So how do they ride?
Well, just as you’d expect from one of the Big Three (Giant, Trek, Specialized): very nicely. Giant had three bikes set up for me in Mallorca (poolside in fact, and it was hard to resist jumping in instead of testing bikes). They were all built with identical parts: Shimano 7900 components with Giant wheels, bars, stem. I really liked Giant’s approach on this launch. My host wanted the journalists in attendance to focus on frame differences and get a good sense of the new wheels.
Well, the bikes we rode were not production bicycles. The frames are finalized, but the parts that hung on them won’t be available as we tested them. As I mentioned, Giant did this to let us focus on the 2012 frames. Below is a 2012 price list for many models. They’re not final numbers, but a ballpark.
TCR ADV SL 0 ISP $12,500
TCR ADV 0 $4,400
TCR Composite 1 $2,650
Defy ADV SL 0 $7,000
Defy ADV 0 $4,400
Defy Composite 1 $2,650
Defy 1 (alloy) $1,350
TCR ADV W $3,700
Avail ADV 0 $4,400
Avail Composite 1 $2,650
Avail 1 (alloy) $1,350
I took each of the three bikes around a 10-kilometer test loop Giant had marked that included some climbing, a few tight corners and even a small patch of cobbles. The following day we had a big group ride on the mountainous roads of Mallorca. So the test loops served to see frame differences but also to let us choose a steed for the next’s day’s extended ride.
Even during those fairly brief rides the difference between the TCR and Defy geometries was very plain to see. The TCRs are race machines that love being flicked into a sharp corner and pushed hard cresting climbs out of the saddle.
The Defy encourages its rider to take it a little bit easier. But out of the saddle the Defy is surprisingly spirited. In truth, a couple kilometers into my loop on Giant’s endurance bike I was falsely lulled into thinking that it was a bike for long cruises.
The Defy was excellent over the cobbled section and smoothed seams in the road, but in corners it seemed to prefer big swoopy lines. When I punched it hard in the big ring over a rise though, I was blown away with how responsive the bike was. It’s a bit Jeckyll and Hyde, but in a good way.
The women’s Avail line is still alive and well (so too is the TCR W line). For obvious reasons I didn’t test ride one.
New for 2012 is the Defy Advanced SL with an integrated seatpost. By using all the same technologies as the TCR Advanced SL, but focusing more on weight and rider comfort, the Defy Advanced SL frame is 21 grams lighter than the bikes under the Rabobank WorldTour team.
The TCR Advanced is the best bang for the buck when it comes to the TCR line. The frame rides exceptionally well and I personally felt that it was a bit more compliant than the top-of-the-range Advanced SL without sacrificing efficiency. All of Giant’s new technologies are present in the Advanced, and you get them in a package that is much easier to transport, adjust and resell because it doesn’t use Giant’s integrated seatpost. If I were to buy a Giant for my next bike, it would be a TCR Advanced.
Giant didn’t have them on hand for testing, but Giant is also producing a TCR Composite line of bikes that uses less expensive carbon. They’ll share the TCR geometry and will offer an entry-level carbon frame for consumers.
So what did I choose for the big ride? Well, before riding the bikes I predicted that I’d take the Defy. But after riding Giant’s latest rocket, I took the TCR Advanced SL. Who wouldn’t, given the opportunity?
The TCR Advanced SL is clearly a race bike and it performed beautifully. While steering precision and front-end stiffness are likely improved by OverDrive 2, I initially wondered if there was a comfort trade-off in the works.
Many race frames are overly harsh for the majority of the cycling population. But I’m happy to report that after hours cruising along, the TCR Advanced, Advanced SL and Defy all walk that fine line of performance without undue abuse. The Advanced SL though is the sharpest handling bike in the line. Descending on the bike was a true pleasure. And there was nothing about the frame that slowed me down as I suffered up Mallorcan climbs.
Giant’s geometry wasn’t perfect for me, but the new seatpost head went a long way in getting me closer. Giant also provides buyers of ISP bikes with both 25 and 40mm seat post caps. This helps reassure buyers about reselling them to someone with a larger inseam. Set the bike up with the 25mm head for your riding and hold onto the 40mm head in case someone taller shows an interest in buying your machine.