Few road riders you will find that they haven’t heard of the Giant TCR. It is an absolute classic of climbing bikes, with great honors behind it since it was presented to the world in 1997 and the Spanish team ONCE used it in 1998 to compete in the Tour de France, with stars such as Jalabert, Olano or Zülle.
Photo: Graham Watson
What is it that makes it so special? Well, the acronym TCR gives us a hint, they come from «Total Compact Road», and they already allow us to focus our attention on the word «compact». Good old Mike Burrows, its original designer, got the ball rolling by applying the geometries of ’90s mountain bike frames to a road frame. With a very pronounced slooping (inclination of the horizontal tube), its long seatposts stood out from the rest of the bikes in the peloton. This arrangement allowed them to gain clear advantages: lightness, rigidity, maneuverability, aerodynamics, comfort …
Lighter and more aerodynamic than ever
For this 2021, Giant presents what is the 9th generation of the TCR. As a brief summary, we will tell you that 3 key aspects have been worked on:
- Lightweight: with savings of 140 g (SL), 131 g (Advanced Pro), 212 g (Advanced).
- Stiffness: with a ratio to its weight leading in its category.
- Aerodynamics: with tubes that adopt the shape of a truncated ellipse.
For the untrained eye, comparing this new generation with the previous one, will result in that the bikes are almost exactly the same … But if you have the opportunity to see the new TCR live, you will see that each of its tubes has been redesigned, in the interest of achieving the best possible aerodynamic efficiency. Not surprisingly, Giant boasts a saving of 34 s in 40 km at 200 W compared to the previous generation.
Details of the 9th generation
We review in detail all its components, starting with an overview of the transmission, with the Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset with 52/36 chainrings and 11-30 cassette:
The down tube has been increased in width to 65mm to act as an aerodynamic deflector for standard size bottles, a system Giant calls Megadrive:
The carbon fork is also new, with a symmetrical design that increases the wheel clearance to a spectacular (for a climber bike) 32mm for disc frames, 28mm for rim brake frames:
An upgrade also for the already fantastic Giant SLR1 wheels. For this year they inherit the same internal components for the hub as their top-of-the-range Cadex 42mm sisters. They maintain their Tubeless Hookless system by increasing the outer width up to 23 mm and the inner width 19.4 mm (compared to 17 mm in 2020). Giant says this results in a rounder tire shape that offers greater stability and control when cornering. As if that were not enough, the couple left the scale at 1452 g:
The standard tires are the 25c Gavia Course 1 (although installed on their rims they almost reach 28c). At 375 g, they are not the lightest on the market, for example the Shwalbe Pro One TLE, also certified by Giant for the Hookless hoop, weigh about 250 g. At least these Course 1s have good cornering grip and don’t feel as heavy as the Gavia AC on their cousin Propel:
A spectacular integration without a doubt is the Giant Power Pro power meter. We are talking about a dual system that costs € 879 aftermarket and that comes standard with the bike! Includes measurement of power (watts), pedaling balance, force angle, and cadence. It is paired with any ANT+ bike computer and smartphones thanks to Bluetooh. Its battery lasts up to 150 hours or 2400 km on a single charge and this is very easy to do with a double USB cable with magnet. An LED indicator on each crank shows the battery level, or you can also see it using the Giant RideLink app, which also allows you to update the firmware and calibrate the Power Pro before each ride, as well as displaying a large number of parameters in real time and saved routes:
Variant seatpost that adopts the shape of a truncated ellipse and offers a great balance between lightness, ride quality and aerodynamics. It is also very easy to install and adjust thanks to a hidden screw under a silicone protector:
Detail image of the back of the seatpost where we can see the flat cut of the ellipse:
The Fleet SL saddle we already met last year and we loved it for comfort and contained weight, for this 2021 it repeats:
In this second image we see the possibility of integrating the Numen rear light into it, as we already saw in the Propel:
The Contact SL handlebar has also been perfected, improving its ergonomics in the upper area where we rest our hands. Great detail also to integrate a support for GPS, Gopro and compatible Giant lights. It is also adjustable, being able to vary its inclination:
The stem retains the Overdrive 2 design, which combines a 1.5″ lower bearing and a 1-1/4″ upper bearing. It works in conjunction with a tapered fork steerer tube, which Giant claims offers better stiffness:
The integration of the cables is conspicuous by its absence, the only disadvantage really being the visual/aesthetic one, since the aerodynamic gain is negligible. In its favor, all the transport, maintenance and cutting operations of the fork tube are carried out easily, even by the user himself. If you opt for a version with an electronic group, only the brake hoses will remain exposed:
Even with the cables in sight, the termination and quality of finish is very good:
Finally, the Shimano Ultegra calipers perfectly integrated into the fork with 160 and 140 mm discs with ICE Technology:
As soon as I got my hands on the new TCR Advanced Pro, its lightness was very noticeable. In size L, including latex tires, power meter and GPS mount it weighed 7.7 kg, 1 kg less than my previous Propel Advanced. It’s a fantastic weight in this large size and for a bike in this price range (€ 4,000 RRP). The consequences are that the TCR feels very agile when climbing, and not only because of the total weight, but also because of the spectacular SLR1 wheels, with much less inertia thanks to their 1,450 g than the SLR2 that the Propel wore. Making changes of pace and climbing steep slopes is much easier. You notice that the bike climbs with appreciably less effort.
Another important point that is noticed instantly is the rolling comfort. The frame/wheel set handles curly asphalt and bumps very well, with an excellent balance between stiffness and absorption, much more accomplished than in its aero category cousin. It is no longer necessary to look for the clean line of the asphalt, we can allow ourselves some faults without the whole bike shaking and vibrating.
How about on flat roads? Comparing it to my previous Propel again, the TCR does it well, it is not as optimal as a total aero, among other things because it lacks the 65 mm profiles on its wheels and offers a little more resistance to the wind, but I do not notice any penalty.
And in the descents? More of the same, maybe some more turbulence when we have wind compared to Propel, but the TCR makes up for it with clearly better comfort and absorption, which makes us gain confidence instantly.
A good summary of the overall performance of the Giant TCR is that it is a bike that does everything well. It’s that simple and Giant knows it, so over the years the TCR has changed little, adopting small improvements and updates, but avoiding the big changes. And I totally agree with this philosophy, because there is little to change a bike with a frame design that has achieved an impressive balance in all its facets.
Many people blame for not having built-in cables. Maybe it is a point of improvement for years to come, but I do not see something crucial in this type of bike (not aero). As the bicycle behaves, it is something totally despicable.
I can’t end any other way than shouting to the sky: long live the Giant TCR!