The TCR 1 is the middle bike in Giant's aluminium TCR range - not to be confused with the carbon TCR Composite, TCR Advanced or TCR Advanced SL bikes - all of which are built around the same frame and fork package. The entry-level model is the Shimano Tiagra-equipped TCR 2 (£990) and top of the pile is the TCR 0 (£1,500) which comes with mainly Shimano Ultegra components.
Fitted with Shimano 105 kit, the TCR 1 is a solid, reliable and reasonably lightweight road bike that packs in a lot of value for the cash.
Frame and fork
The frame is made from what Giant call their AluxX SL aluminium alloy - they reckon it's 30% stiffer than traditional 6061-series aluminium, and it's butted to save weight. As usual with Giant, the top tube slants distinctively downward along its length. You're more than likely familiar with Giant's reasoning by now: smaller frame triangles equal increased lateral rigidity and lower weight. Obviously though, if you shorten the seat tube you have to use a longer seat post to get the right saddle height, and that will partly offset the weight savings on the frame.
As an aside, Principia limit the amount of slope on the top tubes of their larger sized aluminium models because they regard longer seat posts as structurally weak and unaesthetic.
Anyway, back to the case in hand... You actually have to examine it pretty closely to see that the Giant's frame is aluminium rather than carbon fibre. It looks a lot like the TCR Advanced 2 we tested and rated highly recently. The down tube is almost square section and measures a monumental 63mm across at the bottom end - nearly the full width of the BB. Even in today's market of oversized everything, it's pretty darn large.
The top tube isn't quite as big and it tapers significantly as it heads back but, like the down tube, it comes with four squared edges and isn't about to get shoved around either. The head tube holds a standard-diameter 1 1/8in headset bearing up top but extends out to house a 1 1/4in bearing at the bottom, following the trend among many manufacturers to build some extra beef into the front end.
Out back, the seatstays are square section too, dead straight and, like the rest of the frame, comes with welds that are all but invisible. Meanwhile at the front, the fork has carbon legs and an alloy steerer, like the vast majority at this price point.
The overall build quality is good and the shiny black finish looks set to last. It certainly hasn't been scratched or chipped during several weeks of testing and neat little cable stops on the sides of the head tube prevent any scuffing there.
Our only concern is that one of the two bolts holding the front mech tab in place isn't doing its job - it's not actually bolting to anything. The other bolt is holding the tab in place just fine, but we wouldn't want to rely on it long term. If we'd bought this bike, we'd have been straight back down to the bike shop to get that sorted.
In terms of geometry, the seat angle on our medium-sized bike is 73, which is typical, and the head angle is 72 - slightly slacker than normal. What does that mean? Not much. I didn't notice any particular difference in the handling traits. The ride position is actually pretty much standard for a road bike - fairly stretched and low, but nothing too radical. The head tube on our test model is 15cm long although getting on for 3cm of headset spacers gives you quite a bit of front-end height to play with. Remove a spacer or two and cut down the steerer tube if you want a lower ride position.
The TCR 1 has a component spec dominated by Shimano 105. We're forever praising this mid-level groupset - it's fabulous for the money, performing as well as Dura-Ace and Ultegra in many ways with a relatively small weight penalty.
The 105 levers are excellent. The hoods are a comfortable shape for resting on, you get a big handful of lever body to grab when you're powering out of the saddle, and changing gear is simple wherever you position your hands. Braking is easy too whether you're on the hoods or the drops while under-the-bar cable routing keeps everything neat and tidy at the front end.
The chainset isn't 105, though. It's a compact (34/50 tooth) model from Shimano's R600 line - a money-saver, but it performs fine. The TCR 1 is available with a triple chainset too at the slightly elevated price of £1,195.
The brake callipers aren't 105 either; instead you get Tektro R540s, which are a common substitute on bikes at this price. They're dual pivot with a quick release and angle adjustment on the cartridge pads so you can toe them in to prevent any squeal.
The wheels are Giant's own. Again, that's a pretty common strategy for keeping the cost down at this price point. They've spun smoothly enough throughout testing on their cartridge bearings. We had to tighten up a couple of nipples on the Sapim Race spokes after several long test rides, but that's not unusual or difficult. Giant themselves also provide the aluminium seatpost, bar and stem and it's all solid kit without much unwanted flex.
Compared to some of the other rival bikes on the market, the Giant TCR1 represents decent value for money. The aluminium Scott Speedster S20 Compact, for example, has a very similar spec, and although it gets a 105 chainset whereas the Giant has an R600, it's a little more expensive at £1,199. Specialized's Allez Comp comes with both a 105 chainset and brakes but it's a bit more costly again, priced at £1,249.99.
Of the big brands, it's only the Trek 2.1 that, on paper, looks significantly more enticing. It comes with an aluminium alloy frame, carbon legged fork, 105 shifters and mechs, an R600 compact chainset and Tektro R540 brakes - all the same as the Giant TCR 1 - yet it's priced at £1,075. But, like we said, that's on paper - or computer screen. We've not tested the Trek 2.1, so we can't say whether that translates into an impressive performance out on the road or not.
There's a lot to like about the Giant's performance. For a start, nothing flexes about when you give it the beans. The frame and fork both hold firm while the aluminium cockpit components help keep the front end taut when you heave them about for out-of-the-saddle sprints and climbs. There's just a bit of downward movement in the drops when you hit something evil like a pothole - enough to take the sting out of the impact without scaring you to death in the process. The wheels bend off-centre ever so slightly when you lean the bike over hard into very tight turns but that really is minimal. The TCR1 actually pings through the bends well, largely thanks to the fork that behaves itself impeccably when you give it some work to do.
The Tektro R540 brakes aren't exactly super-strong when you overdo it into a corner and have to scrub off some speed fast, though. They're fine for general modulation and normal, gradual stops, but they're slightly lacking in all-out power. When you suddenly find yourself at a junction you hadn't seen, or the lights change before you were expecting them to, you have to squeeze the levers really hard squeeze to stop in time. Let's not make too much of that; they perform okay, but they don't have the bite of Shimano 105s.
The Giant has a lot to offer in terms of comfort too. We spoke about the ride position earlier. It's low and efficient without being back-breakingly extreme, and if you ride with your hands on the hood most of the time like most people do, Shimano's 105 levers are hard to beat. Lots of seat post extending out of the frame helps dampen road vibration too.
Giant's own TCR saddle, though, is a matter of taste. There's a cutaway hole in the shell, although not in the upper, designed to reduce pressure. I loved it at first, the saddle body flexing just enough to soften the ride over iffy surfaces. But it gradually started to sag over our test period so that as soon as I was sitting down, the central section would droop. Maybe lighter riders wouldn't find this - I'm about 75kg - but I just didn't fine it supportive enough in the end.
As far as acceleration and climbing are concerned, the TCR1 performs at about the level of most bikes of this price. It weighs 8.8kg (19.4lb), which is reasonably light for the money - the Vitus Dark Plasma //http://road.cc/content/review/33725-vitus-dark-plasma// that Stuart Kerton tested on road.cc a little while ago was exactly the same weight - and it spins up to speed without too much need for coaxing and cajoling.
The wheels aren't heavy but they're not especially light either, and the best that can be said about the Michelin Dynamic tyres is that they're robust. With a wire bead and quite a lot of rubber going on, they weigh over 300g each. I didn't get one flat in these, even though I clocked up some big miles and there's no puncture protection strip in there. But they aren't light, and that has a big influence on the ride. We swapped the tyres and the bike immediately felt a whole lot more energetic.
Overall, the TCR 1 is a solid performer. It does everything pretty well without any notable areas of weakness. To be critical, it doesn't leap out of the pack at its price point in the same way that the TCR Advanced 2 that we tested recently does. It performs like a lot of other bikes at a similar price, rather than setting new standards. A very good all-round road bike, but without a cherry on top.
Very good all-round road bike; solid rather than exceptional performance for the money
road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant TCR1 Compact
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame AluxX SL aluminium
Fork Advanced-Grade, Composite with Alloy OverDrive Steerer
Handlebar Giant Connect
Stem Giant Connect
Seatpost Giant Connect
Saddle Giant TCR
Shifters Shimano 105 5700 20 speed
Front Derailleur Shimano 105 5700
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105 5700
Brakes Tektro TK-R540
Brake Levers Shimano 105 5700
Cassette Shimano 105 5700 11-28
Chain KMC X10 SL
Crankset Shimano R600 34/50
Bottom Bracket Shimano Integrated Press Fit
Rims Giant P-R 2 DW aluminium
Hubs Giant cartridge bearing
Spokes Sapim Race
Tyires Michelin Dynamic 700x23mm
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 list it as a performance/competition bike. It's for fast road riding, sportives and so on. There are no mudguard or rack mounts - it's designed as a performance bike
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is good (except for a dodgy bolt holding the front mech tab in place on our test model). The paint finish looks like it'll last ages
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is Giant's AluX aluminium, butted, while the fork comes with carbon legs and an alloy steerer
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The frame is built to Giant's Compact geometry. They describe it this way:
"For 2011, Giant is proud to carry on the tradition of Compact Road Design. True to the original design goals of creating lighter, stiffer and more responsive bikes, these, we're sure you'll agree, are the fastest yet.
THERE ARE THREE QUALITIES OF COMPACT ROAD DESIGN THAT EVERY RIDER CAN APPRECIATE:
1. By effectively sloping the toptube downward toward the seatstays, Giant is able to reduce the overall size of the front and rear frame triangles, resulting in the now-distinctive compact layout. Functionally, the compact configuration reduces weight and increases lateral rigidity. As a result, the frame accelerates faster thanks to less energy loss through unwanted flex.
2. Stiffer is more efficient, but it doesn't always offer the most comfortable ride. To address this, Giant engineers are careful to incorporate just the right amount of vertical compliance (a good thing) into each Compact Road Design for increased forgiveness and control.
3. A full range of sizes (up to seven in some series) ensures that riders of every size can find their ideal fit.
Aside from being compact, the frame is fairly typical road bike fare.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, no issues on that score. The saddle started to sag after a while. I'd have soon swapped it if it was my own bike
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, no particular slackness to report.
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? About average
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? It didn't do enough to separate it from the crowd for me
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? It's one of a handful I'd recommend them trying at this price
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,