“Man do I have the bike for you!” says the salesman at your local bike shop! You’d only walked in for some Skratch and maybe a new tube for your saddlebag, remembering that you punctured on your last Saturday Morning Worlds and had to borrow one from the guy with the hamburger saddle bag.
“I don’t really need a new bike”, you say, “but I’ve been hearing a lot about cyclocross and i’m…”.
“Yeah, Cyclocross is getting big around here, and you know a ‘cross bike could be your do it all bike” the salesman said, interrupting my train of thought.
“But I love my road bike this would just be for cyclocross and maybe one of those gravel rides Bob keeps telling me about”. Bob was always strapping on a Camelbak and doing those ultra long gravel rides late into the night and getting great pictures for Instagram.
“It’ll work perfectly for that, and be a great bike for winter training, and commuting, and the lunch ride and…” the salesman stumbled over the list “you know what let me get some pedals on this for you”.
Do It All. This has never been a phrase I’ve loved but one that I’ve made work for me as appropriate. It seems the bike world is split in the way it designs products, and maybe for good reason. On one side you have ultra niche bikes being produced for one discipline only and using it for anything else would be sacrosanct. On the other side you get wide ranging bikes like the Giant ToughRoad or anything from Surly.
There has to be middle ground and thankfully modern cyclocross bikes some close. Believe it or not I spent most of the summer racing crits on my Focus Mares for a myriad of reasons. Of course I put road racing tires on it and was lucky enough to have an aero wheelset for it already and it performed admirably. The CX1 was undergeared, the brakes a little noiser than even the worst carbon brake pads, and the aero profile nonexistent but I raced it and helped teammates take many podium spots. I made it work for me and loved every minute of it, I was on a bike after all!
The 2016 Giant TCX Advanced Pro is not a do it all bike. It doesn’t have fender or rack mounts, it’s hard to mount to an indoor trainer, it’s not aero, it’s well-built (codeword: not part of the weight weenie wars), and it won’t accept 29er tires. And you know what? That’s all ok. It is is a great Cyclocross race bike. A great training bike (since there’s really no such thing as recreational ‘cross). A great gravel grinding bike. Those are my needs and I couldn’t ask for a better bike to fit them. I don’t do multi-day bike tours, I don’t want a drop bar 29er, I’m a fair weather commuter and I own rollers. It all works out.
My first ride on the new TCX was all smiles, I had waited two years to purchase a TCX since that was the first CX bike I ever rode at my first demo day. The sticking point for me was thru-axles and the reason I purchased a Focus last year. Say what you may about heel clearance, bracing angles, chain line etc… the 12×142 and 15×100 standards work great and make the bike better. Disc rotors stay aligned, wheels track through corners predictably and I can get up and sprint without the sound of sandpaper flowing into my ears.
The bike is comfortable, deceptively so, and braking bumps, ruts, roots and more stay out of my conscious mind during a race so I can focus on what matters. The D-Fuse technology in the seatpost and the layup forgiveness is very passive so that you don’t hop on and feel anything approaching suspension and when you put down large watts you know it is all going into the course. The bike is sturdy and I know I can put it into a turn and have it go where I need it to and when committing to a rut I know the rear will be following my inputs at the handlebars (no matter how right or wrong they are) predictably.
The compliance does have a downside, the bike is “heavy” when comparing with other top-end race bikes. My Medium/Large would bottom out about 17.2lbs with a stock build kit, CX1 and the new Enve CX Tubulars. To get it lower would require a good amount of cash and diminishing returns would set in. Is this worth complaining about? Absolutely not. However, those seeking a bike you need to tether down or World Cup hopefuls should be aware of this.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention a build level in the title of this review. Like many ‘crossers I’ve changed, customized and setup the bike to fit me and it’s ever evolving. Giant offers two carbon models for 2016: The Advanced Pro 2 with 105 mechanical and the Advanced Pro 1 with Ultegra Di2. Both come with hydraulic braking and 140mm rotors, the same frame and a tubeless compatible aluminum wheelset. As outlined in my first-look the stock build of my Pro 1 came in about 18.5lbs and the Pro 2 about 2 lbs heavier. I did extensive riding on the stock build, even more on the CX1 iteration, have switched between the stock wheels, carbon clinchers and carbon tubublars and even did a little time with an XTR Di2 derailleur to get a feel for this bike.
In the end, the new TCX is a great bike. I’m not going to say you won’t find something better for you and that’s great; buy what works for you, but definitely take a look at your local Giant dealer first. Oh, and ask your shop for a standard front thru-axle, I can’t recommend the new QR style thing, it broke on me quickly and wasn’t worth the 8g weight savings.