BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Every bike company has a personality, and Giant has always seemed particularly understated. So understated, in fact, that it may come as a surprise to learn that it’s been making aftermarket wheels since 2011. After taking some time to test the P-SLR 1 aero wheelset, the key descriptor remains: understated.
With 50-millimeter deep hybrid carbon/alloy rims, 16 spokes up front, and 20 in the back, Giant’s wheels find themselves in good company with the likes of Mavic’s classic Cosmic Carbone SL and Shimano’s Dura-Ace C50. But wouldn’t you know, Giant’s subtly branded hoops end up beating both alternatives on weight, coming in at 1,575 grams. That’s about 100 grams lighter than the C50 and nearly 200 grams lighter than the Carbon SLs.
However, when you’re shopping for aerodynamically inclined wheels, weight isn’t usually the final arbiter. Giant has gone to great lengths to design slippery looking hub shells that house reliable DT-Swiss internals. Leaving no detail untouched, Giant engineered the spoke-lacing pattern to maximize stiffness and efficiency. DT Swiss laces up each wheel according to Giant’s specifications.
The stiffness of the P-SLR1 is immediately noticeable. They are almost a tad harsh when paired with some standard high-end 23c tires. Yet that trade-off seemed worthwhile as we began pushing the Giants through twisty descents, rough 90-degree corners and the obligatory group ride acceleration. Once we brought them up to speed and began muscling our way over short rolling hills, the inertia and (perceived) aerodynamics became apparent. They sound remarkable at those higher speeds, too.
Priced at $1,600, the Giant P-SLR 1 wheels are positioned as an upgrade, but are they worth it? Compared to the aforementioned options from Shimano and Mavic they’re less expensive than the former (retail $2,400), and more expensive than the latter (retail $1,200). But, they’re lighter than both.
At this price point, the Giants are creeping into full-carbon tubular wheel territory, which begs the question: do you want a carbon/alloy clincher hybrid rim? Such a wheel will never approach a carbon tubular in performance, but, in many ways, carbon tubular wheels are a lifestyle choice. You’re saying, “Yes, I know I can’t easily fix a flat; no I don’t mind spending my evenings playing with toxic glue in the garage.” That’s not a choice everyone is willing to make.
The Giant P-SLR 1s can be converted to road tubeless, which may help narrow the performance gap a smidge. However, speaking of the joys of bike maintenance, it’s worth noting that the Giants have internal spoke nipples, which would necessitate removing the tire and rim strip to adjust.
We are not surprised that Giant shied away from the exotic bacchanal of carbon tubular wheels. They made a straightforward wheelset. We respect that. Who will benefit from it? The P-SLR 1 would be great for building out a TT bike or for the club racer who can only afford one wheelset to do it all. The heavier alloy construction might not be great for run-of-the-mill racers who often live in rubber band land (like myself), eternally clawing onto the back of yet another group. Yet, if you like wheels that have a precise, sporty feel, the Giant P-SLR 1 is a solid choice.
Pros: Stiff, precise handling traits and light for an aero wheel.
Cons: A bit tricky to seat normal tires on the tubeless-ready rims, annoying skewer design, can be harsh on rough roads.
The Lowdown: Fast and furious wheels for a rider that doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of tubular tires.