The TCX 2 is Giant’s entry-level cyclo-cross bike and at £750 it appears to be something of a bargain. On closer inspection there are a few compromises tucked away in the spec sheet, but this usually allows manufacturers to lavish plenty of dollars on the frame.
The same chassis is available as a frame-only option or with a flashier build kit for double the money. We may be testing the budget version here, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on the fun.
Ride & handling: Provides flashes of brilliance, without you getting too carried away
Out on the hills the TCX 2 proved to be a thoroughly amiable trail companion. Though it’s got sharp, race-ready geometry, it handles predictably and was content enough to be pointed down steps and steeps without a wiggle. It taps along on the flat happily too, with the fast-rolling tyres suffering none of the buzz and rumble that more open treads inflict.
The frame is simply top notch and great to see at this price, and though none of the spec compromises will actually hinder riding, you’ll find the ride will be markedly different once you start climbing the upgrade ladder.
The wheel package is nothing to write home about, with an average weight and stiffness, so you’ll need to raid the piggy bank for posh wheels and finishing kit if you decide ’cross is your thing. You’ll also need to replace the drivechain, as it wears out with lighter components and more functional shifters.
However, until you can afford to upgrade, dip your toes into the rough stuff on a bike which won’t stint on flashes of brilliance, but won’t allow you to get too carried away, either.
Chassis: Nicely detailed frame revels in power, but chunky aluminium fork is rather harsh
Giant’s AluxX manufacturing process uses plenty of hydroforming to produce a distinctive and functional frame. With top and down tubes squared off and a chunky lared head tube, it’s not a bike for classicists, but every flattened profile and taper is there for a reason.
Stamp on the pedals and you’ll soon discover those funky tube profiles make for a stiff frame that transfers power from leg to motion with little diversion and accommodates terrain of all types well.
It’s a lovely bike to shoulder, too, thanks to the scooped, flattened underside of the top tube and cables which are well out of the way on top. Unusually, the front mech cable is top tube mounted to keep it clear of mud beneath the bottom bracket. Although the pulley is covered, it’s still vulnerable to drag caused by corrosion and dirt.
The TCX fork is a substantial slice of aluminium and it doesn’t do as good a job of nullifying trail noise from the front end as a good carbon one would, though it tracks well. A semi-integrated headset makes for clean looks and offers the opportunity to run a low front end, should you be after a stretched-out riding position.
Equipment: Budget-friendly finishing kit is unflattering to the frame
The glitzy silver FSA Tempo crankset keeps up appearances but is spinning on a sneaky square taper bottom bracket; compromises have been made to allow the quality frame. You can always upgrade the chainset and bottom bracket at a later date, but we did miss the directness of a two-piece crank system.
Kenda’s Small Block Eight tyres in their 700c guise were universally loved by those who rode the TCX 2 on our rocky, gritty test rides. Minimal rolling resistance on Tarmac turns into slug-like grip off-road and they dispatch deep, wet slop sections with a minimum of fishtailing.
It’s the sort of tyre which shouldn’t work but somehow it does, and we suspect they’d be equally flattering to any other frame. They don’t clear sticky mud well though, so if your local conditions involve clay or chalk you’ll want to switch to something with a more open tread pattern pretty sharpish.
Sora STI shifters are functional but cheap, and we found that we couldn’t reach the down shift tabs while in the drops, making flat-out sprinting a ‘hit it and hope’ affair. Otherwise the nine-speed drivechain handled power flawlessly.
Tektro’s high-clearance cantilever brakes ditched the power equally well, with plenty of well-modulated braking power. The 44cm bars meant that the crosstop levers were actually useable without cramping the cockpit, too.