The Giant TCR Composite 2 road bike tested, rated and reviewed
Giant TCR Composite 2
Giant’s TCR Composite range represents technology trickle-down in action. Not long ago, the Composite frames represented the top of the tree. Then the Advanced frames came along and bumped the Composites down to entry-level, which means that you can get a bike built around an excellent frame for really very little money.
Frame and fork
The TCR Composite is a distinctive chassis. The most eye-catching feature is the aero seat-tube and concomitant post. The deep, foil-shaped tube with a cut-out to accommodate the rear wheel is the sort of thing you expect to see on a time trial bike or maybe a high-end aero road bike, but it’s an unusual feature for an entry-level frame.
It looks great, but the aero tube is something of a mixed blessing. It uses more material than a conventional round tube, so is inevitably heavier. The aerodynamic benefit will be marginal at best and you’re not going to have a huge choice of alternative seatposts. On the other hand, you can guarantee that your saddle will always be straight.
Elsewhere on the frame, the theme appears to be “large”. The down-tube is huge, and while the head-tube is generally straight on the outside it takes a tapered steerer inside. There’s lots of volume at the front of the top and down-tubes to support the head-tube. Tall chainstays flow into the press-fit bottom bracket with a broad, frame-stiffening stance. You’ll find a mount for Giant’s own RideSense ANT+ wheel sensor on the inside of the chainstay, which makes
for a secure and clean computer installation if you’re so inclined.
Giant’s enormous buying power means that it nearly always comes up with a high-value parts spec, and the TCR Composite 2 is no exception. While Shimano Tiagra is the usual pick at this price, Giant has managed to include the next-step-up 105 shifters and mechs. It’s a worthwhile upgrade, with the levers in particular having a reassuringly solid feel but retaining light, fast operation. The 105 levers also have concealed cable routing which cuts a lot of clutter from the front end and reduces drag too, which you’ll be glad of if you decide to fit clip-on aerobars for triathlon racing.
You’ll find a lot of Giant-branded parts on the TCR, including the wheels and tyres. Compared to some wheelsets out there, the P-Elite C hoops are very conventional and all the better for it. There’s a lot to be said for standard profile rims and conventional spoking if you want light, reliable wheels with readily available spare parts.
Gearing always presents something of a dilemma for manufacturers, especially on bikes such as the TCR with race aspirations. Giant’s gone with a 12-30 cassette, which gives some pretty low gears on the inner ring at the expense of closely-spaced ratios. If that doesn’t suit you, it’s no big deal – cassettes are consumables anyway – but it’ll mean you can spin up climbs in hillier races.
There are two qualities that the Giant has that you might not expect based on looking at it. The TCR Composite frame looks chunky, but the bike as a whole weighs only 8.57kg in size M/L. This contributes to the Giant’s sprightly feel under power. It’s not that big a deal on steady-state riding, but if you’re doing a lot of braking and accelerating you’ll appreciate the low weight.
That high-volume frame has a big part to play in the Giant’s kick too, but the second unexpected quality is that the TCR has a smoother ride than the big tubes would at first suggest. Despite the deep, stiff aero seatpost and 23mm tyres, the TCR is a composed ride on poor road surfaces. Sure, it’s not as smooth as some of the other bikes here, but that fits in with how Giant position this bike – it is designed for performance and a bit of comfort, rather than the other way around.
With fairly conventional geometry, the TCR gives a balanced ride, although leaning towards the racier end of the spectrum. The head-tube is relatively short, giving plenty of flexibility to find your favoured riding position – if you’re likely to want your bars on the high side, make sure the shop leaves some spacers on the steerer. You can always slam the stem down later.
+ Trickle-down frame tech makes for a great ride on a budget
+ Excellent value for money and impressive low weight
– Surprisingly comfortable, but not as smooth as some
– Aero post looks good but limits seatpost options