Only a week ago I published my review of the Kinesis CX Race, which I said was a great bike (it is) but that I wish it had more clearance for wider gravel tyres (e.g. 40-45mm). In that review I said that I love the nimble, lively ride of a cyclo-cross bike but I’d like a bit more versatility as I can’t justify having a ‘cross bike and a gravel bike. I’d like one bike that does both – but ideally on the racier side of things with respect to how it handles and rides.
It looks like Giant might have answered my “prayers”
Giant have announced their latest generation of the popular and well respected TCX Advanced series for 2021. In fairness, it’s long overdue. The TCX Advanced last got a major update in 2015 and the world of bikes and carbon frame construction haven’t sat still in the interim. Trek have launched their successful Boone, Canyon their polarising Inflite & Specialized have taken their Crux to new levels of performance, so a new TCX Advanced is both welcome and overdue.
Starting with what’s not changed – the geometry. Giant got this right back in 2015. It’s still very competitive within the cyclo-cross market place, so they’ve left this as it was and focused on other aspects. The geometry should also translate to a good road riding experience and for my size, the reach is exactly the same as my road bike and the stack only 3mm lower than my road bike – so easy for me to get the right position and be comfortable on the bike.
The big news for me is clearance for 45c tyres and I’m delighted to see this announced. Yes, ‘cross racing is on 33mm tyres, so most traditional cross bikes max out clearances at around 38mm – as you won’t need more. My Trek Crockett was like this and so is my Kinesis CX Race. The Genesis Vapour Carbon I reviewed is officially listed as maxing out at 35mm tyres. Many of the best riding gravel tyres are around 40mm in width, which rules them out for most ‘cross bikes. With most manufacturers (including Giant) also selling gravel bikes, you can see why they don’t want ‘cross bikes to have wider tyres – they might cannibalise gravel bike sales but it’s not as simple as that in my view.
Another obvious reason (to me at least) why more tyre clearance is a good thing – is that in my experience you can never have too much mud clearance. I’m only ever going to race ‘cross with one bike, so more mud clearance is hugely welcome. It also brings the ability to chuck some wide gravel tyres on for training and off-season adventures. This is such a big tick from me!
Giant have led the announcement on a drop of ¼ of a kilogramme from the frame and fork weight, which of course is a nice to have for a bike you are going to have to carry hear and there. It’s going to help with acceleration (a little) as well. So the frame weight has dropped from 1050gms to 850gms, which in fairness, just a few years ago would have been very decent for a climbing road bike. So for a bike that’s going to be ridden hard over rough ground it’s a clearly a good achievement. The fork weight drops from 460gms to 400gm – nearly 20%. A lighter race bike is definitely a plus. The lighter frame also boasts “class leading stiffness” according to Giant – handy for those snappy accelerations on the ‘cross course or anywhere else for that matter. The new frame has asymmetric chainstays to help power transfer as well. This can make for a harsh ride on road tyres but Giant are making strong statements about the improvement in ride comfort – so fingers crossed it balances out.
The improvements in comfort are likely the other key area where the bike benefits from the evolution of carbon bike frame production since 2015. Giant have a new D-Fuse seatpost design to give 20% more compliance. The dropped seatstays will also help. There’s a new hidden seatclamp, which is a nice touch (as long as it works reliably!) and bike can now accommodate dropper posts, if you want to add those for your off season gravel riding.
Unlike some other cyclo-cross bikes I’ve recently reviewed, the Giant also offers 2 bottle cage mounts in the traditional locations – another big plus for your training rides, early season racing and gravel adventures.
The new TCX will also come with Giant’s own carbon wheels (tubeless) and as well as a SRAM Rival build rumoured for the UK market, they’ll be a Shimano 1x GRX 800 series build (with carbon wheels), which should be a perfect spec (if you can stretch to it). If you want to build your own there will also be a frameset only option.
I think this looks like a really exciting new bike – a race bike with more versatility for gravel adventures.
Choosing any new bike will ultimately mean making some trade offs. As I wrote in my previous post, I love the handling of a good cross bike, they’re great fun to ride and that handling gives you benefits racing cross but also road riding, which I will do on a bike like this too. However until now, if you wanted ‘cross bike handling – you couldn’t have the proper tyre clearances that are optimal for gravel adventuring (40mm). The new Giant TCX Advanced changes that and at a lighter weight than any gravel bike I can think of. It still doesn’t have all of the mounting points you may want for full on gravel adventures but that’s part of the trade-offs we’ll all have to make. Giant have their highly regarded Revolt gravel bike if you want to go further down that path – but it won’t be as good or fun to race on.
With Shimano GRX and the Giant carbon wheels, it would be an almost perfect weekend racer for me – I think. Subject to trying one out of course.
If you want a race bike that can do more it might be a great choice for you too. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Thanks for reading.
All photos via the Giant website