Giant make a range of road bikes than can be basically split into 3 different categories :
Defy = Sportive bike
TCR = Endurance Race bike
Porpel = Aero Race bike
Within each range are a number of different options based upon price and varying characteristics. Previously I tested the Defy Advanced SL1 but over the past few months I have experienced two levels of TCR (there are 3 in total). Each really does have its own characteristic which really became evident over time. This is what I discovered :
The TCR Advanced Pro 2 is based around the Advanced Pro Frameset. This uses Giants’ Advanced grade composite carbon with a stiff bottom bracket area and an unusually large, inch and a quarter fork steerer tube. There is much marketing speak about the advantages of this but I will now tell you how it works in the real world over a number of months of rigorous testing.
The bike handles like it is literally on train tracks. It gives a feeling of neatness beneath you as you ride it. It tracks incredibly well through corners with the only thing limiting your speed being the size of your cojones.
There are two main types of stiffness in a bike that affect performance. The stiffer the bottom bracket area the more efficient will be the power transfer from pedal to wheels when you push hard on the pedals. It makes you go faster quicker and is especially important to sprinters and climbers.
Then there is torsional stiffness which is up around the head-tube and fork. When a bike is stiff up here there is less flex when you bank the bike at an angle into a corner. The advantage of a stiffer head-tube and fork is that the front and rear wheels will basically follow the exact same line through the corner thus making the bike much easier to handle and maneuver. On a wet day it is sometimes possible to see this in action with by looking at the tyre tracks of a number of different bikes when going through a fast corner.
On one of my first spins aboard the TCR Advanced Pro 2 I gave it a lash down Tickincor and set a new Strava KOM time on the descent. This was due to the bike feeling so in tune beneath me that I really went hard through the corners without ever feeling that sense of Oh Oh.
A stiff frame will also transfer more road vibrations but this bike was still OK on the Road to Roubaix (Back road from Carrick on Suir to Clonmel). The ride was not plush but it was not bone jarring either. Overall it would be at the higher end of comfort of any bike this stiff that handles this well.
Component wise it had a pair of Giant SL1 Wheels which just needed a little tighten of the spokes after a few spins and were never noticed again. They complimented the superb handling of the bike by being both stiff and compliant when cornering. Deep section wheels have no ‘give’ and can ‘skip across the road’ if you corner hard on a poor surface whereas a good pair of shallow rimmed wheels like the SL1 have a little more ‘give’ and get you through those corners by keeping the tyres in contact with the road for longer. They also have a great set of hubs and are pretty light too. Overall a good set of race wheels actually.
The Shimano 105 groupset initially looked out of place on a frame as good as this but then again why not use it. Mechanically it is almost as good as Ultegra or possibly even Dura Ace and whilst it may be a little heavier it certainly is a whole lot lighter on the pocket.
The TCR Advanced 1 also uses Giants Advanced grade carbon but is not as stiff. It has a standard inch and an eight fork steerer and is not quiet as stiff around the bottom bracket area as the Advanced Pro.
Right from the very first spin this bike felt like an old friend. There was no breaking in period. It did everything just as I asked. The handling is good and predictable but definitely not as sharp as the Advanced Pro. However it is definitely a more comfortable ride. There were times on the Road to Roubaix (back road to Carrick) when I looked down to check was it a Defy, such was the comfort. For a bike with racing geometry it is unusual to have this level of comfort.
Part of the reason for that comfort also can be attributed to the saddle. I pretty much always swop over the saddle on most test bikes to me trusty friend the Fizik Aliante, but I decided to try the ‘Giant Comfort’ saddle to see how we would get along. I have to say that it has been as comfy as an armchair right form the beginning. It is like a soft and cushiony version of the Fizik Antares.
After 3 and 4 hour spins I always get off of the bike without an ache or a pain apart from the emptiness in my legs which isn’t really the bikes fault (must do more training).
The PR-2 wheelset again do their job well. The spokes needed a tightening after a few spins but haven’t budged since. They are again more aimed at comfort and hitting the price point than speed and performance but could not be faulted for a wheel in this category.
The Ultegra groupset is again flawless and a rare find on a quality bike in this price range. The comapct 50/34 chainset managed to get me comfortably over any hill whilst also allowing me to hang onto the wheels of the Carrick gang when the battles commence. Overall the only single item that I changed was the stem to a longer one to suit me long body. Being pretty fussy about my bike set up this was unusual for me.
Both of these bikes are Giant TCR’s but both have very different characteristics. So which bike suits what type of bike rider.
The TCR Advanced 1 suits a fast Sportive rider or someone racing A4 or A3. It is a benchmark bike in it’s price range.
The TCR Advanced Pro is good enough to race the RAS on, and if you crashed you wouldn’t need a second mortgage to get back on the road.