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What We Ride: Matthew’s Giant TCR Advanced with OG SRAM eTap

Website editor Matthew’s custom build revels in mismatched brakes, aluminium wheels, and riding joy

Matthew Loveridge
3 Aug 2022

I built my Giant TCR so I’d have a bike that just stays the same. After years of jumping between test bikes (I hear you, string section) I wanted something that I could truly call mine and which keeps things relatively simple.

This bike started life as a TCR Advanced 2, the cheapest model in Giant’s range of carbon race bikes, with a full Shimano 105 R7000 mechanical groupset and a £1,999 price tag. It’s one of the last proper race bikes you can still buy with rim brakes.

Giant is a bit sneaky with its model hierarchy. Ostensibly there are three tiers to the TCR range (from top to bottom: Advanced SL, Advanced Pro, Advanced) but in reality the lower two get virtually identical frames, albeit the Advanced Pro has a lighter fork with a stouter steerer (1 1/2in to 1 1/4in tapered, versus 1 1/4in to 1 1/8in tapered for the Advanced).

To my mind that means the humble Advanced 2 is fundamentally the same bike under the paint as the Advanced Pro 1, which retails at £3,699.

The TCR Advanced 2 was one of the very last bikes I tested in my old job and it was a thoroughly nice thing to ride.

When Giant offered to sell the demo bike to me at a healthy discount from new, I couldn’t refuse.

My Giant TCR Advanced build: First gen SRAM Red eTap – mostly

I wanted this bike for its outstanding frameset and because, like all one-percenters, I had a first-gen SRAM Red eTap groupset sitting idle on the shelf.

OG eTap always appealed to because it offered something genuinely new and different when it launched.

Rather than mimicking the shifting logic of its mechanical drivetrains, SRAM took a clean-sheet approach to the design and came up with something very intuitive.

You are likely already familiar with the concept at this point – it’s been used on every eTap road groupset since – but you simply use one lever’s shift paddle for easier gears and the other for harder gears, while pressing both paddles shifts the front derailleur.

It’s a system that’s incredibly easy to explain to the uninitiated, and I appreciate that kind of good design. eTap also makes it ludicrously easy to build a bike, because there are no gear cables to route – you simply bolt the derailleurs to the frame.

Crossing the streams: Shimano brakes

My TCR is fitted with Shimano brakes and there are two reasons for this: 1) the groupset was previously mounted to a frame that used direct-mount callipers, while the TCR is traditional single-bolt, and 2) SRAM rim brakes are not very good and I do not like them.

The Shimano callipers I fitted instead are from the Ultegra 6700 10-speed groupset, making them a whole three generations out of date. For context, 6700 launched in 2010, when the ‘I agree with Nick’ meme was the best we could muster as a nation. Want to feel old? Pick an arbitrary moment from the past and think about it until you’re sad.

These brakes were excellent when new and they’re still excellent now, although brake feel isn’t as firm as on a pure Shimano setup. Perhaps SRAM levers flex more? Whatever, they work.

Blue collar wheels, white collar bars

The rest of the build is a bit parts-bin too, assuming you have a bin filled with really nice bike components.

The Borg22 handbuilt wheels are boring to look at, but very, very sensible. Their low-profile tubeless aluminium rims have an internal width of 19mm and are built on sturdy Miche Primato hubs.

The tyres are the newish Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR, which show every sign of being just as good as the first generation tubeless GP5000.

The Borgs are the sort of wheels you should all buy instead of dreaming about carbon. Nevertheless, I’m dreaming about carbon, even while knowing full well that rim brakes and carbon wheels are never the best combination. But imagine how good my TCR would look (and sound!) with deep sections, and maybe some tanwall tyres? Exactly.

The Ritchey WCS carbon bar looks great and is very stiff, maybe even too stiff. It’s held aloft by an aluminium stem rescued from an affordable Hoy bike some years ago.

I’m told that’s Sir Chris’s signature scribbled on top. I like to think they made him sit on the production line, individually autographing every bike. ‘No you can’t go on your break yet, Sir Chris.’

Of note is that while the TCR has a standard steerer, the proprietary headset spacers clash with some stems. You can change the whole headset upper, but I didn’t really want to, and I think this stem looks decent even if it doesn’t quite blend with the spacers.

The seatpost is frameset-specific so that was one less decision to make, while the saddle pictured is the original, and it’s pretty good.

I know I said this bike was supposed to remain unchanged but currently it wears that funky Specialized 3D printed S-Works Romin.

I’m still on the fence about it. Not that it feels like sitting on a fence, I just don’t know if I particularly like it. I’ve been riding bikes for a long time now, but saddle nirvana remains tantalisingly just out of reach.

Riding my Giant TCR

My favourite bike review cliché for the TCR is to call it ‘analogue’, which is sort of meaningless, not to mention ridiculous given the drivetrain is literally digital and requires batteries to work.

It’s an apt description of the riding experience, however. The TCR doesn’t shout about its technical wizardry or lean heavily on proprietary gimmicks. It’s just rides very well, delivering a pure road bike experience with a minimum of frippery.

It’s comfortable enough, stiff enough, and light enough. And did I mention it’s mine? Completely mine.

Matthew’s Giant TCR Advanced spec

Frame Giant TCR Advanced grade carbon
Fork Advanced grade carbon, OverDrive steerer
Weight 7.4kg (with pedals, cages, computer mount)
Groupset SRAM Red eTap 11-speed
Brakes Shimano Ultegra 6700
Wheels Borg22 tubeless on Miche Primato hubs
Tyres Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR 28mm
Cockpit Ritchey WCS Carbon Streem 40cm bar, Hoy 110mm stem
Seatpost Giant Variant carbon
Saddle Giant Approach / Specialized S-Works Romin EVO with Mirror
Pedals Wahoo Speedplay Zero
Accessories Tacx Deva cages, Rotor out-front computer mount, Garmin Edge 130

Photos: Joseph Branston

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