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First Ride Review: Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc

A lightweight and stiff race bike that's now been given the aero treatment

The new 2021 Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc is a lightweight and extremely stiff race bike that has been given the aero treatment. We've had the chance to ride it several times over the past week, and we're very impressed.

The bike I've been riding is the top-of-the range option, the spec given at the bottom of the page. 

Get all the details on the whole range in our story: Giant unveils "fastest TCR ever"

The claimed weight of the frameset (painted frame, painted uncut fork, integrated seatpost, seat clamp, front and rear derailleur hangers) is 1,265g.

We weighed the complete bike (minus bottle cages and pedals), in an ML size, at 6.69kg. That's very light for a disc-equipped bike.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 Disc full bike - 1.jpg

We don't yet have a UK price for this bike yet – the range isn't available over here until next month – but we do know that it'll be $11,000 in the US. Like I said, top-of-the-range!

The usual First Ride scenario is that we've been on a launch and ridden the bike a couple of times on some challenging terrain.

It's different this time around because of the coronavirus pandemic. Giant had to cancel the media launch and shipped the bike directly to 

I've ridden Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc half a dozen times over the past week as my designated exercise for the day, but never more than 1:30hrs at a time because of the UK's lockdown restrictions and the fact that I don't want to take the piss. I've ridden some decent climbs and some sinuous descents but I haven't taken the bike over a Pyrenean col.

We often say that you should treat our First Rides as initial impressions rather than full reviews, but that's even more valid than usual this time around.

You'll notice that we're lacking our own riding shots too, for obvious reasons.

The first thing you notice about the Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc is, not surprisingly, its light weight. Sling your power through the cranks and it accelerates fast, and climbing is a real strength. You'd expect that.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 Disc bottom bracket - 1.jpg

The real boon, though, is the level of stiffness on offer at the same time. Get out of the saddle to launch yourself up a climb and there's virtually no discernible flex anywhere. It's almost freaky! The bottom bracket, held in place by a huge down tube, is a solid platform from which to fire your best efforts.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 wheel - 1

Descending is a delight. The slim-legged fork looks like it'll bend in the breeze but appearances can be deceptive. You can chuck the TCR Advanced SL hard into one corner and straight over the opposite way into the next without feeling anything other than complete confidence in its abilities. 

Giant has stuck with its OverDrive 2 system here, meaning that the fork steerer is tapered to take a 1 1/4in bearing at the top and a 1 1/2in bearing down below. Despite a fork weight of just 330g, the steering precision on offer here is impressive.

Aerodynamic performance is hard to judge outside of the wind tunnel. Giant says that the new TCR represents a "major leap forward in aero performance", although that's for an all-round road race bike as opposed to an aero road bike. Tubes have been shaped to reduce drag but not to the same extent as those of Giant's Propel, of course.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 Disc head tube - 1.jpg

Giant is keen to point out that, according to its own figures from the wind tunnel, the TCR Advanced SL Disc is more slippery than the Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc, the Trek Emonda SLR Disc and the Cervelo R5 Disc. That's a valid comparison, of course, because those bikes are all of a type, but we're reporting the claim rather than endorsing it.

Comfort isn't something that Giant has emphasised with the launch of the new TCRs and I've not had to give it much thought on my (admittedly short) rides so far. That's a good sign! The TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc isn't the softest feeling bike ever, but it's a long way from harsh. 

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 Disc saddle - 1.jpg

I've been using the new Giant Fleet SLR shorty saddle (it's 248mm long) with carbon rails and a cutaway centre, and it feels great. The padding isn't especially deep but it's effective, and there's some give in the shell that's noticeable if you accidentally hit anything hard and jagged. The fact that it weighs just 180g is a bonus.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 Cadex tyre - 2

The Cadex Road Race tyres fitted to the 42mm-deep Cadex wheels are 25mm wide, which is what you'd expect on a bike of this kind. They're tubeless so you can run them at a lower pressure than normal without the risk of a pinch flat, and they're supple.

If you want more cushioning, you could always fit larger tyres. The disc brake TCRs will now take tyres up to 32mm wide. That might be a bit much, but 28s are a realistic alternative. With rim brake TCRs, 28mm is the maximum, the size of the calliper being the limiting factor here.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 removable lever- 1

Giant has paid big attention to little details with this launch. I like the fact that the disc brake models come with a removable composite lever for taking the wheels off, which is something we've seen previously from other brands, such as Orro. The lever is held in the axle by a rubber O-ring plus a magnet.

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 computer mount - 2

The TCR Advanced SL and Pro models also come with a new out-front mount that fixes to the stem bolts and takes computers from Garmin, Wahoo and Giant. A GoPro mount is included too. Fair enough, you might say, spend this kind of money and you can expect a few little extras thrown in.

Although full details of UK specs and pricing have yet to be announced – they're coming next month – we do know that both rim brake and disc brake versions of the TCR Advanced and TCR Advanced Pro will be available as complete bikes.

There are a couple of peculiarities with the top-end TCR Advanced SL, though. First, there are no rim brake complete bikes. If you want a rim brake TCR Advanced SL, you'll need to buy the frameset and build it up yourself.

Second, the complete bikes are SRAM only: the Advanced SL 1 Disc is equipped with a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset and the Advanced SL 0 Disc – the one I've been riding – has a full complement of SRAM Red eTap AXS components. There's no Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 option, which is a surprise given the prestige and popularity of that groupset, and its visibility within the pro peloton (okay, that's not happening right now, but you get the point).

2021 Giant TRC Advanced SL 0 Disc rear brake - 1.jpg

Why? Giant seems to be of the opinion that SRAM Red eTap AXS is the best option out there right now. It says that it'll release a Dura-Ace Di2 version when the next iteration of the groupset appears, which will be next year. In the meantime, you'll have to buy the TCR Advanced SL Disc frameset and organise a Dura-Ace build yourself.

We'll run a full review on the Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc soon.

Frame Advanced SL-Grade Composite, integrated seatpost, disc
Fork Advanced SL-Grade Composite, full-composite OverDrive 2 steerer, disc
Handlebar New Giant Contact SLR, 44cm 
Stem New Giant Contact SLR, 110mm
Seatpost  Integrated design, 2 clamps 25mm/45mm 
Saddle New Giant Fleet SLR
Shifters SRAM RED eTap AXS
Front derailleur SRAM RED eTap AXS
Rear derailleur SRAM RED eTap AXS
Brakes SRAM RED eTap AXS hydraulic, 160mm (f), 140mm (r) rotors
Brake levers SRAM RED eTap AXS hydraulic
Cassette SRAM RED, 12-speed, 10-28-tooth
Chainset SRAM RED D1 DUB, 48/35-tooth with Quarq DZero power meter, 175mm
Bottom bracket SRAM DUB, press fit
Wheels Cadex 42mm Disc WheelSystem, 12mm thru axle
Tyres Cadex Road Race, tubeless, 700x25mm, folding
Extras New Computer mount, Garmin/Wahoo/Giant compatibility, tubeless sealant

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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