– Reported by Tim Lefebvre & Richard Pestes –
Mid-June in Mallorca Spain – close to thirty journalists gather for an intimate unveiling of Giant’s 2009 line. Held at the prestigious Reads Hotel, just outside of Palma, in Santa Maria, Giant pulled out all the stops upon introducing their new hardware.
From the onset Giant was eager to establish that they have been busy with creating their version of the best bikes in the world by optimizing lightness, smoothness and stiffness. Dennis Lane, the global director of product development explained “these three goals have been our focus through two years of conceptual planning”.
Giant introduced the concept of ‘compact’ road geometry back in 1996, and by now most of us have ridden it on one brand or another. The 2009 line represents an evolution of Giant’s designs, using new carbon, new tube shapes, and other refinements across the entire frameset.
An intricate “report card” introduced by Giant product marketing manager Andrew Juskaitis, compared models such as the Cervelo R3, the Look 595, Trek Madone , Specialized Tarmac SL2 and Scott Addict SL within the three categories of weight, smoothness and stiffness. Although specific bikes bested Giant in certain categories, the new TCRs were shown as most well rounded in all three aspects, according to Giant’s criteria.
Although the Giant’s entire line of road bikes has been redesigned, the new TCR Advanced SL is the star and was touched on first. This bike is downright sexy and sleek, you almost wonder how they can improve the lines, aesthetics and overall look year after year, not to mention the all-important intricacies of performance.
All new carbon, and all-new tube shapes (they’re also size specific) make the TCR Advanced SL an all-new bike.
They developed this ride for Team High Road and aspiring race-types the world over and make no excuses for its purpose – to go fast.
The frame itself is made from Giant’s newest carbon threads – called T-800 – their stiffest and lightest carbon yet. Unlike other manufacturers, Giant weaves their own carbon cloth, allowing for use of different carbon threads to tune the final frame qualities. Their desired combo of stiffness, weight and smoothness is further controlled by hand-laying each carbon sheet (over 500 pieces per frame) into the molds – according to their own lay-up schedule, and using their proprietary resins and ‘cooking’ process.
The fork is Giant’s own, and designed to work specifically with the frame to provide the ride they want you to have.
Giant’s new carbon is a major part of the stiffness and ultimate ride quality, but tube shape and construction also play a big role. Beginning with the front end, they’ve increased the stiffness by oversizing and overlapping their tubes. The front triangle – top tube, headtube, downtube, is formed a single unit – with the top and downtube actually wrapping partially around the headtube to increase steering stiffness. Giant reports a 42% stiffness increase over last year’s model, which increases descending stability and turning response, and can allow for later braking if you’ve got the cajones.
The headtube itself contains a 1-1/8” top bearing and a 1-1/4” lower bearing. Giant believes these bearing sizes work best with their front end frame design to maximizing stiffness at the lowest possible weight.
Their integrated seatpost has been with Giant since 2004, and has decreased the drag by 40% over the 27.2 system of past models. Lighter by 40 grams, Giant’s own seat clamp design has 45 mm of adjustment.
Another Giant ‘first’ is their new “Fusion” method of joining tubes – used at the seatpost/ top tube/ seatstays junction. Without getting all tech-weenie here, the joint is compression molded and baked – twice. This helps expel more resin and ultimately creates a lighter and stronger joint. Giant’s “fusion” is used only at this junction, as they favor other methods more effective for other tube joints like the monocoque formed head tube junction, and the bonded bb junction.
What’s impressive is this attention to detail on a single joint, instead of assuming the entire frame should be built with one process.
The single-piece seatpost/ tube unit, which extends down to and includes the bottom bracket shell, is built to maximize energy transmission even as the entire seat-tube flexes, providing simultaneous comfort. This extended seatpost look has arguably transformed frames into rocketship looking masterpieces that actually translate more forces down the seat-tube and into the bottom bracket by design as a single unit.
The downtube has grown in size considerably from previous models, and is now rectangular in shape. At the headtube junction, it’s even wider than the headtube itself, and as mentioned, wraps part way around the headtube forming the bottom half of a ‘cradle’ that helps anchor the whole front end. The tube carries this width all the way to the BB, where’s it’s bonded to the BB shell.
The bottom bracket is a massive-looking oversized block of carbon, designed to handle any type of crank that is fully integrated with 86mm design. Giant reports that: “Both chainstays on the TCR Advanced SL are reinforced with additional composite material to contribute to maximum BB stiffness. Because the driveside chainstay sees more force (from chain force), it’s asymmetrical and larger than the non-driveside chainstay.
As always there’s the TCR sloping toptube, which gains a slight curve this year, that also extends through the seatstays – shaped partially to aid in ride ‘smoothness’. Looking down while riding it really does look like one continuous piece. Even the small details like the routing of the brake cable have been addressed, as it was reported to have rubbed against some riders’ legs, and so has now been tucked away.
Tim’s Riding Notes
Mallorca could be the best place in the world to ride bikes, so much diversity packed into such a small island, and the coastal views aren’t hard to handle either. Heading out on the test loops with this bike, that great feeling of carbon underneath is easy to appreciate.
The next thing that really hits with the TCR Advanced SL is the responsiveness of the front-end. Standing up and rocking on the bars, the bike feels steady and strong, and is ready to shoot forward. There is an utter feeling of smoothness and performance when you start to stand on the pedals and put some force into the bottom bracket. Lateral stiffness is sometimes difficult to measure, but this is one attribute that is highlighted as you begin to climb, the bike simply stands up and moves forward.
On our five hour adventure through the beautiful mountains of Soller the comfort aspect is well appreciated and there’s nothing negative to report – no back pain, no transmission of road forces, no stiff shoulders. Bombing down the backside of the mountains was a true test as we carved into the switchbacks. The bike responded with ease as we entered and exited out of the turns, easy to handle and a joy to be on, this bike is the real deal.
Now the good part, the price-point will go from $3,800 to $8,000 depending on how it’s dressed, Ultegra, Red, Dura-ace and a number of different wheelsets.
Giant’s compact designs revolutionized the world of high-performance bikes when introduced more than a decade ago and currently have come to the table with a distinctive ride that is sure to be a hit.
• See the Giant website at Giant-Bicycles.com