The Giant OCR AO is a spot-on sportif bike, including a taller head tube, relaxed geometry and smart low gearing with compact crankset for all-day cadence comfort. The alliance of carbon and aluminum results in a sculpted, almost Apple MacBook appearance. All appearances aside, though, because there's not as much weight savings as you might think, but the proof was in its performance.
Giant realizes that new customers are coming from other sports, including running, and pop culture plays a large role in shaping the decision making among these customers. It's easy to see that Giant's Alliance Concept (marrying a carbon spine with an aluminium underbelly) is directed at this group, because for all its multi-shaping and attention to engineered aesthetics, the effort doesn't necessarily translate on the road.
I'm accustomed to a traditional design (lowish bottom bracket, longer wheelbase, relaxed seat and head angles, generous fork rake), and appreciate the fine ride of steel, so the OCR AO was a nice litmus test for me.
Giant's ambitious effort looks ultra high-tech, but the result is fairly close to the feeling I know from my trusty Trek. I expected a much lighter Giant OCR, but realized my lugged steel Trek was lighter by a pound or two! At 20 pounds for a Medium (55cm) without pedals, the Giant, spec'd with a healthy dose of Shimano Ultegra, Race Face and Mavic, should weigh less, but does not.
I was quite pleased with the "non-whippy" feeling when descending, something I chalk up to the stiff and stout head tube junction. Giant's Formula 1 composite carbon fork blends seamlessly with the integrated headset/headtube, and the extra grams of overall weight comes from the alloy steer.
As I mentioned, an impressive mix of Shimano Ultegra (brake/shifters, 10-speed cassette and derailleurs), and Race Face (Cadence stem, bars) are offered alongside a compact Shimano R700 crankset with external bottom bracket and 105 chain.
Surprisingly, I adapted to the integrated shifters immediately (I'm very comfortable on the bike, and the shifting is very intuitive). I also immediately settled into the higher handlebar position, and after a few side-of-the-road adjustments to my saddle position, I was scooting up some of the steeper climbs in Los Altos, CA. In typical Shimano fashion, shifting was effortless and silent.
The Mavic Askium wheels, while lightweight in appearance with their 24-spoke design, house heavy steel axles inside the aluminum shells. At 920g/1060g front and rear, Giant OCR AO owners will certainly get more durability, but suffer a bit in the rotating weight department. The 21mm-wide 6061 aluminum rims are a nice touch, and the Michelin 700 x 25c Lithion tyres are just right on a bike like this. They fit because someone at Giant chose Shimano's BR650 Long Reach, Dual Pivot brake calipers. Adding mudguards would be tough, though, because of the fork crown.
Overall I had no trouble climbing, cornering, descending and accelerating, a true testimony to the smart 72.5/73 degree head/seat angles and 41.8cm chainstays. I doubt my experience would have been as positive if I tested anything other than a sportif. I thoroughly enjoyed my first modern-day bike experience. My research has also shown that at US$1,900 the OCR AO is a very competitive choice.
Giant is wise to address the growing sportif category, and the OCR AO is a step in the right direction; with a few tweaks to lighten the load, it could be a world beater as well.
© BikeRadar 2007