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Tech feature: Giant 2009 road introduction, June 22, 2008
Giant unveils seven new road models for 2009
Giants road lineup has been heavily revamped for 2009 with new construction techniques, technologies and shapes. Cyclingnews technical editor James Huang heads to the Mediterranean to sample some of Giants best for the coming season.
Killer new race machine for Team Columbia
Last years TCR Advanced ISP was a pure race bike through-and-through with excellent overall rigidity and handling manners but it wasnt the most comfortable or lightest chassis around and you really had to ride it hard to get the most out of it. For 2009, Giant sought to improve on the current versions strengths but also provide more of a balance by improving on its weaknesses. Based on our initial taste test, it seems the new 2009 TCR Advanced SL achieved that goal rather handily.
Giant claims the new chassis is now just 1497g (painted medium frame with uncut mast, uncut fork, integrated seatmast head and all applicable hardware), making it over 200g lighter than last years version yet also a whopping 42 percent stiffer overall (including a 26 percent jump specifically in pedaling efficiency). Moreover, these improvements come with a more comfortable ride to boot. Those numbers are decidedly tough to swallow at first but the rigidity claims are believable even by just visual inspection: compared to the new models imposing size increases, the old model (which was no slouch in the beef department) now looks decidedly underfed.
The TCR Advanced SLs down tube wears a gargantuan rectangular profile roughly 80mm across at its base and the top tube sports a bigger trapezoidal shape as opposed to last years roundish pipes. Both of those tubes also partially wrap themselves around a newly tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/4" front end for additional bracing. The matching fork is bigger and wider than before, too, and the lower bearing set is integrated into the crown to eliminate sharp fiber bends and also to drop a few grams. Out back, asymmetrical chain stays have also grown in size and now mate to an 86mm-wide shell with press-fit bearing cups while the seat stays actually look to have gotten a touch smaller.
The top tube, head tube and down tube are molded as a single unit, as are the seat tube, chain stay and seat stay assemblies but how those bits are joined is new for 09. Standard bonding methods are used at the bottom bracket and dropouts but the chain stay yoke and top tube are joined to the seat tube using a new Fusion procedure.
According to Giant, Fusion is similar in concept to wrapped tube-to-tube joints but goes one step further by placing the entire frame back in a mold and re-baking it under high pressure. Giant says the process yields fewer voids and more strength than just re-baking alone and shaves 100g from the TCR Advanced SL over more conventional bonding.
As was the case with last years bike, Giant still builds the TCR Advanced SL in its own Taiwanese factory from start-to-finish. Even the raw Toray carbon fibers are woven in-house and the company fabricates its own pre-preg sheets with its own custom resins for better quality control.
We cant quantifiably verify Giants "42 percent stiffer" claim but no one will be able to dispute the new models substantially more solid feel after even a short test ride. Drivetrain response seems markedly snappier and theres absolutely no second-guessing the extra rigidity up front: theres less twist when hammering out of the saddle and heavy braking at high speed is especially reassuring.
In fact, the new model closely mimics the feel of the specially reinforced T-Mobile team bike we tested last year, only in this case there are no extra carbon plies to weigh it down and the ride quality is far more refined than even a stock 08 TCR Advanced. The new model is certainly no cushy Sunday cruiser but high-frequency chatter is impressively well-damped without killing the frames road feel and the bike no longer crashes violently over bigger impacts like it used to. For sizing ease, our test bike was equipped with Giants conventionally telescoping Vector aero seatpost but production ISP versions should ride even better as theres noticeably more flex at its newly small-diameter base.
In short, the new TCR Advanced SL still begs to be thrashed like the old one, but now you dont necessarily have to ride it like that to appreciate its potential. We wouldnt hesitate to race it on the weekend but we might also be just as happy just heading out for an all-day training ride. As long as your local roads are in decent shape, even recreational riders should find the ride quality surprisingly acceptable as long as the quick reflexes suit you.
TCR Advanced lite
Those riders looking for most of the TCR Advanced SL performance but a more modest sum can instead opt for the similarly all-new standard TCR Advanced. Slightly lesser fibers and a more conventional Fusion-less construction method produce a frame thats only 140g heavier, 5 percent less rigid up front and only 9 percent softer in drivetrain stiffness, according to Giant. More to the point, its still 235g lighter than last years TCR Composite and heaps stiffer overall.
The 1 1/8"-to-1 1/4" front end and press-fit 86mm-wide bottom bracket shell are used here as well but tube shapes are slightly modified (most noticeably around the head tube and seat cluster) and the deep-section Vector seatpost will probably ride a tad rougher than the TCR Advanced SLs ISP. Even so, this model strikes us as far-and-away the better value for those who dont quite need (or can afford) Giants absolute top of the line.
Defy conventional habits
In addition to the new TCR models, Giant will also debut a new line of performance bikes for 2009 called Defy. As compared to the OCR lines it replaces, Defy promises a heavier dose of TCR DNA while still offering the slightly more upright position, relaxed handling and softer ride that more and more riders seek nowadays. Three levels will be offered: the full-carbon Defy Advanced, the aluminum-and-carbon Defy Alliance and the standard Defy made from Giants ALUXX aluminum tubing.
Giant definitely achieves the visual part of that goal as the Defy trades in the OCRs somewhat bland styling for a more aggressive skin that gives some clues as to the new features hidden beneath. As on the TCR, all of the Defy frames incorporate the tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/4" front end and stouter tubing throughout; all but the standard aluminum Defy will also feature the wider press-fit bottom bracket design.
In fact, Giant says the top-end Defy Advanceds front triangle is just as rigid as last years TCR Advanced and the rear end is 13 percent stiffer, making for a machine that should be just as efficient as standard High Road team bikes from last year but far more comfortable.
Were not entirely sure we can back up that claim after riding the Defy Advanced ourselves but, to be fair, it probably wasnt entirely fair that that trial immediately followed that of the über-rigid TCR Advanced SL. Either way, the Defy Advanced is remarkably comfortably and swallowed any pavement imperfections we could find, big or small (although given the superb condition of Mallorcan roads, there werent many). The superb comfort seems to come at the expense of snappiness, though; as compared to the TCR, the Defy Advanced felt slightly delayed both in terms of handling and drivetrain response but most riders probably wont care much. All in all, the Defy could very well be an ideal setup for most consumers that are just heading out for fast, long rides and dont necessarily need the right-now quick reflexes of a full-blown race rig.
Giant for Women holds (almost) nothing back
Giant will wisely offer all-new womens versions of each of the new platforms, too, save for the top-end TCR Advanced SL. Each of the TCR Advanced W, Avail (analogous to the Defy) and Aeryn (sister line to the Trinity time trial/triathlon range) models will share identical features and technologies but with adjusted geometries, components specifications and sizing as necessary. As such, women should find the exact same performance characteristics as on the mens versions but with a better fit.
The second coming of the compact frame revolution?
Giant turned the road bike world on its ear when it first introduced its compact frame geometry ten years ago and with such a comprehensive revision to its road bike range, the company is hoping for a similar impact this time around. We dont know about a revolution, but based on what weve sampled so far the next few years at least looking very good.
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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com