The Giant TCR has become ubiquitous over the last few years. You’ll see them at criteriums, road races, and underneath many weekend warriors. There’s a reason for that: they’re exceptionally good.
Words - James Raison Images - Lana Adams
ABOUT THE TCR
Giant Bicycles need no introduction. They’re one of the biggest players in the global cycling industry. The last few years has seen them hone their production process and produce more of their finishing kit in-house. Controlling those processes allows them to squeeze more value out of their bikes.
Enter the $4,000 TCR Advanced Pro 1.
The TCR Advanced Pro 1 sits right in the middle of the middle of the middle Giant road range. The TCR is between the aero Propel, and the comfort oriented defy. Advanced Pro models are between the top level SL and entry level Advanced. Pro 1 is, you guessed it, the middle of Advanced Pro range.
The TCR Advanced Pro 1 comes with Shimano’s outstanding Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset matched with a KMC chain. After that, it’s Giant as far as the eye can see. Of particular interest is the Giant SLR 1 carbon clincher wheels. This is the cheapest rig to feature their very ‘on-point’ wheels with a generous 23mm width, 30mm depth, and bladed spokes.
Once I had the saddle height sorted, I felt immediately comfortable on the TCR. Everything is where I wanted it. The M/L frame is perfect for my 180cm frame. All I had to do was attach some pedals, and hit the road.
In a word, the TCR is lively. From the first pedal stroke, this bike showed a keenness to go fast. With its beefy bottom bracket, and very respectable 7.2kg weight minus pedals, there isn’t much slowing this bike down.
Stomp the pedals, and it goes. A beefy bottom bracket, girder-like down tube, and chunky chain stays efficiently convert your efforts into forward velocity. It’s a very capable climber for this reason.
Steering this bike is a joyous experience. The Overdrive 2 steerer and fat Contact SL stem are ridiculously stiff. It’s becoming a well-worn cliché to describe well-steering bikes as ‘telepathic’ but there is no more suitable word. It goes exactly where you want every time. The P-SL 1 tyres hold up their end of the bargain too, giving you all the grip you need to revel in steering Nirvana. Even the wheels get in on the act, with braking power the equal of good aluminium rims. Sure, they shrieked in terror when I descended with particular gusto, but I didn’t feel any fade in power.
At this point, you’re about ready to bound into your nearest Giant stockist and fling your credit card at the nearest TCR, right? Hold your horses though, there’s a few problems.
All that fire-snorting speed, stiffness, that fabulous steering, all comes at a big cost: ride comfort. It’s a dream on smooth tarmac, but on the rough country roads surrounding Adelaide turned it into something of a nightmare. The vibrations punished my feet, elbows, and lower back. In short, the finishing kit is totally unsuitable for anything other than buttery smooth tarmac. Its 23mm tyres, even at 90psi, offer no cushioning and waste the potential of the wide rims. The bar tape might as well be painted on, and the Contact SL saddle certainly doesn’t have your posterior’s best interests at heart. A 200km day in the saddle left my body feeling decidedly sore.
While I’m griping, the stiffness and light weight is wasted by being under-geared when the gradient nudges over 8%. Long hills with a high gradient become a serious grind on 36x28.
The Ultegra groupset performed flawlessly. It’s very hard to fault anything about it. Shifting was snappy and precise, braking performance was excellent, and there’s no discernable flex in the cranks. The only real issue is with the press-fit bottom bracket. Yes, it creaks, and yes it’s still annoying. Other than that, it’s hard to imagine many riders having issues with the Ultegra kit.
The TCR performed well on everything I could put it through, including gravel and wet descents. It felt amazing when put under the hammer in a 1 minute effort session. I found myself climbing out of the saddle more than I would have on my own bike. This was for two reasons - the mid compact gearing leaves you no other option above 11% gradients, and the bottom bracket stiffness really rewards that extra low cadence torque with an instant power transfer.
The TCR Advanced Pro 1 offers a tremendous amount of speed for an absolute bargain price. This could be the best value race bike on the market. It’s light, stiff, has an excellent groupset and some surprisingly good Giant finishing kit. $4,000 buys you serious speed, and no need to immediately upgrade it. If you need a weapon for racing, and you can handle a rough ride, this will not disappoint.
The overall experience of riding the bike suffers because of its preoccupation with outright race performance. Wider tyres, thicker bar tape, and a plushier saddle will certainly take some of the sting out, but this bike will always be a racer at heart.
Special thanks to Giant Adelaide for lending us the bike.