Giant TCR Advanced 0 Review

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Giant offered the TCR Advanced 0 for the first time in 2012, and it was a price-killer by delivering a bike with Ultegra Di2 for $4000. For 2013, the bike is unchanged (including the price) save for the colour scheme.

The Giant TCR Advanced 0 is not alone at the $4000 price-point and there are other brands who offer a sound race bike with Shimano Ultegra for this price. Where the TCR Advanced 0 differs however is that the spec’d groupset is electronic (Di2) rather than mechanical, underlining the value of the package on offer. Yes, you can find other bikes around this price equipped with Ultegra Di2, but there aren’t many to choose from (e.g. Merida Reacto, Azzurri Forza). The TCR Advanced is a bike to woo enthusiasts or racers on a tight budget who are curious about electronic shifting.

Before the ride

Straight out of the box, the TCR Advanced 0 is an easy build and I had no trouble with any of the parts. Ultegra Di2 is very easy to set up and I had the gears running perfectly in about half the time it takes to tune a mechanical group (and that included the time it took to read the instructions). The battery was fully charged straight out of the box too. I’ve written previously about the benefits of electronic shifting but it’s worth repeating. It’s a great system for riders that don’t have the time or inclination to look after their gears because the only necessary maintenance is to re-charge the battery every few months.

The OverDrive 2 system is Giant's new label for a front end that is built around an oversized 1.25 inch steerer

The TCR Advanced carbon frameset is manufactured with Giant’s “Advanced Grade Composite” that employs T-700 carbon fibre. Giant weaves the composite in their own factory and then use it to build the frame in two parts: the main triangle (including the seat tube) is manufactured in a monocoque fashion first, then, it is bonded to the rear triangle. The front end of the bike uses Giant’s OverDrive 2 technology, which is simply their label for an oversized 1.25″ head tube and steerer. The system makes for a stiffer front end but limits aftermarket choices for new stem, at least for the time being. It is worth noting that Giant offers a good range of stem lengths for OverDrive 2 but there is only one option for the stem angle (±8 degrees). For the bottom bracket, Giant opted for Shimano’s PressFit system.

the frame in two parts: the main triangle (including the seat tube) is manufactured in a monocoque fashion first, then, it is bonded to the rear triangle.

Virtually all of the parts, other than the groupset, are labelled with the Giant name. The Fizik saddle is an obvious exception; less obvious are the wheels, they have bold Giant logos but tiny DT logos on the hubs reveal their true origin. I’ve no reason to question the quality of the Giant-branded parts, but I enjoyed it better when Giant bikes were dressed with parts from some great brands that added value to the bike.

The handlebars have a deep bend, a true racing bar. Indeed, the bike is oriented towards a racing fit with a relatively short head tube, as set out in the geometry table below:

Geometry Table

XS/43.0 51.5 71.0 74.5 12.0
S/46.5 53.5 72.0 73.5 13.5
M/50.0 55.5 73.0 73.0 15.0
M/L53.5 57.0 73.0 72.5 17.0
L/55.5 58.5 73.0 72.5 18.5
XL/58.5 60.5 73.0 72.0 20.0

Riders looking for a more relaxed fit should take a look at Giant’s Defy Advanced 0, which has the same specification and retail price as the TCR Advanced 0 except the top tube frame is up to 1cm shorter and the head tube 0.5-2cm longer, depending on the size of the bike.

The colour scheme for the 2013 model is very conservative, but a big improvement on last year’s model. Indeed, Giant’s entire bike road range has an understated presentation. The silhouetted logo on the down tube of the TCR Advanced 0 captured my attention for a brief moment otherwise there was nothing to engage my eye.

For more information, visit the Giant website.

After the ride

My first impression of the TCR Advanced 0, which also proved to be the longest lasting, was how smooth this bike is. The ride was so smooth, I might have been riding on glass, but there was more to it: all the parts worked beautifully too. I found the stays to be firm, the bottom bracket steady, and the head tube sturdy but riders hoping for a stiff, efficient bike will be disappointed. That doesn’t mean the TCR Advanced O was springy and inefficient, but it was lacking the rigidity that some racers prefer. This bike aims for the middle ground, and it achieves it so well that there are no contrasts in its performance. As such, it’s great choice for riders without expectations. It goes up, down and around without much effort, it won’t hold you back, but there isn’t much to inspire an experienced rider. Put another way, the TCR Advanced 0 is a bike for Goldilocks because everything is “just right”.

The Ultegra Di2 system works very well, the front shifting in particular was very impressive. I’m sure everybody reading this will be familiar with the extra effort a shift from the small ring to the large ring requires; with Di2, there is no such effort, just hit the button and it happens. The rear shifting is similarly impressive, though the improvement over mechanical shifting is not so marked. The up- and down-shift buttons were a little difficult to discern on the basis of feel alone. There was also very little feedback when pushing the buttons–there were times when I would miss a shift because I hadn’t pushed the button properly. Part of the problem was related to the position of the buttons, which I found were a little too far from the hoods.

I couldn’t resist abusing the system by shifting in ways that one would never contemplate with a mechanical system–such as simultaneous front and rear shifting–and Di2 executed all of my commands without fault or error (the chain refused to be bucked from the chainrings too). It was only after I accidentally knocked the cord from the rear derailleur that I had any trouble with the reliability of shifting.

As impressive as the shifting was, ultimately, I personally prefer mechanical shifting. By removing the effort required to shift gears, I found I stopped engaging with the bike. Punching buttons disconnected me from the bike in same way that reading fiction on a screen separates me from the book; without any tactile feedback, the activity no longer offers the same enjoyment.

Final thoughts

Having ridden several hundred kilometers on a Giant, I understand why so many riders choose this brand. First, there is the value of the bike, and second, there is the quality of the ride, which will immediately appeal to new riders. The race-oriented geometry will appeal to racers on a tight budget or curious about electronic shifting. The only unfortunate thing is that there isn’t a second option for the TCR Advanced 0 that is equipped with 11 speed Dura Ace (or SRAM Red) at a similar price for those who prefer mechanical shifting.

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