6-Month Test: Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0
Scorchingly fast, silly light, and more affordable than the competition, this might just be the finest race bike for the money
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Having strongly advocated for endurance and adventure road bikes for the masses, I realize that pimping a full-fledged race machine like the TCR Advanced Pro 0 may seem like a contradiction. To be clear, I still believe most people will be happier and more comfy on bikes like the Cervélo C5, Diamondback Haanjo, and Open U.P., but it’s also true that some people still race—or simply prefer the harder, more aggressive edge of race bikes, in the same way some people like driving Porsches or Ferraris—and it would difficult to find a better specimen than this Giant. It’s refined, peppier than Froome on uppers, and at $5,250, costs a fraction of most other bikes in its class.
What more could you want?
The Good: Not only is the frame stiff and light enough to race, but it’s also so comfy that I wonder how Giant will ever sell its similarly priced Defy endurance bike. A Shimano Dura Ace groupset is the paragon of performance. And Giant finally shrugged off its clunky design aesthetic and crafted a bike that looks just as good as it rides.
The Bad: The house-brand parts keep the price down relative to the competition but lack some of the bling of, say, Zipp or Enve. On a top-end machine like this, I’d prefer carbon handlebars for their damping qualities. The carbon wheels are light and stiff, but braking performance could be better.
The Verdict: It’s hard to find much fault with the TCR Advanced Pro 0, which is a race machine worthy of the Pro Tour at the cost of most sport-level bikes. The only real complaint was with the braking, and Giant has remedied that for 2017 with the introduction of a disc-brake equipped model.
Geometry from the previous TCR Advanced has changed precious little, so the tweaks to this bike are mostly about refinements to the frame. The headtube is narrowed and more willowy, which drops weight but also adds some stiffness. The junction of the seat tube, top tube, and seatstays goes from a traditional design to a monostay arrangement, which also adds rigidity while cutting grams. The internal cable routings are cleaned up so the ports are bigger and accommodate more cables, thus minimizing the number of holes in the carbon. They’re also compatible with all electronic and mechanical drivetrains.
Thanks to the compact geometry, the top tube is reasonably downward sloped, leaving quite a lot of seat tube protruding. Combined with the new seat cluster arrangement and the internal seatpost bolt, the design allows for a fair bit of vertical flex at the saddle—hence a surprising amount of comfort for a race bike. While the frame isn’t the lightest out there, altogether the mods to the TCR Advanced have made it lighter than ever: our size medium/large tester tipped the scales at just 14.4 pounds.
There’s no need to dwell on the drivetrain: Shimano Dura Ace is silky smooth, quiet, precise, and sets the standard for all mechanical shifting.
The Dura Ace brakes are excellent, too, though the performance here is tempered by the match with the Giant SLR 0 carbon clinchers. At 30 millimeters deep and 23 millimeters wide, these are great all-around wheels: stiff, light, fast to spin up, and generally very quick. But the braking surface isn’t quite as refined as you’d find from the dedicated hoop builders, such as Reynolds and Enve, meaning stopping power was lower than on other bikes.
Disc brakes are the natural solution. Don’t believe the dithering in the race community: discs offer incontrovertibly superior performance over their rim counterparts. (The UCI will reconvene race testing of discs next season, and Giant has added disc models to the TCR Advanced lineup.) Traditionalists and Luddites will still be able to get the rim varieties, but unless you’re prohibited from riding discs, to do so would be embracing old, inferior technology. Brake preferences aside, the upshot is that by adding discs for 2017, Giant has transformed the TCR Advanced from an excellent bicycle to a virtually flawless one.
There were only a few other critiques. On a bike that’s made almost entirely of carbon, aluminum handlebars seem an odd choice. At 23c, the Giant P-SLR 1 tires are skeletally skinny, even for a race bike. But these are just tiny niggles.
Given the bike’s feather weight, it’s tempting to call it a climbing bike. And indeed, while riding in groups on steep pitches, whenever an acceleration or attack would come, I had no trouble closing or bridging with just a slight press on the pedals. When climbing out of the saddle, the bike flicks over quickly and easily. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed I was on a bike that cost twice as much with custom-built tubular wheels.
But the truth is the TCR Advanced is much more balanced feeling than superlight steeds such as the Trek Émonda. It tracks as straight and confident as a roller coaster on high-speed descents and carries momentum like a much heavier bike on flat and rolling terrain. While it’s no comfort bike, I was constantly amazed at the smooth, easy-on-the-back ride quality. This is a race bike for the all-around rider. It does everything exceptionally well—save for the lackluster rim braking—meaning you could you race it at the very highest level of the sport but also be happy pedaling it every day.
You could pit the TCR Advanced Pro against pretty much any top race machine and it would come out at least equal on performance and well ahead on price. For instance, Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod Dura Ace 1 is a natural comparison: it’s just as balanced and refined as the Giant, decked with the same or comparable parts, and costs $9,800—almost double the Giant.
The only bike on the market I can think of that offers as much performance for less is the Fuji SL 1.5. (Cost: $4,740.) It’s an interesting parallel, because Fuji, like Giant, is one of the few bike manufacturers that owns its own factories and produces the full range of parts, including wheels, cockpit, saddles, etc. By cutting out the markup of parts suppliers, both companies are offering exceptional bikes at exceptional value.
The TCR Advanced Pro 0 has to be considered one of the best values going in road race machines. No, it is not inexpensive at $5,250, but for the performance and spec, it’s much more affordable than comparable bikes from the likes of Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, and most other large manufacturers. If you don’t demand the top shelf, the TCR Advanced Pro 1, which has full Ultegra and carbon wheels, offers even more value at $3,150. Finally, with a disc brake version available this season, this bike should also top the list of models to consider for value-conscious racers.