With the Giant TCR Advanced 2, a classic compact frame design constructed with the latest carbon has produced a rapid handling, race-focused bike that oozes quality.
Frame & equipment: Compact good quality
Giant’s brilliant Defy Advanced 2 has grabbed all the headlines recently, but the TCR is its racier older brother and its inspiration. Four years ago, the TCR took the top spot in the Cycling Plus Bike of The Year shootout, but plenty has changed since then.
The TCR’s game-changing design can be traced back to the original aluminium compact design that changed the way road bikes looked forever. For 2013, the new frame has been reworked to keep it bang up-to-date.
Cable routing is now fully internal and compatible with Di2, with a battery mount incorporated on the non-driveside chainstay. Also incorporated is Giant’s own RideSense ANT+ compatible sensor, which will transmit cadence and speed information to any compatible device.
Up front, the frame shares an Overdrive 2 tapered steerer fork combination with the new Defy. Tapered head tubes are something Giant know plenty about; they were the first to introduce them on the 2006 Glory mountain bike, and Overdrive 2 improves on the original design by losing a few grams and increasing stiffness.
The TCR’s distinctly compact look, both vertically and horizontally, is enhanced by the aero-profile seat tube, which cuts into the path of the rear wheel. The seat angle is a relaxed (by race bike standards) 72 degrees, putting more of your weight over the rear end. Up front, a slim, straight fork plugs into a racy 73-degree head tube. The wheelbase is race ready, at a fraction over a metre on our large test bike.
Component-wise, the TCR matches the Defy, with full Shimano 105 keeping things slick to shift and smooth to stop. The Giant-designed DT Swiss wheels are a match for both Mavic and Shimano’s equivalents in terms of performance, and better both when it comes to weight. The more we use Giant’s own brand of tyre the more we’re impressed by the smooth rolling and confident grip in grimy conditions.
Giant’s aluminium cockpit is decent quality too – it’s well-shaped and built with high-quality hardware. On the Defy’s cosseted, comfortable ride the bar is ideally suited, but on the TCR’s harder, stiffer ride we did feel some road buzz in the heels of our hands.
The two big differences in spec come from the gearing and seating arrangements. While the Defy gets a compact and wide-ranging cassette, the TCR wears its racing colours proudly, with a standard 53/39 combined with a 12-25T cassette.
The gearing is aided by the saddle choice; the Fizik Arione could well have been designed with the TCR in mind. The extra length suits the bike so well that on flat ground you’ll want to shift forward and power down on the pedals to exert maximum speed. On the climbs you’ll want to shift back and use the extra space to lever your legs through the gears.
Ride & handling: Rapid and race focused
The Giant’s gearing is designed for speed, and of all the Bike of the Year contenders the TCR is the one we went fastest on the flat with. It means you’ll be putting more effort in on the climbs, but you easily win back the pace on descents. Its long, low-slung position also suits riders looking to race, so add a set of clip-on TT bars and it will make a fine machine to beat the clock on.
The ride is smooth but blanaced and handling sharp without ever being twitchy, with a definite firmness. At the rear it’s buzz-free and never harsh, despite the rear triangle’s tight dimensions suggesting a rigid structure.
The TCR oozes class and combines confident handling with a smooth-enough ride and quality kit. It’s a bike very much aimed at the racer or the very fit competitive sportive participant. In Bike of the Year company, however, there are better speed machines, and its own stablemate, the Defy, is the superior all-rounder.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, available now on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.