2018 Specialized Tarmac SL6 Expert vs. 2020 Giant Propel Advanced Disc 1

I’m a triathlete and I was training for an Ironman but my race was recently canceled. With no indication of racing happening any time soon, I want to get a road bike because I’ve really been enjoying cycling and want to start doing group rides. All I currently have is my Felt B2 tri bike. I’m looking for either an aero or race bike for group rides and longer rides. I could see myself potentially getting into racing down the line. Sort of looking for a do it all type of road bike. Where I live it is mostly flat but I want to have something that is decent for climbing in case I make some trips to see friends, relocate, etc.

My LBS is a Specialized, Giant and Cervelo dealer. Today I rode a 2018 Tarmac SL6 Expert and a 2020 Giant Propel Advanced Disc 1. They felt pretty similar to me. I wanted to ride a Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc but they don’t have any in stock right now.

The Tarmac SL6 Expert has rim brakes and Shimano Ultergra gear set. List price is $4k but they will sell it to me for $3k since it’s a 2018, rim brake, and everyone wanting an SL7 since they just released it. The plus side here is the price of course and also my Felt B2 tri bike has rim brakes so I can get a set a Reynolds AR58’s that I can interchange on both bikes. On the flip side, I will need to buy a power meter and I kind of want disc brakes on my new bike. Everyone seems to be going that way and resale value for rim brakes I’d imagine won’t be there great. Another down side is no electronic shifting which I really enjoy on my Felt B2. That all being said, is this a good deal for $3,000?

Link to the bike: https://www.specialized.com/us/en/mens-tarmac-expert/p/133929?&searchText=90618-3049

The Giant Propel Advanced Disc 1 is fully loaded. Carbon wheels, disc brake, power meter, di2. Coming from a tri background I love the idea of a more aero bike built for speed. It really has everything I’m looking for and Giant seems to be the best bang for your buck out there. List price is $6,100 so it’s an extra $3,000 more.

Link to the bike: https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/propel-advanced-pro-1-disc

Thoughts on which bike would better suit my needs? Is $3,000 for a SL6 expert a good deal?

I think the SL6 is a decent deal. It kind of just depends on what you want. Full on aero bike with power meter or nice all-arounder road bike for training. If you want more speed later you could always throw some faster wheels on the SL6.

I think the deal is alright, but ultimately, I’d go with the Giant since it has disc brakes. Once you factor in the cost for a power meter, the price gap between both bikes will shrink. Plus, if the Giant comes fully loaded, then you won’t have to upgrade any of its components in a while. With the Spec you might be tempted to get another carbon wheelset for it eventually, because changing wheels back and forth constantly is a pain. You also prefer electronic shifting, so you might be eyeing an upgrade to Di2, etc.

Cervelo S5

If you haven’t already made your decision/purchase, I’m going to highly recommend the Giant.

I recently treated myself to a Giant Propel Advanced Disc 1 and I’m very, very impressed. My other bike for comparison was the TREK Madone. Bang for buck, the Madone just didn’t stack up in terms of finishing kit or ride quality. Of course that second point is subjective but for me, I felt that I was just paying more for the privilege of riding a TREK.

My now winter/crit bike is my trusty CAAD12. I’ve never ridden carbon before and I’ve certainly never dipped my toes into the whole ‘aero’ market. The Propel doesn’t seem overly harsh when it comes to ride comfort and the dimensions made my transition from the CAAD to the Propel almost seamless.

The Propel isn’t the lightest of aero bikes on the market but it’ll work with you to get up those rises. I did a 73 mile ride last Sunday with 7300ft of elevation and not once did I think ‘this would be so much easier on a (insert bike here…)’. If you’ve got the legs and lungs, this bike will go like stink and help keep you there too.

I did custom build my Propel as I wanted the green frame and I opted to swap out the stock power meter for a single sided Stages Gen 3 as that’s what I have on my CAAD. This is my Propel and I’m a very happy customer :+1:


@AJS914 thank you for the input. By the time I throw on faster wheels and tack on a power meter, I’ll probably be at least $1,400 more into the bike so that $3,000 deal just became $4,400 and I still have rim brake and no electronic shifting. At that point I feel like the better value is the Giant Propel since it has the wheels, PM, disc brakes, and di2 already. Agreed it comes down to what I want, I think the Giant TCR could be a good option too but need to find a shop that has one in stock for me to ride.

@OreoCookie I think I am leaning with you, the Giant is the way to go. Good point that changing wheels back and forth is a pain. I already hate moving my Felt B2 TT bike from the trainer and putting the wheel on. Horizontal dropouts don’t help ha.

@PusherMan Haven’t made my decision yet so this is good insight! I had a CAAD10 before and loved it, it was my first bike but ended up selling it when I bought my TT bike. Do you ride the same size in the Propel as you do with your CAAD? Did you check out the TCR at all or did you know you wanted to go the aero route so only looked at the Propel? Why did you swap out the stock power meter other than it being what you have on your CAAD? Awesome loooking bike! I love that green!

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Much to my surprise, I went from a 56 CAAD to a 54 Propel. I have had a proper bike fit done previously and the mechanic in the Giant store took those numbers and dialled them into the Propel.

No, I didn’t look at the TCR but I wouldn’t have discounted it. To be honest, I buy all of my bikes on feel. I don’t much care for what reviews or marketing hype says about a bike. If I throw my leg over and it feels good, then it’s in with a chance. I tried the Madone, then tried the Propel, liked the Propel and the rest is history. I’m sure I might have liked the TCR but again, I like to keep things simple. Testing multiple bikes can I feel, lead to getting nowhere fast.

I swapped out the power meter because in my mind, the numbers are more likely to be comparable between two Stages Gen 3s. Plus, the money I saved went towards the wheels.

@PusherMan Oh wow, that may explain why I felt over extended on the 56 Propel yesterday. I thought maybe the fit would just have to get dialed in but I’m thinking maybe it’s too big. My CAAD was a 54 so total opposite, sized up to a 56 on the Propel for my test ride. I’m 5’10" so right on the front edge of where Giant recommends the 56 but I do understand that is just for general guidance and fit needs to be dialed in.

Agreed testing too many bikes can lead you down a rabbit hole.

I’m also bang on 5’10". My guess is that we’re all just a little bit different. Longer arms/legs or more flexibility. It all means that the guides are just that, guides.

My bike fit showed without doubt that the 56 CAAD was the way to go. As soon as I jumped on the Propel, I knew that it could feel like my CAAD, which I absolutely love. I asked which frame size I was sat on and the assistant said a 54. I tried the 56 and I was far too stretched out. My hand position in the drops was totally wrong.

If you are willing to spend 6k for the giant, why not consider getting the SL7 Expert for 5k?

DO they have them in stock for you?

I mean.
Unless you REALLY want to use your LBS (which is a good thing), i would take a look at canyon bikes. They are absolutely the best bang for the buck right now.

If you are ready to get a 6k bike. I would consider this for 5k.

but that would be me.
Canyon > Giant IMO
(Giant are great bikes too, but canyon offer better bang for the buck)

@Joelrivera I have looked into Canyon and the value certainly seems to be excellent but my two hesitations about going in that direction is that my LBS has been a great resource, extremely helpful and never pushy to get me to buy anything as I’m fairly new to cycling. Just started last year while training for my first 70.3. My other hesitation with Canyon is the resale value in the U.S. seems to be pretty bad so if I ever want to upgrade or get a new bike, that concerns me.

All bikes resale value are abysmal. But some people think their bikes are worth more than what they are really worth. Fair enough with you LBS. Thats a good reason to buy from them.

@lightyear they don’t have any in stock right now. Seems like the SL7’s are tough to get a hold of right from what I have been told. Good question though - I guess for the extra $1,000 on the Giant I am getting a carbon wheelset and a power meter. I agree with you though I think it is worth considering

To avoid starting a new thread, and seeing some on here have Propels, what is the effective stack height and/or angle of the stem, and how many mandatory spacers are there?

I see the medium comes with a 100mm stem, I’d probably need 110mm (rather than M/L and go shorter), but unsure if the mandatory spacer(s) will add much to frame stack.

For comparison I ride a CAAD8 54 with 5mm of spacer (a single near flat conical spacer, -6 degree 110mm stem, 70mm reach bars and mechanical STIs.

I see that a medium Propel is 4mm longer (fine if I have Di2 or mechanical STIs, have to check if I have hyradulics if it adds to much, or means a 100mm stem.

I also see the medium Propel is 13mm lower on frame stack - if there are mandatory spacers that will come up, and of course that will also shorten the reach (and the 4mm extra frame reach is reduced too).

Even worse I am also looking at a BMC Roadmachine, which is longer on frame but taller on stack - then has a -12 stem with a mandatory spacer arrangement… Try comparing apples, pears and the odd plum… not fun (and then actually trying to find somewhere with a bike on top of that!)

I don’t like either option. I think you can do better.

Always find a bike that fits you. Fit is most important. When I bought my Madone, I knew I wanted it. I went to the LBS, they did a retul fit first in order to Get the right bike with the right stem. Then I ordered it.

What bike sings to you? Get that bike frame with the color you desire. You will have this bike for a long time. Build it with electronic shifting and the wheels you want with the drivetrain you want.

But always go fit first!

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I am very happy with and conscious of my fit ‘window’, don’t take this the wrong way but I just want some info from people who have these bikes.

I wish I could give you a definitive answer but I can’t. The Propel (at least the one I purchased) came into the store with a whole mess of spacers fitted. The store mechanic then removed several to get me near the number I have from my bike fit. We then tweaked from there.

As I mentioned, I went from a 56 inch CAAD12 with a 100mm stem (-6 degree) to a 54 inch Propel. I do run 15mm of spacers on my CAAD. Comfort and position on the bike wise, I can only tell the difference when I’m in the drops because the drop is slightly different.