Reviewed: Giant Avail Advanced SL 1

Ahead of the pack on the Avail Advanced SL 1. Photo: Paul Craig

A Comfortable, Race-Worthy High Performance Women’s Road Bike

After riding and racing an extra-small aluminum unisex Giant TCR for many years, I was super excited to get my hands on a brand new Avail Advanced SL 1. This is my very first carbon bike and I was spoiled instantly by starting with the best of the best – Giant’s top-of-the-line Advanced SL carbon. This is the carbon genius’s (yes, Giant is a genius with carbon, manufacturing their own from scratch for years) lightest and stiffest material, and I got a beautiful specimen of my very own in an attractive package of matte black with white and lime green. I can’t help mentioning how beautiful this bike is, with its sleek lines and graceful, yet sporty look. It doesn’t look girly, but it does look hot.

The bike rides beautifully and I finally understand what is meant when a high performance road bike is described as “comfortable.” Those two terms are no longer mutually exclusive, thanks to Giant’s awesome engineering. Not that I was unhappy with my TCR. I loved that little bike! But I think I love my Avail even more. Shhh! Don’t tell!

This is also my very first women’s specific road bike and I like it a lot! I got my fit dialed super easily, largely because of all of the women’s specific touches, and now when I swing my leg over my Avail’s shapely top tube, it immediately feels comfortable. Not like a couch, but like a bike that I can ride for hours without getting sore. Don’t get me wrong, my legs still get tired from pedaling, but my back, neck, shoulders, and bum are spared. I used to think that all the discomfort was just a necessary evil that was overshadowed by the greater joy of riding, but it’s not true. It doesn’t have to be that way! I have logged hundreds of kilometers on my new Avail now and I am constantly blown away by how great I feel at the end of a long ride.

Even after racing nearly three hours in the drops during Barry’s Roubaix road race, when I got off the bike, my back, neck, and shoulders were miraculously pain-free. Same goes for the way I felt after a weekend of racing during Race the Ridge stage race. It still blows me away. The Avail just absorbs all of those thousands of bone-jarring, muscle-fatiguing bumps and vibrations and you don’t even realize it until you realize you’re not sore!

I was wondering how the Avail would handle in races, since it doesn’t exactly fall into the “race bike” category, but rather, it is labeled as “endurance road,” meaning the geometry is designed more for long-distance riding, like gran fondos. As such, the Avail has a longer wheelbase than a pure race steed, and it has a bit of a higher front end. These details work together to give the bike super stable handling and puts the rider in a more upright position than on a race bike. The women’s specific geometry means the Avail has a bit of a shorter top tube and taller head tube as opposed to its men’s counterpart, the Defy, since women tend to have relatively shorter upper bodies and longer legs in comparison to men. It’s small details like this, in addition to a women’s saddle and a smaller cockpit, that contribute to making what is truly a women’s specific bike.

As for handling, I was very impressed. It corners like it’s on rails. The Advanced SL grade carbon frame with integrated seatpost (ISP) smooths out all of the road vibration. It’s light and agile, and the Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting is fantastic and quiet with its incredibly smart auto-trim front derailleur. The spring road races were cold and rainy and my hands went numb as a result. In the past, I was no longer able to shift when this happened, because I didn’t have the strength in my hands to work the cable-actuated levers. Di2 literally works with the push of a button, so no matter how cold or weak my hands are, I can still shift. Then there are the Shimano Ultegra brakes. Who believed road caliper brakes could become more powerful than they already were? I mean, road brakes are road brakes, right? Wrong. These things stop on a dime. It’s a noticeable difference, so much so, that I almost went over the handlebars the first time I pulled them.

If there are any doubters out there about the Avail’s race-worthiness, I can attest first-hand that this bike can handle any race course with confidence. Not interested in racing? The Avail Advanced SL 1 is just as happy to take you on an all-day wine tour. Now that sounds like a great idea!

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