In the late 1990s, Giant introduced the TCR design on its high-performance road bikes. To create a lighter, stiffer, and ultimately faster frame, the TCR (Total Compact Road) design features a sloped top tube running from the top of the head tube to a bit lower than usual on the seat tube. This helps create smaller, lighter frame triangles on the bicycles, which were still as strong and stiff as traditional designs. Today, compact frame design is the industry standard on carbon frames.
The 2016 Giant TCR Advanced SL is the latest point in the evolution of the TCR design. It’s positioned to be a high-end, all-around race bike, ideal for top-level Tour de France contenders, and anyone looking to ride a true race-ready bike. Giant designed and built the new TCR with three key goals in mind: superior efficiency, handling, and race-tuned ride quality. Specific changes over previous generations of the bike include optimized tube shaping and more advanced composite materials, which reduce the frame weight by 12 percent, plus Giant’s wide MegaDrive downtube and beefy PowerCore bottom bracket to keep pedaling efficiency stiff.
The 2016 TCR also relies on a new wheel system designed specifically to work with and complement the new frame. These lightweight, tubeless-compatible carbon fiber wheels have a couple of interesting key features: Giant developed Dynamic Balanced Lacing, where the spokes are tensioned at slightly different levels, depending where those spokes are positioned on the wheel. Certain spokes have less tension when the wheel is in a non-moving position. When pedal force is applied, and the rear wheel starts turning, the less-tensioned spokes immediately bind tighter to be in balance with the other ones. This improves the wheel’s transmission stiffness, which ultimately increases efficiency.
We put the top-end TCR Advanced SL through its paces over a couple of days riding around the cycling paradise of Majorca, Spain. Our rides featured tight and twisty hairpin descents, long and grueling climbs in the baking sun, quick sprints through picturesque Spanish villages, and a section or two of cobblestones with plenty of flat tarmac into brisk headwinds.
As a true race machine should be, the TCR Advanced SL is precise, responsive, and immediately feels confident. We could feel the efficient pedaling on the six-mile ascent of the Puig Major from Fornalutx, as well as the random sprints against other riders. There are a lot of long, fast, and twisty descents in Majorca, and the bike handled them with accuracy and reassuring stability at high speeds. Even when we managed to come into hairpins a little too hot, the bike maintained its line. This is not meant to be a wind-slicing aero bike, but it is plenty fast. Stand on the pedals, and it goes. Pedaling efficiency is a major goal with such race bikes, but you tend to ride slower when you’re not comfortable. Fortunately, the TCR Advanced SL offers enough compliance that our longest ride of the test period was comfortable. And fast.
Available in August, the Advanced SL is the highest-end version of the 2016 TCR Advanced line, and is priced at $9,000. As such, it’s outfitted with Shimano’s electronic Dura-Ace Di2, along with Giant’s own carbon fiber bars, stem, and Variant Integrated Seatpost.
[$9,000 as tested; giant-bicycles.com]