Giant claim the TCR Advanced SL 0 frameset is the lightest they’ve ever produced, and with an all-up weight of 6.72kg for a bike complete with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and deep section carbon wheels, we’re inclined to believe it. With its quite radically compact frame, it’s easy to see the DNA running through from the very first Mike Burrows-designed TCR of 1997.
Up front is where most of the improvements for 2012 have been made. The head tube is massively oversized, with a 1-1/4in top bearing and 1-1/2in lower. The carbon fork steerer is shaped to fit, and flows into a broad shouldered fork that tapers into slim legs and carbon dropouts.
The chainstays broaden from carbon dropouts to a huge boxy bottom bracket section designed to take a press-fit bottom bracket. The left chainstay incorporates what Giant call an RS sensor; when combined with the crank sensor and a compatible head unit, this ANT+ device transmits wheel speed and cadence. A handy addition.
The Giant does a fine trick of combining a remarkably surefooted and positive ride with brilliant handling. We’d put this down to the incredibly rigid front structure, and the masses of standover height that allows you to throw the bike around. The huge head tube is topped with a solid and stiff box section all-carbon stem and a carbon bar solid enough to be wrenched on under sprints, but with enough spring to kill any discomfort from poor road surfaces.
The road race geometry and short wheelbase make for an exciting ride. Our test conditions included wet and icy roads; on plenty of bikes that means a tip-toed approach to high-speed corners and twisty roads, but the TCR inspires such confidence that we found ourselves taking far more chances than we normally would.
Dura-Ace Di2 is everything you’d hope for on a £7,500 bike and it performed impeccably: positive shifts, powerful brakes and a silent, smooth operation. Some might think speccing Giant’s own P-SLR1 aero wheels is purely a budget-trimming measure. We’d disagree. The design isn’t dissimilar to Zipp or HED’s latest creations: carbon rims with an aluminium brake surface and a wider tyre bed than most clinchers.
The hubs are Giant branded but made by DT Swiss and are smooth, brilliantly sealed and mated to DT’s aero spokes. At 1,575g a pair these wheels are no heavyweights, and available aftermarket for £1249.99, they’re hardly cost cutting either.
Giant’s own tyres have deep enough sidewalls and a rounded profile perfectly matched to the impressive wheels. The bigger volume of what is still a 23mm tyre adds comfort but not at the expense of speed, as the sticky compound offers ideal levels of grip in a sub-200g package.
The SL Zero is difficult to fault. It has one of the very best framesets around with sharp, reactive handling, excellent wheels, a top-of-the-range carbon Fizik Arione saddle and quality all-carbon cockpit. It’s an out-and-out superbike, as the high price and low weight bear out, and it’s one of the finest handling, most exciting and rewarding of them all.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.