While a lot of the bikes we test have comparatively short back stories, the same can't be said of Giant’s TCR. The SL2 is one of the latest incarnations of a bike celebrating its 18th birthday this year – Giant’s original ‘Total Compact Road’ having changed the face of cycling back in 1995 when they introduced the radically sloping top tube design to the wider world.
Unlike a lot of bikes at this price – but like the original TCR – the SL2 has a lightweight aluminum frame, albeit now one with nearly two decades of development behind it, in an effort to create a race-ready bike for the price-conscious rider. It also comes in five sizes, Giant having discarded their three-sizes-fit-all concept years ago. But has eschewing carbon fiber in favor of aluminum been successful?
In short, yes. Jump on the TCR SL2 and you immediately forget that it is relatively inexpensive. The 73-degree head and 72.5-degree seat angles are common to Giant’s higher-end race frames, and contribute to a sprightly ride that’s responsive without feeling twitchy, helped by our large frame’s quite long 100.6cm wheelbase.
The ALUXX SL chassis is an object lesson in creating a lightweight aluminium frame, and at just 1,050g it's lighter – and has arguably more development behind it – than virtually all carbon frames at this price. It features Giant’s OverDrive head tube, tapered from 1-1/8 to 1-1/4in, to increase front end torsional stiffness. An 86mm wide Powercore oversized press-fit bottom bracket continues this theme, adding stiffness to the frame in this all-important area.
Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs provide slick, reliable shifting and comfortable hoods. Giant have trimmed component costs elsewhere by speccing R561 callipers, an R565 compact chainset and a 12-28t Tiagra cassette. The latter will appeal to the more all-round rider, though the more competitively inclined may not find it quite aggressive enough, especially as the TCR pushes you to ride aggressively
Giant’s P-R2 wheels have been designed with DT Swiss engineers, and feature top-notch internals and decent weight rims. The resulting wheelset – paired with Giant’s P-SLR 1 tires – balances stiffness and comfort. The tyres have a reasonably supple carcass, the softer compound front offering very good grip in most conditions.
Once up to speed, the TCR holds its pace well, proving stable through descents, giving you the confidence to push it harder. Out-of-the-saddle acceleration is sharp, with little flex evident, especially from the front end. And in spite of having a very tight rear triangle – complete with a cutaway in the seat tube for the rear wheel – it’s a reasonably comfortable ride too.
This is one of the great advantages of the compact frame concept – the length of the exposed carbon seatpost taking a lot of the sting out of the worst of our road surfaces. The result is a frame ideal for riders getting into cycling (save for our reservations about the cassette), those riding gran fondos or distance events, or those just looking to comfortably clock up the miles.
At this price it’s easy to get caught up in the rush to grab yourself a carbon frame, but in reality, a frame of this quality will surpass most similarly priced carbon offerings. The frame is light, well designed and comfortable, and there’s very little to fault on the component list.