Read about Giant's TCX2 on their website and you might think you're buying a full-on CX race iron. "Light enough to hoist and carry, fast enough to put you on the podium, that's TCX", they gush. In reality the £800 TCX is much more of an all-rounder, with a spec that suggests it'll do its miles in the week and spend most of its Sunday mornings tucked in the shed. It's a good bike though, capable of tackling proper off road and long tarmac jaunts too.
Giant have plenty of experience fluid forming alloy frames, and each year their alloy offerings look a little bit more like the Carbon ones. The top and down tubes are heavily shaped, with the top tube featuring along-the-top cable routing and a flattened underside for easier shouldering of the bike. The down tube is squared off in a similar way to Giant's huge box-section Carbon offerings, and it's wide at the bottom bracket shell which features integrated bearings. The chainstays are tall and the seatstays fairly beefy for a stiff rear end; tyre clearance is good.
The fork is made of the same AluXX alloy as the frame and it's a wide-bladed straight affair that mates well with the frame via an integrated headset. The width and bulk at the crown suggest it'll be a pretty stiff affair; more on that later. Both frame and fork have mudguard eyelets, and there's subtle rack mounts on the frame too.
Shifting duties are taken care of by Shimano Sora STI levers driving Sora/Tiagra front and rear mechs. The chainset is an FSA Omega compact. Sora's not my favourite shifter in terms of ergonomics - I don't like the long sweep and the fiddly release button - but functionally I've never had an issue with it. The Tiagra upgrade at the rear mech is a nice touch, paid for in part by the switch the to FSA chainset which is dependable enough without being particularly sexy.
You could call the chainset - a standard 50/34 rather than a closer ratio 46/36 CX unit - the first clue that the bike isn't really designed as an out and out racer. The second clue would be the tyres; Kenda's Small Block Eight is a great all-purpose choice for road and light off road, but show it mud or slippery roots and watch the colour drain from its cheeks. It's no use in the wet, so that rules it out for every cyclocross race ever contested.
The Kendas are attached to a sturdy wheelset, Shimano hubs and Giant SR2 rims. Light they ain't, but they're nice and solid and stayed true throughout testing. Stopping them going round are Tektro cantilever brakes, and finishing kit is own-brand Giant stuff, which is dependable enough and not over heavy; the bike tips the scales at a round 10kg and that's for a large.
First impressions are of a rangy, comfortable bike. The large size isn't massive in terms of reach but the neurtral steering and 44cm bars combine to give a fairly relaxed feel from the off. Everything on the bike is good quality and there's no ticks or squeaks, or pinging spokes: it's a well put together machine.
Pumping the tyres up to 90psi and heading out onto the roads, the TCX2 is a very comfortable and capable road bike. Okay it's not lightning quick, especially with the supplied rubber, but switch the Kendas for slicks and you've got a well-balanced, easy to pilot road machine for training or leisure rides. The portly wheels take a bit of coaxing to get them up to speed but that's true of most bikes at this kind of money, full-on road bikes included. Once you've picked up some speed it'll lick along just fine, with the fairly upright position limiting all-out pace but the easily accessible drops giving you a more aero tuck if you want it. I didn't struggle to knock out hilly 23-24km road rides in an hour, which is not far short of what I'd do on my 'proper' road machine.
I took the TCX2 on a variety of off-road excursions too, from canal-path commutes to full-on Peak District MTB loops, and never really found the bike wanting. Even on difficult rocky descents the main fear was always a pinch flat of the narrow tyres, rather than a feeling of loss of control. The bike, though large and rangy, was well balanced and perfectly capable of taking a beating on the singletrack.
Going downhill off-road found the limitations of the braking system pretty quickly though, specifically the front brake. Brake judder on cantilever brakes has long been a problem, especially when - like here - you've got a long section of cable between the brake hanger and the cantis themselves. The TCX hangs the front brake from the steerer stack, down the 17.5cm head tube to the brakes. It looks like a recipe for judder, and it is, despite the beefy-looking fork. Worst in damp conditions, the judder ranged from being slightly annoying to rendering the front anchor entirely useless. I'd bet my best wheels that simply moving the hanger down to a mount on the fork crown would solve the problem at a stroke. Please, Giant. PLEASE move the brake hanger.
Judder aside, the cantilevers were as cantilevers always are, kind of average. If you weren't racing you'd be tempted to swap them for mini-Vs, or full V-brakes with a travel agent. And will you be racing? Well. For all Giant's insistence that this is a 'proper' CX bike, it isn't. not really. The fact that it's specced with compromise Kenda tyres and a standard compact chainset is partly an admission of that, but the bike doesn't really ride like a full-on 'crosser either. It's a bit more relaxed and rangy than you'd want for the cut-and-thrust of an hour in a field. There weren't any races to do while I was testing the TCX2, but my gut feeling is that I'd have been happy enough racing the bike, but with a slight nagging desire for something that felt a bit more, I don't know. Dangerous?
So if it isn't a full-on racer, then what is it? A good all-rounder, that's what. Road loops, MTB trails, fire roads, it's pretty happy anywhere. I chucked a child seat on it too, and a rack and pannier, and it handled just fine with both. You could tour on it, assuming you only needed a rear rack, and with 'guards and a rack it would make a super year-round commuter. Actually, you'll probably want to switch to mini-V brakes for all of those. I liked riding the TCX2, it's a solid and reliable plaftform and very well put together. I was expecting it to be a bit more racy based on Giant's description of it, but while that's not really how the bike rides it's far from being a disappointment.
Much more of an all-rounder than a racer, the TCX2 is a good value option for a do-it-all machine. Minor niggles aside, it's a solid bike that should last, and it's a genuinely capable off-roader too.
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Make and model: Giant TCX 2
Size tested: L
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: AluxX SL aluminium, Fluid FormedTM
Fork: AluxX Aluminium, OverDrive Steerer
Handlebar: Giant Connect
Stem: Giant Sport
Seatpost: Giant Sport
Saddle: Giant TCR
Pedals: Not Included
Shifters: Shimano Sora 18 speed
Front Derailleur: Shimano Sora
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra
Brakes: Tektro TK-CR-720
Brake Levers: Shimano Sora & Tektro RL721
Cassette: SRAM PG 950 11-26
Chain: Shimano HG-73
Crankset: FSA Omega 34/50
Bottom Bracket: FSA MegaExo Integrated
Rims: Giant S-R 2 DW aluminium
Hubs: Shimano 2200 rear/Formula front
Spokes: Stainless Steel
Tires: Kenda Small Block Eight 700x35mm
Extras: Frame is fitted with 2 sets of bottle bosses, rack and fender mounts
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?
ROAD, DIRT, SNOW, AND MUD - IT DOESN'T MATTER WITH TCX. RACE CROSS ONE WEEKEND, RIDE A RUGGED MOUNTAIN PASS THE NEXT.
Light enough to hoist and carry, fast enough to put you on the podium, that's TCX. With sharp handling, lightweight and easy to shoulder ALUXX SL aluminium frame plus a smart mix of dirt worthy components, the all-new TCX is your do it all bike for competition or adventure - better yet, both.
Okay, calm down. It's more of an all-rounder than a racer.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very well built. Solid.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
72.5 head angle, 73 seat angle,
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Felt quite roomy depsite not being over-long
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's a pretty comfy bike considering the fact that it's all-alloy and pretty beefy. The tyres help, as does the decent saddle
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The frame was fine, the fork suffered from judder
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well, no issues with power transfer
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
no issues during testing
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? A bit more neutral than I'd have liked
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling was good: predictable and stable. You probably wouldn't call it exciting though
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres were good, the Aluminium fork surprisingly not bad
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
It's a very stiff platform is the TCX
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Nope, it's all good stuff. On road the tyres are a bit draggy but they're about the best compromise
Sora's not sexy but it works just fine
No problems during testing
Good value spec for the cash
Wheels are a bit heavy, tyres a decent compromise
Built to last
£800 bikes tend to suffer on wheel weight and this one is no exception
tyres make things comfy on the road
Shifting good, braking bad
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Please Giant, for Pete's sake fit a fork-mounted front brake hanger
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, judder aside
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, if i could get the shop to chuck in a fork hanger for the front brake
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, a good all rounder but not really a race bike
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
A good all rounder, niggles aside. Not quite as utility as a tricross and not quite racy enough to, erm, race, it falls between two stalls a bit, but it's a good bike nonetheless
Age: 38 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.