When some of our testers recently took Giant’s TCR Advanced Pro SL1 for a spin, it proved itself to be a genuinely impressive machine that offers everything you’d want from a racing thoroughbred. But what can you expect from a TCR pitched at more budget-conscious riders? Well quite a lot, actually, it turns out.
Slender but sturdy
The chassis looks slender compared with the previous TCR, but still retains the compact shape that designer Mike Burrows pioneered for Giant in the mid-1990s. Unlike the Advanced Pro SL1, the Advanced 3 comes with an aero seatpost rather than a cut-to-fit seatmast.
There’s no messing about with the Giant’s massive bottom bracket shell
We prefer the post setup, as it’s easier to adjust, helps the bike’s resale value and is much easier to pack for travelling. The need for a clamp and some reinforcement at the seat/top tube junction adds a few grams, but the frame’s only 900g as it is, so it remains a very light package.
The Overdrive tapered head-tube and steerer configuration makes the front end absolutely rock solid, and gives the Advanced 3 the kind of planted steering that thrill-seeking riders will relish. And while the new slimline fork looks like it’ll flex under hard cornering, the opposite is true. It moves fore and aft, taking the sting out of bumps and potholes, but under fast, aggressive cornering it tracks exactly as you’d want, never deviating from your line no matter how hard you push it.
And that taut responsiveness isn’t just limited to the fork. Giant claims class-leading figures for the TCR’s drivetrain stiffness, and on the road you instantly feel the frame’s rigidity. Its get-up-and-go response puts to shame plenty of bikes that cost twice as much.
Giant has combined this performance with excellent comfort, and even with its resolute rigidity it’s a smooth ride. It copes with poor surfaces and provides you plenty of feedback from the road without letting it tip over into discomfort, even with 23mm rubber. Helped by thick bar tape and a well-shaped Giant saddle, the Advanced 3 is probably more comfortable than its Pro SL1 sibling.
Giant’s combined performance with comfort, and even with its rigidity it’s a smooth ride
Shimano’s Tiagra may only be 10-speed, but its shifting performance equals that of 105 and the climb-friendly gear spread never left us rueing the absence of an eleventh sprocket, even on the stiffest climbs. Giant’s P-SL1 tyres are suitably soft, but wet-weather grip is no more than average and they suffered a few pinch punctures during the test period.
That might have just been bad luck, but wider rubber could be run at lower pressures for added comfort while also reducing the chances of suffering pinch flats. And though there’s nothing wrong with the Tiagra brakes, we did find the standard, non-cartridge pads squidgy under heavy braking.
But overall the TCR is a seriously impressive machine. You get enough of a feel of the bikes that the Giant-Alpecin pros ride to make for a very rewarding cycling experience. The geometry is racy without being too extreme and the handling is impeccable. And if you like an upgrade project, this Giant is one hell of a starting point.