Could Giant’s flagship mid range bike change the way we think about value and performance? I must have been particularly good this year because Santa delivered a Christmas treat – a Giant TCR Advanced Zero. And from the minute I opened the box, it was like all of my Christmases had come at once. There are still those who feel that Giant does not boast the style and sexiness of some other brands in this spec range, but there’s no faulting its value for money and ride quality. This was evident the first minute I threw a leg over the new steed on its first bunch ride.
A lot has been written about the stiffness and front-end rigidity of Giant’s 2012 offerings and I’ll mention more about that later, but the first thing you need to know about the TCR Advanced Zero is that it is so damn comfortable. This bike doesn't make its case with any degree of outrageousness– there are no complex fork systems or triple-kinked rear ends here. No, apart from the enormous tubes, this bike goes about its business in a more subdued manner and lets its engineering and technical prowess do the talking.
It seems that several characteristics have carried over from the preceding version and in this case that's a good thing. Having never owned one before, it is hard to compare, but I did let a few mates who already own a TCR of some description ride the Advanced Zero during a couple of group outings, and to a man (and one woman) they agreed the pedalling stiffness was among the best they had ridden. There's a distinctively direct and efficient feel under foot when putting the power down, particularly in higher-wattage situations like out-of-saddle climbs. Take-off responsiveness and power transfer during a couple of bunch sprints was certainly more immediate and far more responsive than the ‘stiff’ time trial bike I have been riding during these highly competitive and much anticipated Saturday morning interludes. To sum up, ride quality could be described as smooth and resilient, with a lively overtone.
The shallow but wide Giant P-SLR1 clincher wheels, which come as standard with the TCR Advanced Zero, glide along with outstanding vibration damping while still managing to communicate some information to the rider. That said, for many riders there is little point talking about wheelsets because so many riders these days replace their stock wheels with a pair of carbon clinchers for serious riding. However, it must be said that the stock wheels are awesome and if you’re not intending on heading down the carbon route, you’ll be more than satisfied with the P-SLR1s.
Now settle in because it’s time to talk tubes, or at least tube names. Giant call their steerer tube design ‘OverDrive 2’ for precision steering and handling. Their oversized down tube and top tube combination is the ‘MegaDrive’ and they have thrown in their ‘PowerCore’ bottom bracket for good measure. Giant say this combination produces the razor-sharp, super efficient ride quality of this model. I have to agree, although I’d prefer not to have the marketing inspired names. Giant weave their own carbon (in this case T700) and mould the down tube, head tube, top tube and seat tube as one continuous piece. This front half is then joined to the chainstays and seat stays in a second baking process and then they eliminate the outermost woven composite sheet of carbon to reduce the weight without affecting ride quality, strength or stiffness. They’ve also managed to reduce the number of pieces of carbon used in the construction. This means that the frame is stiffer due to the lower number of joining points and also lighter from the lack of overlap. From my point of view after riding the TCR, it works perfectly. Tapered steerers are common on road bikes now and while they’re great for squelching unwanted fork flex, the upper diameter of most conventional chassis is still comparatively puny. The TCR Advanced's new 1.25 to 1.5 inch dimension, offers a rock-solid feel, eradicating any hint of twist or bending when you put torque on the bars. This bike’s front end is a real game changer, a step out of the square.
But if I did have one thing that I thought was strange, it was the fact there are two internal cable ports on the head tube, which are useless given this bike was running Ultegra Di2. The higher-end TCR model frames are Di2 specific and don’t have these cable holes. I can see that using the same mould for both mechanical and electronic is cost effective, but since electronic shifting is one of the main reasons people are gravitating towards the Advanced Zero, I’m wondering if future models will have separate moulds. Anyway, it is a small drawback on a bike that has such sleek lines and something Giant will hopefully address with the next edition of this frame set.
Current users of Shimano equipped bikes will find their use instinctive as the Ultegra Di2 shift buttons are in the same place as regular STI levers. A really nice feature with Di2 is that it will suit many riders, particularly women or anyone with smaller hands, as the distance between the lever and the handlebar is adjustable so braking and gear shifting is comfortably and safely within reach.
The Di2 system has been used in the world’s toughest competitions and has proved to be very reliable, with features such as automatic realigning ensuring that gear shifts always remain crisp and precise. But the one thing that really annoyed me was the fact that the control panel was not housed somewhere on the frame and it flapped aimlessly in the breeze at any decent speed. The constant slap, slap, slap of the indicator was such an overpowering annoyance, I found myself constantly trying to move it; bending cables away from the frame and at one point squeezing a gel between it to stop it from hitting. Clearly this doesn’t affect the performance of the bike, but it did annoy the hell out of me.
Regarding ride comfort, the development of the Integrated Seat Post (ISP) means riders looking for an especially comfy feel from a top-end race bike will have to make a tough decision. The TCR Advanced's standard telescoping seatpost is easier to live with than the ISP of the top-end SL (that model is also available with a standard post if buyers so desire) – adjustments are more straightforward, packing bikes for travel is far easier, and there are fewer concerns with resale to riders who may not share the exact same saddle height. However, at times on outer Sydney’s rough roads I found myself dreaming of the 15% more comfort claimed by Giant on their top of the line integrated model. Like I said, if comfort is important then you will have an interesting decision to make.
This bike was a revelation. A top notch frame with Di2 and a stack of quality components and it is under $4,000! In my humble opinion, it will be a tough act to follow. For those of us that have been around the bike scene for a while, bikes with weight and features like this are the bikes that will get talked about for years to come. This will be the bike that sets the benchmark for the future.
So why buy a TCR Advanced Zero? Value for money and quality of build and specifications – it is unparalleled in the marketplace at present – plus it is just so damn good to ride!
RideSense, OverDrive 2, MegaDrive and any other word Giant want to put a capital letter in the middle of, all coupled with their compact road design and advanced carbon composite have put this bike into the quality end of the market. It might be marketing speak but those sections of the frame really work. The TCR Advanced 0 truly is a quality bike.
Stiffness, power transfer, superior handling are all words you will use when describing this bike to your mates. On the hills of the Royal National Park to the rough agricultural roads of the Hawkesbury, this bike performed really well. Most bikes are more suited to just one type of riding. This bike will perform excellently in any format. Crits, road, coffee ride, whatever. It’s simply a pleasure to ride.
Value For Money
Here is the main thing about the TCR 0, bang for your buck. The Giant design team have come up with the goods on the TCR and at a retail price point of $3,999, that’s serious quality for not much outlay. Almost anyone could decide to buy one now and ride it tomorrow.
I said earlier that this bike is a game changer and I meant it. The combination of its improved carbon fibre lay-up and oversized tube combinations make for a fantastic ride. It is stiff and responsive in a way that I have yet to experience with a bike at this price point.
Frame: Giant Advanced Grade Composite
Fork: G6 Giant Advanced Grade Composite
Stem: Giant Contact Overdrive 2
Handlebars: Giant Contact 31.8
Saddle: Fizik Arione (manganese rails)
Seat post: Giant Vector Composite
Shift Levers: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-25
Chain: KMC X10SL
Crank: Shimano Ultegra 39-53T
Bottom Bracket: Shimano PressFit
Wheels: Giant P-SL0
Tyres: Giant P-SL1
Weight 7.65kg without pedals
Reviewed by Geoff Braman
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