Giant's disc-equipped TCR promises a classic race feel with the power of disc brakes – here's how we got on with it
I’ll admit, it took me a while to become a disc brake convert. In all honesty I’ve never been a fan of the way they look on a road bike, but there’s just no denying they are, quite simply, better at braking.
Still, while better braking would be a welcome addition to anyone’s training bike, I found the early incarnations of road disc bikes that I’d ridden more endurance or all-round orientated and not quite built to a set-up you might be after to complement the race-day bike.
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So I was especially pleased to be able to get my hands on the Giant TCR Advanced Pro Disc, which promised all the great things about Giant’s seminal TCR line with outstanding braking attached.
Orange on a black composite frame. Can it get much classier? To match the colour (which is the only one currently on offer), this frame lived up to the hype.
Giant says this version of the TCR frame is… wait for it… optimised for weight and stiffness. And while that’s what you’ll hear from every brand, this genuinely did prove to be pleasingly stiff and sufficiently light for me.
The TCR Advanced Pro Disc borrows much from the rim-brake TCR Advanced Pro frame (one below Giant’s top-tier frame), so that geometry is the same between the models with disc brakes having no effect other than the necessary changes to actually fit them in.
This means everything Giant offers on the regular TCR – OverDrive 2 head tube, internal cable routing, integrated seatpost clamp, RideSense BlueTooth/ANT+, massive Megadrive downtube, and the Powercore PressFit BB86 bottom bracket: all are here.
That also means sticking with 405mm chainstays despite the wider 135mm hub spacing at the rear. That did mean I was occasionally very close to clipping the rear quick release with my heel, particularly if I was briefly rolling standing up on the pedals with heels down, but that never really translated to a proper concern while riding. To that end, I never experienced any issues with chainline either.
The pleasing aesthetic of the TCR compact geometry is still here too, and this is definitely for those ready for a race set-up. As always with the compact nature of a TCR, if you’re tall like me you’ll likely have a hell of a lot of seatpost on show.
Let’s not waste too much time on this, as we’ve already written enough words on just how good Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 groupset is.
The bike comes shod with 52/36 front chainrings and an 11-28 cassette, pretty standard these days for versatility, and my 58cm (large) frame came with 175mm cranks.
The shifters are Shimano’s RS785 models, the best disc-specific pair available until the new Dura-Ace came around, with a nice shape and size which actually suited me better than the regular Di2 shape.
The brakes have flat-mount RS805 hydraulic callipers with 140mm RT81 Ice Tech rotors, and were pretty much faultless with supreme braking power. The 12mm thru-axles were reliable and made wheel removal easy too.
You get a Giant SL proprietary stem and handlebar, which were decent. I wasn’t a fan of the shallow drop bars that came with the bike, but it’s an easy switch. Remember that the steerer is oversized at 1 1/4, which means you’ll need to find a stem to match.
Onto the wheels, which were a major point of interest from the outset. Giant specs its own wheels on all its bikes, and this ride came with the carbon SLR Disc system. On top of that, Giant is one of the very few brands to fit its wheels with tubeless tyres straight out of the box.
Again, Giant uses its own equipment for this: Gavia SLR tyres. They claimed to be 25mm, though they definitely came up slightly narrower than that.
As a tubeless newbie, the prospect of needing an air compressor to get these tight fitting tyres inflated was a bit daunting should disaster strike. While I’ve still never succumbed to any minor punctures in 1,200km thanks to the sealant, one major blowout which ripped the sidewall off the rear tyre did leave me stranded at the side of the road and phoning home for a lift back.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed riding the wheels, and while the tyres were less convincing, they gripped and rolled well enough for many to be content to use them until they’re worn out.
Watch: What you need to know about disc brakes
On the flat, smooth tarmac this bike was as good to ride as any I’ve ridden. It felt fast, it felt nimble for a disc brake bike and it cornered exceptionally well at high speeds. It’s stiff enough that sprinting felt like you weren’t wasting too much effort.
It wasn’t quite as pleasing on the rougher roads: in one of my first ride-outs I was given a nasty jarring shock after hitting a small hole having come from riding a much more forgiving bike beforehand. However, this was greatly improved with a slightly wider tyre and lower pressure, and I’ve really had very little issue since.
Again, having from come from riding a bike under 7kg to this bike (8.4kg with Ultegra pedals), I did begin to feel the extra weight penalty on the longer steeper climbs. It’s also clearly a bike meant to be ridden fast and I did find it less easy to control at lower speeds, but it handled short, punchy climbs with aplomb.
Despite that, the race-orientated feel in conjunction with the disc brakes was superb. On descents I was absolutely flying and recorded some of my fastest ever speeds, dropping those with rim brakes thanks to the extra modulation and power of the discs.
Moreover the braking was extremely reassuring in the wet, and using this in traffic through Central London was much easier with the extra stopping power.
But this is a bike made for speed on the open roads, and I felt it was more than good enough to be an exceptional training bike alongside a race-day ride. And if the rules permitted, good enough for the race itself.
The bike retails at £3,799 in the UK and represents reasonable value. By comparison, Specialized’s offering with relatively comparable spec, the Tarmac Pro Disc Ultegra Di2, retails at £5,500 while likewise Canyon’s Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Di2 comes in under at £3,249.
So in that respect the TCR Advanced Pro Disc sits somewhere in the middle, but I would be satisfied with what I’m getting here for the money. There’s no corners cut here and aside from a couple of issues with the tyres this was by far one of the best disc-brake bikes I’ve ridden.
There's so much to love about the Giant TCR Advanced Pro Disc. From its superb spec straight out of the box to its race-orientated ride feel and disc-brake stopping power this was a perfect training partner for all conditions. While it can prove a bit harsh on rougher roads, an easy customisation like wider tyres will leave you wishing you could use this bike in races.