Sunday, May 20, 2018

Living with the 2018 Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc

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I’m not sure if my bike has the longest name out there, but with a five-word name, it has to be up there.  I guess that’s a testament to the sheer range of models and variants that Giant has to offer (even I have two variants of the TCR in my shed – one for ‘Sunday best’ and one that’s resigned to foul weather).

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It has now been two months since I picked up the 2018 Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 from Race Hub up near Leicester.  In that time (if Strava is correct), I’ve put just over 1,000 kilometres on the bike and recently upgraded the standard wheels to deeper-section Parcours Passista wheels.

Passing the 1,000 kilometre mark seems like a good time to build on the initial review I made of the bike and focus on some of the key things I like about the bike as well as those little things that have begun to (or not stopped) niggle me.

What I like about the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 DiscI’ve yet to have a ‘bad ride’ on this bike.  By which I mean that I’ve pretty much enjoyed every minute of riding it, even when I’m slogging my guts up a steep hill or battling an epic headwind.  The bike is very comfortable, with all the ‘interface points’ (saddle, bars) fitting me nicely.

A key contributor to this comfort has to be the redesigned Ultegra R8070 hydraulic Di2 shifters, which have shrunk considerably and now look and feel much more like their rim brake cousins.  I’m not quite sure I’ve got them at exactly the right angle (bike fit later today should help determine that), but they feel great.

Moving down the from the hoods to the brake levers, the Ultegra hydraulic brakes have been superb so far; no squeals, plenty of modulation and tons of stopping power.  It’s true what all the magazines say, the more confidence you have in the brakes, the faster you tend to descend, leaving your braking till later and actually carrying more speed through the corner.

Speaking of which, that confidence to really slice through the corner has to come from the frame as well.  I noted before how much more lean I seem to be able to get out of the TCR frame compared to the Propel, and this still seems to be true. The TCR loves corners.

Back to the Ultegra shifters, I love the shifting action itself and I’ve been playing with the ‘synchronized shifting’ options where you just focus on the rear cassette and the Di2 system decides when to shift from the big chainring to the small and vice versa.  I actually quite like it, there are times when I wish there was a quicker way to turn it on and off, though. It’s a little fiddly to reach down under the stem and give the little button on the Di2 controller a double-click.

I mentioned in my review that the TCR Advanced Pro 0 has a real snap to its acceleration, more so than my ‘other’ main road bike, a Giant Propel.  This still seems true, despite the additional weight of the hydraulic disc brakes.

Just this last week, I swapped the standard Giant SLR1 ‘climbing wheels’ for a pair of 56mm deep Parcours ‘Passista’ hoops.  I’ll do a full review of these soon, but initial impressions are generally good.   Despite being significantly deeper section than the SLR1 wheels, comparing weights (with disc rotors fitted) of the two front wheels showed that the Passista was only 15g heavier than the SLR1 (I couldn’t directly compare the rears, but will aim to do that soon).

This tiny additional weight is more than outweighed by the aero gains on the flats and descents, where the wheels are noticeably faster.  It will be interesting to see how the wheels perform next week in Mallorca, especially the climbs!

Finally, speaking of climbing, I’ve remarked before that the overall weight of the 2018 Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 is a bit disappointing at just under 8kg.  That means that it isn’t the climbing machine that I had hoped for.  But, that said, I do think Giant did a good job of matching the groupset to the bike, with a 36/52 chainring setup and a 11-30 cassette at the back. While climbs might not be blisteringly fast, they are at least comfortable and you can stay seated most of the time.

What I don’t like about the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 DiscMy absolute number one bugbear is how ugly the cabling at the front is.  It’s just a mess and I’m sorry Giant, but you should be embarrassed.  I accept that hydraulic cables for the brakes probably mean that there are reduced options for super-clever routing options, and I accept that the frame pre-dates the general use of hydraulic brakes (i.e. probably was not originally designed with them in mind), but compared to other bikes at similar price points (e.g. Canyon’s Enudurace or even Giant’s own Propel) it’s really an eyesore.   So much so that fellow riders have specifically called it out as being ‘amateur’.

And it’s not just the hydraulic cables, even the Di2 cable is messy.   I get that the TCR is not an ‘aero bike’, but the mess of cables really can’t be helping the bike’s aero profile.

My second dislike is much more subjective and ultimately has no effect on its performance.  But I’m not a fan of the paint job.  If I had been given the choice, I would have much preferred a stealthy all-black or at least a less garish design.   To me, it just doesn’t look very ‘pro’.  And it clashes with most of the cycling kit I own!  I said it was subjective….

And the last dislike isn’t really a dislike at all.   But it’s the niggling doubt that I bought the wrong bike.

I can’t help thinking I should have bought a Propel, or another aero road bike.  But then I have to admit that I do think the TCR is more comfortable than my old Propel, leaving me less knackered at the end of a long (140km on Sunday) ride.  But I can't escape feeling that I've ‘lost speed’, even if I can’t quantify exactly how much speed I’m losing by riding a non-aero bike.

I guess there’s a reason that the Sunweb team mostly rides TCRs rather than Propels (and I hope that reason isn’t just marketing), so perhaps I should just chill and enjoy the TCR for what it is.  But I worry that I bought a bike that’s neither an aero bike (no clever tubing design or integrated handlebars) nor a climber’s bike (too heavy with the hydraulic brakes).  I think there’s an argument that the bike stands firmly in no-man’s ground. Neither one thing nor the other.

Hopefully, the Passista wheels will close some of the gap between the TCR and the Propel on the flat, without further sacrificing its climbing abilities.

Overall

When I’m on the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 (especially with the new Parcours wheels), it feels a good place to be.  But then when I’m at home watching GCN or whatever on Youtube, I can’t help thinking I chose the wrong model.

I’m hoping that someone from Giant might read this and either convince me that I made a good choice, or at least get that horrible mess of a front end sorted cabling-wise.  That alone would probably make me feel much better about the bike.

I’m going to take the TCR, rather than the Propel, to our training camp in Mallorca next week. Partly because I truly think the disc brakes will be far superior on descents like Puig Major, Sa Colabra and Lluc. And partly because I really want to see how it behaves on fast group rides and long climbs.

I think after then I’ll have a better idea for whether my dislikes are well-founded or whether the bike can fully win me over.

If you’re a fellow TCR Advanced Pro 0 owner, I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether you agree with my points (positive and negative) above!

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Matt Fisher runs TriathletesDiary.com - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs

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