There are more exotic brands than Giant, but the TCR Advanced SL 4 is a class act.
Smooth and composed, it climbed, cornered, and descended with assurance, and on flat roads displayed an eagerness the equal of anything we’ve ridden.
While offering few fireworks, the TCR Advanced SL 4 was competent in all areas, making it an ideal choice for riders perhaps seeking a first racing bike after ownership of a more relaxed, endurance-oriented steed.The frame
Several clues to the TCR Advanced SL 4’s performance can be found in its geometry and broad, flattened tube profiles. For a detailed description, read our ‘first look’ article.
The first thing we noted about the TCR Advanced SL 4 was its willingness to get up to speed. A canter is its default setting. This may owe much to the wheels and low rolling resistance of the tyres, but the low weight and short-ish wheelbase (992mm on our 53.5cm test bike) are likely have played their part in achieving such a pleasing characteristic.
Climbing was similarly impressive, again the result of its low weight and a tight rear triangle. On double digit gradients, pressing hard on the pedals during out-of-the-saddle assaults, we felt the back wheel skipping (heavier riders may not experience the same). On a series of short, steep climbs, where we had to dig in to stay on the 53-tooth outer chainring, we found the TCR Advanced SL 4 always had something extra to give. Impressive.
Diving downhill was a pleasure, thanks to its supreme composure. One notable descent on a regular test loop includes patches of tarmac rougher than the rear end of the proverbial badger, and whose every imperfection can be felt at speeds north of 35mph. The TCR Advanced SL 4 made light work of conditions that on harsher machines have been impossible to ignore. Smoothness is the TCR Advanced SL 4’s most impressive attribute.
The steering was precise and a key contributor to the nimble handling. This we felt owed as much to the 100mm stem as to the aggressive 73-degree head angle. A final word on the front end: at 170mm, the head tube was fairly tall for a machine so obviously focussed on speed. A lower unit, however, in combination with the 100mm stem and aggressive head angle, we felt would have undermined the TCR’s relative stability.Components
With the exception of the handlebars, it’s impossible to fault the components deployed on the TCR Advanced SL 4.
The full Shimano Ultegra groupset performed every bit as well as we’ve come to expect during our numerous acquaintances with it on various other machines. Accurate shifting under full load, controlled braking, elegant, understated appearance…regular readers will be entirely familiar with its merits and we won’t waste further time describing them again here. Suffice to say it was an suitable match for the precise and lightweight chassis. Our recent trip to Mallorca with Team IG-Sigma Sport brought us into contact with professional riders happy to race and train on Ultegra. If it’s good enough for Olympic medalists, junior Chrono des Nations champions, well, you get the picture.
Giant’s P-SL0 wheelset delivered on the promise implicit in its straight pull spokes, proving stiff, and, as noted above, fast. The last machine we tested of this calibre was the Bianchi Sempre Pro, and while this was the equal of the TCR Advanced SL 4 in other regards (despite having as drastically different a character as might be anticipated from Far Eastern and Italian design teams), Giant’s hoops offered a significant improvement in speed and handling over the Fulcrum Racing Quattros supplied with the Bianchi.
We were uncertain about the lacing of the rear wheel (an unconventional two-cross lacing on the non-driveside), but this correspondent didn’t notice any performance deficiency by placing the supposedly weaker, radial lacing on the driveside (heavier riders may not experience the same). A longer test would be required to rule on durability, but we experienced no issues during our short acquaintance.
Giant’s SLR-1 tyres, a feature of the upscale TCR Advanced SL 0, were a pleasant surprise, although our testing was limited to dry days (the RCUK Winter Bike, specifically its Portland Design Works mudguards, proved an irresistible lure in bleaker conditions). The rolling resistance generated by their slick profile was negligible, making them a significant contributor to a machine inclined to speed.
The Fizik Arione saddle is an RCUK favourite, but elsewhere among the finishing kit, we were less impressed by the handlebars, which felt spindly.Conclusion
The Giant TCR Advanced SL 4 surpassed our expectations in almost every regard. It accomplished each task set with quiet competence, but was neither bland or unengaging. Its natural propensity to speed made it an exciting ride, while the assurance of its handling meant we never felt anything other than in complete control. The smoothness of the ride spoke of a high quality chassis and, with the possible exception of the handlebars, we wouldn’t be in a hurry to change any of the components.