For a year and a half my Giant Anyroad 2017 gave me a taste of what gravel bikes were capable of, an experience that I related in a previously published article. I liked the gravel type so much that instead of selling my Anyroad, classified by Giant as Adventure bike, I decided to move it to my hometown in Mexico to continue enjoying it there, and I chose to buy one with better features: the Giant Revolt Advanced 2 2019 (I’ll call it GRA2).

The Anyroad showed me the great variety of routes that I can do on this type of bicycle. It can roll on almost any type of road; from street, to trail tracks designed for MTB, obviously not at the same speed. Its versatility is unique. Surely you are thinking that MTB can do that and much more. And you’re right, but it does it at a greater physical cost to the cyclist, the reason? His weight. It is not the same to pedal for one, two, three or even 10 hours an MTB bicycle that weighs around 13-14kgs to a gravel of 10 to 11.5kgs. The difference in energy, calorie and time expenditure is very significant. I experienced the above on the routes I made living in Mexico City with my MTB Trek Marlin 7 2015 and the Anyroad.

By 2020 Giant discontinued Anyroad. It was introduced in 2013, along with the Revolt. Both bikes were among the first mass-produced for gravel fans.

But hey, genres are broken in tastes and this is not an article of conviction for you to become a “cyclist gravel”, but an article to share the analytical purchase process that I underwent to acquire my Giant Revolt 2 2019, as well as a brief review of their performance.  

My purchase analysis: Which gravel to buy?

It took me about six months (February to August 2019) to decide to buy a $ 2,100 bike since it is not an amount and a decision to be taken lightly. This amount was my budget limit to invest in a bicycle at the time.

For my analysis I made a table of the gravel bike options available in Japan, which is where I live. Keep in mind that the variety of gravel bikes in this country was limited at that time because it is a modality that has not yet “caught on”, as in the USA, Australia, UK or Spain. To date (April 2020), there is already a greater variety of gravel bikes, but they are not seen very often.

Now, it is true that nowadays you can import bicycles of brands that do not have a presence in the country (Genesis, Canyon, Vitus, etc.), however, the cost of transportation, payment of import taxes and, must be added, If the bike does not arrive in good condition, in dealing with returns. Many do it and even enjoy it, but it is not for me. Another option was to buy only the frame and add the components to it, although it is not my style either. I love bikes but just pedaling on them.

As I previously pointed out, the variety of gravel bikes from the major brands present in Japan was limited. For example, at that time (August) the Revolt Advanced was only available on model 2 but not on 0 and 1, and these cannot be imported. At least not on the dealer websites where I looked for them. There was also no Aluminum Revolt, which was introduced last September.

A fourth option that I had was to have bought it during my stay in Mexico last summer by going to a border city in the USA (Laredo or McAllen, Texas), but I discarded it because of the logistics issue. Mexico was not an option because the variety of gravel bikes is much more limited than in Japan; Specialized Diverge, Trek Checkpoint, Giant Anyroad, Giant Revolt aluminum and stop counting. Also, only certain models. It is not like in the USA, where you have dozens of options.

Returning to my purchase analysis table, in it I included 25 characteristics and 10 finalist bikes, but below, and for reasons of space, I present a part of the table that I made. If you want me to share it in full, contact me (at the end my data) and I will gladly send it to you.

As you can see in the previous table, in the last line I made a kind of simple “index” so that, quantitatively, I could know which bicycle offered me the best benefits. I gave each characteristic a value of 1 point, although I could have assigned different scores depending on the importance that I gave to each characteristic.

The winner was the Cannondale Topstone 105 with an “index” of 0.12 points. GRA2 ranked fourth with 0.3 so the question is why then did I buy such a bike? The reason is because not everything are numbers.

The Topstone 105 and the Rocky Mountain Solo 30 have an Aluminum frame and I necessarily wanted a carbon one. The Vitus Substance CRX, although made of carbon, is only sold with 650b wheels and a chainring. In addition, there is the issue of warranty. If something happened to the Vitus, maybe I should send it back to the UK for repair, increasing costs. Much uncertainty.

Offers and new models of gravel bikes arrive every day

The day before I bought the GRA2 from the Giant Official Store, I visited another store that sells the Cannondale Topstone. I wanted to make sure once again (it was like 5 or 6 times!) That the GRA2 was the right bike. And when I see the Topstone 105 for the umpteenth time I discovered that it had a discount of around US $ 270, a not inconsiderable amount.

As if this were not enough, Cannondale had just introduced the Carbon Topstone with a quite radical but attractive design and the new kingpin suspension system. All at a competitive price in its Shimano 105 version. The difference with the GRA2 was $ 250 more expensive. The Topstone Carbon 105 (TC105) was already on display. It looked beautiful. Doubt alarms sounded. It was time to question the almost final decision until then.

I immediately called my wife who knows nothing about bikes to share my feelings. As she was already fed up with the subject, she told me “buy what you want” and added semi angrily “but buy a carbon one because later you will be whining about not having bought it”. With that he killed all my doubts regarding the material, but which of the two options: GRA2 or TC105?

Giant and Cannondale: Two pionrering brands in gravel, two phenomeanl options; Revolt Advanced vs Topstone Carbon

After thinking again between both models, I opted for GRA2, the main reason? The design of the TC105 was very radical to me and lacked a few minor aesthetic details, such as external brake wiring under the right chainstay. In addition, it has no protection over the right chainstay and no protection on the underside of the downtube against stones coming out of the front wheel.

The main advantage of the TC105 over the GRA2 are the brakes; 100% hydraulic with Shimano 105 (GRA2 had almost hydraulic -more details below- although 2020 model is full hydraulic with Shimano 105). The tire width is 37c, which in theory would perform better on asphalt.

After this last-last reflection, and with some difficulty because every day new models of gravel bicycles come out (visit todogravel.com and you will check it), which would make me question my decision again, I ended up buying the GRA2 for technical reasons and aesthetics (shape of the frame, painting color). The maintenance and warranty service also influenced.

Features of the Giant Revolt Advanced 2 2019

Below I quote some technical characteristics of the GRA2. The rest of them can be viewed here.

Of the listed components two are very important. The first is the table, which is exactly the same as its “older brothers” GRA0 and GRA1, so, over time, and according to the checkbook, the GRA2 can be improved to bring it up to the same level as the former.

The other component is the brakes that are not 100% hydraulic. I would say 80% or 90% hydraulic. How is this? Hydraulic disc brakes for asphalt and gravel bikes are known to be high priced. And to make the GRA2 and other mid-level and higher bikes more accessible, Giant developed its Conduct Hydraulic Brake System. In a few words it is the following: the levers are mechanical, so they stretch a cable that in turn pulls hydraulic cylinders into a special device located on the handlebar in front of the stem. The device transforms the force from mechanical to hydraulic and this exits as liquid fluid through the hoses to activate the brake calipers (following image).

Giant´s conduct brake system: reduce cost but sacrifice a bit in breaking. This system is now included in the Giant Advanced 3. Advanced 2 has Shimano 105 hydraulic brakes

The mechanism makes that part of the bike a little ugly, but it can be eliminated by purchasing the Shimano 105 hydraulic brake set (levers, calipers, hoses), available online starting at $ 250.  

Performance; difference between Anyroad and GRA2

The day after buying the GRA2 I put a 100km track between gravel and asphalt. I confess that in the first few meters I noticed greater resistance of the tires with the asphalt compared to those of the Anyroad, which was natural due to the difference in width (40c vs 32c). Immediately I wondered if I should change them in the short term, but then I forgot as I was pedaling more because the bike felt lighter and in fact it is for 900 grams (9.7kg vs 10.6kg).

Another notable difference at first glance was its 11 speeds since the Anyroad has 10. On descents I always forgot to put the last one (or the 11 teeth). But the best was when I entered the gravel road; What a difference! The vibration was much less and the bearing much smoother. However, and to be fair, I must admit that it is not the same to ride a dirt road with a 32c rim to a 40c rim, which is why I assign such smoothness to a large extent to the GRA2 rims, which incidentally are Maxxis Rambler and not the Giant Crosscuts (the common ones in this model), of which I have not read good comments.

Therefore, it is difficult for me to make a more objective comparison between the carbon frame of the GRA2 and the aluminum frame of the Anyroad. To find out exactly, you would have to mount the same tires and wheels on both bikes. But I want to think that such smoothness of rolling in gravel is also due to the frame. In my perception I assign 70% to the rims factor and the rest to the carbon material.

Regarding braking with the Conduct this is acceptable. Much better than mechanical brakes, but inferior to 100% hydraulic systems. After three months, I removed the conduct system and installed GRX 600 shifters with GRX810 brake calipers. I also installed GRX810 rear derailleur.

Another aspect to point out is the figure of the dropbar; the main tube is not straight but with a slight deviation to the back which, according to Giant, allows it to have greater flexibility in rough terrain. In my pedaling I have not felt it.

But what I have felt is the flexibility of the seat post, because its D-shape plus the length of it due to the design of the frame, make the sudden bumps or grooves that you find in dirt roads not be completely absorbed by your buttocks , but precisely the seatpost when flexing a little. By the way, this was one of the main reasons why I threw out various gravel bike options that I discussed. In the Anyroad I had already experienced it and did not want to lose that benefit.

The frame design generates a long seat post and flexes due to its D shape. A blessing!

When I finished my pedaling and closed my route on Strava I did not expect many changes in my times, but my huge surprise was that I broke just over 30 personal records. Those 900 grams of difference in weight if it gives benefits.  

Differences with the 2020 model and new aluminum version

The 2020 model was presented in the USA and other countries a week before buying my bicycle. Again, doubts arose. I began to carefully analyze the difference between one and the other.

There were three main differences between the 2019 and 2020 model. The first is that 2020 no longer brings the Giant Conduct braking system, now it is all hydraulic (shifters included) with Shimano 105. For this reason, the 2020 model is more expensive. at around $ 300. The second is the tires; in 2019 they opted for 40c and for 2020 it includes 38c.  

The third difference was in color. I did not like the options for 2020. So I opted to buy the 2019 version.

In another sense and as a novelty for 2020, Giant reintroduced and presented the new aluminum Revolt months ago. It has the same design as the Advanced, but at a more affordable price. There are several models and colors so, as with the Advanced, it will depend on what country you live in to access them. For example, in Spain only the Revolt 2 is available in one color, while in the UK all three models are available: 0, 1 and 2.

Concluding

The GRA2 has been my debut in the carbon frames and there is a difference compared to aluminum, with their respective effects. The first is in the ego. Let us admit that whenever we bring something of better value with respect to something previous, it makes us feel better. It is part of human nature, although there are differences regarding how each one expresses it. This conscious or unconscious feeling affects performance, because your body and mind know that you ride a better bicycle and therefore you must perform at a higher level.

The other effect is speed due to the lower weight of the bike. As I noted earlier, pedaling 900 grams less per hour is a big difference in any respect. A third effect is confidence when pedaling when you face certain risky situations, such as on a route that demands your skills to the maximum, and you know that the bicycle will respond not only for the frame but for bringing better components.  

A fourth, but not the last effect, is the motivation that makes you feel a high-performance bicycle. You even want to sleep with it (that is to say), always attracting you the possibility of going out in it, which means more exercise and this in turn good health.    

I conclude by saying that in a context where new gravel bikes of any profile are presented every day, so there are plenty of options, what is missing is money to buy the bike of your dreams and more time to pedal once you buy it. Good luck with your next bicycle purchase. Enjoy the moment.

Article written by Jaime Villasana Dávila