If you like your bikes punchy and aggressive, then you’ll find few better allies for your biking brawls than the outstandingly muscular and accurate Giant TCR Advanced SL 4.
Ride & handling: Outstandingly accurate, responsive and secure handling
OverDrive 2, as featured on the TCR Advanced SL 4, isn’t just marketing guff. There’s a definite extra element of stiffness that courses through the front of the bike, from fork tip to cockpit.
Glue that to the ground with the softer-compound front tyre and the Advanced SL is a cornering assassin. It will pick off apexes and drill between potholes or debris with unerring accuracy, and it turns every twisty road and normally doubt-strewn descent into a pinpoint-precise playground.
The short wheelbase of our medium sample (relative to its cockpit length) kept it dynamic and responsive despite staying inspiringly stable well past what would be sphincter-twitching speeds on other bikes.
If gravity isn’t around to propel you into the corners fast enough for anyone following to soil themselves, then the SL 4 certainly isn’t short on self-motivation either. The Giant wheel system is light and tightly laced to boot, so takes little effort to light up.
The massive MegaDrive down tube and bottom bracket combo doesn’t waste any wattage between your ass and the asphalt, and the broad top tube and oversize front end mean you can use your top half to add some extra cross-braced power to proceedings without the bike wilting or whipping round underneath you either.
Factor in the low bike weight and, even with its full-size chainrings, the Giant isn’t afraid of any angle or length of gradient. It’s definitely got a ‘stand up’ rather than ‘gear down’ mentality. That attitude rapidly became an infectious mood setter for every ride.
Once up to speed, the SL 4 holds onto it with ease, the aero seat tube and post presumably helping to offset the blunt face of the down tube. There’s more than enough muscle in the mainframe to handle aero wheels if you’re after a more sustained speed advantage, and the short head tube means you can get a usefully low position with clip-on extensions.
What’s perhaps most surprising is that the Giant delivers all of this super-accurate, max-power-proof performance without beating seven shades out of you. It’s no magic carpet ride, and it’s noticeably stiffer than some other bikes when you hit rough road surfaces or unavoidable potholes. But we’d categorise its ride quality as firm but fair, and the occasional bit of rough road punishment is a trade-off we’d be happy to make.
If you like the sound of the SL 4 but can afford to lash more cash on marginal gains, the integrated seatmast design of the 0, 1 and 2 models is smoother as well as lighter.
Frame & equipment: Smooth Shimano and quality own-brand kit
The Giant wears its high-volume, high-performance heart on its structural sleeve. The Advanced SL tag refers to the top-quality Toray T800 carbon fibre it’s made from, which is used in sheets that Giant create in-house. This gives the company unique quality control.
Seriously oversized tubing maximises the mechanical advantages of thin walls, light weight and high stiffness. The OverDrive 2 head tube, with its reinforced ‘cheeks’, uses a larger-than-average top bearing, fork steerer and stem (the steerer tapers from 1.5in to 1.25in instead of the standard 1.125in) to extend the precision gains to the front end of the bike too.
An aero profile seat tube is topped with a twin-bolt clamp for a conventional seatpost. This is much more practical in terms of resale potential than the fixed mast design of the SL 0, 1 and 2 models.
The frame comes with integrated ANT+ cadence and speed sensors for ziptie-free computer setup
There are some slight niggles, though. Even accounting for the ANT+ speed and cadence sensor in the chainstay, the Giant frame is relatively heavy. There are only five sizes to choose from, too. Finally, large loops of cable sprouting from the internal routing threaten to scuff away unprotected paint.
We’ve no complaints about the kit, though, with Shimano’s Ultegra gears and brakes providing carthorse reliability and thoroughbred performance. A full-size, max-speed 53/39-tooth chainset is specced rather than a compact.
The own-brand cockpit kit, quality tyres and DT Swiss based wheels compare favourably with gear on some other bikes at this price too. Deft component design/selection is even enough to turn the high frame weight into a fairly light complete bike despite the oversize front end.