Giant's flagship TCR Advanced SL is one of the very best superbikes available so we were intrigued to find out how the standard TCR Advanced compares. Its seatpost mirrors the aero shape of the SL but is adjustable, rather than a mast, and while the carbon used is high grade, it isn't the SL’s super-light specification.
That’s not to say the Advanced 3 is in any way a hefty machine. With its full Shimano 105 groupset and Giant’s own P-SL1 wheelset, it tips the scales at just 8kg (17.6lb) in our large test size. As soon as you get on board, it’s the same familiar feeling as on the SL. The geometry and overall dimensions are the same, so the ride character is pretty much unchanged.
The Giant has a wonderfully balanced flow, equally at home being hammered on out-of-the saddle sprints as it is on low-cadence punishing climbs. Point the TCR into a downhill littered with technical corners and you’ll find a bike that responds instantly. It has an on-rails feel that allows you to take the fastest line every time. This bike revels in speed and you’ll find yourself taking more and more confidence into every situation.
Of course, a frame of this calibre costs, so you’d anticipate some compromises elsewhere in the spec. The 105 groupset could be considered one of them; a smattering of Ultegra or its equivalent might be expected on a bike a pound shy of £2,000. Even so, while 105 may carry a few extra grams, in terms of shifting and braking performance it’s Ultegra’s equal in every sense.
Where previous Giants have fallen down is in the wheels; they’ve tended to be a few grades lower than the impressive chassis, and not quite on a par with the competition. But for 2012, Giant have launched a wheel line, WheelSystem. The P-SL1 is the enthusiast level offering, equivalent to Shimano R500s or Fulcrum Racing 5s, and they’ve got a lot going on to prove themselves in this company.
The hubs are by DT Swiss, with the front featuring a minimal, flangeless design that helps reduce weight and the rear having the same spoke fitting system and excellent sealing. They also use DT Aero spokes: 18 for the front and 24 on the back. The double-walled rim keeps the P-SL1s nice and stiff despite the minimal spoking, and the all-up weight of 1,775g a pair is competitive. The TCR could well benefit from a wheel upgrade further down the line (as with most sub-£2,000 bikes) but you’ll want to keep hold of the P-SL1s – you’d be pushed to find better set of hardwearing, well-built training wheels.
Rather than opting for a fashionable compact gearing, Giant have chosen an almost standard setup, with a 52/39-tooth chainset matched to a 12x25t cassette. We found the range ample for climbs, but would have preferred an 11t out back or 53t up front, as the Advanced 3’s speed potential on descents is only limited by the gearing – such is the confidence in its ride.
We’re also pleased that Giant have included the Ride Sense sensor from the SL. Integrated into the rear chainstay, it’s ANT+ compatible and sends wheel speed and cadence information. That’s a great addition if you’ve a compatible computer or GPS unit, and also means you can use it for turbo training, as it’s reading from the rear wheel.
The Advanced 3, like most of Giant’s range, doesn’t scream ‘look at me’. Instead, the understated graphics and clean finish hide a technically accomplished chassis and a quality of ride that make it simply one of the most exciting race-ready bikes around.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2012 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 260, on sale Friday 2 March.