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Giant TCR Advanced SL 2021 review

4 Aug 2020

Page 2 of 2Giant TCR Advanced 2021 launches


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

Giant launches new TCR Advanced that is lighter and faster

The Giant TCR will spark nostalgic memories amongst any fans of bike design history. It was arguably the first sloping top tube road bike design – reducing weight while increasing stiffness and also improving aerodynamics.

The newest iteration, the Giant TCR Advanced SL 2021, follows that blueprint, with a sharpening of aerodynamics, increase in efficiency and cutting weight. That’s certainly no new story when it comes to bike updates, but when it comes to the TCR the gains don’t come easy.

‘We’ve managed to save 140 grams in a medium frame and fork,’ says UK Product Manager David Ward.

‘We’ve looked at absolutely every element to the point where we’ve looked at paint, the headset spacers and the paint on the headset spacers. The full shooting match and we’ve done this without compromising stiffness or compliance, plus we’ve really improved the aerodynamics.’


Aerodynamics has seen a big step forward for the TCR. Giant has traditionally poured much development and testing into the Propel in aerodynamic terms, but this new TCR sees the greatest focus yet on aero gains.

Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel testing at the GST wind tunnel in Immenstaad, Germany, Giant claims to have outperformed its major rivals when tested at yaw angles of -15° to +15° at 40kmh with bottle cages in place.

Giant claims a saving of 0.5 watts compared to the Specialized Tarmac SL6, and a striking 14 watts compared to the Trek Emonda SLR Disc.

Giant has achieved this through new tube shapes, using truncated ellipse tubing, which uses a wide O-shape cross-sectional shape on the down tube, and more truncated kamm-tail shapes on other tubes on the frame.

Interestingly Giant has avoided internal cabling on the front end, siding for exposed brake cables. Gear cables aren’t necessary on the top-tier SL 0 as it uses wireless Sram Red AXS shifting.

‘Travelling is a big issue for many of the TCR customers,’ says Ward. ‘Completely concealed internal cabling could make packing and unpacking the bike a headache.’

That hasn’t seemed to come at any significant cost in aerodynamic terms, and so generally we’d agree that simplicity in practical terms may be a worthy trade-off.


While aerodynamics may be the most intriguing metric for many consumers, it’s efficiency in stiffness and weight terms where the TCR has been most impressive.

Giant claims the highest ‘stiffness-to-weight’ in the road sector. Giant’s testing shows a 10% increase in lateral fork and frame pedalling stiffness over the S-Works Tarmac, which itself is around 10% more rigid than the nearest competitor (the Cervelo R5 Disc).

While high-modulus fibres play a part in the increase in stiffness over the competition, it’s the miniature details of the design where Giant has managed to increase efficiency the most.

‘There’s just over 500 individual carbon swatches [pieces] in that frame,’ explains Ward. ‘We have gone from around 350 to just over 500.’

The importance of the increased number of pieces is to totally tune the material performance while cutting weight to the bare minimum. To achieve that, the swatches have been laser cut, meaning the material size and shape has a unique level of accuracy and tight tolerance, keeping the weight very low.

‘The smallest 150 pieces in there are now robot assembled,’ Ward adds.

Attention to detail has been key, and the seam of the carbon tubes has even been carefully placed on the underside of the tube to preserve the clean lines of the frame.

While the TCR leads on stiffness terms it is heavier than the Trek Emonda SLR Disc by 17g, but lighter than the S-Works Tarmac and Cervelo R5 Disc.

However, any comparisons should acknowledge that Giant has opted for an Integrated Seat Post, which will improve weight and aerodynamics but at a slight cost in practicality. The Advanced Pro range, with removeable seat posts, will likely not perform so favourably to the top tier lightweight frames from Giant’s rivals.

Giant’s seat mast on the TCR Advanced SL does, however, have a nod to practicality as it comes with two seatmasts clamps. Giant offers a tall and short seatmast clamp design, with the shorter of the two still offering 25mm of adjustment. That’s a key appeal for those who may have resale in mind.

The clamp itself is a nice design. The upper and lower saddle cradles are full carbon composite. The seatpost mast is also reversible, which we were surprised to see, and can be switched between a +15 and -5mm offset which will appeal to those who may want a more aggressive TT position.


Easily looked over on the Advanced SL is the Cadex 42mm Disc wheelset. While we’re used to seeing Giant’s own-brand SLR WheelSystems on its top bikes, the Cadex spec is a big step up.

Retailing for £2,500 a set, the wheels showcase the latest wide shape trends, but also boast impressive hub and spoke design. The spokes of the Cadex 42mm are in fact fully carbon despite their alloy appearance.

The wheels are being used by the WorldTour CCC Team and have been showcased at the Classics, until the coronavirus crisis that is….

Unsurprisingly the wheels are well-equipped to use wider tyres, and though Giant has specced a set of tubeless Cadex 25mm tyres, the frames and wheels can comfortably accept 32mm width tyres.

Aside from the wheels, the Giant TCR Advanced SL is a good showcase of Giant’s latest batch of finishing kit, with the Contact SLR composite handlebar and brand new Fleet SLR saddle.

The Fleet SLR is reminiscent of the S-Works Power in terms of its relatively short-nosed appearance and will no doubt prove a favourite for WorldTour pros who enjoy sitting near the front of the saddle.

While the Advanced SL is an impressive flagship, the range below it has some attractive designs and spec. We are still waiting for final pricing, and a definite availabilty date across UK dealers.

First ride impressions

The Giant TCR Advanced SL arrived with me during lockdown, so I’ve so far been restricted to 30-40km rides aboard it. In all honesty, it’s played a part in keeping me riding.

From the outset, the TCR’s stiffness is apparent. It almost pushes back on pedalling efforts, and the transfer into acceleration is immediate. Confirming the stats, it is indeed similar to the S-Works Tarmac in terms of rigidity.

Indeed, with these 25mm tyres, I’d suggest it actually borders close to being too rigid in terms of delivering rumbles from the road. I personally like that as it delivers a sense of assurance that the bike is shifting – it feels fast.

That said, a wider set of tyres, say 28mm, would put this firmly into a comfortable riding bracket. I also noticed a little rear wheel skipping during big efforts. Again, this could be easily remedied with a little fit adjustment.

That aggressive character is very well balanced by the control and ride quality of the TCR, though. It handles sharply yet has a reassuring stability on fast descents. I had a few eye-widening moments when glancing down at my speedo on my local descents, realising that I was carrying far more speed than normal.

In terms of aerodynamics, it’s very hard to make any hard judgements without a wind tunnel. I would say, though, that there’s a certain calibre of bike that sticks happily to speeds over 35kmh and the TCR is one of them. At times it felt as though I was riding an aero road frame.

My overwhelming first impression of the TCR was how well-rounded it was. It has the weight and handling of a pure climber, with the aggression of an aero road bike, all the while with 32mm tyre clearance that means I could easily steer it onto gravel tracks.

The TCR is in stiff competition against the likes of the Specialized S-Works Tarmac or Cannondale SuperSix, and I look forward to spending more time with it to determine whether it lives up to some very strong first impressions.

The wider range

The range is available in both rim and disc versions, but from a glance the engineering and design efforts certainly seem to have been poured into the disc platform.

Giant TCR Advanced Pro Disc

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1

Giant TCR Advanced Disc 2

Giant TCR Advanced 2

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


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Page 2 of 2Giant TCR Advanced 2021 launches