Giant TCR Advanced SL1
Updated: Jun 15
Edit June 2021: Want to read about the new 2021 Giant TCR? That's over on my new website, The Sartorial Cyclist!
I blogged back in March about comparing the 2018 Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc (still a mouthful…) against the cheaper TCR Advanced 2 Disc and whether or not you could feel the £2,000 difference in price tag.
Well, since then I’ve taken things up a notch and swapped the TCR Adv Pro 0 Disc for a 2018 TCR Advanced SL1. Why? Well, again, if you’ve been reading you’ll know that while I think the TCR Adv Pro 0 Disc is a very, very competent bike (and most bike ‘magazines’ seem to agree), I didn’t need an all-rounder and instead was looking for an outstanding summer bike that wasn’t likely to ever see rain or snow, nor be ridden on salt-crusted roads or through puddles of muddy standing water.
The 2018 Giant TCR Advanced SL1 retails at £4,599. A £600 step up from its disc-equipped predecessor and a significant investment in anyone’s book.
The main differences are twofold: first, the frame and fork material is Giant’s highest-spec SL-grade carbon composite (Giant claims this frame is the lightest and stiffest on the market). Second, the bike has rim brakes, rather than hydraulic discs.
Wheels and kit
True to Giant’s weight-saving focus on the SL range, the TCR Advanced SL1 comes with Giant’s lightest SLR carbon wheels and SLR finishing kit (stem, bars, saddle). There’s no separate seat post as all-bar the saddle clamp is integrated into the frame (keeping it light and improving comfort). That does mean that the frame has to be cut (permanently!) to the rider’s preferred saddle height (although shims are included for fine adjustments or resale).
Like the TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc, the SL1 has the new generation of R8000 Ultegra groupset, albeit in rim brake form. I’ve praised this new system before and I’m still just as impressed on the new bike.
To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the lime green accents on the frame. I’m still not, but they are growing on me slowly. It certainly does make the bike stand out in a crowd. The colour-coded wheels might be a step too far, though.
With the standard wheels fitted but no pedals or bottle cages etc., the TCR Advanced SL1 tipped the scales at 6.67kg. Adding Garmin Vector 2 pedals, a plastic bottle cage and swapping the wheels to Giant’s 55mm SLR0 clinchers took the weight to just under 7.2kg. A veritable lightweight against the 7.9kg of the fully-built TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc.
On the road
Can you feel the ‘missing’ 700 grams? Well, yes. The acceleration from standstill or out of corners is marginally (but noticeably) sharper. The bike also feels quite different to ride – perhaps less ‘solid’ than the Advanced Pro, but not less comfortable. I noted in my initial review of the TCR Adv Pro 0 Disc that the turn-in of the bike was in a different league to my other ‘summer’ road bike, a 2016 Giant Propel. Well, the TCR Advanced SL takes it up another (albeit smaller) notch.
Riding on the standard SLR ‘climbing’ wheels and Giant’s own Gavia AC tyres, it rolls just fine. I’m actually more impressed with the Gavia tyres than I expected to be, having read some negative reviews. They’re not Vittoria Corsas, but they’re not at all bad.
Having a set of spare 55mm SLR0 wheels from my 2016 Propel (which now wears some Spin Industries ‘Fat Boys’ that I really like), I decided to put these on the TCR to see what difference it made. On the flat, the difference was very noticeable. Maybe there was is the tiniest amount of extra inertia getting up to speed, but once there the 55mm wheels are undoubtedly faster (no wonder these are the wheels you see in the pro peloton).
It’s a huge shame then that the front SLR wheel decided to break (not brake) on me when changing a tyre (I’ve heard a few SLR wheels have had similar issues) and currently Giant are not being particularly helpful at repairing or replacing. It’s a shame as I think the 55mm wheels really suit the TCR, more so than the standard wheels.
I guess they fit the shallower wheels because they are (only slightly) lighter and can therefore be marketed as ‘climbing wheels’ for a ‘climbing bike’. Personally, I’d take the 100g hit and ride the 55mms. Over the course of a whole day, if not a single climb, you’ll be faster.
On that note, one of the main reasons I bought the SL was to climb. So, does it climb better than its heavier cousin? Yes, but not by as much as you might think. That, or I’m currently weaker than I was when riding the TCR disc!
For me, the TCR Advanced SL1 is a bike that has grown on me the more I’ve ridden it. To the point where I will now take it out over the Propel not because it’s just ‘new and shiny’ but because I prefer it for longer rides. It’s more comfortable than the Propel, it’s faster up longer climbs and I like the razor-sharp handling.
I still love the Propel and if I want to beast myself or go after a flat KOM, I might take that (I am REALLY missing the 55mm wheels on the TCR at the moment).
But the TCR Advanced SL1, even with its horrible paint job, is just a nice place to be. At £4,599 it’s a major investment but it’s certainly closer to Alan Murchison’s £9k S-Works Tarmac than the only-£600-cheaper TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc ever got. If you can afford it and you are looking for a summer bike only (wrapping it up in insulated blankets for its winter hibernation), then I think the TCR SL range has to be worth a look.
For my view on the 2021 TCR, visit The Sartorial Cyclist