Built for going anaerobic in the slop, Giant's TCX Advanced Pro 1 cyclocross bike boasts a composite frame, thru-axles front and rear, Schwalbe tubeless tires and a 1x11 Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain.
A brilliant ride
Typically, fast, responsive bikes make you pay the price when the road or course is anything but smooth. The TCX Advanced Pro 1 manages to pull off the elusive combination of speed with a ride that subdues the bumps and hits. It was quite interesting feeling the quickness and acceleration of the TCX, but then not feeling the jarring. The D-shaped D-Fuse SL seatpost made me a believer. Tricky seatpost, carbon layup, or forgiving seatstays, the TCX did an admirable job of muting the buzz, rounding the edges off hits and even keeping the wheels tracking.
This ride quality encouraged going into corners a bit hotter, and leaning harder especially since the frame stiffness was up to the task. The previous year's European-inspired geometry remains, which may suit some riders better than others. If you're used to modern mountain bikes with low, corner-carving bottom bracket heights, you might feel like you're on a ladder. But if your typical 'cross course finds its technicality in its mud and slop and less in the twisties, then you'll be in heaven.
The unique OverDrive 2 stem and steerer are definitely stiff. It's noticeable, but likely unnecessary given the challenge that is finding or swapping the proprietary 1 1/4in stem, especially if you want something without the Giant brand on it.
Unless you have the means, and by that I mean money, you really shouldn't test ride a Shimano electronic Di2 drivetrain. It's simply perfect and quickly addictive. The shifting speed, the accuracy, the effortlessness makes a regular cabled system feel downright archaic. The same can be said for hydraulic disc brakes. They're completely brilliant, and make so much sense for cyclocross with its challenging courses and conditions.
Outside of the tape, I also liked that while the TCX Advanced is a focused race bike without any fender or rack mounts that it still features two bottle cage mounts. Having this option opens up the potential for longer rides, something that could easily be done on a bike this capable and comfortable.
A few interesting specs
There were a couple things that had me wondering about the TCX. First was the 1x drivetrain. My curiosity wasn't about the gearing but rather the inclusion of the front Di2 shifter. While Shimano doesn't currently offer a front hydraulic brake-only lever the way SRAM does, here you are effectively paying for something you don't need or get to use. I do acknowledge that you could throw a front derailleur and second ring on the bike, so I guess it's good to have options. But unlike SRAM's Force CX1 drivetrain that has a clutch derailleur to keep the chain taut, here you just have a normal Di2 derailleur, so chainslap is the same as a regular bike.
The next head scratcher was the front brake hydraulic hose routing. Two zip tie attachments are on the fork but the upper one was much too high in my opinion, placing the hose in a precarious position when routed inside the fork leg. I worked it out, but better options exist.
The tubeless valves that were sent with the bike didn't work with the Giant rims. The valves' lock nut threading stopped too soon so snugging the valve tight was impossible. I did add a little spacer and was able to get a secure fit but the Schwalbe tire simply did not want to air up on the CXR-1 rim. I tried a regular floor pump, a high-volume floor pump and even a compressor with 100psi blasting — to no avail. The Schwalbe tires say "Tubeless Easy" but it was basically the opposite in my experience with these wheels.
The final curiosity came down to the 140mm disc rotors. While not a negative per se, the size makes sense on the rear, the weight savings over a more common 160mm rotor up front is lost on me. That said, speeds aren't that fast in 'cross, and a disc brake's power will likely overcome the tire's contact patch. However, I do wonder if any modulation is sacrificed by the smaller rotor not running as cool as a bigger disc.
Giant's TCX Advanced Pro 1 has the goods where it counts, and that's in the ride. That said, there are a few little quibbles that had me scratching my head. Are any of them deal breakers? No, especially if all that matters to you is embrocation, muddy conditions and going as fast as possible in what for many people is the off-season.