Review: Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc
All photos courtesy Paul Boger of Mind Your Design Creative Studio, based in Doylestown, PA. Be sure to visit his website’s content for Bucks County-themed postings and updates as well as promoting start-ups and website design.
After many years of looking past Giant’s race bike lineup, we decided to give them extra attention. What we found was surprising.
The requirements were oxymoronic in bike setup. Compared to the departed unloved race bike, the new one needed to be complexly simple. It had to be a comfortable race bike. It had to have a predictable short wheelbase. Three ‘simple’ requirements led us to try the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc. On paper the bike checked our boxes, but what about the ride?
From front to back, the Giant TCR differed from the outgoing road bike once parked in the garage. Plainly speaking the TCR was set up tubeless as opposed to clinchers. It was selected for its full hydraulic disc brakes as opposed to rim. It was equipped with Di2 electronic shifting 11-speed as opposed to ancient 10-speed mechanical.
We will start with the tires. At nearly 1,000 miles completed, the Giant Gavia 25 mm tubeless tires have performed better each time the bar has been raised. Winding technical Bucks County roads were initially approached with caution. Recently more aggressive lines were explored while 10 psi was exhaled from the tires. Confidence soared as the Gavia tubeless system shrugged off racing clincher tire lines. More air was let out and faster lines became the norm. Initially the Gavias were the first on the list to be replaced prior to the maiden voyage. Now we can’t imagine riding without them.
Speaking further on the Gavia tubeless is their dependability. They have rolled over gravel miles, navigated debris-strewn shoulders, bounced along freshly chipped and sealed roads, and gouged into high-speed turns. Initially dismised due to the newness of the tires, the tubeless system has us singing praises. Giant got it right with this tubeless setup.
Complementing the tubeless tires are the carbon 42 mm deep-dish rims, another upgrade from our recent bike. Migrating from box section aluminum rims, we were amazed at the stiffness of the TCRs tubeless system base. For stock carbon hoops, the Giant SLR1 rims respond to heavy acceleration and hard lateral demands. We occasionally grin at the sought-after echoing sound of rolling carbon wheels. Thru axles add for a stiffer riding experience.
Onto the cockpit and straightaway we planned to replace the bar tape. The idea was to take the introductory miles with stock wrap then replace it directly. The microfiber tape is reminiscent of a leading company’s black wrap. It is extra grippy as well as remarkably thin. When squeezed during out-of-the-saddle efforts, the control from the hooks is incredible. It is impossible to decipher whether the bar tape is wrenching the glove palms apart or if we are encouraged to squeeze harder. Either way, the bar tape is still on the bike.
The Ultegra Di2 shifters are comfortable on the Giant Contact SL handlebars. We are still adjusting to the act of clicking into gear instead of manually shifting. The shifters feature hidden buttons at the top of both the front and rear levers. A rider can trim out derailleurs easily as well as toggle through a head unit to ascertain battery life in the Di2, maps, elevation, etc. Perplexingly Giant did not include a wireless module (EW-WU111 ANT+ unit) in the build. That meant a trip to the local bike shop to have the miniscule device installed so a head unit could ‘talk’ to the Di2, as well as the Giant power meter. The wireless module also relays battery life left in the power meter. Another hidden function on the Di2 is the ability to hold in the shifter button until the right gear is selected. Should we ever need to go up or down the cassette in one moment, it is possible to hold the shifter button until the action is finished. Gone are the days of endlessly stabbing at levers until the right cog is found. One adjustment to the Di2 system is the lack of notification when one is out of gears on the 11/30 cassette. There have been a few hard efforts where we kept clicking for more gear. As a standard, Di2 will not allow cross chaining. The system prevents chain rub on the front derailleur by accessing only certain gears depending on the position of the front derailleur. The shifting system has begun to think for us.
Focusing on the crankset and Giant has equipped the TCR with subcompact rings. We have never enjoyed compact cranks, and we would take a true compact any day but the subcompact’s 52/36 compromise works here. Only a handful of times have we run out of gears on a downhill, and we have not looked for more gears on a climb. Giant added their brand power meter into the build, which we have enjoyed immensely. It has integrated seamlessly to our Garmin and Garmin Connect/ Strava, though others have reported inconsistencies in wattage relay or small cracking in the unit itself. We have not had either of those issues to date.
Along with the shifters are the hydraulic brakes and we will be hardpressed to ever go back to rim brakes. Despite hardly bedding in the brakes, a process to wear discs and pads together, we have been squeak-free with predictable stoppage. Here in Bucks County disc brakes are essential due to the amount of stop signs at the bottom of steep descents. The TCR’s hydraulic brakes stop reliably early in rides as well as late and have a comfortable tension to them. They have performed spotlessly in summer heat as well as seasonal rainstorms. With the flat mount set up, the TCR allows larger rotors to be installed should the bike find its way to the Rockies or the Alps where long descents may require larger braking surfaces.
Onto the TCR frame and the impressions have been remarkable. We thought the last bike ridden had a short wheelbase until we discovered the TCR. The short wheelbase explains why the TCR charges through tight turns and, if need be, is ready to set itself up for a second tight turn. Expect a healthy dose of overlap with the smaller models. The headset feels in line with the belly instead of the sternum. One beautiful aesthtic feature about the TCR is the plunging top tube – its line squeezing the seat post and splits into the seat stays. We discovered this when admiring the metallic flaked blue paint on a sunny outing. The frame and fork are stiff, an incredible firmness offered by Giant. When jumping out of the saddle the frame hardly feels taxed; we have whipped the TCR as much as possible and it seems to yawn at any attempt to tame it.
As with any riding experience there are areas of improvement. Giant continues the press-fit standard at the bottom bracket. We have already eyed up an upgrade. While we like KMC chains, shipping a Shimano Di2 bike without an Ultegra – or a 105 at minimum - as standard is slightly perplexing. Being Chris King fans we have already labeled the TCR hubs as contenders for replacement, but they have proved quite enjoyable, too. Some of the replacement parts are combination function and fashion. The Chris King mango line would look great hidden on the TCR’s metallic blue color. Two upgrades to consider are the wireless module and the Di2 sprinter/ climber buttons. These simple additions will add more enjoyment to the electronic shifting experience. Finally we didn’t even test out the Giant Contact saddle. The SMP Glider integrated perfectly onto the TCR platform.
The final area Giant may want to have another look at is the front end of the bike. We took the bike down a long steep hill and couldn’t help but feel the ghosts of TCR past with speed wobbles in the front end. Zipping along at forty miles-per-hour is one thing when things get shaky, but what would it feel like descending Whiteface at a more rapid rate? Questions persist when hopping off the bike. The front end likes to turn on itself, handlebars smacking the top tube ala track bike style. When pushing the bike across the pedestrian bridge to and from Pennsylvania the front wheel hardly tracks true. Perhaps it is the weight distribution of the disc brakes making the fork lopsided but it is certainly a change from our last bike.
A figure some may be looking for is the bike’s weight. Giant will not post the bike’s heft but we will. The scale may surprise weight fiends out there when we say the bike was measured with titanium cages, pedals, rear light, and computer mount. Despite having those accessories, the Giant TCR in size medium shocked us by barely scaling over seventeen pounds. UCI mandates race bikes weight at least fifteen pounds and the Giant TCR can easily get there with a few changes.
Overall the Giant TCR has done everything to impress us since day one. We have not been writing much on creakybottombracket.com over the past few weeks. It’s not because we have been without content; it’s because we have been out on the bike every possible moment. We looked for a race bike that was simple, comfortable, and responsive and we found it atop the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0. We have logged many numbers among the riding experience in terms of wattage, miles of enjoyment, and weight. The most remarkable number is the Giant TCR’s price tag. The amount of bike offered by Giant is far and away the best option for anyone interested in a one-stop-shop all around race bike, coming in well under similar featured race bikes. If you have been skipping past Giant for the past few years, it is time to have another look. The Advanced line of TCRs will bring riding to the next level with the same effort.