand matte Orange and black finish looks fast sitting still. Equipped withUltegraDi2the bike retails for $5,850 USD and just might be worth every cent.

One known factor is that bikes like this are made to go fast, not be super light so it is no surprise with pedals and water bottle cages the bike weighs in at 17 lbs. Not the lightest race bike but would that be enough to take it off the wish list? The first concern with the weight is that the bike would not climb well or would feel sluggish, but that is not the case.

First impressions of the bike on a ride are, this is one fast bike. Every little pedal stroke feels like stepping on the gas of a race car. The bike wants to jump forward and it is easy to see why this is the sprinting bike of some of the worlds top pro sprinters, like JohnDegenkolband MarcelKittle. Not to mention theunparallelMarianaVoswho has ridden theEnvieto multiple world championships and other victories. Power into a curve on the Propel and then just point it where you want to go. The bike holds the line like it is on a rail. Sprint and there is no flex out of the frame, if you feel flex then you must be the Hulk.

Surprisingly the ride quality is far more supple than you would expect out of an aero bike. Though not at smooth as say the GiantTCRor theCannondaleEvo, riding on the roughest roads does not jar teeth as expected. Is it the perfect bike for an all day GrandFondoor century? Maybe not for the sport recreational rider, but enthusiasts would find the ride acceptable for 5 or so hours in the saddle. The SL models do come with an integrated seat mast which increases the deflection and comfort but of course comes at a price, both in dollars and the ability to have greater adjustability in seat position now or later.

So what of the climbing prowess? The initial impression was that it as expected felt sluggish on the slopes of MountLemmon, the ultimate Tucson, Arizona testing ground for climbing. But low and behold, when comparing times from previous climbs on the made for ClimbingEvo, the difference was negligible. After a thousand miles or so, with everything dialed in to perfection, the climbs got even better andStravarecords fell! Ok so notKOM’sbut that is more about the rider than the bike. Is it the aero shaping truly saving watts even on a climb? Or is it the power propelling rider and bike up the mountain? Either way, it does amazingly well.

Where the aero advantage is felt most is in apelotoneither leading out the pack, or neatly tucked in a pace line. The bike falls in line to the slipstream like dust into a vacuum. More often than not, when in apacelinetapping the brakes might be needed to stay out of thedrivetrainof the rider in front. Descending down any grade will take you from cursing to warp speed in seconds, again finding a clear line to pass is recommended.

So what are the drawbacks? Aside from the aforementioned weight penalty, there is the affect of the wind on an aero frame such as this. More aero means more surface area for the wind to find. Those who rideTTbikes are well familiar with this feature, but for those who have not experienced it, the movement created by a wind gust can be unnerving. On the first few rides the wind did push the bike around and it is hard to say if it is more about the aero properties of the deep wheels or the frame itself, but after a bit of time on the bike the adjustments came easy.

As expected theUltegraDi2groupsetperforms to perfection and keeps shifting as smooth as the bike in the wind. The Giant aero bars have a nice short reach and drop, and in the humble opinion of this tester, the ideal flat profile top hand position, though there is barely enough room for a front mounting computer mount before the bars flare out to the flat shape. Integrated brakes are tucked behind the front wheel and behind the seat post. They might look a little weak compared to many of the direct mount calipers on some new bikes, but the stopping power is precise and there is little to no fade.

Conclusion on the Propel is that it is a proven winner both on the pro level all the way down to the 105 equipped model. An ideal bike for anyone but even more so for those who might entertain doing some short distance triathlons but only have room for one bike in the quiver. Giant has done well with their graphics and almost every bike in the line is an eye catcher, but that, like the need for aero frames is all about the rider.