Review: 2014 Giant TCR Advanced SL-2 (In the presence of Greatness)

By | August 5, 2013

At least twice during RAGBRAI I was in the presence of greatness.  You should remember my chance meeting with none other than Lance Armstrong- thanks again for the air, dude!  The other time was when I spent the day with a 2014 Giant TCR Advanced SL 2.  However like Mr. Armstrong, the amazing performance of the TCR did not come without some issues.

Samantha…  Isn’t she lovely?

It all started on the ride from Knoxville to Oskaloosa.  I met someone riding a Specialized S-werks with Disc brakes.  I have dreamed of a disc-equipped road bike for years-  I loathe road bike brakes!  I was informed that the Sexy S-werks was a demo bike, so of course my first priority at the end of the day I sought out the Specialized tent. Bummer, they weren’t offering demo bikes for the rest of the ride, but that I should check out Giant. Well okay. At the Giant trailer, I met Duncan who outfitted me with Sam (yes, they named their demo bikes).  Sam or Samantha was a beauty- carbon frame, integrated seat post, SRAM Red components top to bottom, hubs made by DW Swiss, hoops by Giant.  While the TCR did not feature the disc brakes I lust after, I was told that the Red rim stoppers were impressive.  After filling out some forms and handing over a credit card and ID, Samantha was mine for 24 hours.  I was hoping Sam would work her magic on me like Samantha from Bewitched making this Clydesdale the sped demon racer of his dreams.  Incidentally, at 37 years old, I was not allowed to drink beer in Oskaloosa because I gave my ID to Giant. Grrr!

Integrated seatpost and Fizik seat.

The next morning, I set out for Fairfield with my new love Samantha.  On the road, the carbon frame emits a very soft hum.  It is kind of like the sound carbon deep dish wheels make, but in a much more pleasant way.  It is her way of begging you to ride her faster.  Sam weighs about 17 pounds.  I ride a 10 year old Giant OCR1.  My bike is tired, heavy and showing her age.  I have put close to 20k miles on her.  Being a Clydesdale, those miles have not been gentle, I’m afraid.  The Giant compact frame geometry meant that Samantha handled in a stable, remarkably familiar way.  However, that stiff carbon frame meant that there was no perceivable flex in the frame under hard acceleration.  You push down and you go…  In a hurry!  I was amazed how fast I got up to speed.  The downside of this stiff frame is that she transmitted every surface irregularity of the rough Iowa roads directly to my feet, hands and ass.  The Fizik seat, was miserable at first, but strangely got more comfortable as the day progressed.  The cure for this roughness…  Simple, go faster of course!  Samantha came without a computer, however, I did make the first pass through town 13 miles from the start in 35 minutes.  I rode the entire 52 mile day, including all three pass through towns in just over three hours!

Samantha’s SRAM components were a dream.  This is my first time riding SRAM components and the RED components are top of the line.  I did not think I would like their double tap shifting.  But honestly, it was so intuitive I hardly noticed it. It makes a satysfying click on the up shift as well as down shift.  Shifts were generally quick, but I think after having carried several demo riders that week, I suspect a tune up would solve that.  The hoods were very comfortable for my meaty hands, though I did notice a bit of numbness I typically experience in my right hand.  The best part of the SRAM experience was the brakes.  The best rim brakes I have ever experienced!  You grab the brake levers, and you stop. They inspire confidence, but a little more modulation may be necessary.  I caught myself locking up the rear wheel at least twice. More time with the brakes may solve that problem.

Wheels.  The DT Swiss spokes and Giant hoops are super light!  This low rotational interia was one reason Samantha was so eager to accelerate.  However, I had a feeling that a wheels with only 18 spokes in the front and 20 in the back was not going to be Clydesdale-friendly.  Heading into Fairfield and pushing hard up a small climb, I heard a familiar and sad pinging coming from the rear wheel.  I eased up, glanced down.  The rear wheel was out of true.  A quick pit stop confirmed that I had broken a spoke.  Samantha was able to get me the rest of the way to town, but alas the honeymoon was over.  When I got to the Giant trailer, I asked if these wheels had a weight limit.  Although the answer was ‘no’, I’m dubious. These don’t seem to be Clydesdale-friendly wheels.  I’m pretty sure I’d soon be in the market for a new wheelset if I bought this bike. Thankfully, I got to hand over these wheels as-is!

The SRAM Red components were awesome.  I would not hesitate to purchase a SRAM equipped bike.  The snappy acceleration was exhilerating, but I am not sure I would like with the harsh ride for a century or longer.  To be fair that is not Samantha’s purpose.  Her purpose is speed and she does it well.  Sam’s wheels are light and quick, but prone to breakage under my heavy ass.  Instead of Samantha from “Bewitched”, I got Samantha Fox, a hot, tempermental and finicky prima donna.  Definitely not good for the long haul, but it was one hell of a fun joy ride 🙂

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