Long Term Ride Review Giant TCX SLR 2

Home / Training / Bike / Long Term Ride Review Giant TCX SLR 2

My long term ride review of the Giant TCX SLR 2. Giant’s entry level race bred cyclocross bike that I’ve put through a Canadian autumn, which means sun, snow, mud, slush, and dry dirt.

Any cyclist knows, as per Rule #12 of The Rules, the proper number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is equal to the number of bikes currently owned.  In September I made good on my allegiance to the Velominati and added a cyclocross bike to my quiver with a Giant TCX SLR 2.  And as per usual, the great folks at Ridleys in Calgary were awesome at helping me find a great bike.

After four months of riding the rig across varying terrain, here’s my long term review of Giant’s entry level cyclocross bike.

Specs

  • ALUXX SLR-grade aluminum frame with D-Fuse composite seatpost
  • Composite fork with alloy OverDrive steerer
  • Giant S-X2 rims, Giant Tracker Sport hubs, stainless spokes
  • Shimano 105 11-speed shifting
  • TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes

The Ride

This bike does it all, and quite well in fact.  I’ve had the opportunity to race the bike on cyclocross courses, take it out on the highway, put it through its paces on mountain bike trails, and even test it on snow and ice.  The versatility cyclocross bikes offers is one of their big draws for a lot of riders, racers and non racers alike.

The aluminum frame transmits more vibration and feedback to the rider than less race oriented bikes, and really can’t compete with full suspension mountain bikes or the more supple carbon road bikes out there, but I found the bike to be quite comfortable overall.  In fact in terms of how many bumps and cracks in the road you feel on your sit bones to be a lot closer to my Cervelo S5 than I would have thought.  The S5 is a fairly stiff ride and can’t compete with bikes like the Trek Madone or Cervelo RS in terms of comfort, but I was surprised that the aluminum really wasn’t so bad.

One of the big pluses to the Giant TCX SLR 2 in 2014 and 2015 was the switch to disc brakes.  Calgary, where I live, is fairly dry and we don’t really see a whole lot of rain or mud, but I took the bike out on some slushy days and found that the stopping power of the brakes to be uncompromised by the elements.  I’ll talk a bit more about the brakes in the next section.

If you’re looking for a versatile bike that you can commute 15km to work on, or take out on the weekends for a relaxed 40km road ride, or ride after work on some single track or fire road, this bike can do the job.

On the flip side, one should note that there are some pretty significant differences between a cross bike and a road bike.  Most notably, how high you sit on a cross bike.  In order to provide clearance for obstacles you are assumed to be riding over in a cross race, the bottom bracket on the bike is higher than you’d find on a road bike.  This change to the geometry means you’re centre of gravity is much higher, making the rider feel very much “on top” of the bike, rather than “in” or a part of the bike.  Where this difference is most pronounced is on high speed descents, where cross bike geometry can get a little bit sketchy.  Not a deal breaker for the road riding qualities of the bike, but its a distinction worth noting.

Components

Fish Creek Riding

No need to dismount here, just keep riding

One of the features I was most impressed with on the bike was the Shimano 105 componentry.  My comments here will speak a little more to the quality of the components themselves rather than the bike, but I really think its worth noting.

The bike is equipped with an 11-speed shimano drivetrain.  Shimano deserves huge props here for putting together a great groupset and you can really see the trickle down from their top of the line Dura Ace and Ultegra sets.  For reference, I’ve ridden SRAM Rival to Red, and Shimano Tiagra all the way up to Dura-Ace in the past and I transitioned to Shimano after having spent time riding both brands.  Currently two of my other bikes are equipped with Dura Ace and Ultegra Di2.

This shifting with the 11-speed Shimano 105 is buttery smooth and has performed great in a range of conditions.  Once again, I’ve put the components through their paces here and I’ve yet to have the bike miss a shift with the exception of a couple instances where I bent the derailleur hanger after putting the bike on its side while trying to ride across sheer ice.

The brakes deserve some special mention as well.  The bike is equipped with some solid TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes.  They’re solid performers and while they don’t provide the crisp gripping power of fluid discs brakes, they get the job done.  One thing I really liked about them was the fact that the brake pads on both sides actually move into the disc when you grip the brakes.  As far as I know, all other current mechanical discs on the market right now actually only have one pad pushing the brake disc until it contacts the other pad.  This subtle difference makes actuating the brakes much easier especially if you’re frequently removing the wheels.

The wheels are really the only place where Giant saved a couple bucks.  While I haven’t weighed them myself, I’ve been told that the OEM Giant S-X2 rims tip the scales at over 2.1 kg.  If you shell out a few bucks for some more lightweight hoops you can actually get the bike into the 19lb territory.

There’s one drawback to the components on the TCX, and depending on how and where you ride, it could be critical.  The crank is a 36/46, meaning that the gear range is much narrower than you’ll find on a road bike (typically 34/50 these days).  For urban riding and cyclocross, obviously this isn’t an issue, but if you’re going to be using this bike as a gravel grinder, or are planning on hanging in with roadies on races, you’ll be limited.  Not only in the top end of the gear range, meaning you can run out of gears and spin out with a tailwind or a descent, but on the bottom end if you’re ascending a long climb.  I experienced this first hand in a 146km gravel/road race, on the open road I couldn’t keep up with roadies I normally ride with, and on gravelly ascents my cadence would fall and even climbing out of the saddle would offer no reprieve as it meant losing traction on the rear end of the bike.

Price and Value

MSRP on the bike is $1650 on the Giant website and for what you get, the bike is well worth it.  If you’ve been riding for a couple of years on a commuter or hybrid and are looking to graduate to something that you can take out on road rides and trails then this is a good bet.  You may want to consider swapping out the tires if you find yourself riding a lot more on the road than trail, but as with almost any cyclocross bike, you’re certainly not prohibited from any sort of terrain if only want one bike to fit several types of riding.

When I was shopping for a bike I compared the Giant TCX SLR 2 to the Trek Crockett 5 disc which is about $400 more on the MSRP and is similarly equipped.  There are a couple of tradeoffs, such as with the Crockett the wheels are definitely superior to the Giant, but in my opinion the TRP Spyre disc brakes on the Giant have an edge over the decent Avid BB5 discs on the Trek.  On price point, it comes down to what you value. If you have a little extra money to burn, the Crockett is a ride that you probably won’t need to upgrade and is race ready right out the door. If you’re on budget and want bang for buck, you won’t go wrong with the Giant TCX SLR 2.

The good and the bad

Snow Riding

Like I said, ice and snow

The Good

  • Solid all around bike that’s well equipped for casual riders, racers, or badass commuters
  • Awesome components with a Shimano 105 set that definitely outperforms expectations
  • Value and bang for buck is well ahead of other bikes on the market

The Bad

  • Heavy wheels are clearly where Giant saved some money, you’ll want to replace them when the bearings go
  • This may not matter for everyone but the paint job isn’t lovely in pictures, but it looks better in person…
  • Limited top and bottom end gear range means this is not a gravel grinder

In Summary

You can’t really go wrong with the Giant TCX SLR 2.  It’s a more than solid bike that is priced well below its comparably spec’d competitors.  If you’ve only got room for one bike in your life, then this can get the job done with only a few mild reservations.  I see myself holding on to this bike for at least a few years as I love its versatility and so far its reliability.

Raf
Raf
Rafael Lopez is an entrepreneur, blogger, and athlete living in Calgary, Canada. When he's not running between coffee meetings in downtown Calgary, you'll find him on one of his four bikes (Trek Madone 9.2, Trek Fuel Ex 8, Trek Project One Speed Concept 9, Specialized Langster Las Vegas), or out for a run on the Bow River, or shredding the pow in the Canadian Rockies.
Showing 21 comments
  • Scott

    Looking at this bike as a commuter (with runs around the local residential loops around city in spare time – so mostly asphalt riding) Any thoughts on this bike for the commuter job – with rear racks and fenders? A second bike I am considering is a Trek Crossrip Comp or LTD – one has Claris components – the LTD has 105 and higher end brakes (TRP HY/RD cable actuated hydraulics) for an additional $700.

    • Raf

      Hey Scott. Those are three awesome bikes. The shop I work at has had a tough time keeping up with demand for the Crossrip Comp as its a great balance between styling and function. I honestly don’t know that you would need to go all the way up to the LTD for components as the Comp is pretty decent the way its spec’d. Just keep in mind that whatever you end up with you’re going to spend a bit more on the add ons, a friend of mine recently got the comp as a commuter and added on a rear rack, Linus panniers, Brooks Brothers Saddle, and front/rear fenders and it was an awesome setup.

      That being said, if your commute is more than 15km each way, then I’d maybe spring for the 105 and the hydro/cable discs on the LTD just because it’ll make it a more premium ride and the quality increase is pretty legit. That much time in the saddle deserves something a little nicer.

      My only reservation with the TCX is that the crank that you get with it has a much narrower gear range as its just a 46/36 versus a 50/34 compact crank on the Crossrips, and you’d probably want to replace the Rocket Ron tires with something smoother rolling for pavement. So you can definitely turn the TCX into a commuter, but its definitely coming at the job from the off road end of the spectrum, whereas the Crossrips are basically purpose built for what it sounds like you’re after.

      Let me know what you end up with!

  • Scott

    Giant TCX SLR2 vs Trek Crossrip LTD

    Hey Raf, so after asking your opinion (and before getting it) I bit and went ahead with the Giant TCX SLR 2

    1) I think I liked the feel of the Giant TSX frame better which is strictly personal preference.

    2) Wanted the 105 components.
    The Trek Crossrip LTD may have other higher components with the brakes etc. but it was mainly the 105 I was concerned about.
    The cheaper Crossrip Comp had the low end Claris setup which I didn’t want to settle for.
    The Giant TSX SLR 2 was in the low-middle price wise with the 105 components ($225 more than Comp and $500 cheaper than LTD which is a fair jump).

    3) Although the Crossrip LTD has the cable actuated TRP hydraulic brakes the Giant TCX has 2 sided (as opposed to one side pull) mechanicals which seem to work well and I’m sure I can live with that after trying on test rides.

    3) I found on the Crossrip LTD that I wouldn’t use the smaller chain ring for much on a long test ride – If I was doing hill climbing maybe the story would be different but in Winnipeg Manitoba its pretty flat.

    4) I am having a 20mm longer stem swapped on the Giant TCX (small) as I found the stock one made me feel cramped with too much hand pressure on the brake lever grips. The Giant TCX (small) seems to be a smaller frame than the size 52 Trek Crossrips – and I have seen others note the Crossrip often has to be a size smaller to fit than other bikes (52 vs. 54) – again personal preference.

    5) I liked the second brake levers on the Trek Crossrip – but saw in forums these are able to install afterwards so I perhaps have that option if I feel the need at a later time.

    3) I did put out the additional expense for Continental tires with a smooth centre section to improve the ride for pavement – keeping the originals for trails if I see fit – ( didn’t get much credit for an exchange as opposed to just buying the additional set). That would narrow the price difference between the TSX and Crossrip LTD.

    4) getting a rack installed by dealer – fenders may be a jerry-rigged item on the TSX as even Giant does not have fenders that fit this frame (no cable or bridge stays at rear) – but I have seen a few setups in forums today so know something is possible ( just want to stay away from zip-ties that I saw some use. Yuck. )

    For comparison here are the prices locally (June 2015) with a small discount on all.
    Giant TSX SLR2 = $1395 + $90 for set of Continental tires.
    Trek Crossrip Comp = $1169
    Trek Crossrip LTD = $1899

    • Raf

      Good choice Scott. Like I said, its the bike that I’ve got, so I’m pretty happy with it. And good call on switching to the continental tires, it’ll be a great all round bike and if you feel like giving cyclocross a go this fall you’ll be on the right bike for sure! It sounds like you’ve got a really good sense around the bike and components, so I think you made the right call. As I mentioned in the review the new 11 speed shimano 105 grouppo is pretty top notch stuff, so its a marked improvement over the Claris. I really struggle with some of those lower end shimano components sometimes because I wonder how much the bike manufacturer is really saving with it, most consumers buying bikes over $1200 are fairly informed and will recognize that anything below 105 is a bit of a compromise.

  • Adrian Hall

    I’ve been riding the TCX SLR 2 since late last year now. It’s “stock” (I haven’t replaced anything), but I’ve added the second set of brake levers, lights and panniers to the mix for commuting. I commute three times a week, about 34 miles total (17 miles each way).

    I’m thinking of two changes to make to this:
    1) Upgrading the groupset. The Shimano 105 is a great set, but I’ve gotten used to the SRAM force on my other bike. The concern I have is in the crankset – the BB seems to be fairly unique and may restrict my choices. Any thoughts on what choices I have?
    2) Upgrading the wheels – you mentioned this as well. Do you have a good choice in mind?

    Thanks,

    • Raf

      Thanks for the questions Adrian. Sounds like you’ve managed to make quite the urban commuter there! The shop I work with moves a lot of TCX SLR 2’s and they’re becoming more and more popular as commuters and gravel grinders.

      So for your first question. I think making the switch to SRAM Force on the bike is great idea if you prefer it. Honestly though, bottom brackets can be such a pain that I’d be inclined to leave the BB as is. I’ve ridden both SRAM and Shimano groupsets with FSA cranks and never really have had any problems with it, or with compatibility (there are other reasons i’m not a fan of FSA cranks though). The only context where I think it may be worthwhile to go to another crank is if you want a wider gear ratio on the bike. The 36/46 that comes on the TCX SLR2 is fine if you’re doing urban stuff, or riding on your own on the road, but starts to show its limitations if you’re out on a group ride with roadies. Adding a compact crank would give you a much rider range and its something I’ve been considering since riding a gravel race a few months back.

      With regards to wheels, I’ve seen and heard some awesome things about the Stan’s NoTubes Iron Cross Wheelset. Haven’t tried them myself, but I’ve raced against guys who like them. The other option I had been considering was finding some take-off’s from a Trek Boone or a Crockett. Not nearly as light as the Iron Cross wheels, but you might be able to find them for a deal!

  • Harris

    I started with the TCX SLR 2 (2014) version and loved it. I rode it through a year as a commuter, winter trainer and cross-bike and it was fantastic! Unfortunately, I broke the frame. Somehow a dent on the down tube turned into a crack and that was it. I did manage to replace it with the TCX SLR frameset, and then upgraded the brakes to the TRP HyRds and added a set of Stan’s Grail wheels this spring. This bike continues to be fantastic, and I rode it again all through the winter on 40mm studded tires, then switched to 28mm slicks for some winter road training and gravel rides, and then back to the cross tires for events like the Paris-Ancaster race, as well as some general trail riding. I can’t recommend this bike enough! The only thing I miss, is there were fender eyelet mounts on the previous frame’s forks, while the through-axle fork doesn’t have them.

  • mark gilmore

    Raf I found your review very useful. I ordered the TCX SLR latest (2015 I guess) and it took a while but got it today and first cx training session complete. I started cx this fall and found a 2013 Fuji Altamira cx 2.1 cheap which gave me the taste and I liked. If I had ordered the TCX later I may have gone up a model in the range but I got a good deal so can’t complain.

    The TCX is a nice looking bike. Has good breeding and well designed. The aluminum frame and carbon fork are excellent and create a very responsive and agile ride. The frame feels and sounds like carbon when you tap it and will stay with me a long time. The 105 groupset and TRP brakes are soild and the carbon seatpost is a nice feature. The bike weighs 22.8 lb with shimano mtb pedals. Feels heavy in hand. The wheels and crankset are the culprits. Giant sx2 wheels perform well but they are heavy as you say. I don’t like FSA cranks apart from their SLK and I weighted the omega at almost 900 gm for a compact??!! It has to go. I think I can shave 1kg off with lighter wheels and better crank, both on order. The stock saddle is very comfortable but weighs in almost 400 gm! I already saved over 100 gm by switching it with a spare I had. The Mud Shedder tires are decent as is the Giant cockpit. It’s also worth confirming that the fork does not have thru-axel as stated in the specs, annoying when that happens.

    if you shop around for deals you can upgrade the needed for $500-600. That takes it towards the advanced Pro but still worth it given the quality of this alum frame.

    The TCX is a great entry cx bike, cruises well on the road and I can see it performing well on the gravel. Giant engineering on the frame and fork takes it beyond it’s league and it’s reasonable value.

    • Thomas

      What wheels did you upgrade with Mark? I’m starting to look around for my TCX SLR 2!
      Thanks!

  • woodendesigns

    just wondering do you know if there’s a difference between the tcx slr 2 and the liv brava , which is specifically made for women? what i actually want to know is if the tcx slr 2 is comfortable for women to ride too..?as there’s a significant price difference between the two in a shop near me right now and i’d be interested in buying it… thanks very much!

    • Raf

      To my knowledge the only difference is in frame geometry. They were spec’d very similar to one another in 2016 with the only major differences being in size and geometry. If your local dealer is pricing the Brava SLR and the TCX SLR 2 significantly differently from one another, I’d question them on it. On Giant’s US website they should both be $1600 (just checked). They may also have different contact points such as saddle and handlebar widths. As a side note, most of the saddles equipped on the Giant’s suck anyways, so you may want to replace that straight away.

      The standard rule always applies, pick the bike that fits best. I love and hate that bikes are made specifically for genders. On the one hand I think its awesome that there are bikes now that are proportioned for women specifically and are made with clear input from the women that ride them. On the other hand, I think that it discourages some riders from getting on the bike that fits them best, and I believe that some dealers use this as an opportunity to upsell women to women-specific bikes. A practice that is clearly coming from the dealer level, not the manufacturer level.

      Anyways, sorry for the slow reply!

  • Mike

    Just fell in love with the TCX SLR 2 at my LBS. I’ve never considered a cyclocross bike before, and have been looking at the mountain bike or off-road hybrid style for the most part due to having them as a kid. So I spoke with a guy who showed me what I wanted to see (Norco Indies and Specialized Crosstrails), then he showed me the bikes he wanted me to see (Felt F85x and Giant TCX SLR 2). Pretty big speed difference for me there, so we poked around his computer to find a 2016 TCX 2 in medium since the medium/large was a touch too big for me. Nothing in stock.

    What I did notice though on the website is that for 2017 the TCX 2 is coming with a different saddle (Contact Natural on D-Fuse vs Performance Road on D-Fuse SL on 2016), a different brake set (TRP Spyre 160mm vs. TRP Spyre-C 140mm – apparently the C is an OEM variant on the 2016), and the fork is advertised as “Advanced-grade composite, Hybrid OverDrive steerer” for the 2017 vs. “Composite, with Alloy OverDrive steerer” for the 2016. Also, 700×35 Schwalbe tires. Advertised as thru-axle.

    So you get a few smaller changes, but most importantly, it’s cheaper. List price for the 2016 was $1,600 USD. 2017 list price is $1,240 USD. Not sure how they managed to do that but here are the links, love to have someone else go over the specs and give it a yay or nay. If the 2017 rides anything like the 2016 I’ll go throw money at my LBS as soon as they can order one in.

    2017 – https://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/tcx.slr.2.2017/22187/92578/#overview
    2016 – https://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/tcx.slr.2/22187/84006/#overview

    Thanks for the review, it definitely helped cement my decision to spend a couple hundred more and get into something that will run way faster on the paved surfaces and keep me upright on the gravel paths!

    Mike

  • andymoreno

    Hi, I’m in the process of buying this same bike, but my purpose is certainly longer road-riding, on a mix of decent paved road and pot-hole galore.

    I will get slicker tires, but my question is this: is it possible to fit a larger chain-ring? All photos I can see online show the frame as sitting pretty close to the current 46 ring…?

    Thank you for the review, a lot of good info in there!

    • Harris

      Not sure if you can get a 50 for the FSA crankset, but probably cheaper to just buy a new Shimano 105 crankset with a 50/34. That’s what I’m running on mine now. New Shimano cranksets will take all sizes of chain rings as well.

      • Mike

        They list a 50/34 on the FSA web site, so it should be a pretty simple change.

  • Jason

    Do u know if the giant tcr slr 2 2017 model or previous model is able to fit pannier racks on the back wheel?

    Thank would help if I need to do. a long Touring trip at times .

  • Jason S.

    Looking at upgrading the wheel set on my 2016 slr 2. Was wondering what the rear hub spacing is? Thanks!

  • Dio Jo

    Hello, I just ordered the 2017 TCX-SLR 2! It should arrive in about a week. However, I have a question on what kind of bottom-bracket is it using. I’m confused because I could hardly find any specs on Giant’s website or FSA’s website. It is listed as FSA OMEGA 36/46 cranks and FSA press-fit BB. I am curious because a friend of mine have a spare 105 crankset(fairly new) that he is willing to sell for a very cheap price! So anyone know if it’s a BB86 or BB386evo or any others? Thanks!

    • Harris

      I’m on a 2014 TCX SLR frame set and it’s a BB86. I just put in one of the new Wheels Manufacturing threaded BB in and it’s solid.

      • Mike

        Yes, still a BB86 on the new bikes as well.

    • Mike B

      I can take a look when I get home, mine is sitting on a kinetic trainer in my office. Been a great bike so far though, I ordered one as soon as they became available. I’m sure you’ll be happy with it!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: