First-look review: the 2016 Giant TCR Advanced SL

by CyclingTips


This week Giant introduced the refinements made to their new 2016 TCR Advanced model lineup, as well as their newly designed SLR WheelSystems and performance saddle offering. A group of journalists were fortunate enough to spend two days riding Giant’s new models up and down the demanding roads of Mallorca to familiarise themselves with the changes and putting them to the test.


The TCR continues to be Giant’s all-in-one flagship race bike (TCR stands for “total compact road”) and since it was introduced to the market in 1997 with their revolutionary compact framesets that broke the mould. The TCR has undergone an evolution of refinements to bring it where it is today.

Giant offers three levels of TCR which incorporate the advancements made in this release: the TCR Advanced Pro, Advanced SL and Advanced. Much of the technology in the frame is shared amongst models so the ride quality and performance level is similar amongst them. The exact same carbon lay-up is used for each of the frames and only the components make up the difference between price and performance.

Giant’s overarching design goal for this TCR line-up was with one thing in mind: efficiency. By that, they meant that they wanted to create the stiffest bike possible for the least amount of weight penalty.

To achieve this, Giant says that they went and bought their top five competitors bikes to see how their stiffness to weight ratio stacked up and created a design that put them at the top of list.

Of course stiffness and weight are only part of the equation of a nice riding bike, so they had to consider a balance between efficiency, compliance and aerodynamic ability which they said were also high on the list of priorities.

Illustration showing the changes between the previous iteration of the TCR, and the new 2016 TCR frame and fork. The red shows the areas where Giant were able to strip away material, stiffen up the ride qualities, and reduce weight by way of learning’s from tube shape improvements, advancement in manufacturing techniques, or design changes.
Illustration showing the changes between the previous iteration of the TCR, and the new 2016 TCR frame and fork. The red shows the areas where Giant were able to strip away material, stiffen up the ride qualities, and reduce weight by way of learning’s from tube shape improvements, advancement in manufacturing techniques, or design changes.

As you can see, Giant engineers have smoothed many of the edges of the previous design, refined the tubing, and added hollow carbon dropouts. The result is the lightest and stiffest frameset they’ve produced for the TCR.

Giant says, “The new TCR Advanced SL shaves 12% of frameset weight (181 grams) from the previous generation, without sacrificing stiffness. The toptube, seattube, integrated seatpost and seatstays feature minimalistic profiles, while the MegaDrive downtube and PowerCore bottom bracket have been refined to maintain TCR’s renowned pedaling stiffness. The new lightweight headset assembly and ISP seat clamp design save 39 grams.”

Eric Clem, Giant’s lead designer, pointed out the highlights of the design improvements in the frame:

  • The bearings in the headtube have been placed higher so that it’s more in-line with the down tube. This stiffens the steering  which allowed them to shave off material.
  • The seatpost is now more rounded and with a continuous radius to give more fore-aft compliance.
  • Cable routing now simpler with newly designed internal routing.
  • New carbon fibre dropouts (not only for weight, but for a clearer trajectory for the derailleur cable).

SLR 0 Wheelsystem

An integral part of the stiffness and efficiency to the overall design of the TCR is the new SLR 0 and SLR 1 Wheelsystem. They come in 30mm and 55mm deep versions that have a 23mm outer width and 17mm tubeless compatible inner width.

Giant’s wheelsystem product manager, Jeff Schneider, explained the key points and the following design considerations of their new line of SLR wheels:

    • Giant focused on 3 things: efficiency, control (handling and tracking through corners), and durability.
    • They used a spoke lacing technique dubbed as “DBL” – dynamic balanced lacing which they say improves transmission stiffness and balances out the wheel when riding pressure is applied. This is accomplished by placing the heads of the “pushing” spokes lower in the hub flange than the “pulling” spokes (i.e. more leverage on the “pulling” spokes, less on the “pushing” spokes)

Dynamic Balanced Lacing: (Left): Static state - While in a static state, the pulling spokes (red) and pushing spokes (yellow) have slightly different tensions that help increase durability. (Right): Pedaling state - As the wheel transfers into a dynamic state under the rider, the pulling and pushing spokes balance out, providing optimal stiffness for power transfer.
Dynamic Balanced Lacing: (Left): Static state – While in a static state, the pulling spokes (red) and pushing spokes (yellow) have slightly different tensions that help increase durability. (Right): Pedaling state – As the wheel transfers into a dynamic state under the rider, the pulling and pushing spokes balance out, providing optimal stiffness for power transfer.

  • Braking – High Glass Transition Temperature (Tg ) resin system allows wheels to resist heat under load for longer compared to competition according to Giant’s test claims.
  • Giant’s layout process allows them to evenly distribute the carbon throughout the wheel to allow for smoother braking and better heat dissipation.
  • Giant testing claims that the SLR 0 boasts not only the highest stiffness, but also the highest stiffness-to-weight when compared to the Zipp 202 Firecrest, Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3, Roval Rapide CLX 40, and ENVE Smart 3.4.

With Giant's "Dynamic Balanced Lacing" approach on their SLR wheels, opposing spokes have different levels of tension when the wheel is static. But when a rider applies pedaling force as the bike is being ridden, the spoke tensions balance out. Giant says that this improves a wheel’s transmission stiffness, which increases efficiency. The rear wheel is  is built with 21 spokes: 14 on the drive side and 7 on the non-drive side.
With Giant’s “Dynamic Balanced Lacing” approach on their SLR wheels, opposing spokes have different levels of tension when the wheel is static. But when a rider applies pedaling force as the bike is being ridden, the spoke tensions balance out. Giant says that this improves a wheel’s transmission stiffness, which increases efficiency. The rear wheel is built with 21 spokes: 14 on the drive side and 7 on the non-drive side.

Giant’s proprietary resin system boasts an impressive Glass Transition Temperature (Tg) rating of 245C. Giant says this ensures heat resistance under heavy braking load. When combined with Giant’s automated layup process, Giant says that the result is greater overall consistency in materials placement, best-in-class brake heat protection, and improved overall toughness of the rim structure.
Giant’s proprietary resin system boasts an impressive Glass Transition Temperature (Tg) rating of 245C. Giant says this ensures heat resistance under heavy braking load. When combined with Giant’s automated layup process, Giant says that the result is greater overall consistency in materials placement, best-in-class brake heat protection, and improved overall toughness of the rim structure.

The Ride Verdict

When our CTech Editor Matt Wikstrom reviewed the previous TCR (Advanced 0), he described the ride quality as such: “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.”

Over the years I’ve learned to trust my gut on first impressions and there’s no other word to describe this bike other than what Giant has promised in the new TCR: stiff and efficient. There’s no other way to put it, and while I didn’t ride the previous TCR generation back-to-back last week, there’s nothing in my memory that described it as “stiff” when I last rode one. Giant has certainly hit the nail on the head with their goal of creating a claimed “highest stiffness-to-weight ratio of any road bike on the market” while managing not to sacrifice handling or comfort.

The bike is categorised as an all-rounder “GC” bike, but this new generation of TCR Advanced 0 frameset and SLR wheels elevate this into the category of a climbers bike in my view. Coupled with the new SLR wheelset (weighing 1331g for the pair) which are also designed with stiffness and efficiency in mind, the resulting performance of the new TCR will be welcomed by those who love to climb. If you’re a sprinter, you’ll also love the ride qualities this bike has to offer as it’s no precious featherweight.

I welcome the chance to ride some familiar descents to better understand the new TCR’s handling abilities. First impressions were promising, but pushing it too hard on the notoriously slippery roads of Mallorca was against my better judgement.

Price and availability

*For those of you in Australia or New Zealand, please check with your local Giant dealer for pricing and availability at the end of July.

Model (Advertised Retail) Price in USD Availability (in the USA)
TCR Advanced SL 0 $9,000 August
TCR Advanced SL 1 $5,900 August
TCR Advanced SL 2 $4,100 July
TCR Advanced Pro 0 $5,500 August
TCR Advanced Pro 1 $3,500 July
TCR Advanced Pro 2 NA NA
TCR Advanced 0 NA NA
TCR Advanced 1 $2,500 July
TCR Advanced 2 $2,000 July
TCR Advanced 3 $1,700 July

 

Disclosure: We would like to thank Giant for hosting our trip to Mallorca to test ride their new range of TCR bikes and products. Giant Australia is an advertiser with CyclingTips.

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