At the burial of my beloved Cervelo R3 (farewell my beautiful Canadian Prince) I was left with something of a conundrum: what do I replace it with?
Words and Images - James Raison
That was the bike I commuted on and rode in crap weather when my A-bike was sitting snug at home on its pile of peacock feathers, getting fanned with a banana leaf. I knew what I wanted from the n+1: something rugged, clearance for 28mm tyres, and ability to stop in all conditions.
What about a cyclocross bike? Rugged, check. Massive tyre clearance, check. Excellent stopping, check mate. So I did some research, consulted the oracle, read the tea leaves, and before I knew it I was walking my brand new Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2 out the shop. Take that, mortgage!
For its first adventure I wanted to take it out on a mix of terrain, in 100% factory spec.
Its first test was a nasty 11%, 1.2km pinch. The bike and I suffered. The 36x28 granny gear just isn't enough for a long, steep climb. Add the hefty Giant PX-2 rims and knobbly 33mm Maxxis Mud Wrestler tyres and you'll be feeling the burn.
Next was some serious MTB territory on a fire trail. The TCX handled it admirably, rumbling over sizable rocks, dancing through thick gravel, and bouncing across tree litter. Make no mistake, this ain't no dualie but it handled the rugged terrain.
The bike came alive on the strade bianchi. Gravelly, unsealed backroads were dispatched with ease. The road bikes I've ridden on the same roads tend to need constant vigilance picking lines, anticipating braking, and watching for thicker sections of gravel. Not the TCX. It rumbled with confidence. Climbs, descents, and rolling gravel roads were a total blast.
I headed back onto some tarmac to get a feel for how it rolls on the smooth stuff. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it keeps momentum. Once the gradient headed up I was reminded of the weighty rolling stock, but generally it was closer to my roadie than expected.
Descending was a contradictory experience, slower but very confident. The higher bottom bracket and front-end geometry meant the TCX has to be wrestled through corners. The large contact patch and low psi in the tyres meant that it felt incredibly planted. Bumps and rough road surfaces that would normally unsettle the roadie invisible.
Now for the elephant in the room: disc brakes. I'm a roadie. New things scare me, especially disc brakes.
I spent some time bedding in the discs a few days before the ride so they were in prime condition for a workout. So how were the Shimano RS505 hydros? Hang on, I'll tell you once I've put my eyeballs back in my head. They are seriously powerful. I've had to re-learn braking technique because I'm used to grabbing a big 'ole handful of my caliper brakes when stopping. A handful of hydro at the wrong time and you'll lock up and go straight to the scene of the accident. It takes surprisingly little lever pull to stop. I bombed it down a -20% and went from 70kph to zero with ease. All set to the glorious tune of screeching pads. Swings and roundabouts I guess.
Giant has an RRP of $3,199 on the TCX Advanced Pro 2
So is this the all-purpose bike? No, not in factory spec. Sure, it does a lot of things well, but it's still a CX race-oriented rig. The gear range is too narrow and lacks at both ends of the gear range. The tyres are knobbly and lack grip on smooth roads. I've found them to be puncture magnets too with very thin rubber between the "knobs."
Should you consider a CX bike? Yes, most certainly. It's a a change of tyres away from being the all-purpose bike I wanted. A set of 32mm slicks has transformed it into an excellent package, but that's another story. Just make sure you factor in some upgrade costs if you decide to go down the CX path for everyday road riding.