Giant Bicycles has been making carbon fiber bicycles for decades, and their TCR line of composite frames has been tuned and perfected for six years. For 2008, you will see the pro-level, integrated-seat-mast TCR Advance frame on Team High-Road bikes competing on the ProTour. The TCR-C1 is the most elite model of Giant’s second-tier, race-ready road bikes. The TCR line starts at $1900 and tops out with the TCR-C1 at $3100. When you look at the TCR-C1, you can instantly tell that Giant knows what they are doing with their carbon construction process. Heralded by many as the most advanced carbon bike producer in the world, Giant is the largest bike company on the globe. The TCR-C1, with its see-through graphics and carbon finish, seemed a bit understated in its simplicity. We were eager to get it on the road to see what attributes stood out.
Simple looks mask the race-ready attributes of the TCR-C1.
The TCR-C1 frame and all-carbon fork are part of Giant’s Formula One composite technology program. The frame features lugless construction through a process they call ‘Meta Composite Science,’ which begins with a bladder-molded, single-piece front triangle. The TCR-C1 frame includes aluminum sleeves in the bottom bracket, head tube cups and aluminum dropouts to add durability where high-stress components interface. The frame emerges from hand-cut pre-impregnated carbon fiber swatches (over 500), which are then laid up by hand, piece by piece, on each TCR-C1 frame mold. Smooth transitions at each tube junction, and concave seatstays to take the edge off the short, 40.5-centimeter chainstays are a nice touch. Visually, the TCR-C1 features a ghosted ‘Giant’ logo on the top tube, which melts into the visible weave of the carbon below and gives the bike an artistic, mysterious attribute.
Our 58-centimeter test bike came equipped with the new Shimano Ultegra SL group (12 to 25 cassette with standard, 39/53-tooth chainrings), Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels with Michelin Pro Race tires (which are consistently one of our favorite tires). Up top sits a Fizik Arione saddle, and a surprising and welcomed Race Face Revolution handlebar and stem, which gives the bike some personality, as does its Jagwire braided housing and cables.
Personality was added to the TCR C1 with the spec of a Race Face Revolution bar and stem and the braided Jagwire cables.
Giant builds the compact-frame TCR 1 in six men’s sizes (43, 46.5, 50, 53.5, 55.5 and 58.5 centimeters) and three geometry-adjusted women’s sizes (43, 46.5, 50.5 centimeters). Our large-sized, 58.5-centimeter TCR C1 had a comfortable, 58.5centimeter top tube (level measurement), a 73-degree head angle and 72.5-degree seat angle, short, 40.5 centimeter seatstays, and a 100.6 centimeter wheelbase. As delivered, the TCR C1 weighed 16.8 pounds without pedals.
The TCR-C1 is stiff. If you are used to a bike with a bit more flex, you will notice the sprint-ready attributes of the TCR-C1 right away. RBA test riders happily noted the TCR-C1’s attributes: stiffness, predictability, and responsiveness to heavy riding loads during flat-out sprints. After two or three rides on the TCR-C1 it was clear it is meant to be a race bike, designed for aspiring racers who want the attributes of the $6000 TCR Advanced frame, but for half the price. The Shimano Ultegra SL performed at the highest level in stressful conditions and we were satisfied with the Kysrium-wheel and Michelin-tire combination through all phases of testing-especially at speed. Cornering on the TCR-C1 was a blast, which made descending a pleasure. We liked the feel of the Race Face Revolution bars, which were comfortable, both in the drops and on the hoods, when we needed to sit up and recover.
Aspiring racers and aggressive club riders are the stuff of the Giant TCR-C1. It has the stiffness and agility to move a skilled rider a few wheels up in the peloton, but those same attributes may prove a bit much for an in-the-saddle, all-day cyclist. Our lone dissenting test rider felt its frame was too stiff and noted some body fatigue and a slight lack of stability in its steering. Beyond the Giant’s superbly constructed frame, we liked its better-than-the-norm treatments, like the Fizik saddle, its Race Face bar and the Jagwire control cables, which help the Giant stand out from competitors at this price point. The TCR-C1 is a true racing machine from one of the world’s most experienced carbon bike makers.
Weight: 16.8 pounds