We’re well and truly into new bike season, folks. After spotting the 2023 Trek Madone – and its radical, if divisive, aero seat tube – at the Critérium du Dauphiné, we reported earlier this week that new offerings from Giant, Factor and Canyon also appeared to be on their way... and the recently retired Tony Martin may have just given us a sneak peek of the 2023 Giant Propel, unless our eyes are deceiving us.
While we expected Giant's flagship aero road bike to make its debut at the Tour de France in a few weeks’ time, four-time world time trial champion Martin seems to have given his Instagram followers – and now, by extension, all of us – an insight into what the Taiwanese manufacturer has been up to in recent years.
The 37-year-old German is currently in Norway for Styrkeprøven, a gruelling 540km sportive between Trondheim and Oslo.
While the former HTC-Highroad man’s idea of retirement is enough to make Bernard Hinault shudder and return to milking his cows, the majority of Martin’s followers were more interested in the mysterious all-black bike the 37-year-old was pictured riding, with many speculating that it was, indeed, the forthcoming Propel.
The true aero bike in Giant’s range and a popular model with amateur road racers, the Propel Advanced SL is a direct competitor to the Trek Madone and has, according to Giant, the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio of any bike in its class.
Last updated in 2018, it makes sense that Martin would try out his sponsor’s flagship aero bike before it comes under the harsh media and performance spotlight at the Tour de France.
However, while Trek opted to push the boundaries of radical frame design when it came to the new Madone, the Propel – if it is indeed the Propel – appears to have relaxed the super aero look associated with the old model.
As our tech editor Mat Brett notes, the era of big bike brands having a very aerodynamically efficient aero road bike in their range with chunkier tubes, often for a weight penalty, and then a lighter bike for the mountains and longer days in the saddle appears to be one step closer to ending with this upcoming launch, if it is indeed the Propel.
As noted in our 2018 review of the current Propel, our mid-range test bike weighed in at almost 8.5kg; significantly heavier than the 'one bike to do it all' Specialized Tarmac SL7, which is bang on the 6.8kg UCI limit in its top spec.
This (presumably) new Giant has much skinnier seatstays and seat tube than the current Propel; and while we can't be sure, it looks like a much lighter bike overall and one that is closer in aesthetic to Giant's lightweight TCR model.
We can't see what's going on at the front end entirely, but the stem looks a little less beefy than the Giant Contact SL Aero Stem on the current Propel. This system sees a composite cover hiding the gear cables and brake hoses, and we can't quite see closely enough to tell if this has had a revamp. What we're more sure of is that there doesn't appear to be any visible cabling on Martin's bike.
Likewise we can't tell if the supposed new Propel has stuck with a seat tube cutaway around the rear wheel or played it straight like Canyon's rumoured new Ultimate, but it's certainly skinnier.
One Instagram user commented that the bike looks like a “Propel in the front, TCR in the back”... so is there a chance Giant could 'do a Specialized' and amalgamate the two? We think it's unlikely the TCR will be killed off entirely, but it looks like there's no sign of the move towards lighter aero bikes curtailing if this is the 2023 Propel.
So, Tony Martin’s big “reveal” of Giant’s latest offering seems to have provoked more questions than answers. But isn’t that what every bike manufacturer wants?
Big thanks to road.cc reader Kevin for spotting Tony Martin's post - you caught us napping...
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.