Aluminium is still a top choice of frame material, and to prove it Giant have just released the most advanced aluminium road bicycle they’ve ever developed. The new TCR SL represents the pinnacle of their years working with the material. The result is a stunning 1,050g frame. There are two bikes in the range: this £1,249 Shimano 105-equipped bike and there’s one with Ultegra costing £1,799.
At a shade over 1kg, the new TCR SL is close to a lot of carbon frames in terms of weight, and the latest developments mean the ride is far more sophisticated than in the early days of aluminium when it was roundly considered to be too stiff and harsh to be anything but uncomfortable. Not anymore. The latest aluminium frames offer wonderful rides that in some situations rival carbon. And because aluminium is a lot cheaper to manufacture, you can have a very high quality bike with a far better spec for the money than most carbon alternatives. There's a lot to like.
Aluxx SL Ultralight-Edition is the alloy used for the frame. Most of the tubes have been heavily manipulated, and just about every tube has a rounded off square profile. The top tube is a wide box section at the front and is the same width as the head tube, while it is far more slender and narrow at the seat tube.
The seat tube is a magnificent example of tube manipulation: it starts off box section at the bottom bracket shell, then flows into an aero shaped section via a cutaway around the rear wheel. The down tube is a rounded square shape, and the rear stays are slender.
Aero is a buzzword we’re hearing about a lot more these days, and the TCR SL2 has been given an aero seat tube. It’s Giant's own design, with a two-bolt saddle rail clamp and a twin bolt seat clamp. It’s easy to set up - no trying to get the saddle absolutely straight with lots of squinting eyes - but it does clearly limit the potential for upgrade.
Up front the frame doesn’t use Giant’s latest OverDrive 2 standard, instead it's OverDrive which has a 1 ¼in lower bearing racing and 1 1/8in upper bearing. The fork is made from composite material and has an alloy steerer tube.
On the scales, the bike pictured weighs 8.35kg (18.4lbs). That’s a seriously competitive weight when you take the price tag into consideration. This weight is reached with a mostly Shimano 105 10-speed groupset, with a R565 compact 50/34 chainset paired up to a wide-ranging 12-28 cassette. Giant spec a PressFit bottom bracket.
Giant really go the extra mile when it comes to the finish of their bikes, and this is apparent with the TCR SL2. Their own branded handlebars, stem, seatpost and saddle are all top-notch kit and while it may not carry the kudos of branded parts, it’s all very much fit for purpose.
A couple of years ago Giant launched their own range of wheels and tyres and they feature on this model. The P-R2 wheelset use hubs with sealed bearings and DT Swiss Competition spokes, with 24 in the front wheel and 28 in the rear. They’re shod with P-SL1 23mm front and rear specific tyres.
This is a size medium (there are six sizes available). It has a 57cm effective top tube and 17cm head tube, 99.2cm wheelbase and 40.5cm chainstays. The head angle is 73° and seat angle is 72.5°.
So, what’s the competition for this £1,249 aluminium race bike, then? Immediately leaping to mind is the Canyon Ultimate AL 7.0. It’s the same price but has a heavier frame of 1,220g. It’s similarly specced for the money however. Then there’s the BMC GranFondo GF02 that arrived in the office the other day. It's a similar deal with an alu frame and 105 groupset, but at £1,400 it's a bit dearer. If you want comfort, then how about Trek’s Domane 2.3? It’s £1,200 and has most of a Shimano 105 groupset and packs in their innovative IsoSpeed decoupler at the seat tube junction that offers vibration absorption.
Another interesting option is Koga’s new A-Limited. It’s their latest aluminium racer and the frame weighs 1,130g. A Shimano 105 build costs £1,571 so it’s a fair bit cheaper, although it’s not available until April.
We reviewed the Cannondale Caad10 Ultegra model and found it to be an excellent bike for the money and the 105 model uses the same frame but costs £1,399. So, again, it’s a bit more money.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.