Racing bikes with rim brakes are a dying breed in 2021, but there is still a case to be made for simple, lightweight bikes that focus on the fun of riding above all else.
Giant’s TCR is a legendary platform that has won countless tests over the generations. With a full 105 and a frame barely different from its superbike cousins, is this still a winner?
The TCR is a benchmark for versatile racing bikes and the TCR Advanced 2 is the cheapest model in the lineup, the latest incarnation of a relatively affordable machine that has already won our coveted Bike of the Year award in 2018. .
Prices have risen since then, but it’s still an attractive proposition for cyclists looking for a pure road bike experience, and it’s a top choice for aspiring riders who can live without disc brakes.
Giant TCR Advanced 2 frame
This TCR is one of an ever growing number of suitable rim brake racing bikes. It might seem perverse to choose lower brakes these days, but for predominantly good weather driving, a good set of rim brakes is still a perfectly good option, one that comes with appealing simplicity and a low weight.
This complete bike weighs just 7.9kg for an average bike, a healthy chunk less than many bikes in this price bracket.
The TCR is made from what Giant calls advanced grade carbon, the second tier below Advanced SL, and the same material as the top grade TCR Advanced Pro.
According to Giant’s own figures, the frame weighs 830g unpainted, and the penalty over the top-of-the-line model is only 85g plus the weight of a seat post because the SL has an integrated mast.
Externally, the bicycle differs little from its more expensive brethren. It has the same sleek, almost organic curves and the same compact (or semi-compact – that’s less extreme than before) frame design with a sloping top tube.
Giant claimed aerodynamic gains when redesigning the TCR for 2021, but it’s not a pure aero bike – that niche in the brand’s lineup is occupied by the rather meaty-looking Propel.
The TCR, on the other hand, is quite delicate, with simple and attractive lines complemented by a slim fork.
It’s a nice thing with an attractive paint job and, thanks to good old quick-release skewers and a standard cockpit layout with the cables exposed, there shouldn’t be any annoying compatibility issues or mechanical headaches. when it comes to swapping out components or making adjustments to your fit.
Geometry Giant TCR Advanced 2
Giant construction TCR Advanced 2
The Advanced 2 specification gives you a complete Shimano 105 groupset with no third-party substitutions outside of the chain.
Given the bike’s racy intentions, Giant opts for a 52/36 crank over a true compact, although the 11-30 cassette means the gearing is still reasonably low to haul big climbs.
The finishing kit is entirely Giant’s property and is completely harmless, just like the PR-2 alloy wheels of its own brand. While the more expensive TCRs feature hookless carbon rims with some restrictions on tire compatibility, there are no such issues here.
Both rims and tires are tubeless ready, and the former are usefully wide at 22mm internal, an impressive up-to-date specification that helps inflate the nominally 25mm Giant tires mounted nearly 28mm wide.
Tire clearance, by the way, is one area where the TCR rim brake is inevitably overshadowed by the disc version. Officially, 28mm is the maximum width allowed, while the disc model takes 32 seconds.
Impressions of the Giant TCR Advanced 2 race
On the road, the TCR is a delightfully pure, unfiltered experience. It is rigid, direct and, thanks to its low weight, a pleasure to cast.
The aesthetics of the TCR are that of a lightweight mountaineer’s bike that would be comfortable in the mountains, and the riding experience is very much in line with that dream.
Even knowing that the aero trumps weight almost all the time when it comes to actual speed, there’s no doubt about the nice feel of a lighter bike.
The underlying TCR formula hasn’t changed in years and that’s because it works. The bike is precise and efficient, a real pleasure in fast technical descents.
The geometry is as sleek as ever, with steep frame angles and a short wheelbase of just 980mm for a midrange. The reach is quite long at 388mm, while the 545mm stack will allow most riders to be as low as they need it to be, but not as aggressive as some.
Under hard pedaling the TCR is quite stiff rather than totally inflexible, but that’s probably as much due to the wheels as it is to the frameset.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Giant tires, but a set of carbon racing rims would naturally be even more exciting, and this bike is good enough in all other respects to deserve them as a future upgrade.
In its standard form, however, the TCR is fully race-ready and lacking for nothing. You can spend the money on a premium tire set as well, but the Giant rubber fitted is just fine.
The TCR isn’t a fluffy endurance bike, but with tubeless tires you can reap the benefits of lower tire pressure with the added bonus of extra puncture protection.
Shimano 105 is still as competent as ever, with a little less sharp shifting than the Ultegra. The brakes are of course not equal to the discs, but they are more than enough and don’t flex like cheaper third-party calipers.
Giant TCR Advanced 2 overall
There’s a reason the TCR has been such a high score over several generations. It rightfully sits alongside greats like the Cannondale SuperSix and the Specialized Tarmac.
Giant, however, is arguably more generous at the affordable end of the range than most of the competition. This all-men’s TCR isn’t a shoddy homage to the professional model supergroup, it’s a fantastic bike in its own right and I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
In its standard form, it’s a capable bike that’s ready to run or ride all day as fast as it can get, and the frame is good enough to warrant major upgrades down the line if the mood takes you. .
If you don’t think you need disc brakes, the TCR is one of the best road bikes you can buy right now.