When it comes to road cycling, it seems the hot trend is to leave the road. Here, riders are going beyond the tarmac and exploring low-traffic backcountry roads. Often these roads are unsealed, covered in gravel and require a bike that can handle the rougher surface. This has spurred on a whole new category of bike, known as the gravel bike, and the ToughRoad SLR GX is Giant’s latest answer to this burgeoning market segment.
Having just arrived in for review with Dave Rome of CyclingTips, we take a peek at the 2018 Giant ToughRoad SLR GX 0 and gather a few of Rome’s first impressions.
The ToughRoad range
The ToughRoad SLR GX isn’t Giant’s first foray into the gravel market, with the company’s AnyRoad model previously making a splash. As Rome explains, “by modern gravel standards, the AnyRoad is more a go-anywhere endurance road bike and its 32c tires are on the narrow side for unkept roads. By comparison, the ToughRoad, and its 40c tires, makes it a versatile gravel, adventure or off-road touring machine.”
In the US, the ToughRoad SLR GX is available at three price points, the GX 0 ($1,700) as featured here, the cheaper GX 1 ($1,350) – both of which share the same ALUXX SLR frame - and the GX 3 ($900). Additionally, Giant offer flat-bar variants of the ToughRoad for those seeking more of a mountain bike-like ride position.
The ToughRoad is built around an aluminum frameset featuring Giant’s top-end ALUXX SLR butted tubing. The frame is not too dissimilar to a mountain bike in its construction, with oversized tubes and generous weld areas given for strength and durability. “Giant, the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer, show their expertise in aluminium with unique tube shapes throughout the frame, something achieved through specific processes of forming the metal with molds and pressurized fluid,” tells Rome.
The front fork is a composite carbon with an aluminum steerer tube, and like the rear of the bike, uses a quick release hub. At both ends, plenty of room surrounds the provided 700x40c tires.
The ToughRoad frameset is ready to accept a variety of pannier rack and fenders, with mounts on both the fork and rear frame. When not in use, the mounts on the rear are cleverly integrated and covered, leaving a clean aesthetic.
The downtube of the bike features a unique two-piece “X-Defender” protector and integrated mudguard. This plastic guard protects the frame’s downtube from gravel and other debris impacts while guarding the exposed cables and brake hoses from similar damage. It’s two-piece design means the integrated mudguard is optional and can be removed if you prefer a cleaner aesthetic.
Giant’s D-Fuse seatpost and integrated seatpost clamp wedge feature on this bike too. The composite seatpost has a D-shape to it, flattened on the backside to promote flex.
The GX 0 receives some generous component selections, including a full 11-speed SRAM Apex HRD 1x groupset. This groupset functions much the same as SRAM’s upper-tier single-ring drivetrains, including the secure chain retention, DoubleTap shifting mechanism, and hydraulic disc brakes. A 40T chainring is given at the front, matched to a 11-42T cassette at the rear. These gear ratios are an exact match to the more premium Cannondale SuperX SE we looked at recently.
As Rome points out, a further highlight is Giant’s PX-2 Disc wheelset and 40c Giant CrossCut Gravel 2 tires, which arrive set up tubeless. Rome is a big fan of this element, stating, “Giant is one of the few companies offering a true tubeless setup straight from the factory, and it’s a real advantage when going off-road.”
The rest of the build sees Giant supply its own touch points, including a new flared drop-bar, something that’s in trend with gravel riders. While the firm saddle proves that this is a bike designed for some serious distance.
All up, Rome’s medium sample (without pedals) weighs 9.95kg, including the front fender. A weight that’s appears heavy when compared to a road bike, but far lighter than a hardtail mountain bike of this price.
“I’ve been testing a handful of gravel bikes lately, and impressively this one offers comparable features and qualities, but at near half the price,” reveals Rome, before continuing.
“In my opinion, a good gravel bike should be relatively efficient on the road, and yet composed and comfortable off-road. It seems this bike sways quite far into off-road purpose, and so I’m keen to test how efficient this bike is on the tarmac.”