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Forging the Gold - Giant's TCR Composite Gold Road Bike

What do you do when you're a company known for making solid-value road and mountain bikes, but you sponsor a top Tour de France team, and you have a state-of-the-art carbon fiber frame that you want people to really notice? If you're Giant, you make a black and gold special edition for your racers and when everyone goes 'Wow' over it, you produce a very limited edition of 35 $10,000 bikes decorated with real gold plate. This is how it all happened.

The bike that started it all
© Giant
Click for larger image

The bike is Giant's TCR Composite Gold, and Taiwan's biggest bike builder is offering just 35 of them, individually numbered, to deep-pocketed riders and collectors. To find the spark of this slightly mad idea (after all, who really needs a gold-plated, ten grand bike?) we go back to December 2001 when Giant's Sport Marketing Manager Tom Davies and ONCE-Eroski manager Manolo Saiz got together to discuss ONCE-Eroski's product needs for the 2002 season. It was the first time Saiz had seen the final version of the TCR Composite and he was impressed.

Further discussion between Saiz and Davies at the team's January training camp saw Saiz arguing that the team's TCR Composites should be something special as far as decals went, and that led to the notion of a gold or silver bike to be launched at the Tour de France. Saiz even offered to do one design himself, so Giant's Chief Engineer Jack Chen sent over an old frame to Spain for him to experiment with.

The bike it turned into
© Giant
Click for larger image

The frame was returned to Giant in March. It was glossy and bold and reminded Davies of the classic Lotus F1 car of the 1970s, the John Player Special. Davies passed on Saiz's design to Wina Smeenk, Giant Europe's Art Director, who retained the glossy finish but created a two-tone gold skin design with minimal decals.

Worth Their Weight In Gold

Assembling the 35 TCR Composite Golds took Faustino Muñoz and his team four long days at Giant Europe's assembly plant at Lelystad. You don't rush the assembly of bikes like these, and Saiz and the mechanics clearly savoured the experience, as their comments show.

Manolo Saiz, ONCE-Eroski directeur sportif: "I've always said that the bike is an extension of a rider's personality, just like the tennis racket is part of a tennis player, and the TCR Composite Gold is no exception. We should never forget about combining the aesthetics of athletic experience with the experience itself. Here is one way of doing it. This isn't just a tool, of course, but it's not because of the gold that it's the best bike in the world, either. It has other qualities as well.

"This project is also a source of inspiration. Every year we should try and do something equally special, not just in 2002. But it was clear that for the mechanics and for myself the best time of year to do it was after the season - this is like any Christmas present, you can't just have one at any point in time.

"Creating these bikes has been a beautiful operation, and a very special one. I would love it if the press were to write more about these kinds of bike production and not just the sport in general. The TCR Composite Gold is a solid and highly original way of convincing them of the case."

Faustino Muñoz, team mechanic: "Working on something like the TCR Composite Gold is like spending a day with the woman of your dreams - a really classy experience, above and beyond anything else you can describe.

"You can't say it is an idea that's totally new, there have been other celebrations of centenaries in the past by bike races, for example, as well as other anniversaries within the bike industry but even so creating something that's this special doesn't happen every day: Manolo and I had been thinking about doing a project like this for the last five or six years.

"The three of us mechanics ONCE-Eroski have decided to send on this project are organised here in Holland in the same way as in any race. All of us are perfectly capable of building a bike, but essentially by doing them all together in stages, taking all of them to the same point before going onto the next, then it's easier to co-ordinate.

"We brought our own tools from Spain because we felt this project deserved the cost in excess baggage! No seriously, which mechanic would not like to have assembled the 35 best bikes in the world?"

Joaquin Pozueto, team mechanic: "You can feel a bit tense at times, because you know this project is a special one and you have to get everything just right. There's never going to be something quite as unique as this project again in the work I do.

"It's something you feel proud of, really, that takes you out of the routine of assembling bikes, taking them apart and putting them together on bike races all over the world. This is different, you will remember as a high point of your life as a mechanic.

"There are more complicated things, like the gold threading, for example or the brake pads for the carbon wheels which take more time. However, it's been an immensely satisfying experience and we can go home to Spain feeling that it was worth coming all this way."

Luis Miguel Díaz De Otazu, team mechanic: "Each tiny component counts even more than ever on this bike. This is a luxury model, something you can only work on little by little, being ever so careful and thorough. I've worked with a lot of bikes in my time but never one as unusual as this one.

"The first day it was hard to see any real progress, but that's always the same when you've got a lot of bikes to assemble. Suddenly you get to day two or day three and suddenly it's all there, all completed. It's a terrific sensation."

During the Tour of the Basque Country in April 2002 Davies and Saiz met to discuss the project further and for the Spaniard to test out a carbon handlebar, stem, and round seat post that were slated for the Tour de France TCR Composite Gold bike. The final piece now fell into place: making a limited number of production versions of the bike for general sale.

Now it was time to decide on a name. Given ONCE-Eroski's origins, Davies liked TCR Oro - 'oro' being the Spanish for 'gold' - but eventually the project name of TCR Composite Gold was decided on.

The pointy end
© Giant
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Davies, accompanied by Wina Smeenk, then visited Campagnolo in May to try and convince the company to produce a special edition series of all-gold component groups. Campagnolo declined, but did offer alternative black anodised components with gold lettering, plus carbon cranks and carbon Hyperon wheels with gold decals. Meanwhile the original TCR Composite was launched in Wisbaden in the Tour of Germany with ONCE-Eroski co-leader Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano taking out the win.

In June Tacx came up with the gold bottle cages and Selle Italia with gold saddles, within weeks of being asked.

It all came together in Madrid in July 2002, when ONCE-Eroski received Jack Chen's frames plus the new racing components (handlebar, stem and seat post) for the TCR Composite Gold, plus Campagnolo's 15 groups, 10 sets of wheels and one pair of cranks for Beloki. At the Tour's presentation in Luxembourg, the TCR Composite Gold was unveiled to the world. It was instantly hailed as a great-looking bike, and ONCE-Eroski's Tour, with Galdeano in yellow for seven stages, hinted that it was no slouch performance-wise.

© Giant
Click for larger image

With the Tour over, it was time for some more tweaking to add the finishing touches to the final version of the TCR Composite Gold. AX-Lightness offered to make a special super light gold and carbon saddle for Beloki, which Giant and ONCE-Eroski agreed to use on the commercial bike. Rob de Groot's metalwork shop, Heijchroom, was chosen to gold plate the components on the TCR Composite Gold. The original plan was that only a few small parts of the bike were to be gold plated but Davies decided the bike deserved more. He specified gold plate on all the bolts; the seat clamp; rear dropout; face plate; front derailleur hanger; the wheel spindles; the handlebar ends; the special Nokon cables; and parts of the pedals. Now all that was required was the assembly.

You don't let just anyone put together a bike with a $10,000 price tag, so the job went to ONCE-Eroski head mechanic Faustino Muñoz. Together with his staff, Muñoz personally supervised the process at Giant Europe's Lelystad assembly plant, and each bike comes with a video of the assembly process.

The TCR Composite Golds are numbered from 001 to 035. Model 001 is on show at Giant Inc. in Taiwan, while bike number 007 already has its destination decided - it's going to a James Bond fanatic, though it's a fair bet he doesn't want it shaken or stirred. Other countries where the TCR Composite Gold will be sold include Australia, the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Norway, Spain, Taiwan and the USA. Fanatics with a large wedge burning a hole in their bank accounts should contact their local Giant office or dealer.

The whole thing has been very satisfying for its chief mover, Tom Davies. "The bike is every bit as good as I'd hoped" said Davies. "It's an elegant, classy model, but also as we know from the Tour de France, an extraordinarily successful one as well. That level of performance makes it even more satisfying a project."


Images by Giant

TCR Composite Gold road bike component list

Frame: Giant TCR Full Composite with glossy finish.
Handlebar: Giant Composite with glossy finish.
Stem: Giant Composite with glossy finish.
Handlebar Tape: Black cork Cinelli
Handlebar Caps: Giant, gold plated
Seat post: Giant Composite glossy
Seat post clamp: Giant, gold plated
Bottle cages: Tacx Tao, special gold design
Component group: Campagnolo Record 10 speed, Black anodised with gold lettering
Pedals: Campagnolo Pro-fit Record, gold plated
Crankset: 172.5mm Carbon, chain rings 42/52
Cassette: Campagnolo 10 speed, 12-26
Wheels: Campagnolo Hyperon Full Composite with gold decals
Tyres: Hutchinson tubulars in black
Saddle: AX-Lightness, carbon and gold leather
Cable Casing: Nokon, gold plated

All gold plating is 24 carat, 3 microns thick.


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