Giant has launched a new iteration of its perennial all rounder: the TCR.
Now in its ninth iteration, the bike has received updates that, while maybe not the most overt, make it lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamic.
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Giant TCR: What! No dropped seatstays?!
The last four years of bike design has seen the dropped seatstay trend propelled into the mainstream. Competitor brands have gushed about the increased efficiencies that dropped stays afford. Giant however has eschewed the current trend, keeping the Giant Total Compact Road bike just that: compact.
The bike has maintained its compact frame design which features smaller triangles than those found on traditional bikes and that iconic sloping top tube.
It’s a decision that certainly leaves Giant at odds with other major bike brands such as Specialized and Cannondale, all of whom have dropped stays on their most recent iterations.
When I asked Giant about its decision to buck contemporary bike design it simply pointed to the TCR’s iconic heritage – it was first developed in 1995 – and its undeniable success over the years. It was also keen to stress that, in the brand’s opinion, there’s so much aerodynamic turbulence from a rider’s legs that dropped stays offer a negligible benefit.
Besides, Giant says it has been able to maximise efficiencies whilst staying within the bike’s current design.
Giant TCR: A three pronged development
The bulk of Giant’s focus fell on three key areas: advancing its aerodynamics, increasing the bike’s efficiency and improving the ride quality.
Much of Giant’s R&D time was spent giving the bike a huge aerodynamic face lift without a radical design change.
It’s a claimed seven to eight watts faster than the old model when tested at 40kph with a dynamic mannequin. Giant’s testing procedure included from -15 to +15 yaw angles as well as testing the bike with both bottles and cages. Giant claims that the TCR is now around equal in performance to the Specialized S-Works Tarmac and the Cervelo R5, and significantly faster than the Trek Emonda.
These gains were made in re-shaping the tubing. The new TCR has truncated ellipse tubing shapes which have flat backs – a learning from the Giant Propel. According to Giant, the biggest savings are in the flat back forks and head tube area, although increases in the down tube size also bolstered stiffness as did the oversized bottom bracket.
The brand also asserts that steering stiffness has been increased by 35 per cent thanks to a re-designed Overdrive 2 steerer tube and fork. The new fork further optimises the aerodynamics and – as an added bonus – can now accommodate 32mm tyres on disc brake bikes.
The bike’s weight has been dropped, with Giant saying that it has taken 140g out of the frame, saving 65g in paint weight alone. Its ThinLine finishing technology allowed it to cut the number of paint layers from eight to just three.
A new, more accurate lazer cutting tool meant that tolerances could be reduced in the build process. The use of a new robotic layup assembly in the most weight conscious areas of the frame allowed Giant to be ultra precise in its placement of 150 smaller swatches of carbon, decreasing weight further.
According to Giant, a size medium frame is 105g lighter than a Specialized S-Works Tarmac, 322g lighter than the Cervélo R5 but 17g heavier than the Trek Emonda.
Giant was also keen to boast that it’s a ‘start to finish’ manufacturer. This means it doesn’t have to import carbon sheets because it can make them in-house. The carbon sheets utilised for the TCR are a higher modulous carbon fibre, allowing them to be stiffer and have a lower weight.
The top end TCR advanced SL Disc series still features the integrated seat post design that has to be cut to the riders height, although the bikes ship with two different length seat clamps for added re-sell value.
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Giant TCR: New finishing kit
Cadex, Giant’s sister company, provides wheels for the top end TCR Advanced SL Disc and rim versions. The 42mm wheels have a new carbon composite wheel system and now have a 19mm hookless rim (a rim only compatible with a tubeless tyre) which is a jump from 17mm on the previous models.
Giant said that the benefits of going hookless – namely a slimmer profile and a lower weight – outweigh the disadvantages of only being useable with a tubeless tyre. Remember that Giant has been one of the biggest proponents of tubeless tech, with all of its carbon models shipping setup and ready to go.
In its development Giant found that wheel tension when pedalling was a big issue, so the new Cadex wheels feature crossed spokes of different lengths and tensions so when pedalling the tension remains even across the board. Giant even produced the hubs in its own factory, these use steel bearings but can be upgraded to ceramic.
Other models below the top end Advanced SL Disc come with either Giant’s own SLR-1 model wheels or its RR2 wheels.
Giant TCR first ride impressions
The first thing I noticed about this bike is it’s complete lack of excess weight and its responsiveness to even the slightest input of power. I’ve got the Giant TCR Advanced SL Disc, in a size 56 and it came in at just a smidge over 7kg.
So far it hasn’t been uncomfortable, although with my test model only recently shipped, I’m yet to put serious kilometres into it in one go.
I have it set up with just one spacer underneath the handlebar, the same as I ride all my test bikes. It has a marginally lower stack than my go to S-Works Tarmac Disc, so it doesn’t feel too aggressive on the short rides I’ve done.
That fixed seatpost still gives me the jeepers. I gave Giant my saddle height, the same saddle height I’ve ridden on every bike for the last three years, but I won’t pretend that I didn’t lose sleep over the idea of messing that measurement up and taking receipt of a bike that wouldn’t fit.
The saddle height was, of course, absolutely fine but it’s good Giant ship the bike with multiple length clamps so you can add a bit back if you truly muck it up. This will be happy news for ‘micro-adjusters’ who would be keen to point out that even a swap from a firm saddle to a plush one, an old to a new saddle, can require a couple of millimetres in adjustment.
I won’t pretend that this bike ‘does it all’. It doesn’t iron out the roads like an endurance bike. It goes fast like a race bike and it feels like one, too. It’s not necessarily uncomfortable, it just has a sensation of speed. You can feel your inputs coursing through the frame and you’ll feel the bigger holes that you fail to avoid. I’ve also noticed some feedback through the new handlebar but I’ll have to put some longer kilometres into the bike to truly pass a judgement.
Giant TCR: Model overviews and price
In total there will be 10 complete bikes and three framesets, although at this time we don’t have imagery of some models or pricing for any of them.
Giant has assured us we’ll be issued with UK pricing by the May 5 when the bikes launch into the UK market. For reference, the outgoing Giant TCR 2020 models range from £1949 to £8999.
Giant TCR Advanced SL Disc frameset £2399
Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc £9499
Giant TCR Advanced SL 1 £6799
Giant TCR Advanced Pro Disc frameset £1349
Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc £4599
Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc £3599
Giant TCR Advanced Pro 2 Disc £2999
Giant TCR Advanced 1 Disc £2299
Giant TCR Advanced 2 Disc £1999
Giant TCR Advanced 3 Disc £1799
It’s also interesting to still see Giant selling rim brake bikes in a complete build, again eschewing the popular trend of only selling them as a frameset. Rim brakes bikes below.
Giant TCR Advanced SL frameset £2349
Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 £3299
Giant TCR Advanced 2 £1699