Nowadays road bikes come in all shapes and sizes. Giant were the first manufacturer to introduce sloping top tubes. Initially people thought they looked weird compared to the horizontal top tubed steel frames that everyone was used to. However nowadays the vast majority of road bikes have sloping top tubes, they are the norm and look great.
Disc brakes have been around on road bikes for a relatively short time now and they have been mainly focused on sportive riders as opposed to racing cyclists. With Tom Boonen having recently won the first ever race where a disc brake equipped bike was first across the line it won’t be long until they become more and more popular. The TCR Advanced Pro disc is well poised to be at the forefront of that charge.
The bike is hard to miss in a crowd. The subtle charcoal black accentuates the luminous fluorescent orange. Whilst not for those seeking anonymity the bright colour does make it stand out on the road and more visible to motorists which can only be a good thing.
The Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset compliments the hydraulic disc brakes perfectly and along with the tubeless Giant Gavia tyres really make this bike future proof. It has all of the latest technology and in ten years time will probably still be current.
So what is it like to ride?
On main roads with a tailwind clicking up through the crisp Di2 gears as you rise out of the saddle there is a smooth acceleration that you would expect of a bike of this calibre. When you press down on the pedals it responds immediately, not in a manner that would give you an inkling that you might just take Sam Bennett in a sprint but in a manner that makes you confident that if an attack goes you could hop onto it immediately without loosing any ground whatsoever.
On short climbs it is again nice and responsive and you never feel as though an ounce of energy is being wasted. Try reving up in a low gear and it goes and goes, whilst out of the saddle efforts in the big ring are rewarded with a satisfying feeling that no matter how much effort you put in nothing is wasted.
The stiffness of a frame is very important not just for responsiveness but for handling too. If there is any flex in a frame or fork when cornering the bike can feel spongy and a little unstable. When the mix is right you can descend and corner as though you are on train tracks. The TCR Advanced Pro Disc has this spot on. On one of my first spins on the bike I went hard down Tickincor. The road was damp and the wind was against me. I constantly had the feeling that no matter how hard I pushed the bike could take more. I never felt that I was going close to the limit but still ended up with a very fast time. The bike just seems to flow beneath you.
Disc brakes are a little like a bowl of porridge. You know deep down that it is the best thing for you in the morning but you are used to weetabix and all your friends eat weetabix and you like the look of the yellow box so you really don’t want to change.
Hands down, without a shadow of a doubt, Disc brakes are better. Some say they are dangerous and can cut you, but a chainring can do more damage, and mountain bikers fall off more than roadies and the safety of disc brakes never seems to be an issue for them. Some say that they lack the feel of caliper brakes. What they lack is the feeling of no brakes when you try braking on carbon rims in the wet. With a little practice you can feather them just the same as you would caliper brakes so the lack of feel or feedback argument is a non runner.
Another advantage of disc brakes is that no matter how much descending you do in a day your arms never get tired. I have descended over 9200 meters in a single day without a single ache in my forearms whilst using disc brakes, but if you ask anyone who has ridden a Marmotte or similar event they will tell you all about the forearm pain from braking experienced when relying on normal caliper brakes.
The downsides of disc brakes are that they are slightly heavier and they are more awkward to change if you get a puncture in a race. They can also squeal if the pads or disc rotor get contaminated with grime from the road or salt during the winter. They can heat up when braking hard on a long descent but once you remember not to be sticking your finger in them they are fine.
I got caught out in a bit of a blizzard one day and descended an 11k descent in snow and a little ice on the TCR advanced Pro Disc and was very thankful for the control that the disc brakes gave me. It would have been a lot more risky with caliper brakes and I probably would have walked parts of it if it were not for the disc brakes that allowed me to perfectly control my speed in the most testing of conditions.
This bike also has bolt through axles. Whilst they take a few seconds longer to remove than a normal quick release, they are more solid and you get no disc rub when out of the saddle.
Wheels and Tyres
It is often said that the biggest change you can make to a bike is to upgrade the wheels. The Giant Carbon SLR wheels on the TCR are excellent. They are stiff and strong, easy to maintain and reliable. They are not super ultra light weight but they are stronger because of that. As I have been using the bike throughout the Irish winter I did have to change a rear wheel bearing which was a very simple and easy job. I was delighted to see that it was a cartridge roller bearing too.
The tyres are Giants own Gavia SLR Tubeless. I have been a fan of tubeless tyres for a while now and was happy to see them as another part of the future proof technology on the bike. They feel a lot like tubulars, slightly more comfortable than clinchers and a little more responsive but the big benefit is the puncture protection. Thorns, pieces of glass, even thumb tacks are no match for good tubeless technology. The Gavia tyres have a slightly hard compound which increases their lifespan but also slightly reduced grip in the wet.
But what happens when you do puncture a tubeless tyre? I found out on Christmas Eve whilst rushing home from a spin to help the man in the big red coat get organised. Descending hard in the rain I came around a corner to find a large pothole right on the apex. I flicked the bike and managed to avoid the hole but clipped a large piece of shale that had been dislodged. The shale was razor sharp and sliced a 20mm hole in the tyre. No tyre could have withstood its attack. I pulled over, popped out the rear wheel and removed the tyre on one side. There is a slight knack to doing this because you have to get the bead down into the centre to make it loose. Then I used a park tools tyre boot (large patch – A piece of denim or even an energy gel wrapper would work too) and inserted a spare tube. Then as normal I pumped it up and was back on my way again in under 5 minutes.
The TCR Advanced Pro Disc is a race bike with race geometry so will not offer as plush a ride as bikes aimed solely at the Sportive market. However when you compare it to other bikes which are designed for speed and performance it is a pretty comfortable option. It is the type of bike that once I set everything to my measurements I could just ride all day and not give a second thought to any adjustments. The saddle although pretty hard turned out to be pretty comfy too. I did try another softer option for a week just to be sure and was pleasantly surprised to find that the harder saddle that comes as standard with the bike was just as comfortable. It looks better too.
Posted by Thecyclingblog on Thursday, December 15, 2016
The Giant TCR Advanced Pro disc is a bike that is good enough to race at the highest levels, to ride sportives at the front end of the pack or to take on take on challenges such as a Marmotte, Etape, or Grand Fondo, now that . It is future proof and has made the most of all of the refined technology that is now available to cyclists.
How much does it cost? €4499