Giant’s tamer, gravel version of their well-known cyclocross bike goes by the name of the Giant TCX Advanced SX with a reworked spec and wholly decent price tag. Promising more versatility and suitability for those less versed in off-road riding, the SX should kindle your hunger for gravel explorations. We’ve had this bike on test to see how much fire they’ve added to the concept or if it’s all just one big compromise.
For Giant, SX typically refers to their mountain bikes, determining a bike as robust and purpose-built for downhills. While the Giant TCX Advanced SX doesn’t completely fit this brief, it does come built with solid aluminium bars with a touch of flare for added comfort and control while off-road. Giant have kitted the bike with 40 mm-wide MAXXIS Rambler tires, which raise comfort even more and show the bike’s intent to take on a range of terrain. The carbon frame is exactly the same as the top-of-the-line Pro1, meaning it also comes with the compliance-enhancing D-Fuse carbon seatpost. Its main benefit for cyclocross riders is how it prevents any unwanted movement around the seatpost, which could occur when vigorous hopping on and off. The particular design does have its limitations, as there’s no compatibility with any other brands’ seatposts – no droppers here. The Pro1 does feature the brand’s own premium model in SL carbon, which is a potential upgrade.
In a bid to keep the price tag down to an inoffensive € 2,199, Giant kitted the SX out with a fairly basic SRAM Apex 1 groupset, opting wisely for 160 mm disc brake rotors both front and back. They retained an aluminium fork shaft on this lower-end model, which distinguishes it from the more premium Advanced Pro and SLR1. The PCX2 wheelset display the same inoffensive look and promising durability, but do little to keep the weight down. The TCX Advanced SX’s overall weight is 9.22 kg for an M/L frame size, which makes you wonder whether you’ll be singing its praises or yearning for fewer grams when out in the woodland.
How it rides
Certainly not a featherweight amongst gravel bikes, it’s hard to deny that you’re lugging a few kilos extra underneath you as try to put down the hurt and out-sprint your mates. Fortunately, once this charger is up to speed, you can expect a leisurely ride that knows exactly how to handle its weight. The Giant TCX Advanced SX responds well to the rider’s input, showing an aptitude for flow even over burly bits of terrain. The choice of SRAM’s most budget groupset isn’t easy to overlook as you encounter decent, yet far from sublime shifting. It lacks some smoothness, and the additional weight (particularly the cranks) betray its place in the pecking order.
Despite its formidable cyclo-cross genes, the Advanced SX is still more than capable and inviting for long distances. The TCX has all-day rides written all over it with its recreational, not-too-aggressive riding position. We’d suggest that riders towards the short-sized end of the spectrum might want to swap the 110 mm stem for a shorter model though. The D-Fuse carbon seatpost adds sufficient dampening over rough trails, although the aluminium bars and fork shaft are at the other end of the comfort spectrum. Fortunately, any discomposure from the SX-specific XR Ergo Control bars is alleviated by their flared form, which is a directorial asset on bumpy ground and for less experienced riders. The only bike in the line-up to feature the 11–42 cassette, 40T chainring and the big 160 mm rotors, the SX shows some inspired choices that render it suitable for wide, explorative off-road riding wherever the wind takes you. That wide gear range should certainly be appreciated.
While there’s a satisfyingly stiff and responsive nature to the frame when pedalling hard, Giant have still managed to instil a decent level of comfort and innate damping – largely thanks to their choice of the MAXXIS Rambler tires. The SX’s spec makes it look destined to be a gravel and multi-purpose rig, and it’s easily able to fulfil those duties. With high (albeit not exceedingly high) levels of comfort, generous and forgiving handling, as well as good grip, the SX rides superbly in dry conditions, whether you’re on farm tracks or root-strewn singletrack – (naturally, tire pressure dependant). On wet ground or filthy mud, the tires keep composed and display a predictability that means you’ll soon know exactly what their limitations are. If you’re focused on entering gravel races with unknown scenarios, it’s be worth switching the tires for more aggressive ones, and perhaps slimming down to a 33 mm width to appease the UCI regulations. And while you’re at it you may want to put those more aggressive tires on a lighter wheelset.
When cornering, the Giant demonstrates a direct and balanced ride, which lends itself well to twisty, zig-zag trails. On rapid asphalt turns, the bike keeps its line and will boost your confidence. There’s very little to complain about the Giant TCX Advanced SX’s ride in fact, as it tracks the ground with skill, keeps planted and doesn’t show any ruffled feathers. For the rider, the benefits of such a stellar handler are clear: you won’t waste energy worrying, you’ll have more fun, and who can blame you if a short loop turns into hours spent in the woods …
An irrefutably decent all-rounder, the Giant TCX Advanced SX brings great geometry and a functional, well-built spec to the gravel tracks, tarmac and trails. Its playground is vast, whether you’re looking for rapid-fire post-work rides, all-day adventures or even a cyclocross race on the weekend. It handles well, won’t break the bank and shows a considered spec that isn’t just versatile but also welcoming to newbies. As it’s built around a really great frame, this would serve as a platform for upgrades in the future. We can also vouch for its wheelie capabilities!
+ Balanced geometry
+ Stable, straight-forward handling
+ Value for money
+ Versatile spec
– Heavy built
– Giant’s own seatpost
For more info head to: giant-bicycles.com
Words: Andreas Maschke Photos: Andreas Maschke, Christoph Bayer