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Giant TCR Advanced SL 2021 review

4 Aug 2020

Page 1 of 2Giant TCR Advanced SL 2021 review


Giant’s historic flagship TCR race bike has had an aero and efficiency overhaul, and it's tough to beat

Cyclist Rating: 
Aerodynamic, rigid and all-around fast • Impressive weight for a disc-brake build • Versatility in tyre clearance • Nice integration of Giant components
Press-fit bottom bracket may frustrate some riders

The Giant TCR is a piece of cycling history. In 1997 it was the first to adopt the concept of the ‘compact’ frame – the brainchild of British engineer Mike Burrows – with a sloped top tube that increased stiffness, improved aerodynamics and reduced weight. Now the majority of race bikes have compact frames, and the competition is, literally, stiffer than ever.

Lining up against the likes of the Trek Émonda, Specialized S-Works Tarmac and Cannondale SuperSix, the latest TCR needs to boast some impressive numbers, and Giant doesn’t disappoint. It claims that the new TCR is more aerodynamic, more rigid and lighter than all but one of the competition.

Buy now from Tredz for £9,499

In wind-tunnel tests, Giant claims to have outperformed its major rivals when tested at yaw angles of -15° to +15° at 40kmh with bottle cages in place, leading to a saving of 0.5 watts compared to the Tarmac, and a striking 14 watts over the 2020 Émonda SLR (although we doubt it would perform quite as well against the newest ultra-aero 2021 version of the Émonda).

Beyond aerodynamics, Giant claims the TCR has the highest stiffness-to-weight in the road sector, with a 10% increase in lateral fork and frame pedalling stiffness over the S-Works Tarmac, which is itself around 10% more rigid than its nearest competitor, the Cervélo R5 Disc.

While we can’t verify Giant’s claims about stiffness, there’s no doubting the scales when it comes to weight. Given that it also includes a seatmast, like-for-like the TCR is lighter than the S-Works Tarmac and Cervélo R5 Disc at 1,266g for the frameset (size M), and in this build the complete bike comes in at a remarkable 6.7kg.

It’s a pretty good CV, but with bikes of this calibre, at this price, we really expect something incredible to happen when tyres hit tarmac.

Giant leaps

The first thing I noticed about the TCR was the exposed brake cables. That’s a slight divergence from the current trend, with most new top-tier bikes – including the new Émonda – completely concealing cables at the front end.

Giant says it did this because cables in the head tube can be headache when packing and unpacking the bike for travelling. I’d argue that an even bigger impediment to packing a bike is an integrated seatpost, as found on the TCR, but I guess that depends on your priorities.

I was also a little surprised to see 25mm tyres, especially as the TCR now officially has clearance for 32mm tyres. But Giant has opted to spec tubeless as standard, which I applaud.

My test bike arrived during lockdown, so my first rides were restricted to 30-40km solo TTs, which evolved into longer rides through quiet Surrey roads. Strange as it sounds, the TCR’s ride quality played a part in keeping me riding.

The frame’s rigidity was apparent from the outset. It almost pushed back on my pedalling efforts, and the transfer into acceleration was immediate. It certainly felt similar to the S-Works Tarmac in stiffness terms, and it made me want to ride fast.

That aggressive character was very well balanced by the control and ride quality. The bike handled sharply yet had a reassuring stability on fast descents, and I had a few eye-widening moments when I happened to glance down at my speed.

Running the 25mm tyres at 80-90psi, the TCR bordered on being too rigid in terms of the feedback from the road. Thankfully the tubeless setup allowed me to drop the pressure to around 60-70psi, so I was able to find a sweet spot in comfort terms that made the most of the innately smooth ride quality.

Buy now from Tredz for £9,499

The components seemed to work together well, especially the impressive carbon-spoked wheels from Giant’s wheel brand, Cadex. The TCR simply had a neat quality about it – a clinical efficiency of energy.

Perhaps the only criticism that could be levelled at it would be the use of a press fit bottom bracket, where some competitors such as the Émonda have moved towards threaded solutions because of historic tolerance and creaking issues.

My overwhelming impression of the TCR was how well rounded it is. It has the weight and handling of a pure climber yet also the aggression of an aero road bike, all while having the tyre clearance to make it an all-day cruiser.

Does it come out at the top of its field? While I’ve ridden faster bikes, smoother bikes and more nimble bikes, I really can’t think of one bike that does all of those things better together.


Save a bit

Buy the Giant TCR Advanced SL1 from Tredz for £6,799

If you want to save £2,700, the SL 1 Disc (£6,799) has all the slick looks of the SL 0 and includes a Sram Force AXS groupset. The only real sacrifice is a step down to a set of Giant’s SLR-1 carbon rims.

Save a lot

Buy the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 from Tredz for £3,599

For a relatively bargainish £3,599, the Pro 1 Disc means you say goodbye to the integrated seatpost and sacrifice a little on carbon fibre modulus. We suspect this will be the most popular of the new TCR range.


Frame Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc
Groupset Sram Red eTap AXS
Brakes Sram Red eTap AXS
Chainset Sram Red eTap AXS
Cassette Sram Red eTap AXS
Bars Giant Contact SLR
Stem Giant Contact SLR
Seatpost Giant Contact SLR
Saddle Giant Fleet SLR
Wheels Cadex 42mm Disc, Cadex Race tubeless 25mm tyres
Weight 6.7kg

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews


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Page 1 of 2Giant TCR Advanced SL 2021 review