Giant Revolt Advanced 0 2019 gravel bike review
New for 2019, the Revolt Advanced is Giant’s first carbon gravel-focussed steed. Built with performance in mind, it’s a clear departure from Giant’s previous and surprisingly numerous gravel-styled models.
I spent the past couple months riding the Revolt Advanced 0 and came away impressed. It’s not only a great leap above the Giant ToughRoad SLR I tested a year earlier, but it’s also simply a great bike.
Built to handle either 650B or 700c wheels, it features a couple of smart comfort features and a build kit that makes it impressively good value for money. In short, the Revolt Advanced is a bike well worth discussing.
Simple, done well.
From a company that needs little introduction, the Revolt is an in-house affair. It’s built using Giant’s self-named “Advanced” series of carbon composite – effectively a mid-grade mix that’s a little lower on the modulus scale than what’s used in Giant’s top-tier race bikes.
- What is it: Giant’s first performance-focussed carbon gravel bike.
- Frame features: Full carbon composite construction, D-Fuse carbon seatpost and D-Fuse XR alloy handlebar, 3x bottle cage mounts, pannier/fender mounts, room for 700x45c rubber.
- Bike weight: 8.72kg (without pedals, medium size).
- Price: US$3,465 / AU$4,299.
- Highs: Smooth, efficient and composed ride, unquestionably good value, reliable components.
- Lows: Subdued handling for a performance bike, matte paint, the name.
With familiar angular tube profiles, a sloping toptube and lowly set seatstays, the Revolt is distinctively Giant. It retains Giant’s common fitments too. A Shimano-standard pressfit BB86 bottom bracket shell connects with a somewhat aero-styled, minimalist seat tube. The boxy downtube makes full use of the shell surface area, too.
While the chainstays are set asymmetrically, that’s hard to see. Both chainstays are dropped, just not in an exaggerated fashion, and Giant manages to fit up to a 700x45c or (650Bx50mm) tyre in the rear by thinning the driveside stay to just 11mm. And that’s all with a normal sub-compact crankset and stubby 425mm chainstays.
The toptube tapers to become remarkably skinny before it meets the seatpost’s integrated wedge-type clamp. Giant’s long-running D-Fuse seatpost features a flat back edge, and is designed to flex rearward, while remaining rigid in other planes. It’s a concept the new Specialized Roubaix boasts, but Giant has done so since 2014 with the Defy Advanced.
The front of the bike features no integrated suspension or pivot point; rather it’s kept simple and fuss-free. However, Giant achieves comfort and control through its new Contact XR D-Fuse handlebar which features a flattened and flexible shape like the seatpost. In the case of my Advanced 0 sample, it’s an alloy bar with a subtle “aero” shaping and noticeably skinny shaping as it nears the stem’s clamping area.
The Revolt is the first time such a handlebar has appeared, but my guess is we’ll see it on the next generation of Giant’s endurance bikes, too.
Giant uses internal cable routing for both the hydraulic brake hoses and gear cables, and the frame is Di2 ready. 12mm thru-axles and flat mount brakes are all expected sights too. And here’s a nice touch: the front derailleur mount is removable for a clean 1x setup.
Showing the bike’s off-road intention, both the downtube and driveside chainstay are covered by rubber guards, with the former there to protect the frame from rock strikes. It’s something that’s commonly done on modern mountain bikes, and makes perfect sense for gravel, too.
The Revolt is ready to carry stuff. Three bidon cage mounts are provided, one of which is underneath the downtube. The fork offers central bolts on the legs for universal accessories and is ready for fenders, too. The rear stealthily hides its standard fender and pannier mounts behind a small cover until called on. That said, there are no provisions for a bolt-on “Bento” bag and the sloping toptube greatly reduces space for a frame bag.
Unlike Giant’s performance road bikes, this one features a standard 1 1/8in tapered head tube – allowing regular stems to be fitted. It’s the same full carbon fork up front across all six frame sizes, each featuring the same relatively outstretched 50mm fork rake.
Builds to match
Giant offers the Revolt Advanced in a number of different builds. I tested the top-tier version, the Advanced 0.
One of the more impressive value aspects of the build is Giant’s own composite wheelset, the CXR1. These wheels offer 21mm internal width disc-specific carbon rims, Sapim butted spokes and hubs with DT Swiss 3-pawl internals. And no different to every other Giant performance bike, the Revolt comes setup tubeless straight from the box. Just inject the provided tyre sealant, inflate and go. It couldn’t be simpler, and the tyre and rim combo inflate with ease. Those tyres are Giant’s own and from a reputable manufacturer.
The drivetrain is equally well-thought-out too, with Shimano Ultegra hydro discs and mechanical shifting equipped with the new (yet already superseded) clutch-equipped RX rear derailleur.
Giant finishes off the build with the previously mentioned handlebar and seatpost, an aluminium stem (with normal clamp diameters!), and Giant’s own saddle. Of all the components, the seatpost is the only truly proprietary piece, with everything else offering a standard fitment for potential customisation.
My medium sample weighed 8.72kg without pedals, setup tubeless. Not super light for a carbon rig, but highly competitive given the price.
Little jolt (or to fault) with the Revolt
When I last tested a gravel bike from Giant, I was somewhat underwhelmed. The bike was impressively cheap and built to take a beating, but the way it handled lacked finesse and energy. It always felt sluggish, regardless of the terrain.
The Revolt Advanced is quite the contrast to that, now more sporty and eager to respond on tarmac, groads and trails. And that’s despite the geometry chart suggesting it’s not all that different to its alloy predecessor.
Where Giant’s ToughRoad SLR was too long in the rear end, too tall in the front end and too floppy in its handling; the Revolt Advanced makes the necessary corrections. With the stock 700x40c rubber (measures an actual 39mm), the trail figure sits at a reasonable but not overly quick-feeling 72mm.
The Revolt Advanced is no slouch and it certainly allows you to comfortably hold good pace over varying terrain. To pick a cliched bike review term, its handling is best described as balanced. And while coming off faster bikes can have the Revolt Advanced feeling a little docile, or even uneventful, at no point was I left blaming its steering on missing a corner.
Swapping in 650B wheels brought the Revolt Advanced alive, and I found it raring to tip into a direction change. A reduced diameter brings the bottom bracket lower too, and where the Revolt’s 70mm bottom bracket drop can occasionally feel on the high side with 700x40c hoops, the smaller wheels help the bike feel truly planted on corners. The smaller wheels also solve the whisp of toe overlap present with the stock 40c rubber – but even with the bigger wheels, it’s so minor I frankly never noticed it, even when riding technical singletrack.
The 650B wheels were a fun experiment, but I still preferred how the Revolt performed across a wider variety of terrain with its stock 700c hoops. Its high bottom bracket height means I never had to worry about pedal strikes, and the improved efficiency on the road was ideal for piecing together my local trails and segments of gravel. That’s good for the Revolt, as its tyre clearance is certainly better optimised for larger rims, whereas I wouldn’t want to risk squeezing in anything wider than 51mm (1.9in) when running 650B.
The single fork rake across all frame sizes may upset some (I’m not able to provide feedback on the sizes above and below my medium sample) but I suspect the outcome shouldn’t change greatly.
The Revolt’s balanced handling has a lot to do with how composed it remains on rough and/or loose surface. Seated comfort is great, and a look down at the seatpost while riding rough terrain reveals a visible amount of rearward flex from the post, made all the more pliable by the sloping toptube. It’s enough that I was happy to stay in the saddle on rocky terrain where less comfortable bikes would force me to stand. Likewise, that pliability helps to keep the bike planted, where stiffer bikes would likely see the tyres skip.
The flex at the handlebar isn’t as apparent, however, it does help with reducing hand fatigue. High-frequency bumps don’t transmit quite the same discomfort as normal, and more obvious impacts have the edge removed, too. Where the bars are clearly outpaced is on high-speed rough bumps, like braking bumps – but then, even suspension typically struggles in such a scenario.
Given the handlebars rely on leverage to flex, it wasn’t too surprising to sense more trail feedback when riding on the tops compared to the hoods on drops where the lever to flex is longer. And if the bars were made too flexy, the front handling would suffer. In out-of-the-saddle sprints or uphill attacks I didn’t notice the bar as being any different to a normal one. Likewise, pointing and ploughing the bike through stones sees it stay on track. If anything, the slight flex of the bar helps keep the bike composed.
The carbon hoops certainly benefited the Revolt’s willingness to go fast, and the wheels remained (mostly) true and spun smoothly all test. However, the spokes pinged excessively straight from the box – revealing that Giant could do more to stress relieve its obviously machine-built wheels. I didn’t have the bike long enough to experience issues as a result, but I’d suggest passing the wheels to an experienced wheel builder for re-tensioning after a few months of use.
Although its no longer Shimano’s best groupset for a bike like this, the Ultegra components performed without fault. The clutch-equipped RX rear derailleur does exactly what you need, and wards off chain slap noise and dropped chains. The Praxis sub-compact crank and HG-800 cassette worked well together, and I found they provided a range pretty ideal for handling both road and trail rides.
The press-fit bottom bracket can be a polarising choice, but my sample remained whisper quiet all test, and in my experience, Giant provides little reason to hate on the system. Meanwhile, the minimalist seat tube offers no support to the front derailleur, and so you can’t install it with the recommended backstop – not a deal breaker, but the front shifting isn’t the snappiest it could be.
As the only truly proprietary part on the bike, I was briefly frustrated with a slipping seatpost. It was good for the first month of testing, but then ruined a couple of rides. I pulled the post out, cleaned the tube, liberally re-applied fresh carbon grease and used a torque wrench to the maximum 6nm. The trick was learning that the post-wedge settles into place — giving the post a flex and wiggle in the frame, and tightening the bolt to the correct torque again helped ensure it remained in place.
Finally, I’m not such a fan of the paint. Sure the stealth matte black paint with gloss graphics looks classy, but like other matte paints, it sucks to clean. There’s always an uneven gloss or shine left behind, often caused by your own fingerprints. Certainly, for a bike that’s constantly dirtied, matte wasn’t the best pick.
Oh that person? Yeah, they’re nice.
For me, the Revolt Advanced is a near perfect example of what makes a good gravel bike. It has a generous gearing range, plenty of tyre clearance, good comfort, great versatility and get-it-done handling that lets you focus on what’s in front and not what the bike is doing beneath you.
It feels almost like an endurance road bike on smooth tarmac, albeit with a bit more drag to pedal. It effortlessly holds speed and takes just enough buzz away when ridden on well-kept gravel. And on tougher neglected gravel roads or trails, it’s fearless and able.
I really liked my time riding this bike, but in a weird sense, I also wished it interacted or even fought me just a little more. The Giant Revolt Advanced is the person at the party that can talk to everyone regardless of the situation; the person everyone says is super nice, and yet somehow, lacks that certain spark that sets them apart.
But does that even matter when the Revolt Advanced 0 retails at just US$3,465 / AU$4,299? For what you get, that’s amazingly good value.