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Giant TCR 1 Compact 2011

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£689.99 , save 40% GT GTR Series 1 2014 Bike - Charcoal - S SGrey
from ProBikeKit
RRP £1,150 View specs
£999.99 , save 47% Scott CR1 Team 2012
from Greenwheel Cycles
RRP £1,899 View specs
54cm, Used (only 200 miles), Mavic Aksium wheelset
Tested by Jonathan Manning

Review

Squeezed between Giant’s carbon composite frames and aluminium Defy range, the new ALUXX SL aluminium framed TCR road bikes occupy a difficult position. For this price it’s easy to find carbon bikes from the likes of Boardman and Ribble, or to save hundreds of pounds by opting for aluminium bikes with similar drivetrains from Rose or Cube.

With pressure from above and below, and a price tag that busts the maximum £1,000 Cycle to Work Scheme budget, why would a keen cyclist invest in a TCR? The short answer is because it’s a very good bike. The longer answer involves explaining the demand for this type of bike, a combination of premium aluminium frame and decent drivetrain that provides a super all-rounder. Last year I invested in a Trek 2.3 that cost almost to the penny the same as the TCR, so a comparison is going to be illuminating.

The frame

First impressions count, and the TCR 1 is a gorgeous looking bike with a dashing paint job, silky smooth welds and an intriguing mix of outsize tubes. Its geometry is designed for all-day comfort, so there’s a slightly shorter top tube and taller stem for a more upright riding position that’s forgiving on the lower back.

It’s not a posture most time triallists would recognise, but if you’re riding sportives or simply for fitness, it’s a shape that allows for hours of comfortable cycling. There are even five frame sizes, S (46.5cm), M (50cm), ML (53.5cm), L (55.5cm), XL (58.85cm) to help you find the perfect fit.

When you do need to put the hammer down, either grinding uphill or hanging on to the wheel of speedsters, the frame seems to lose none of your effort and efficiency is helped even further by the over sized bottom bracket which is designed to increase stiffness. As a package, it’s an impressively stiff frame combined with great looking carbon composite forks which do a good job of reducing road buzz.

The only area where I’d prefer a different set up is in the steering. I haven’t found the bike to have the turn-on-a-sixpence agility of lower cost carbon bikes, or even the Trek 2.3. It’s not an issue for 100-mile sportives, but if I were to find myself in a peloton sprint I’d like more direct feedback and sharper steering to inspire nick and tuck moves.

The drivetrain

The Shimano 105 front and rear derailleurs and shifters are well tried and tested, and routinely fitted to bikes costing almost twice the price of the TCR. It’s a reassuring shift, and in the compact format offers ratios of 50/34, which should cover pretty much every British terrain.

The cable adjustments are integrated in the cables right in front of the handlebars. For super-adept bike mechanics this allows micro-adjustment on the fly. The gear cables are also neatly tucked away under the bar tape instead of sprouting from the hoods as on previous 105 shifters.

The brakes are a combination of Shimano 105 levers with Tektro TK-R540 callipers, and this is a pattern mirrored elsewhere on the bike, with highly visible components being Shimano 105, while others such as the chain, crank and callipers being slightly lower spec components. I mention only because the Trek 2.3 is Shimano 105 from head to toe.

That said, there’s an element of the princess with the pea under the mattress for a cyclist who can tell the difference between one chain and another, and the Tektro brakes have inspired confidence even in the damp.

Components

Saddles are as subjective a fit as shoes, but I should report that I’ve found the Giant TCR saddle as comfortable as any I’ve ridden in the past year, and a much more pleasant place to sit than the Bontrager perch on the Trek 2.3. The 700c wheels are Giant’s own, as is the seatpost and stem.

The one area of weakness that I would change immediately are the Michelin Dynamic tyres. They’re ideal, smooth-rolling rubber for dry ribbons of Tarmac, but they’ve sadly lacked sure-footedness on damp winter and spring roads, and an average puncture rate of one per fortnight (about one every 250 miles) is a nuisance too far. For a bike that seems best equipped for munching mile after mile, rather than blitzing a time trial, I’d swap to Continental Gators at the first opportunity.

Verdict

There’s a neighbour of mine lucky enough to own both a Volkswagen Golf and a Lotus Elise. The Lotus is one of the most dynamic handling cars on British roads, with its low centre of gravity, ultra-low-profile wheels, and nailed-down suspension. Exhilarating as it is to drive, it’s not a car either for everyday or for long trips, hence the ever-dependable Golf.

Switch the cars for bikes, and I suspect that if I had both a racing geometry carbon bike and the Giant TCR in my garage, my heart may skip a beat every time I spied the out-and-out racer, but at the end of the year my trip computer would show I’d ridden the lion’s share of my miles on the TCR. It’s a great bike for hours in the saddle, whether training, or riding sportives and audaxes. And that’s the reason why it’s worth paying a premium over other aluminium frames for a bike that’s skilfully designed, immaculately engineered, and built with components to last.

At a glance

Verdict An impressive, comfortable road bike for all day in the saddle.
Value
Performance

Do you own this bike?

by rob smith  on 3 Jun 2012
i upgraded from a Defy 2.5, the frame is stiff, accelerates and climbs like a dream. The wheels and tyres are poor but onjce upgraded the bike feels 100 times better, i love this bike!!
by Pearse  on 15 May 2011
I took cycling a year back and love it, bought a giant defy 3 (medium) frame and it fit like a glove. I did over 3500k on it and traded it in for giant tcr 1 compact and i have to say the bike is perfect. Its great with climbs and on the flats the gears are slick and its surprisingly light, probably the only thing that i would say though is the tyres are not great in the wet its only a minor thing cause they can easily be changed other than that you will not be disappointed.

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