Ride of The Phantom

2 December 2015

As the old saying goes “you wait a long time for a new bike, and then two come along at once“. OK, it doesn’t go quite like that, I’m paraphrasing, but it’s apt all the same. I’d visited William’s a couple of days earlier to collect the first of the much anticipated arrivals – my new Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1. Neither the picture on the Giant website though, nor my own photos do the colour scheme justice. Stunning looking as it is though, you don’t buy a bike just on it’s looks (or at least I don’t, not entirely anyway). How does it ride?

Well – the riding position is a lot more of an aggressive “bum up, bars down” than I’m used too. I was reasonably confident the stock saddle would be a keeper. A lot of design has gone into the new Giant own-brand saddle range, and this one bears a striking similarity to my old faithful, the Specialized Romin Evo.  I really did not expect to ride out of the shop though without at least flipping the stem, or possibly some more dramatic adjustments. That thought vanished within seconds of mounting up for the first time. As a starting point, the saddle had been set to the same height as the Burls before putting the bike on a turbo trainer for fitting. My bum found it’s perch, I arched forward, and my hands dropped perfectly into place on the hoods without any thought or shuffling whatsoever. William did some fine tuning to height, position and pitch of the saddle, but out of the box it was already an amazingly close fit.  Maybe I’ve become fitter or more experienced in some way, but a bike position that I used to loathe now felt perfectly natural, or maybe it is about the bike after all.

A short test ride home confirmed the fit – despite my legs carrying a few aches still from Die Burger the day before. The gears were slightly out of trim, for which I dropped back to William the next day to have adjusted. Apparently a bug-bear of the very neat internal cable routing is that it can’t be pre-stretched, meaning it takes a few rides to bed in before the indexing stays precise.

A few very pleasing things were immediately noticeable on these early short trips. As reviews have noted, it is very stiff for such a light bike (under 7kg with Open Corsa CX tyres). What surprised me was how manageable the ride was for such a stiff machine – you wouldn’t call it plush, but it’s very definitely not in the least bit harsh either. Better still was my personal experience of the brakes – something at least one review had criticised. Coming in hot to the 3-way stop at the foot of our hill, their stopping power was aggressively fast – maybe in the rain they’ll be less solid, but on dry roads it left me wondering what type of braking the reviewers were used too that these fell short.

And so, finally, the chance for a proper ride was here – and even the smallest details were all in place, down to the colour matched bottle cages which William had sourced at short notice. I must confess, I did feel a little self conscious rolling up to the regular club ride on such a swanky bit of kit. But at the same time, it was great also. William joined us for an early ride before heading into the shop. I’m not sure if he was keen to see the new machine out in all it’s glory; or wanted to make sure I was doing it justice. Either way it was a rather fitting occasion to share a first actual ride together after many years of talking bikes, components, craft beer, coffee, and a few dozen other topics in his shop.

At this point I find myself strangely lost for words. The route we took was a short 50km loop out to Jonkershoek gate, with a coffee stop at Ride Inn on the way back. The TCR rode as beautifully as you’d expect – being a club ride, our pace was moderate to easy most of the way. Will and Tom had a breakaway sprint over the last couple of kilometres up to the gate. I gave chase initially, the wheels spinning eagerly up to speed with a delightful whoosh as soon as I stamped down on the pedals. I hung on to the guys for a couple of hundred meters, but all the bike in the world doesn’t put me on the same level as them, so I dropped off20151202_080523 and rode up with the rest of the group. There was a huge smile on my face at that little kick though  – the bike had taken off with the spirit of a proper thoroughbred. I may never see any kind of podium, but I’m certainly going to appreciate and enjoy riding the kind of performance machine that does win races. The ride is as stunning as the looks.


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