Race bikes with rim brakes are an endangered species in 2021 but there’s still a case to be made for simple, lightweight bikes that focus on riding pleasure above all.
Giant’s TCR is a legendary platform that’s won countless tests through successive generations. With full 105 and a frame that’s barely different from its superbike cousins, is it still a winner?
The TCR is a benchmark for all-rounder race bikes and the TCR Advanced 2 is the very cheapest model in the range, the latest incarnation of a relatively affordable machine that previously won our coveted Bike of the Year award back in 2018.
Prices have crept up since then, but it remains an appealing proposition for riders seeking a pure road bike experience, and it’s a top choice for aspiring racers who can live without disc brakes.
Giant TCR Advanced 2 frameset
This TCR is one of an ever-dwindling number of proper rim brake race bikes. It might feel perverse to choose lesser brakes in this day and age, but for mostly fair-weather riding, a good set of rim brakes remains a perfectly sensible option, one that comes with a side-order of appealing simplicity and low weight.
This complete bike weighs just 7.9kg for a medium, a healthy chunk less than many bikes in this price bracket.
The TCR is made from what Giant calls Advanced-grade carbon, the second tier sitting below Advanced SL and the same stuff the higher-specced TCR Advanced Pro is made from.
According to Giant’s own figures, the frame weighs 830g unpainted, and the penalty over the top-end model is just 85g plus the weight of a seatpost because the SL has an integrated mast.
Outwardly, the bike differs little from its more expensive brethren. It’s got the same sleek, almost organic curves and signature compact (or semi-compact – it’s less extreme than it once was) frame design with a sloping top tube.
Giant claimed some aero gains when it revamped the TCR for 2021 but it’s not a pure aero bike – that niche in the brand’s range is occupied by the rather meatier-looking Propel.
The TCR is, by contrast, quite dainty looking, with appealingly simple lines complemented by a slim fork.
It’s a good looking thing with an attractive paintjob and, thanks to good old quick-release skewers and a standard cockpit arrangement with the cables on show, there should be no awkward compatibility issues or mechanical headaches when it comes to swapping components or making adjustments to your fit.
Giant TCR Advanced 2 geometry
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||73.5||73||73||72.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||71||72.3||73||73||73||73|
|Seat tube (mm)||435||445||470||500||530||560|
|Top tube (mm)||520||535||55||565||80||600|
|Head tube (mm)||120||130||145||165||185||200|
|Fork offset (mm)||45||45||45||45||45||45|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||72||69.5||69.5||67||67||67|
|Stem length (mm)||80||90||100||110||110||120|
|Crank length (mm)||170||170||172.5||172.5||175||175|
Giant TCR Advanced 2 build
The Advanced 2 spec gets you a full Shimano 105 groupset with no third-party substitutions apart from the chain.
Given the bike’s racy intentions, Giant opts for a 52/36 crank over a true compact, although the 11-30 cassette means gearing is still reasonably low for hauling up big climbs.
The finishing kit is all Giant’s own and entirely inoffensive, as are the own-brand PR-2 alloy wheels. While more expensive TCRs feature hookless carbon rims that come with some restrictions on tyre compatibility, there are no such issues here.
The rims and tyres are both tubeless-ready, and the former are usefully wide at 22mm internal, an impressively up-to-date spec that helps plump up the nominally 25mm Giant tyres fitted to almost 28mm wide.
Tyre clearance, incidentally, is one area where the rim brake TCR is inevitably outshone by the disc version. Officially, 28mm is the maximum width allowed, while the disc model takes 32s.
Giant TCR Advanced 2 ride impressions
On the road, the TCR is a delightfully pure and unfiltered experience. It’s stiff, direct and, thanks to its low weight, a pleasure to throw around.
The TCR’s aesthetic is that of a lightweight climber’s bike that would be at home in the mountains, and the riding experience is entirely in keeping with that dream.
Even knowing that aero trumps weight almost all of the time when it comes to actual speed, there’s no arguing with how nice a lighter bike feels.
The underlying TCR formula hasn’t changed for years and that’s because it works. The bike is accurate and efficient feeling, a joy on fast technical descents.
The geometry is as racy as ever, with steep frame angles and a short wheelbase of just 980mm for a medium. The reach is fairly long at 388mm, while the stack of 545mm will get most riders as low as they need, but isn’t as aggressive as some.
Under hard pedalling, the TCR is stiff enough rather than utterly unyielding, but this is likely as much to do with the wheels as it is the frameset.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Giant’s clinchers, but a set of carbon race rims would naturally feel even more exciting, and this bike is good enough in every other respect to deserve them as a future upgrade.
In its standard form, though, the TCR is fully ready to race and wants for nothing. You could also throw some money at a set of premium tyres, but the Giant rubber fitted is just fine.
Shimano 105 is as competent as ever, with shifting just a little less crisp than Ultegra. The brakes aren’t the equal of discs of course, but they’re more than adequate and don’t flex like cheaper third-party calipers.
Giant TCR Advanced 2 overall
Giant, however, is arguably more generous at the affordable end of the range than much of the competition. This everyman TCR isn’t a shoddy tribute act to the pro model’s supergroup, it’s a fantastic bike in its own right and one I’d recommend wholeheartedly.
In standard form, it’s a capable bike that’s ready to race or just ride all day as quickly as possible, and the frameset is good enough to justify big money upgrades down the line if the mood takes you.
If you don’t feel you need disc brakes, the TCR is one of the best road bikes you can buy right now.
|Price||GBP £1999.00USD $1900.00|
|Available sizes||XS, S, M, ML, L, XL|
|Headset||Giant OverDrive 2|
|Tyres||Giant Gavia AC 1 Tubeless 25mm|
|Stem||Giant Contact 100mm|
|Seatpost||Giant Variant composite|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Handlebar||Giant Contact 420mm|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano press-fit|
|Front derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Fork||Advanced-Grade Composite, OverDrive steerer|
|Cranks||Shimano 105 52/36|
|Cassette||Shimano 105 11-30|
|Brakes||Shimano 105 rim brake|