The Giant TCR is possibly one of the best known bikes in the cycling world and particularly in the pro peloton. It shaped the way that bike sizes were produced with the innovative sloping top tube. Although there are some apparent changes between the very first TCR released in 1997 and the modern version, the TCR hasn’t fallen totally in line with all new common bike trends.
For the purposes of this review I will be providing my personal opinion on the 2020 version of the Giant TCR Advanced SL Disc. As the name suggests, this is the disc brake version of the TCR and my particular model has been built up from a frame only option. I will explain my choice, the equipment and my thoughts on the bike.
Why the TCR?
The TCR provides a real all round option when it comes to riding. It is phenomenally light for a disc brake bike weighing exactly 7kg in my size medium, and still has some smart aero touches. The TCR stands out as an obvious pick for me because most of riding is done in Devon where hills are only too common. A lightweight climbing bike is a great option and the sharp twitchy nature of the bike is ideal for the tight country lanes.
I am lucky enough to ride the Propel, Defy and Trinity in the Giant range so I have a decent idea of how an out and out aero bike rides on hilly terrains and also how an endurance bike feels for long lumpy days. As fast as the Propel is, it can feel a little cumbersome when it comes to climbs, and I wanted something that offered me that extra bit of zip on the hills. This meant that I wanted to build something that was light and stiff to really help me make the most of what Devon has to offer.
As already mentioned, the frameset is a TCR Advanced SL Disc and it is the frame only option colourway. The chameleon green frame has an iridescent effect which is quite simply stunning. Green isn’t naturally a colour I would jump at, but it is absolutely brilliant in the flesh.This frame being the SL version comes with the Variant Integrated Seatpost which has to be cut to size. A fairly unique feature on this bike, but one that only benefits it.
The wheels are Giant’s own SLR-0 30mm disc wheels which weigh 1400g which is fairly impressive. The hubs are DT Swiss and have flattened aero spokes. The wheels are finished with Continental GP5000 TL tyres in a 25mm width.
The groupset is the ever trusty Shimano Ultegra R8050 di2. No more really needs to be said about why.
Saddle is the Fizik Arione R1 carbon railed saddle. Yes I could go for the 00 version of this saddle to save some weight, but in a cost v weight consideration it was difficult to justify the extra cost for the minimal savings.
Handlebars and stem are Giant’s own alloy options and they are a 130mm stem with 40cm wide handlebars. In the future I will look to upgrade these to a one piece carbon offering, but in the first instance I wanted to ensure fit was perfect.
The TCR quite simply is a pure race bike. It is fast, responsive and eager to eat up the miles. With the compact frame design and the integrated seat post, the bike feels small beneath you and allows for quick and precise movements of the bike. Combined with an incredible degree of stiffness this bike really does take you places quickly. However this stiffness may not be to everyone's liking as it can make for a harsh ride over rougher roads. But this road sensation is a fairly unanimous feeling across all out and out racing bikes.
The TCR comes in a range of options, and in the guise that I have I would not suggest it for someone wanting relaxed weekend rides. It takes a while to get used to the twitchy nature of the bike, and you certainly feel more of the road than other bikes. The lower specced models with the normal seat post will offer a greater degree of comfort and may be a better option. Having said that, I have ridden this bike for thousands of kilometers including multiple century mile rides without any discomfort. But as a 24 year old with a daily mobility programme I appreciate my body may be slightly better at absorbing the bumps.
I have mainly used this bike in the steep sharp hills of Dartmoor and the rolling roads of Surrey. Given the huge elevation gains that accompany all rides in Devon, the TCR is the best option. It allows you to climb hills with ease and the disc brakes provide great braking when navigating the tight country lanes. When riding in Surrey I tend to prefer putting the deeper 64/42 Giant SLR wheels on as this just helps with rolling faster along the flats. However, if I was just to be riding in Surrey all the time, given the flat nature of the roads I would lean more towards an aero oriented bike such as the Propel.
For 2021, the TCR is meant to be lighter and stiffer. However, as a general consumer the main difference I can see is that the front brake hose is now integrated into the front fork. This is certainly a much neater option and one I wish they had introduced earlier as I feel this is something that lets down my bike. Despite this, the non integrated front end does make working on this bike significantly easier. As a keen home mechanic it certainly saves a lot of time having the cables exposed which certainly isn’t the case for other similar bikes such as the SL7 or Willier 0 SLR.
The one-piece seat post is a rarity amongst bikes, however it is something that I am a massive fan of. I think it blends the frame incredibly well and due to the lack of rim brakes it makes for an incredible clean design.
But, the common flaw is that travelling with the bike can be difficult as you cannot remove the seatpost. Despite this, from my experience I have had no issues at all. My saddle is set at 79.2mm and fitted perfectly in the Scicon Aerocomfort Tri 3.0 bag. There was still plenty of room in my bag for the saddle to be higher so for the majority of people this shouldn’t be an issue.
The cost cannot be ignored. An off the shelf version of this bike in 2020 cost £5,999 with the Force AXS groupset instead of Shimano Ultegra. This is a huge amount of money and can be pushed even further with the SL 0 model coming in at £8,999. For 2021, the costs have increased again with the SL 1 version costing £6,999 and the SL 0 at £9,699. This certainly isn’t a bike that you are purchasing without some thought.
This bike is for the rider that wants to go fast in hilly terrain. Someone that wants to feel that they are really connected to the bike and can descend with total confidence. It really is a piece of art. Although not cheap, the TCR SL does provide good value for money when compared to other top end race bikes and should be a real consideration if you are in the market for a new bike. It is an absolute pleasure to ride and one that I cannot wait to get back out on the roads next summer!
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