By Neil Shirley
In what’s turning out to be a very busy month of pre-Tour de France bike launches across the globe, Giant added their name to the list by releasing the latest TCR, a bike that targets those riders wanting all-around performance, namely in the hills. On the Balearic island of Mallorca, a renowned wintertime playground for the pros, we logged two days of riding on the TCR Advanced SL, which was equipped with new SLR 0 tubeless carbon wheels and a Dynamic Cycling Fit saddle.
WEIGHT IS ONLY HALF THE STORY
After a number of aero-road bike presentations recently, we’ve heard a lot about improved efficiency through better aerodynamics, so it was a change to hear about good old-fashioned gram shaving and high stiffness of the TCR. Giant describes the TCR as the General Classification, or “total race bike” that heavily prioritizes its ability in the mountains, both going up and down them. Giant’s Andrew Juskaitis told us, “Making a stiff bike is easy to do. Making a light bike is easy to do. The magic is in maximizing the stiffness-to-weight ratio, that’s a much harder thing to do.”
By Giant’s calculations, they’ve succeeded in reaching their performance goal of giving the TCR Advanced SL the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio on the market after shaving 181 grams of weight out of the frame and 30 grams from the fork while maintaining the stiffness of the previous version. Giant say’s they’ve been able to refine the construction process to make this possible because they control everything that goes into the frame, from the actual raw composite production, to frame engineering, all the way down to the final construction. Most companies can claim only one of these three steps.
“Trimming the fat” is how Giant’s Global On-Road Lead Designer Erik Klemm describes the layup of the new frame: “We paid attention to every surface and transition in order to reduce the sharp edges that create a reservoir where extra material has to be used,” he added. Part of this included slight reductions in tube volume throughout the bike, with the exception being the downtube.
Another place where Giant found weight savings and actually improved compliance was from the integrated seatmast called Variant, which is a combination between the ultra-compliant D-Fuse used on Defy endurance bike, and the much-stiffer Vector found on the previous TCR and Propel aero-road bike. The new Variant design sheds 30 grams in weight and is aimed to soften up the ride at the same time. Although only the TCR Advanced SL uses an integrated seatmast, the other TCR models use a standard seatpost with the Variant design. In total, our TCR Advanced SL 0 with Dura-Ace Di2 and Giant’s SLR 0 30mm wheels weighed right at the 13.5-pound range.
The TCR will come in three frame levels that differ in the composite material used, while sharing the same features (other than the integrated seatmast used on the Advanced SL). Something that was noticeably absent from the TCR line was disc brakes, and when asked about this Klemm told us, “Since the TCR is a race bike we felt that until disc brakes are legal for racing we would wait to offer that option.”
Advanced SL 0: $9,000
Advanced SL 1: $5,900
Advanced SL 2: $4,100
Advanced Pro 0: $5,500
Advanced Pro 1: $3,500
Advanced 1: $2,500
Advanced 2: $2,000
Advanced 3: $1,700
THE PLAYGROUND OF THE PROS
Over the past decade Mallorca has become the preferred training grounds for a large number of pro riders and a destination for winter team camps because of the islands minimal traffic, warm weather and vast assortment of climbs. In two days we were able to log 110 miles with 13,000 feet of climbing on the TCR Advanced SL in the type terrain it was designed to excel.
Between its sub-14 pound weight and impressive pedaling stiffness, the TCR had the snappy feel that only a lightweight race machine possesses. Extended out-of-the-saddle climbing was really our preferred method of climbing, as long as the legs and lungs held up, that is. A high level of torsional rigidity made it feel like if you weren’t pulling the handlebars side to side as leverage for each pedal stroke you were wasting potential speed. That same torsional rigidity allowed the TCR to instill confidence on the way down knowing that whatever line you set up for going into the corner the bike would keep you true to the target.
Even though Giant says that the new Variant post design is an improvement in compliance, our time on the endurance-oriented Defy was still fresh in mind and we had hoped for a ride closer in line with that. Granted, the TCR is every bit a professional level race bike and is tailored to those needs, but we don’t feel that providing a bit more deflection of bumps before they make their way to the saddle would be a hindrance, even to the pro racers. Our preference would be to swap out the stock 23mm tires to a 25mm width, which would be a good step in the right direction in helping with this.
FANCIER CARBON HOOPS
In conjunction with the TCR, Giant also showed off four new full-carbon, tubeless-compatible clincher wheels under the SLR 0 and SLR 1 names. Both models come in depth options of 55mm and 30mm, and only differ in the hubs and spokes that are used. The carbon rims are made in Giant’s own factory and will be available aftermarket in addition to being original equipment on a number of the bikes in the line.
SLR 0, 30mm depth: $2,300, 1335 grams
SLR 0, 55mm depth: $2,300, 1535 grams
SLR 1, 30mm depth: $1,300, 1425 grams
SLR 1, 55mm depth: $1,300, 1700 grams
SADDLE UP WITH DYNAMIC CYCLING FIT
Giant is arming their dealers with the Dynamic Cycling Fit saddle that helps determine which of three new saddles is the ideal one for the rider. Coming in Forward, Neutral, and Upright models, the new saddle line is designed to provide the skeletal support where it’s needed to reduce pressure on soft tissue. In a seven-step, 10-minute process at the dealer, the rider pedals on a trainer so that a pressure map can be created. From there, the correct saddle is determined. Two versions are available, the Contact SLR with carbon rails for $225, and the metal rail Contact SL at $110.