Published on October 29th, 2012 | by James Tennant
2013 Giant TCR Advanced 2 road bike review
2013 Giant TCR Advanced 2 road bike review – £1999.99
I’ve been looking forward to the release of Giant’s 2013 TCR Advanced 2 road bike for a while, not just to review it but to actually own one. The 2012 version of the TCR caught my eye last season after seeing our road cycling team racing on them, and after a few test rides I had no option other than to invest. I tested it and rated it that highly that I actually invested my own cash – so believe me when I say it’s worth the £1999.99 price tag.
The 2013 TCR Advanced is pretty much the same bike as the 2012 TCR Advanced 3. The two share the same Shimano 105 groupset, a Fizik Arione saddle and Giant’s own P-SL1 wheelset – developed by ex-Mavic engineers I might add. The main difference is the bike’s colour, shifting from last years white and red to metallic black and electric blue.
Frame and forks
In case you aren’t aware; Giant’s road frames are constructed with what’s known as a ‘compact geometry’. This means the top tube is sloped down towards the seat tube – the result creates a smaller, stiffer frame triangle, designed to save weight. Also, Giant use letters rather than the standard cm format for frame sizing, but you can get an idea of your size from the following chart:
|Size||Measurement||Approx height range||Top tube length|
|Small||46.5cm||5ft 2 – 5ft 6||535mm|
|Medium||50cm||5ft 6 – 5ft 9||555mm|
|Medium/ Large||53.5cm||5ft 9 – 6ft||570mm|
|Large||55.5cm||6ft – 6ft 3||585mm|
|XL||58.5cm||6ft 3 – 6ft 7||610mm|
For those interested in the angles of a bike, below is a table showing the TCR’s vital statistics:
“As the first manufacturer to bring the tapered head tube to market – with the 2006 Glory mountain bike – Giant knows a thing or two about inventing solutions for improved steering precision. The original OverDrive technology resulted in ground breaking stiffness-to-weight ratios, and now Giant is doing it again with an all-new standard: OverDrive 2.”
Overdrive 2 is effectively the same as a tapered headtube, with the top bearing being slightly smaller than the bottom. On Giant’s road bike’s, the top bearing is a fairly standard 1 1/8″ bearing as found on most bikes, but to increase stiffness the bottom bearing is a larger, 1 1/4″ bearing (remembering a 1/4 is bigger than 1/8!).
I’m not a fan of ‘new standards’ being introduced as a marketing ploy, but Overdrive is far from it. I’m not a light rider and in a sprint I can put a good few hundred watts into a bike – the TCR remains stiff and direct when I do. The combination of the compact frame and stiffer head tube make the TCR one of the fastest accelerating bikes in the price bracket.
Advanced Grade Composite
“High-performance T-700 raw carbon fiber is used to produce custom composite material in Giant’s own composite factory. Extremely lightweight, stiff and compliant, these handcrafted frames feature the monocoque construction.”
Unlike many manufacturers, Giant have actually developed their own grade of carbon fibre for their bikes, which are all hand made in their own factory.
The TCR’s forks are made from the same Advanced grade composite as the frame and also have a carbon steerer (be very careful if you are cutting it down – get a pro’s help if in doubt). Obviously the fork matches the frame’s Overdrive 2, larger headtube, so swapping it (not sure why you’d want to) might be an issue. The forks have a slight bladed design and look brilliant with their black finish.
BB pressfit bottom bracket
The pressfit bottom bracket is an industry standard these days and the larger bearings combined with the somewhat fat bottom bracket shell that the TCR has, leads to an un-rivalled stiffness during acceleration. This combination also allows for a very direct power transfer, one of the bike’s most notable characteristics.
Internal Cable routing
One nice feature of modern bikes is internal cable routing. The TCR’s brake and gear cables run inside the frame, removing the need for unsightly cable mounting hangers. OK, this isn’t revolutionary in this day and age, but it’s a standard that bikes need to be built by – it’s just the sort of thing you don’t notice until you don’t have. The TCR’s rear brake cable does loop around and goes into the frame under the seat tube, so put a few of those clear plastic heli tape stickers on it to stop it rubbing the paint.
Lets not pretend colour isn’t a big deal, we all know the wrong paint job can make or break a bike. As with most Giant’s, the TCR’s colour scheme is more understated ‘than in your face’. The TCR Advanced 2 is a beautifully finished bike and mine’s had a lot of praise from roadies and civilians alike. The shiny black metallic finish is complimented by an electric blue accent, which looks amazing when the sun shines on it (if you happen to be out riding on that day).
In short, Shimano 105 equates to the performance bracket of Ultegra and Dura Ace, just with a little extra weight. That sounds a bit like a marketing ploy from Shimano’s PR department but the 105 group does perform pretty well. However, you don’t get the titanium and carbon parts which are going to save you a few grams here or there.
The thing you need to remember, and I pretty much guarantee 99% of people won’t, is that unless you are physically at the point where you can’t lose any more weight yourself, what is the point in investing your cash in ultra lightweight fragile materials that will wear faster? In my opinion you are far better off buying a solid groupset with a frame set that’s up to an advancing rider (stiff and well mannered). If the 1% take note, there’ll be some happier and wiser riders out there – and that makes me happy.
On the crankset you have 53t and 39t options as standard and a 10 speed 11t-25t cassette on the back. If you are unsure of what all the numbers mean, they equate to a pretty high gear ratio. So if you’re looking for a bike to ride in the hills you might struggle – I’d definitely look towards a sportive bike like the Giant Defy if you don’t have the most powerful legs or aren’t ‘that’ fit – be honest with yourself or you’ll struggle.
Ridesense is just brilliant in my opinion. This ANT+ compatible cadence and speed sensor pairs up with your Garmin (other GPS systems are available) or other ANT+ devices (including and iPhone with the right attachment). Just remember, to get it working you have to remove it from the bike and take out the plastic battery protector. A lot of people seem to struggle with this. The magnets come with the bike so make sure you have them and don’t lose them.
Giant have developed the P-SL1 wheel system to keep the cost of the bike down. After poaching some ex Mavic and Zipp engineers (so we are told), Giant built their own wheel set worth of a fairly advanced rider. So rather than buying in a set of Mavic rims at a cost, which would ultimately end up costing you, they have made their own and everyone wins.
The P-SL1 tyres, fitted as standard, are pretty impressive as well. The seam is molded off to one side, rather than down the centre of the tyre carcus so it doesn’t get subjected to the constant wear of the road. So far I have found them pretty fast rolling and surprisingly grippy. Can’t comment on longevity at the moment as I have only a week’s riding on a particular set so far.
Vector Composite aero seat post
There are pros and cons to the aero seat post. It looks pretty cool I have to admit and being carbon it’s light and stiff. However if you did want to swap it you have very few options. Also, it can be difficult to mount lights to it due to the tear drop shape, so be aware when buying lights. I have been using the Knog Boomer which will stretch as will other lights with a stretchy strap. But sadly the Hope District I wanted to blind drivers with won’t fit… for now.
The Airone is a saddle that divides opinion among cyclists; it’s a real love of hate bit of kit. On first impression I could see myself upgrading it in the coming weeks, but actually it’s turned out to be one of the most comfortable saddles I have owned. I have, let’s say, a wider than average sit-bone and the narrow design did strike a bit of fear at first, but the well-designed saddle provides plenty of support to my (m)ass.
The TCR advanced doesn’t come with pedals – we can provide some basic toe clips with your bike if you want them, but would advise that you decide on a pair of pedals and shoes as part of the bike buying process.
Being one of the stiffest frames on the market, the power transfer is direct and seriously responsive. So going uphill you’ll notice all the power you put down goes directly into the rear wheel. When climbing on the hoods the bike is well mannered and doesn’t feel uncontrolled like some bikes I have ridden. The gearing is high so you do need a strong pair of legs to get up the longer/steeper stuff – if you do find it a problem, a smaller chain ring or bigger cassette might help. Or, of course, you could train more?
Rhys Llewellyn Thomas – Team Tredz 2012
“A bike that commands speed, a stiff frame makes sure every watt forces on the pedals comes out as pure speed. The TCR is certainly no sloth, feeling at home being hammered in fast sprints, but also in steep ascents. This is a race-ready bike with a clean finish and a responsive nature. No question – the TCR is the best bike I have ever ridden.”
Going downhill, the TCR corners and handles well; you can throw it into corners and it grips reassuringly. The wheels roll fast and it’s not twitchy or numb feeling when you manoeuvre it. Responsive is the word, with direct and controlled handling – exactly what you need when hitting speeds around 50mph.
Ed Laverack – team Tredz 2012 (longlisted for the British cycling team)
“A powerful and comfortable, very high level racing bike for riders of all categories”
The TCR has an aggressive ride position – I’m not going to pretend it hasn’t. But don’t let that put you off. A road bike is designed to have a particular ride position. It’s not going to be as comfortable as a sportive frame like the Defy or a Specialized Roubaix, but don’t think of it as uncomfortable. It’s not going to hurt you to ride a race geometry; in fact, set up correctly, you can happily ride a hundred miles on a road bike with no real problems (when you are used to it of course).
Kieran Rees – Team Tredz 2012
The Giant TCR Advanced 3 is an overall astounding bike to ride on due to the extravagantly smooth ride and the quite frankly brilliant power transfer that you can really feel. The Shimano 105 groupset is also extremely smooth and easy to maintain. As soon as you set off you can really feel the racing pedigree that Giant has focused on. This particular model has an astonishingly silent ride which is possible due to the internal routing system reducing rattling of the cables.
Road race or Sportive
The TCR is a road race bike and it makes no claim otherwise. It’s important to realise the difference between the two frame types when buying as getting the wrong one can cause you a considerable amount of grief in the future if you get it wrong.
Sportive – with a more comfortable, compliant ride, the sportive bike is more suited to longer, more uneven rides. Think Paris-Roubaix! That’s where most sportive bikes are born and bred (hence Specialized Roubaix).
Road Race – a more aggressive bike with a faster and somewhat harsher ride. A smooth ride isn’t something you’ll get. I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortable bike, but it is more like a racing car compared to a Gran Tourer.
Giant don’t really publish the weight of their bikes and if I’m honest I don’t really subscribe to the weight thing myself (being a heavy rider). However, I know a lot of people do care, so here it is on the scales – with a pair of Shimano 105 pedals (I’m not taking them off just to weigh it for you!)
That’s 8kg on the dot – with Shimano 105 pedals and a Garmin mount attached.
Who’s it for?
The TCR Advanced 2 is aimed at the advancing rider. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a beginner with little to no experience, it’s still going to make a great bike; I just wouldn’t normally advise you to just go out and spent £2,000 on a new road bike if you haven’t done it before. The frame is stiff and light enough for any third or second cat. rider and if you do find the groupset is a little weighty, you can always swap it out and upgrade. Bolt on Ultegra and some Zipps and if you need more bike, your sponsors will be paying for it, not you.
For £2,000 I couldn’t choose a better bike than the TCR Advanced. A Cube will offer a better groupset and Specialized will sell you their race-bred history and slick marketing, but the understated TCR’s frameset is just superb. It’s stiff enough to race, comfortable enough to ride all day and I’m not sure you going to find a bike with a similar acceleration for the money.
If you are looking for something else then there are a few suggestions I’d make:
You may be a woman– in which case you’ll need to be looking at the Avail, which is the women’s version of the TCR.
You might like flashy – the Specialized Tarmac is no bad bike by any standard, and the differences will be negligible.
You may want something more relaxed – in which case the Defy Advanced 2 is the bike for you with its sportive design and lower ratio gearing for taking the sting out of hills.
You may want a better spec – Cubes GTC SLT was one of my final choices when I decided to buy a road bike, you get more kit but the frame can’t match the TCR.
You might not want to spend £2,000 – Giant’s TCR Composite range offers similar technology, just made with a slightly lower grade of carbon.
Summary: A powerful and comfortable, very high level racing bike for riders of all categories.