Giant’s all-new 2021 TCR Advanced SL0 Disc is the ninth iteration of its compact-framed racer that debuted in 1997 – but there’s nothing nineties about this futuristic superbike and winner of our Superbike of the Year 2021 category.
This TCR has everything: a weight under the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum; a robot-assisted method of in-house carbon manufacture; a stiffer, more aerodynamic frame with aerofoil tubes; integrated aero carbon seatpost; SRAM’s newest 12-speed eTap AXS wireless gears and hydraulic brakes; an integrated Quarq power meter; Giant’s own Cadex wheels that are among the best we’ve ridden; and… lighter paint!
The result is a bike that’s fast, climbs beautifully and handles like a dream. Now we’ve just got to find £10,000 /$11,300 / AU$13,500…
And did we mention just how light it is? My complete test bike, a large model fitted with two Giant bottle cages, weighs a mere 6.71kg.
Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc frameset
Giant has ignored the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ maxim in the latest update to its influential and massively successful TCR frame.
At the heart of the new TCR is a whole new way of manufacturing carbon fibre frames. Giant weaves its own carbon fibre sheets in-house in Taiwan, using laser-cutting tools to shape each piece.
And whereas the previous model was manufactured from a mere 380 pieces, the new model requires over 500 individual pieces of carbon fibre, with Giant using robotics to ensure perfect accuracy when placing the 150 smallest pieces in the mould.
Giant also uses a new resin to bind the carbon fibre together. This carbon-nanotube-infused resin is a microscopic polymer that acts like a miniature buttress to strengthen the layers of carbon composite. Giant says this greatly increases impact strength and reduces weight.
Giant has also trimmed weight by using special ThinLine paint, shaving 65g over Giant’s seven-layer paint applications. This contributes to a frame and fork that’s 140.43g lighter than its eight-generation predecessor.
Giant doesn’t make any claims about frame weight alone, preferring to give a weight for the complete painted frameset, which includes the fork, headset, all the metal hardware and seat clamp.
The result is very light by any standards. I’ve spent a lot of the last year riding an S-Works Tarmac that weighs 1,371g – the Giant TCR Advanced SL0 Disc weighs just 1,266g. Quite a difference.
Giant has also inevitably improved stiffness and aerodynamics, which shows just how important the Advanced carbon materials and manufacturing techniques have been to the design of the new TCR.
One feature that won’t appeal to everybody is the integrated seatpost.
We’ve heard complaints that an integrated seatpost – or ISP – makes your bike hard to pack for travel. Well, I’ve taken my own large TCR, with its ISP cut to 79cm, to Italy, Denmark and even Australia in a Polaris box and a Scicon case without issue.
The integrated post is lighter than a conventional setup and I’d also rather have a seatpost that has no chance of slipping or suffering from water ingress from Britain’s plentiful wet rides.
Giant does supply the TCR with two different clamps, one offering 25mm of height adjustment and the other 45mm. These will help if you come to sell the bike to someone with a longer inside leg than yours.
Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc kit
A top-level frameset demands kit of equal standing and the Giant TCR Advanced SL0 Disc has it in the form of SRAM’s 12-speed wireless Red eTap AXS.
The 48/35 chainset and 10-28 cassette combine for a gear range that’s slightly wider than the 52/36 and 11-28 pairing you’re likely to find on a race bike of this pedigree.
It actually has both a slightly higher top gear and a slightly lower bottom gear, which is a veritable win-win.
The app also syncs with the TCR’s Quarq power meter and at the end of each ride it will report on the number of shifts, maximum power output, average power and a full GPS of your ride.
The app will auto-upload to Strava or you can link directly to your GPS head unit, which can show battery levels, gearing, cadence and all the metrics the Quarq supplies.
SRAM’s new brake rotors and the flat-mount Red hydraulic units provide consistent, powerful, silent braking that’s full of feel.
The cockpit itself is worthy of high praise. The Giant Contact SLR carbon stem is stiff and has an elegant matt finish, but it’s the handlebar that’s the real star. Giant’s new Contact SLR bar follows the same design principles as Giant’s Defy bar and offers the same excellent handholds.
I have previously tested Giant’s Cadex 42 wheels – as fitted to the TCR Advanced SL0 Disc – and found them to be among the best wheels around for their balance of rigidity, speed and comfort.
As with the SRAM groupset, the wheels complement the TCR frameset beautifully.
Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc geometry
Giant’s new TCR Advanced SL0 Disc frame may be manufactured differently from its previous model but there’s one thing that has remained largely unchanged – its geometry. This is perhaps why I found the ride so familiar.
There are a couple of minor changes from its predecessor. Giant has dropped the bottom bracket by 2mm to allow for greater tyre clearance, which has been increased from 28mm to 32mm for the 2021 model, but the stack height remains the same – 581mm for my large test bike. Combined with the 402mm reach, this TCR has a long, low and aggressive race-focused geometry.
And while much of the Giant is at the cutting-edge of cycling technology, its parallel 73-degree head and seat tube angles are a classic race bike pairing.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74||73.5||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||72.3||73||73||73|
|Seat tube (cm)||71||74||77||80|
|Top tube (cm)||53.5||55||56.5||58|
|Head tube (cm)||13||14.5||16.5||18.5|
|Fork offset (cm)||4.5||4.5||4.5||4.5|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||6.95||6.95||6.7||6.7|
Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc ride impressions
I was initially a little apprehensive about riding such a light bike. I own the previous TCR Advanced SL and have upgraded it above and beyond what’s rational, and even that weighs 7.18kg. The new bike shares the same dimensions and a very similar silhouette but is nearly half a kilo lighter.
My concern was that because I weigh 92kg, the new frame wouldn’t be stiff, but I needn’t have worried.
On the road, I was completely blown away by the TCR Advanced SL0 Disc’s dynamism. Its stiffness is resolute, its responsiveness when you’re riding is little short of brilliant.
The swiftness of its handling makes it a bike you can flick around and throw into corners in an instant, where it’s helped by the high-quality Cadex wheels.
This Giant simply refuses to be anything but spot on when it comes to its handling; nothing knocks it offline or knocks your absolute confidence in its ride.
Any bike that dips in underneath the UCI’s minimum weight limit is going to climb with the best of them and this TCR excels on ascents.
New aerodynamic features also contribute to an equally impressive straight-line speed. The frame’s subtle truncated aerofoil tube profiles have given the TCR a wind-cheating, aero bike-like edge, with Giant having the wind tunnel figures to back them up.
Giant claims that if you ride 25 miles/40km at a constant 200W power output you’ll be 34 seconds quicker than if you’d been riding the previous TCR.
Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc bottom line
Apart from a price a pound shy of £10,000 – and ignoring any cries of ‘You could buy a car for that’ – there’s little to fault on Giant’s newest TCR Advanced SL0 Disc.
Not everybody will appreciate its integrated seatpost – but even that has its advantages – and though its exposed hydraulic hoses are an increasingly rare sight in this era of cockpit integration, this does keep things simple.
Those things aside, it’s pretty much a full house for Giant’s 2021 TCR Advanced SL0. It’s lighter and more aerodynamic than ever before but that hasn’t had any negative effect on the Giant’s handling, which is as lively and dynamic as anything I’ve ridden. It’s fast, flickable, an excellent climber and has superb straight-line speed.
It’s also good to see the Quarq power meter as standard and clearance for tyres up to 32mm wide.
Once you factor in a wide range of 12-speed wireless gears from SRAM’s flagship Red AXS groupset, SRAM’s impeccably controlled and silent hydraulic brakes and quality Cadex wheels, I reckon Giant’s TCR Advanced SL0 enhances the reputation of a bike that’s been at the forefront of design and performance for more than two decades, and is one of the most complete race bikes on sale today.
And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.
Road Bike of the Year 2021 contenders
Thirty-two of the best bikes ridden and rated…
- ARC8 Escapee
- Basso Venta 105 Disc
- BMC Roadmachine TWO
- BMC Teammachine SLR TWO
- Boardman ADV 8.9
- Boardman ADV 9.0
- Boardman SLR 8.9 105
- Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS (winner)
- Cannondale SuperSix EVO
- Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1
- Cervélo Caledonia-5
- Cinelli King Zydeco
- Genesis CDA 30
- Giant Contend AR 3
- Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1
- Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc
- Lapierre Xelius SL 5.0
- Orbea Avant H60-D
- Orbea Orca M20
- Pearson Off Grid
- Planet X London Road SRAM Apex 1 Disc
- Ribble CGR Ti Pro
- Ribble Endurance 725 Base
- Ribble Endurance Ti Disc
- Rondo HVRT CF1
- Sensa Giulia GF
- Specialized Roubaix Sport
- Specialized S-Works Aethos
- Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
- Trek Domane AL 5
- Van Rysel EDR AF
- Vitus Zenium Tiagra
|Price||AUD $13499.00GBP £9999.00USD $11300.00|
|Features||Extras: Tubeless sealant; Out-front computer mount (Garmin, Wahoo, Giant compatible); two Giant bottle cages|
|Handlebar||Giant Contact SLR|
|Tyres||Cadex 25mm tubeless|
|Stem||Giant Contact SLR|
|Shifter||SRAM Red eTap AXS|
|Seatpost||Giant integrated carbon|
|Saddle||Giant Fleet SLR|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM Red eTap AXS|
|Front derailleur||SRAM Red eTap AXS|
|Available sizes||S, M, ML, L|
|Frame||Advanced SL-Grade Composite, integrated seatpost|
|Fork||Advanced SL-Grade Composite, full-composite OverDrive 2 steerer|
|Cranks||SRAM Red, 48/35|
|Chain||SRAM Red D1|
|Cassette||SRAM Red, 10-28|
|Brakes||SRAM Red eTap AXS hydraulic, 160mm/140mm rotors|
|Bottom bracket||SRAM DUB|
|Wheels||Cadex 42mm Disc WheelSystem|