2019 Giant TCR Advanced Pro – It’s a bold statement to make, labelling a bike as one of the best bikes in the world, but hear me out.
Giant has been in the business since 1972 and is one of the biggest cycling brands in the world. Giant offers a superb mix of high performing bikes to suit every style of rider, backed up with a lifetime warranty, emphasising the confidence Giant has in the quality of their frames.
- All day sportive bike or full on race machine
- Best value for money
- Is it time for the TCR to adopt a dropped seat stay design?
If you are not familiar with some of the key models and their purpose, below is a quick rundown:
The Defy offers a very comfortable ride but is a highly capable climbing machine. With its relaxed geometry, making it easy to pound out the miles, but don’t be mistaken, while it can take a little more effort to maintain speed due to a more compliant frame, the Defy is certainly no slouch.
The Giant TCR Advanced Pro is slightly more geared towards a race geometry setup with its market leading stiffness to weight ratio, and can be whatever you want it to be, an all-day sportive bike or full on race attack machine. Don’t be mistaken though, while the frame is stiff, it does a miracle job of balancing performance with comfort and takes on some of the roughest roads with ease.
The Propel makes no lie in hiding its purpose with its aggressive geometry and a very firm ride to maximise your wattage output. Its aero frame and wheels further enhancing your performance, ready to race or to smash out a club ride in the fastest time possible. If you want pure speed, this is it.
For those with a keen eye for detail, you will have noticed I have not provided a number at the end of the bike model.
All Giant models come with a number at the end which depicts the varying (sometimes confusing) specifications.
If you wanted to define what specification this build is then it would be closest to the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 2 (based on 2021 spec).
To delve into the detail further, the full spec and weight is below:
- Giant TCR Advanced Pro frame
- Full Shimano 105 groupset
- Shimano Ice Tech Rotors
- Giant Contact SL Stem (110mm)
- Giant Contact SL Bars (440mm)
- Specialized S-Works Saddle
- Roval CL50 Clinchers Wheels
- JRC Components Hokan Saddle Roll Bag
- JRC Components Garmin Handlebar Mount
Weight (cages, Garmin mount, no pedals)
8.10kg (soon to be lower as it’s going on a diet)
When purchasing this bike, I went through a slightly different route, buying the frame as new and carrying out a custom build.
Building from a frame up can be a more costly route, but it can work out the same in the long run. “Off the peg” bikes are cheaper, but always come with a drawback, such as savings being made on fitting cheaper components, wheels being the most popular cost saving method.
After time any cost savings made on its initial purchase are eroded because most cyclists will upgrade the wheels at some point. The beauty of a frame build is every component can be handpicked and there isn’t a need for further upgrades.
The reason for the TCR frame build was a winter bike was needed. As cyclists we of course need a bike for almost every season!
While winter carries some heightened risks, such as colder roads with less grip (a potential for a cycling accident) and increased levels of rain and salt clogging up parts, I still wasn’t prepared to accept a lesser performance orientated bike, making my weekend rides less enjoyable. Just because its winter, you don’t have to slog it out on some heavy, uninspiring contraption.
There appeared to be a level of shock and horror amongst the cycling community with running a full carbon bike and carbon clinchers through the harder winter months, but to dispel any myths, regular maintenance will prevent or reduce any mechanical issues.
If anything, the winter bike needs to be almost as attractive to ride as the summer bike to motivate you in getting out in the cold. A task easier said than done.
I have loved TCR’s for as long as I can remember, so browsing bikes one weekend, something that may happen a bit too often, a deal on Rutland cycling popped up for a new Giant TCR Advanced Pro frame. The decision was made, and the build begun. At the time I had just broken a Cannondale CAAD12 for parts so a full Shimano 7020 105 groupset and a set of Roval CL50’s needed to be put to good use.
Many people when in the market for a new bike ask for help on what to get, and unless the person really wants a bike geared towards endurance or a full on race machine (a Defy or Propel would suit in this instance) then I always recommend the TCR as it brings the best of both worlds together, performance and comfort.
If you are considering the TCR, try to stretch the budget a little further and opt for the Pro version. The Pro version comes with the carbon oversized fork and carbon seat post which reduces weight while adding compliance, but most importantly the Pro version comes with the SLR wheels. These as a factory standard set of wheels are very good and won’t require an immediate upgrade.
The Giant TCR Advanced Pro Ride
It’s now summertime, dry roads and warm sunny rides, what more could a cyclist want. The TCR hadn’t been ridden since around March as the aero summer bike was in use.
Switching back to the TCR and several miles in I had forgotten just how good this bike really is. I was glad to be aboard the Giant TCR Advanced Pro as I was navigating some unfamiliar country lanes from following a Strava route that hadn’t been explored before.
Surrounded by high hedges and trees, their roots causing the road to break in several places, the TCR took the poor road surface in its stride, the frame doing an excellent job of absorbing the broken tarmac, while allowing you to maintain your speed, something the my less forgiving aero machine may have struggled with. Coupled with Giants new SL stem and SL bars, a full aluminium cockpit, they go some way in further ironing out feedback. Remember a good set of aluminium bars will be far more effective in comfort for riding poorly surfaced roads or being super stiff to cope with any out of the saddle climbs and sprints than a cheaper carbon bar/stem combination.
This brings me onto the star of the show, the TCR frame. The frame is stiff, and if you like to put in the odd sprint or hunting KOM/QOM’s then you won’t be disappointed, the bike will do your best sprint efforts every bit of justice, propelling you forward with a startling level of pace.
Don’t be confused though with frame stiffness and it being an uncomfortable ride, quite the opposite. Some bikes just opt for all out stiffness and market them as fast, yet the compromise can be comfort, and in some cases frame setups like this are slower by causing you fatigue through constant jarring from the road. The TCR achieves a sublime ride through its complex carbon layup and years of incremental improvements. It’s a machine which has evolved, and it demonstrates this through each turn of the pedals.
This is a bike suited for all rider capabilities, for those enjoying gentler solo or club rides, Sportive events, or full on race attack mode. The TCR is the complete chameleon of the bike world.
Did I mention how good it is at climbing? Some could argue it is not the lightest bike, but it’s certainly not the heaviest either. Remember this is a mid-range Shimano disc equipped bike, which will always be heavier than a rim brake equivalent along with its 50mm Roval Clinchers. Fitted with shallower or lighter wheels (the Rovals are still light for a 50mm aero wheelset at 1515g) an Ultegra groupset, and some other lighter handpicked components the bike could easily dip into the 7kg range. Impressive.
The bike runs an 11-32 cassette, perfect in enabling you to spin up hills with ease or as well as your legs can carry you. The TCR frame again comes to the forefront, giving you the advantage with transferring your best efforts efficiently. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of hills, well who is, but astride the TCR it presents a masterclass at climbing.
On the descents you notice the bike is controlled, smooth and predictable, helping you hit those long sweeping corners at speed, without any panic creeping in and causing you to reach for the brakes. Should you need to scrub off some speed the hydraulic brakes offer the normal levels of efficiency. Steering with the oversized steerer is well balanced, precise and isn’t twitchy, building on your confidence levels in all riding conditions.
You could ask why a 2019 bike is being reviewed when it is 2020, a little out of date you might think, but the TCR has barely changed over recent years and 2019’s model is just as relevant to the 2020 model or previous disc models. More drastic changes have been made to the 2021 model which has just been released, more of a complete redesign up which now leans towards more aero frame tubes and shedding a healthy portion of weight.
Is it time for dropped seat stays?
I would have to be incredibly picky to criticise the TCR, and covering a steady 45-mile ride over the weekend I didn’t once feel the need for dropped seat stays, BUT could the TCR make further marginal gains in this area? The TCR with its sloping top tube design has stood the test of time, but since the introduction of dropped seat stays, is the classic frame design due an update?
Many large manufacturers such as Specialized and Cannondale have adopted a dropped seat stay design as it offers better compliance, control and contact with the road.
From an aesthetics point of view, the Giant TCR Advanced Pro is still one of the best-looking frames in the market and have so far not crumbled to the pressures of adopting this design. This still leaves Giant with a conundrum, adopt dropped seat stays and build on the high performance of their TCR frame, but endanger alienating TCR fans with making the bike look like every other new model on the market.
When Cannondale made a significant change to their SuperSix Evo frame, there was a lot of negative feedback, perhaps more nostalgia taking preference over progression. Fast forward several months and it is now winning bike of the year awards, countless high scoring reviews and is one of the bestselling models on the market. Imagine the potential Giant could tap into further with considering this design. It’s certainly food for thought.
Column by Cycling Advice