Giant TCR Advanced 4 £1650

Advanced by name, advanced by nature

BikeRadar score 4/5

Even allowing for their massive carbon fibre construction experience, Giant have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the Advanced. It rides with a purpose that other road bikes at this price just can't match, and delivers a killer punch while dancing over road damage as though it isn't there.

Ride & handling: Outstanding balance in dramatic power supply and long-haul comfort

We don’t generally expect sub-£2,000 bikes to blow us away. We expect them to be ‘enjoyably competent’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘show excellent potential’. As soon as you’re aboard the Giant, though, you’re clearly riding something in a different performance league to other bikes at this price.

The massive head tube and down tube create an obedient spine and laser-accurate steering. The Advanced also has a lot slacker, more naturally stable seat tube than Giant's own Defy ‘distance’ bikes and most other machines at this price.

That means you’ll be happy sitting up no-handed, adjusting zips or changing iPod playlists within the first few hundred metres. That's useful, because appropriate audio choices are likely to shift from R&B to drum'n'bass as soon as you put the power down.

However cheesy it sounds, the ‘Power Core’ bottom bracket and big stays are so solid the Giant was genuinely spinning the bigger chainrings as easily as we worked the compacts on other bikes our team were testing at the same time.

Despite frameset and wheel weights that are comparable with other bikes at this price (3.48lb/1,580g and 6.96lb/3,160g respectively), it never hesitated to give them a serious lesson in acceleration launch and rapid altitude gain on group rides.

The tight rear end and rearward rider position requires a bit more thought on wet twisty descents at first, as the front end can feel light, and we slid it a couple of times early on. But get your knee forward and down and it rails round as resolutely as any of the others.

All of this would still be impressive if there was a trade-off in comfort, but the outstanding thing about the Advanced is that it's so compliant that you'll feel like you're floating no matter how long you're on the bike.

Staccato braking bumps or juddering ribbed sections on climbs won't trouble you unduly, and only the worst thumps and potholes disturbed our composure. The Giant's combination of great kit, comfort and power make it an outstanding all-rounder.

Chassis: Quality frame, but relatively cheap fork comes with a weight penalty

The fact that the ‘standard’ Advanced frameset (with full-carbon fork, headset and seatpost) costs £1,500 on its own shows the quality you’re dealing with straight away. It’s bang up-to-date too, with the bulged OverDrive head tube also using 1.5in bottom and 1.125in top bearings for added stiffness.

The matching alloy steerer fork that appears on models right down to the £600 Giant Defy 3 is heavy (1.1lb/500g) though, which increases overall chassis weight. The big bulbous head tube leads into a similarly blown up top tube, and massive squared off down tube.

The Giant has a semi-aero element with its aero seat tube and matching seatpost, and it even gets a wheel cutout to keep the back end short, despite the relaxed seat angle. While the PowerCore bottom bracket area provides a big block of stiffness, the tapering rear stays are only midsized, with skinny triangular wishbone seatstays heading up from neat cowled dropouts.

Other details include red anodised replaceable gear hangers front and rear, a two-bolt seat clamp and twin bottle cages. Gear cable guides on the head tube side stop paint wear. In terms of sizing, Giant were the first major manufacturer to use the now default ‘compact’ frame layout and roll out the Advanced in five sizes to fit most riders.

Equipment: Full Shimano 105 and quality own-brand kit

A few bits of Shimano 105 gear is the default choice at this price, but despite the high frame cost, Giant fit a full suite of 105. The full-size chainrings and small cassette mean a tough lowest gear if you live or ride somewhere hilly, but if any bike can handle it, the Giant can.

105 brakes feel better than Tiagra too, although they’re still gagging for a proper metal-backed brakepad to beef up bite. Carbon headset spacers and red anodised headset top cap are a cosmetic bonus, while gear adjusters next to the levers make it easy to fine-tune your gears.

Giant’s new range of Connect SL cockpit kit is well-shaped and satisfyingly stiff, and the teardrop seat tube syncs nicely with the frame via a deep twin bolt clamp. Ride quality and reliability of the wheels has received a much-needed boost thanks to Sapim spokes and tighter overall build.

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