The TCR is one of the longest-standing designs in road cycling, and though a lot has changed since its birth in the mid-1990s, its creator, British designer Mike Burrows, would probably still recognise his work.
The round-and-skinny aluminium tubes have gone, the far-too-flexible adjustable stem consigned to history and the frame isn’t as strikingly compact. It’s also made in six sizes rather than the original three, which makes it easier to get a correct fit, though goes against the original ethos of making drastically fewer sizes to reduce tooling and manufacturing costs.
As with some of the original models it comes with an aero seatpost, which Burrows considered an important part of the aerodynamics armoury.
As is often the case with Giant, the TCR scores immediately with its components. Most bikes this far under £2,000 / $2,600 come with Shimano 105, perhaps even with cost-cutting non-standard chainset or brakes; the Giant has a complete Ultegra groupset save for an 11-speed KMC chain.
As a bike with all-round credentials it has the slightly less racy 50/34 compact chainset, paired with the 11-28 cassette that covers all most of us ever need, and which is pretty much the go-to choice.
Shimano 105 and Ultegra are similar, but it’s impressive during these days to find a complete Ultegra groupset at this price. Shifting and braking are faultless, and it shaves a few grams compared with its slightly lesser 105 stablemate.
You can feel the Giant’s lower weight when you’re climbing Robert Smith
Even in these days of oversize and tapered steerers the Giant is, well, a giant, with its huge 1 1/2-1 1/8in OverDrive steerer. This contributes to impressive control, quick and precise whatever the circumstances.
While all the other bikes hover within a few grams of 8kg, you can feel the Giant’s lower weight when you lift it up and, more importantly, when you’re climbing. Its stiffness and more compact frame make for a rewarding climb, and it descends with nigh-on perfect control.
As for geometry there’s little to differentiate the TCR from any of the opposition: tried-and-trusted parallel 73-degree angles, short head-tube, sub-metre wheelbase, aggressive reach and stack figures. It all makes for taut handling and a sharp responsive ride. So far so good.
What really separates the TCR from the others is how smooth and comfortable it is, the equal of most endurance bikes. Giant’s own components help, with quality bar, stem, tape and carbon aero seatpost, which copes with everything apart from the very biggest bumps.
It purrs along even on light gravel, and over a couple of miles of unsurfaced singletrack we could up the speed with confidence and comfort.
It’s light, fast, comfortable, ideal for racing, long rides, or anything else Robert Smith
The Giant PR-2 wheels are well constructed and fine for a bike at this price, but a lighter or more aero set would allow the TCR’s inner beast to be fully unleashed.
As it stands, it’s hard to fault the TCR Advanced 1 – better still if there are any end-of-season sale offers on.
It’s light, fast, comfortable, ideal for racing, long rides, or anything else you could name. Even the two-tone paintwork looks better in the flesh than it does in photographs.
Its bigger Advanced SL0 brother propelled Tom Dumoulin to Giro victory this year, so it has cachet too.