Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc (2021) review

Freda Walters

Giant’s ninth-generation TCR may have moved away from its original three-size-only concept (now available in six sizes from XS to XL), adjustable stem and multitude of seatpost lengths to achieve a wide variety of fits, but the Total Compact Road’s diamond frame shape remains – with its now-familiar sloping top […]

Giant’s ninth-generation TCR may have moved away from its original three-size-only concept (now available in six sizes from XS to XL), adjustable stem and multitude of seatpost lengths to achieve a wide variety of fits, but the Total Compact Road’s diamond frame shape remains – with its now-familiar sloping top tube and steep road-race angles.

Staying with that tried and trusted diamond frame shape means Giant has resisted moving towards dropped seatstays, like many other brands, relying instead on its D-shaped carbon seatpost to dampen vibrations and offer an aerodynamic advantage.

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 frame

At first glance, the 2021 TCR strongly resembles last year’s model, but look harder and you’ll see that every tube shape has been optimised, aerodynamically sculpted using kammtail profiles – a truncated aerodynamic shape (think aeroplane wing cross-section) that’s had its pointed tail sawn off to cheat the wind into ‘believing’ the tail is still there, and making it less disruptive as the frame moves forward.

The frame uses Giant’s Advanced-Grade Composite technology (high performance-grade raw carbon fibre) and I like that it has kept the slender tube shapes rather than going deeper into aero territory.

The internal cabling is neatly done.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

The new frame design is claimed to save 34 seconds over 25mi/40km at a constant 200w of power, and while aerodynamics are hard to quantify outside of a wind tunnel, the TCR certainly feels rapid.

At the rear, Giant’s pioneering and much-imitated D-shaped carbon post remains, to balance out the bike’s aggressive nature and stiffness by offering compliance and comfort.

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 kit

The TCR’s mechanical Ultegra drivetrain is paired with the same groupset’s hydraulic brakes. Okay, Dura-Ace would trim a few grams but Ultegra matches Dura-Ace’s performance, and Giant really maxes the value by adding its own Power Pro crank-based power meter.

This features dual-sided measurement that tracks pedal balance, force angle and cadence, and auto-calibrating for temperature – and all with a claimed accuracy of +/- 2 per cent. Impressive.

Shimano Ultegra drivetrain on the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc road bike

Giant’s Power Pro power meter is embedded in the Shimano Ultegra crank.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

The meter transmits in Bluetooth smart and ANT+, and I used a Garmin head unit and Giant’s RideLink app to track my data.

The app displays the power meter’s battery level (Giant claims 100 hours of use before it’ll need recharging) but an LED on the unit also shows battery level.

Giant SLR-1 wheels with Giant Gavia Course 1 tyres on the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc road bike

Giant’s SLR-1 wheels are fitted with 25mm Giant Gavia Course 1 tyres.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Giant has also knocked it out of the park when it comes to the wheels. The new SLR-1 wheelset has a 42mm-deep aero-optimised rim built for tubeless tyres, with a hookless rim shape (see Giant’s website for a list of tubeless tyres approved for use with the wheels, as not all passed Giant’s testing protocol).

The 19.4mm internal width rims push the 25mm tyres to 27.3mm for extra plushness, too – Giant recommends a max tyre width of 32mm.

The rims are laced to Giant’s own hubs using Sapim’s ever-dependable CX-ray spokes (24 per wheel) and spin smoothly, with the 30t ratchet rear freehub picking up quickly too. The SLR-1 wheelset tipped my scales at an impressively light 1,404g for the pair.

As you might expect, finishing kit comes from the brand’s SL line. The handlebar is particularly well-shaped with a mid-height drop and mid-length reach that encourages you to get down in the drops and make the most of the TCR’s stunning speed.

And the Pro 1 is such a good bike to ride rapidly you’ll want to spend as much time as possible down on the drops pushing the TCR’s limits.

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 geometry

Thankfully, Giant hasn’t messed around too much with the TCR’s sorted geometry, which I’m pleased about considering the previous generation model is a bike I bought, own, ride a lot and love.

The racy 581mm (size large) stack height remains as do the lengthy reach of 402mm and parallel 73-degree head and seat angles.

A small change has been made to the bottom bracket height, dropping by 2mm, to account for the use of larger volume tyres – the 2021 TCR can take up to a 32c tyre over the previous bike’s 28c.

Giant has also confirmed that some stores will be able to accommodate spec changes at point of purchase, so if you want to change bar width, stem length, etc, it’s worth asking.

Pack shot of the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc road bike

The TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc is an exhilarating and exciting ride.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 ride impressions

On the road it’s just stunning – an exhilarating and exciting ride that gives you everything a high-quality race bike should. It feels efficient, accelerates rapidly and rewards strong efforts by easily retaining its speed.

The handling is quick and direct without ever becoming skittish on poor surfaces, and while the ride is firm and taut, that’s part and parcel for this style of bike. Descending on the TCR is a confidence-inspiring experience.

Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes on the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc road bike

Shimano Ultegra kits out the hydraulic disc brakes and drivetrain.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Ascending on the TCR is a joy too, the efficiency in the chassis is stunning and running on some seriously light rolling wheels all adds up to a bike that wants to go uphill with as much vigour and enthusiasm as you can muster.

If I had to be hyper critical, I’d like the option to move to a 28mm tyre, due to the poor condition of a lot of my local roads, but having the 25mm tyres come setup tubeless makes the best of them.

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 bottom line

Summing up the new TCR is easy – it’s simply the finest race-bred bike Giant has produced to date. And considering Giant’s track record, that’s quite an accolade.

Overall, the range is stunning, not just this premium offering or the TCR SL 0 superbike, so if your budget can’t quite stretch to this model I’d recommend taking a look at the Advanced 1 Plus, which has to be one of 2021’s best value bikes.

It’s also worth considering the Advanced Composite chassis bikes that start at £2,099 or the rim brake option at £1,999.

Buy this bike if you want a race-orientated bike without any downsides.

Thanks to…

A massive thank-you to Q36.5 for sorting the kit for the photo and video shoots, Lazer for keeping our heads protected, and 100% for shielding our eyes from the elements on the roads and trails.

And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.

Road Bike of the Year 2021 contenders

Thirty-two of the best bikes ridden and rated…

  • ARC8 Escapee
  • Basso Venta 105 Disc
  • BMC Roadmachine TWO
  • BMC Teammachine SLR TWO
  • Boardman ADV 8.9
  • Boardman ADV 9.0
  • Boardman SLR 8.9 105
  • Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS (winner)
  • Cannondale SuperSix EVO
  • Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1
  • Cervélo Caledonia-5
  • Cinelli King Zydeco
  • Genesis CDA 30
  • Giant Contend AR 3
  • Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1
  • Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc
  • Lapierre Xelius SL 5.0
  • Orbea Avant H60-D
  • Orbea Orca M20
  • Pearson Off Grid
  • Planet X London Road SRAM Apex 1 Disc
  • Ribble CGR Ti Pro
  • Ribble Endurance 725 Base
  • Ribble Endurance Ti Disc
  • Rondo HVRT CF1
  • Sensa Giulia GF
  • Specialized Roubaix Sport
  • Specialized S-Works Aethos
  • Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
  • Trek Domane AL 5
  • Van Rysel EDR AF
  • Vitus Zenium Tiagra
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