The Giant SL1 Climbing Wheelsystem is a strong-performing wheelset for riders wanting to upgrade the stock hoops on their bike. It has the ability to provide a sound, cost-effective upgrade, with decent weight, stiff performance and tubeless compatibility all points in its favour.
When you mention Giant, it’s likely that you’re going to be talking about the Taiwanese brand’s bikes. After all, that’s what the company is most well-respected for – unlike most brands, it controls its own frame manufacturing processes, and produces the likes of the Propel, Defy and TCR road bikes.
However, in the background the company also dabbles in creating its own components and finishing kit, including wheelsets. Like other big brands (namely Trek and Specialized), it understandably chooses to fit these components to its bikes, leading to builds that stay absolutely on-brand from top to bottom. In fact, the Giant-sponsored Team Sunweb is using the brand’s wheels in the WorldTour this season.
However, these components are also available to buy in as upgrades, and that’s where the Giant SL1 Climbing Wheelsystem comes in as a keenly-priced (just shy of £400) upgrade wheelset. This is a competitive price point, going up against the likes of Mavic’s popular Ksyrium wheels (£389), and is where you’ll start to feel a benefit over the kind of uninspiring hoops specced on some off-the-shelf bikes.
The idea is to open the door to higher levels of performance and the latest technology, without the often eye-watering price tags of some premium wheelsets. As much as we like testing the latest and greatest hoops, we also love a good deal at RCUK - so here’s how the SL1s stack up.
Specification (wheelset only)
- Price: £399.98 (£174.99 front; £224.99 rear)
- Weight: 1,585g (claimed)
- Rim depth: 30mm
- Rim width: 23mm external; 17mm internal
- Website: Giant Bicycles
Tubeless-ready, responsive & lively
For our test set, Giant fitted 25c tubeless Gavia AC0 tyres - grippy yet lightweight all-rounders that demonstrate the wheelset’s ability to run a tubeless system. At £49.99 apiece, they’re a further £100 upgrade that arguably skew the performance, but on the other hand it does mean the hoops themselves have nowhere to hide; with quality boots like these, utilising Giant's tubeless tech, we’re seeing exactly what the SL1 Climbing Wheelsystem is made of.
Luckily, it delivers. Taking into account the improved ‘feel’ of the road you get from a tube-free setup, the wheels feel nimble, responsive, positive to ride and easy to handle. The SL1 wheelset itself weighs in at a claimed 1,585g according to Giant, but with the Gavia AC0 tubeless system in place, we had them tip the scales at 1,073g and 1,245g front and rear, totalling 2,318g.
That’s a 733g swing, so while Giant’s 25c Gavia tyres weigh a claimed 278g each, there’s a 177g addition for the tubeless paraphernalia (rim tape, valves, sealant). Putting the wheels up against some sub-£400 competition, Giant’s hoops are lighter than the Mavic Ksyriums (1,690g, not tubeless but including pre-fitted clinchers for the £389 asking price), but heavier than Hunt’s excellent Race Aero Wide wheels (1,449g, tubeless-ready, £329). All things considered, they are a good weight for the money, if not the very lightest out there.
There’s a real liveliness to these hoops when heading skywards, set against plenty of stiffness when putting the power down. I couldn’t get any brake rub to materialise no matter how hard I tried out of the saddle, while they also roll efficiently when settling down into a steady tempo.
Compare them against my benchmark upgrade hoops, the Mavic Ksyrium Elites (a £529 upgrade with tubeless tyres included) and you have a wheelset that feels equally as stiff and smooth-rolling, albeit without quite the same immediacy of acceleration as Mavic's more expensive wheels. Still, there's a genuine responsiveness and all-round quality to these hoops - not an altogether easy combination to find in a tubeless-ready wheelset at this price.
"There’s a real liveliness to these hoops when heading skywards, set against plenty of stiffness when putting the power down"
That said, there’s plenty of ‘feel’ in the experience, with the tubeless setup allowing you to really lean on the wheels with confidence to get the most out of them. This pays back in spades when heading down descents, allowing you to challenge your ability safely and in control.
On the flat, they roll well too, with the smooth alloy hubs contributing to the feeling that you don’t need to pound the pedals to maintain speed. As you’d expect from a low-profile rim design, they’re also stable in crosswinds - we’ve had plenty of them to deal with lately – and as a result can be considered great upgrade wheels for relative newcomers.
Solid, dependable build
The 21 stainless steel straight pull spokes in the rear wheel are laced in a ‘dynamic balanced lacing’ arrangement, which is Giant’s take on ensuring tension across the wheel remains balanced when laying power down through the drive side. Up front, 16 radially-laced spokes provide a stable platform when you’re leaning forward on the bars out of the saddle – the result of which is the solid all-round performance, and an inability for me to detect any flex.
"There’s no aero profiling to speak of given the 30mm rim depth, but the 17mm internal width is a good fit for 25mm tyres, allowing the rubber to spread wide"
There’s no aero profiling to speak of given the 30mm rim depth, but the 17mm internal width is a good fit for 25mm tyres, allowing the rubber to spread wide and offering good levels of comfort from the all-alloy construction. Naturally, this will depend on the tyre setup you choose to run, but the ride was never harsh in our tubeless test system, which is no great surprise given the ability to run lower pressures without a tube.
Braking performance from the standard alloy brake track is as you’d expect: reliable and dependable in the wet, and good in the dry. I’ve detected no noticeable wear in the wet and gritty weather the early part of 2018 has heralded, so that bodes well for longer-term use at this stage.
When you take into account the price of these wheels - £400 without tyres, £500 with the Gavia AC0s installed – there’s an impressive and assured level of performance to be had. If you’re after a quality training set, or want a dependable first upgrade over your stock hoops, then the Giant SL1 Climbing Wheelsystem is a strong option.
- Great value
- Good match for 25mm tyres
- Tubeless compatible
- Solid all-round performance
- Not the very lightest around for the money
- 17mm rim is only moderately wide by today's standards if you run 28mm tryes