For years, cyclocross was something of a technological backwater defined by archaic cantilever brakes, tubulars, brutally stiff but affordable frames and a fiercely maintained vibe of deliberately belligerent masochism. It was meant to hurt because that was good for you and the bikes were made to suit.
While disc brakes have been in play for a while – particularly from major brand pioneer Cannondale – Giant’s TCX Advanced was one of the first of a revolutionary generation of totally rethought bikes. As well as disc brakes, the front fork had a mountain bike-style 15mm thru-axle for security and accurate tracking.
Chunky chainstays keep the rear of the TCX efficient; TRP’s Spyres are among the best cable disc brakes around
An oversized tapered ‘Overdrive 2’ steerer, head tube and stem carried that extra control right through to your muddy mitts. Custom Schwalbe rubber (named after the bike’s designer) put mini MTB treads onto a tubeless-ready carcass on tubeless ready rims to allow super low pressure mud plugging and disc brake control-amplifying traction without the hassle of glue on tubular tyres.
A 1050g mainframe with massive down tube and muscular chainstays was enough to power Lars Van der Haar to a World Cup Championship win or give mortals an explosive sprint and corner exit edge round the local park. Out back a cunning D-section seat post and skinny seatstays not only added traction but made it not just bearable for an hour of burning brutality but recreationally comfortable for gravel or bridleway exploring adventures. The result was a bike we didn’t hesitate to give a rave recommendation to.
As we roll into the 2016 model year, it’s certainly not the only disc brake and thru axle, tubeless-ready cross bike that you won’t be desperate to get off after the bell lap. The Pro 2, in its UK format at least, is actually slightly behind the mod cons curve as it still has a QR rear axle rather than the 142x12mm through axle of the range-topping Pro 1. What it has though is dramatically better affordability for such a premium frame – and that's been achieved with surprisingly little loss in performance.
The head tube houses a fork with a tapered full-carbon steerer
The FSA crank is a little soft under max power, and closely spaced ‘cyclocross’ chainring ratios never seem to make sense to us for general riding (or even 'cross to be honest) but the Shimano 105 gearing is flawless. The Spyre disc brakes with their double sided actuation are in a different control and clean running league to other cable stoppers too. The 160mm rotor makes it easy to lock up the rear and swipe the back end round aggressively when you’re racing or charging along singletrack.
The Schwalbe treads have lost over 200g each this year, which offsets the sturdy wheel weight to keep acceleration prompt and positive. They’re more awkward to set up tubeless and need more TLC in general, but it solves the only ‘essential upgrade’ element of the original bike.
The bottom line is this. We loved the original TCX Advanced through over a year racing and riding local 'cross events, moorland epics and even the legendary Yorkshire Three Peaks race, where its stunning control and confidence in seemingly suicidal situations turned around a cramping climbing deficit on every descent.
While it’s a little heavier and slower to get moving (it pops much better with a mid-price wheel upgrade) the Pro 2 is unmistakeably the same ultra composed but speed hungry machine we know and love, delivering nearly all the practical performance at a much more easily swallowed price.
Note: This 'MY15' version of the TCX Advanced Pro 2 is now UK-only, with a MY16 edition superseding it in the US and Australia. Spec differences include that the MY15 version has a QR axle rear and QR15 front, whereas the MY16 model has thru-axles front and rear. The MY16 also features Shimano RS785 discs rather than TRP Spyres.