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Giant's TCR Advanced 2 has a brilliant balance of comfort and performance thanks to a stiff frameset, great geometry and plenty of exposed seatpost. It also feels very light and sprightly, which makes it a capable race bike straight out of the box.
If the TCR Advanced 2 is too high (or too low) for your budget, check out other options in our guide to the best road bikes, from £300 to over £13,000.
Even after all these years it's great to see Giant has retained that early DNA of the TCR, with its heavily sloping top tube creating a compact frame for lightness and stiffness, offset by slender seatstays and a lot of exposed seatpost to soak up the bumps and create a smooth and comfortable ride.
On the road.cc scales this TCR is just a few grams over 8kg, but it feels even lighter than that. A lot of that is down to the geometry, with this medium size getting a short 980mm wheelbase which makes it feel nimble in your hands. Pair that to the steepish 73-degree head angle, which gives very direct handling, and the whole bike just feels lively. It's a lot of fun!
With a seat angle of 74 degrees it puts you in a forward position which really lets you get the power down, even from the saddle. I've lost count of the number of times I went out for a ride on the TCR with the intention of a bit of a recovery ride after a tough couple of days, and ended up smashing it around the loop, just because that's what the TCR makes you feel like you want to do.
The head tube length is just 145mm so you can properly hunker down in the drops, getting low and aero, which again gives the TCR a racy feel to it.
As you can see by the huge diameter of the down tube and resulting press-fit bottom bracket junction width, the Giant is all about getting the power down, and it's something that it does very well indeed.
Massive efforts out of the saddle won't result in any noticeable flex, whether on the flat or when stomping your way up a hill. The TCR has a very compact rear triangle and this is noticeable during those hard efforts.
On the descents the TCR is also a belter. That direct steering gives you proper race bike handling; it's a real point and shoot machine that not only handles positively but is also very responsive to shifts in your bodyweight, and changes to the centre of gravity.
This makes technical descents a lot of fun, and rewarding too, especially those with opposing corners following each other where you bank the bike from one side to the other.
The TCR feels very balanced indeed.
The tyres are Giant's own, the Gavia AC 1s, and they are probably the only weak link in the whole build. They are good training tyres, but they don't really suit the performance behaviour of the TCR rolling-wise, they lack a bit in the grip department, and generally feel a bit subdued compare to some lighter, stickier rubber.
One thing that I was impressed with was the amount of feedback that the frame and fork provide. It's a bike that really lets you know what is going on, transmitting the information from the tyres and road through to your contact points. For such a stiff frame it manages to mute the road buzz without taking the edge off that information too, especially with some uprated tyres fitted, as I did during testing.
Giant is one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world, and it produces its own Advanced Composite Technology frames and forks from raw carbon in its own composite factory.
As I've mentioned, the frame and fork have a very satisfying ride quality, so there is no question about Giant's ability to design tube shapes and carbon fibre layups to deliver that high-end feel.
The fork is full carbon fibre, in that the legs and the steerer are made from it.
That massive down tube is pretty much a rectangle with rounded corners, which then flows into a tapered head tube. That isn't it for the oversizing, though, as the head tube end of the top tube is also wider than most frames.
But it tapers back quickly to probably half of its width as it reaches the seatpost, where the focus on comfort begins.
The seatpost is of an aero persuasion, mimicking the shape of the seatpost. Non-round posts can tend to give a harsher ride than circular ones, but there is a lot of post on display, which allows for flex. Not in a way that makes the rear end feel soft – I'd really hate that – but if the road surface is broken up it just takes the sting out of it. During hard efforts in the saddle, things still feel tight.
As for attachment points, there are very few. If you want mudguards, look elsewhere; this is a proper race bike, and by giving clearance for guards you'd take away the whole identity of the TCR.
What you do get are mounting points for a couple of bottle cages and... nope, that's it. Oh yeah, it will accept Giant's RideSense sensor and accompanying hardware.
As you may have noticed, the Advanced 2 is running rim brakes, so that does limit tyre clearance to those that will run through the callipers. The wheels fitted here have a 22mm inner width, which nudges the 25mm tyres out to 28mm wide; that's plenty for a race bike, and lack of clearance isn't something I'd criticise the TCR for.
Size-wise, the TCR is available in five options, ranging from S through to XL (S, M, M/L, L, XL). I've touched on the geometry above, but if you want the full details then Giant has a comprehensive geometry table on its website.
While Shimano has made the jump to 12-speed Di2 for 105, the TCR Advanced 2 is running the previous R7000 mechanical version.
As you can see from Dave's review, it's an awesome groupset, and on a bike like the TCR Advanced it's kind of in its natural home. The 105 groupset is good enough to be raced on, basically, but doesn't cost the earth to replace should you be involved in a smash – handy if you aren't a sponsored rider.
Giant has specced an 11-30T cassette with a 52/36T chainset – racy gears for a racy bike.
As always with a 105 setup, the gear shifting has a light action to it, but one that is also crisp and precise, while the braking from the dual-pivot callipers is powerful, with plenty of bite from the stock Shimano pads.
I've already touched on the seatpost, but I haven't mentioned that it's carbon fibre for the main section, with an alloy clamping assembly. It's easy to set up and adjust, while the Giant Approach saddle that sits on it is comfortable thanks to its curved shape and minimal padding.
The handlebar and stem are both from Giant's catalogue and are called Contact. Both are aluminium alloy in construction and do their respective jobs, without being overly flash.
The handlebar has a 31.8mm clamping diameter like most, but then the diameter narrows considerably. With the thin bar tape, I found the bar narrower than most and I'd like a little bit more girth for comfort. Thicker, padded tape would be a quick and relatively cheap solution, so it's not a major issue.
The wheels are Giant's own too: P-R2. With no disc rotors mounted on the hubs they can go lighter on the spoke count, with just 16 on the front laced radially, and 24 on the rear laced 1x on the drive side and radially on the non-drive.
With shallow alloy rims the P-R2s are actually quite a light set of wheels for a stock setup, and are tubeless compatible. In fact Giant sets the wheels and tyres up tubeless before sale – not something that is common from most brands.
I found the wheels stiff enough for sprinting and when climbing out of the saddle, and there were no issues with durability either.
The Giant AC 1 tyres, as I said earlier, are fine for general riding or training. They seem robust too – I've had no issues with punctures throughout the winter period of testing, where the roads have been littered with the usual debris after rain and hedge-cutting in the countryside.
This is the only model in the TCR Advanced 'lineup' (there are a few options in the TCR Advanced Disc range), and it's pretty good value at £2,249.
It's good to see that Giant is sticking with rim-braked bikes (and framesets) in its catalogue – a lot haven't, such as Specialized, Scott and Trek, for instance, or they have been restricted to lower priced offerings like the Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon, which I reviewed back in 2020 (though that is impressively good value for money at £1,200 with a carbon frameset, and the majority of a Shimano 105 groupset).
It's about 800g heavier than the Giant, though, and geometry-wise it's more endurance style. The Giant's frameset is superior in terms of ride feel and stiffness, too.
Ribble offers its Endurance SL in a Sport build, which comes with 105 mechanical including rim brakes, Mavic Ksyrium SL alloy wheels and Level alloy finishing kit. It has a more endurance-based riding style to it than the Giant, though, and it'll cost you £2,499, so not as good value as the TCR.
The rim-braked race bike is a dying breed, and this TCR Advanced 2 shows that this is a shame. Even with this modest, mid-range spec list it's a fast, lightweight race machine and its eagerness to be ridden hard is infectious. The quality of the ride is very impressive, and while it is a modern, advanced road bike, there is a lovely feeling of simplicity and 'old schoolness' about it, especially when looking down at those slender hub bodies.
Beautifully simple, classic looking race bike with great performance and ride quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant TCR Advanced 2
Size tested: Medium, 55cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Handlebar: Giant Contact S:40cm, M:42cm, M/L:42cm, L:44cm, XL:44cm
Grips: Stratus Lite 2.0
Stem: Giant Contact S:90mm, M:100mm, M/L:110mm, L:110mm, XL:120mm
Seatpost: Giant Variant, composite, -5/+15mm offset
Saddle: Giant Approach
Shifters: Shimano 105 2x11
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105 SS max 30T
Brakes: Shimano 105
Brake Levers: Shimano 105
Cassette: Shimano 105, 11-speed, 11x30
Chain: KMC X11EL-1
Crankset: Shimano 105, 36/52 S:170mm, M:172.5mm, M/L:172.5mm, L:175mm, XL:175mm
Bottom Bracket: Shimano, press fit
Rims: Giant P-R2 Disc wheelset (22mm inner rim width)
Hubs: Giant P-R2 wheelset
Spokes: Giant P-R2 wheelset
Tyres: Giant AC 1, tubeless, 700x25c (effective width 28mm), folding
Extras: Factory tubeless set up including sealant, 28mm max tyre size
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Giant says, "WINNING RACE BIKES HAVE JUST THE RIGHT BALANCE OF LIGHT WEIGHT, STIFFNESS AND SMOOTH COMPLIANCE ON THE ROAD. TCR ADVANCED DELIVERS ON ALL THREE AND ADDS UPDATED AERO PERFORMANCE."
This rides like a proper race bike, and with its lack of discs it's light for the build list.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the only model in the range.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
A top quality frame and fork, all very well finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: Advanced-Grade Composite
Fork: Advanced-Grade Composite, full-composite OverDrive steerer
Advanced Grade Composite - "Giant's High Performance Grade raw carbon material is used to produce this custom frame material in our own composite factory with a high stiffness-to-weight ratio. The front triangle of these framesets is assembled and molded as one continuous piece in a proprietary manufacturing process called Modified Monocoque Construction."
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's a steep-angled frame with a short wheelbase, which is ideal for performance riding.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Stack and reach figures for this size are 545mm and 388mm respectively, fairly typical of a bike of this ilk.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike is comfortable with a good ride quality considering the stiffness, helped by the amount of flex that comes from having so much of the seatpost exposed.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The down tube and bottom bracket area deliver loads of stiffness for hard riding.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is great thanks to the stiffness and low weight.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The steering is quick and direct, making it great in the bends.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The carbon fibre seatpost adds plenty of comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Though the handlebar is thin, it doesn't suffer with flex when pulling on it hard.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A good spread of gears for racing makes the Giant efficient when riding fast.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano's 105 offers great performance for the money, and the brake callipers are powerful too.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
For an off-the-shelf set of wheels on a bike of this price they perform very well, being stiff and light enough for fast riding and climbing.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Decent tyres for general riding and training, although they lack the speed and grip that would benefit the TCR.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Quality kit befitting a bike of this price.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are few rim-braked race bikes of this quality left in the marketplace so it's hard to gauge value. It's well priced against the Ribble mentioned in the review, though.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The ride quality is brilliant, as is the geometry, which gives this proper race bike performance. There are a few tweaks to be made, like a change of tyres for fast riding, but for the money it's a bit of a belter.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!