Review: Giant TCR Advanced SL Frameset

Pro Review Road Bike

The profile of the Giant TCR Advanced SL exudes speed — but it has enough vertical compliance that it feels comfortable even when your trip to the pain cave exceeds five hours.

Road bike manufacturers have focused most of their marketing dollars on Gran Fondo/endurance rigs and wind-splitting aero bikes in recent years. As the comfort and aero arms races proliferate, it’s easy to forget straight-shooting race rigs. But continuing advances in carbon and composite technology have made standard race rigs better than ever, too, as evidenced in the Giant TCR Advanced SL frameset (MSRP: $2,800 for frame/fork/seatpost).

I spent several months pounding out miles on a TCR Advanced SL to see where the mammoth manufacturer had taken its latest generation of pure racing technology. It only took a few rides to really understand the TCR Advanced SL’s strengths and continuing relevance, even in light of more aero and more comfortable options within the Giant family of bikes in the form of the Defy (endurance) and Propel (aero/race).

As James Hibbard, global road marketing specialist at Giant told me, “This frame really can do everything from a super technical downtown crit to a road race. That informed all of the choices that went into designing it.”

Giant also has published results from its tests on the TCR Advanced SL ISP version and the version tested here, the Advanced SL with Vector seatpost, versus frames and forks from competitors. The Giant tests cover frame/fork/seatpost weight, steering stiffness and pedaling stiffness. You can view Giant’s data, which puts the tested TCR Advanced SL with Vector seatpost near the top of the heap in all three categories here.

From short sprint workouts and highly technical descents to 7-plus-hour days in the saddle, I found the TCR Advanced SL to be extremely stiff, but also comfortable with tremendous agility that never swerved across the yellow line to the dangerous domain of twitchy handling.

The TCR Advanced SL encompasses a broad range of desirable qualities that make it a solid choice for criterium racing, road racing, destroying centuries, or any form of aggressive, fast riding. If you prefer mellow riding, super relaxed handling and would trade a few watts of power for a more plush ride, this isn’t your rig.

Materially Speaking

The TCR Advanced SL derives its name from the Advanced SL-grade composite that Giant uses to produce the frame. Unlike most manufacturers, Giant actually has its own carbon fiber manufacturing facility. That means it has total control over every aspect of the production of its carbon frames, from carbon fiber thread to finished product. Advanced-SL composite is Giant’s most technologically advanced T-800 grade carbon and is the same material used in the bikes the Belkin team rode at the 2013 Tour de France. Giant claims a weight of 920 grams for a size medium TCR Advanced SL frame and 332 grams for the TCR Advanced SL fork.

Internal cable routing minimizes drag and keeps the TCR Advanced SL looking clean.

Preferences

Like all high-end modern frames, the TCR Advanced SL has internal cable routing. This design makes for a more slippery frame that slides through the air with less turbulence. It also makes the initial installation of cable housing more complex than old-school, external cable routing. But that’s the price you pay for speed, and it’s a price most people in the market for a high-end racing frame won’t mind.

The TCR Advanced SL is electronic and mechanical ready with appropriate internal wire or cable routing options for either.

The TCR Advanced SL is also electronic-compatible and has everything you need to run your wires.

The frame also has RideSense, Giant’s name for an Ant+ wireless transmitter that comes attached to the interior of the left chainstay for speed and cadence data transmission.

Left: The integrated RIdeSense Ant+ sensor can send speed and cadence data to any Ant+ head unit. Right: The Giant Vector seatpost’s saddle rail clamp has two positions to select from for a farther forward or backward position in addition to affording ample rail adjustment.

The Giant Vector carbon seatpost has a triangular, aero wedge shape. While this design limits you to Giant’s proprietary post shape, it’s an excellent post with a smart saddle rail clamp that allows for a huge range of fore and aft adjustment in two different positions atop the mast.

Left: The distinct foil shape of the Vector seatpost keeps your saddle perfectly centered all the time. Right: An 86.5mm bottom bracket shell accommodates any bottom bracket system and like the headtube helps give the TCR Advanced SL torsional and lateral stiffness you can feel with every pedal stroke.

The design doesn’t allow for any lateral rotation so you never have to wonder whether your saddle is pointing perfectly straight ahead. Another nice detail is the measurements printed on the post itself to give you an easy visual point of reference for post height adjustment. Whether you prefer a steeper or slacker virtual seat tube angle, you will likely be able to find your sweet spot on the TCR Advanced SL.

The 86.5-mm BB shell sits in an oversized bottom bracket junction area that’s built to maximize stiffness and allows you to use any modern press-fit BB system of your choosing.

About the author: Andrew Vontz

Andrew Vontz is a writer, trainer, cycling coach and adventurer based in San Francisco. He writes about people, places and things at the limits of human experience. His work has appeared in Rolling StonePlayboyOutsideBicyclingMen’s Health, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, the UFC magazine and many other publications. Find him @vontz on twitter and instagram. Find more of his stories at www.andrewvontz.com.


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  • Lee Cheung says:

    And if I can get hold of the green and black frameset in the uk ill buy one!!! Any suggestions where from?

  • old5ten says:

    it’s interesting to note that the giant test results don’t compare apples to apples (i.e they use larger sizes for some of their competitors).

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