Tech Report: Giant’s hyper-light and strong (and expensive) road bike
By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews Technical Editor
I just returned to a very chilly Boulder, Colorado, after spending a few days in the warm sun of Santa Barbara, California, where Giant Bicycles arranged to show off its 2005 product line.
While the majority of major manufacturers already paraded their 2005 wares this past summer, Giant was forced to wait until the Interbike tradeshow because its new Maestro suspension mountain bikes weren’t quite ready until then. Indeed, even the bikes that Giant brought to Interbike’s Outdoor Demo were not 100-percent ready, so I was eager to try out the actual production road and mountain models that arrived shortly before press camp last week.
Now you’ve probably already read plenty about Giant’s innovative “Maestro” mountain-bike suspension, but there really hasn’t been much discussion out there regarding the Asian manufacturer’s equally impressive road line-up.
Giant’s director of product development, Dennis Lane, showed us what the pro’s will be using in ’05 and what will be available at your local bike shop in coming months.
“We’re one of the largest producers of high-end bicycles in the world,” noted Lane. “Because of that, we’re also the only manufacturer of carbon frames that builds the bike from carbon filament to completed frame. No other company has the infrastructure to weave its own [carbon] cloth. We fortunately do, which means build our carbon frames are under our engineering and process control from start to finish. Our competition must buy their carbon cloth from suppliers, which adds one more element of uncertainty to their frames.”
That’s a lot of control over the process and that, said Lane, is Giant’s major competitive advantage.
“Giant has the ability to engineer our carbon technology from essentially the ground-up while our competition has to rely on outside sourcing to help them produce frames,” he argues. “In the end, it can help us build the perfect bike for sponsored athletes as well as consumers. Our engineers end up with a perfectly ‘tailored’ bike.”
Jan Ullrich, Erik Zabel and the rest of T-Mobile crew have been testing the Giant TCR Advanced for the better part of 2004. Now the bike is on its way to consumers. At 850 grams (medium size) the TCR Advanced frame qualifies as hyper-light, but Lane added that it is “not the lightest in the business. There are a handful of lighter frames on the market right now, but being the absolute lightest wasn’t our ultimate goal.”
Giant calls its carbon project, “formulaOne,” not necessarily conjure up thoughts of the motorsports side (though Giant probably won’t object if you do), but more as a reference to the company’s ability to produce carbon frames from start to finish.
“We’ve been building carbon frames since 1983, and formulaOne is the culmination of everything about carbon we’ve learned over the years,” Lane said. “The TCR Advanced is the flagship of our formulaOne technology.”
And what a flagship it is. At $5000, the Dura-Ace equipped bike screams its racing heritage with its fuchsia T-Mobile Team paint job. Also built by Giant, the TCR Advance’s formulaOne full composite fork is designed to complement the handling and ride characteristics of the frame.
“Unlike other manufacturers, who pick their forks off the shelf, we build our own to suit the particular needs of the frame,” Lane noted.
Giant claims that the bike’s monocoque composite construction is superior to its lugged counterparts because it limits the chances for stress fractures at the joints.
It can’t happen here…
While snooping around Giant’s marketing offices in Southern California, we also spotted a Euro-only issue TCR Advanced with an integrated seatpost mast extension. This bike will unfortunately not be sold in North America, which is disappointing because it saves 40 grams over the U.S. version.
Giant marketing manager Steve Westover [the owner of this particular bike] explained that it would be a “warranty nightmare” to bring the bike into the U.S. because incorrect cuts on the carbon mast would result in a ruined frame. A professional mechanic must cut the “seatpost” perfectly to the specific rider’s length.
“That would be a very expensive mistake to make, and we’re not prepared to explain to our customers why we can’t supply them another frame if someone makes a mistake along the way,” he said.
Asked if the frame might ever be available in the U.S., Westover noted that it isn’t totally impossible for Americans to score one.
“I hear round trip tickets to Europe are really cheap these days,” he said with a smile.