In January I happened to be staying in the same hotel as the Giant Alpecin team at their now infamous Calpe training camp. The riders and bikes took a severe battering in a very serious altercation with a car and I managed to get an up close look into the internals of Giants range topping TCR Advanced SL 0 in the back of their team truck after the crash. It looked just as strong and well finished inside as out. But what would it ride like? There is only one way to find out.
In April, Will from the Cork Giant Store called to say that my next long term test bike had arrived. Less than 24 hours later I picked up the TCR Advanced SL 0 and was already looking forward to the maiden voyage.
The bike looked fast. It looked stiff and it looked understatedly exotic. The bulky bottom bracket area and the chunky headtube gave an impression of what the bike might ride like. The thin seat stays and integrated seat tube suggested that comfort would be a possibility. The Giant SLR 0 wheelset looked sleek and aero. Like all bike riders it was the lift test that mattered most during that initial inspection. It felt light. My little finger could actually lift it. My 8 year old daughter could lift it with one hand. It passed the lightness test at 6.44kg in size Large.
One of my first rides was slightly different to normal. The first rides are when differences are most noticeable. I was training for a 1 day Mizen to Malin so shortly after I collected the bike I headed off for a ride of 25okm.
The first impressions were as follows;
- Stiffness – Riding along at an average of around 30kph was very easy on the flat. The bike just floated along. But it was on those short drags where you normally drop down a gear that the stiffness of this bike came into play. Where normally I would reach for the STI lever (OR Di2 in this case) I just squeezed slightly on the pedals and the bike maintained the same speed even though the gradient had changed. It didn’t feel like I was using any extra energy in doing so.
- Handling – Point the bike in any direction at any speed and it went exactly where you wanted it to go. The handling was razor sharp without being jittery. There was no breaking in period where I had to get used to the bike. It felt free and natural right from the very start.
- Comfort – A bike this stiff and responsive would normally leave you with an achy body after being rattled and rolled on the mini roubaix tar and chippings that separate the pot holes on many Irish roads. After 8 hours plus on my first spin on this bike I felt fine. Practically able to do a bit of a riverdance when I dismounted, if only I knew how to dance.
As the weeks went on and training spins hit figures north of 300k I got to know the bike pretty well. The Shimano Dura Ace Di2 was sublime as can be expected. The Giant brand wheels were every bit as stiff and responsive as any four letter word that begins with Z and ends in P. The braking was good in wet or dry, for carbon wheels. Giants own brand grey pads worked well. I wondered if it was a marketing gimic and fitted a set of Swiss Stop to compare and discovered that Giants own brand carbon brake pads really do work significantly better than other brands with these carbon rims. However, I still prefer the predictability of Aluminimum rims in the wet.
One day we rode from Mizen Head to Malin Head in 21 hours. The bike is a racing thoroughbred designed for sharp attacks and long sprints. Bikes designed for trips of 595k plus tend to have relaxed geometry and clearance for mudguards and a nice big carrier. How would the TCR perform in a task equivalent to hitching a caravan to a racehorse?
In a single word – Sublimely.
Taking on all of the different types of road surfaces, terrain and obstacles that Ireland has to offer, the TCR took everything in it’s stride. After 595k I was not quiet as fresh as I had been that first day when we did 250k but that had nothing to do with the bike. The plan had been to do the 595k in just under 24 hours but we managed it in under 21. A certain amount of my ability to do that I would have to credit to the steed at my disposal.
I also tested the bike regularly on my one hour training spin up Tickincor, Powers the Pot and home. With a 36 inside ring the stiffness of the frame mede it feel like a 34. Descending at speed was a thrilling pleasure with 80kph plus a regular appearance on the Garmin screen. The bike never once felt twitchy and I never felt that I was on the edge of what it could take around corners.
The Giant TCR Advanced SL O is the brands flagship model. It is the main bike of choice of the Giant Alpecin Pro team riders. It is a ‘SuperBike’. If it had an Italian flag next to its brand sticker there would be an extra €2000 on the price tag. There are very few if any better bikes than this in production at present.
If you want more techy info you can find it here : https://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-ie/bikes/model/tcr.advanced.sl.0/25079/90669/#overview