A piece of cycling history - Giant TCR - first generation -1997
Of all the bikes in our Flandrien Hotel collection, one of my favourites is this beautiful little Giant designed by British engineer and aerodynamics expert Mike Burrows. It was Burrows who created the Total Compact Road (TCR) model for Giant in the mid-1990s, and it has become one of the world’s longest running production bicycles.
Burrows had grabbed the attention of the cycling world in 1992 when Chris Boardman won the individual pursuit at the Barcelona Olympics on the radical Lotus bike he had engineered. He was then approached by the Taiwanese brand Giant who had the courage to break away from traditional bike design to try something truly innovative – and the TCR was born.
The genius in the compact sloping design of the Giant TCR lay in the fact that the frames were both stiffer and lighter than bikes with a traditional geometry, and with a smaller rear triangle the design also delivered better power transfer.
But from an industry perspective the biggest game changer was that the bike came in just three sizes – Small, Medium and Large – and rider fit was achieved by matching the limited frame sizes with different length aero carbon seat posts and angle adjustable head stems.
This economical approach compared to the industry norm of bike builders creating between 10 and 20 different frame sizes in as little as half-centimetre increments, with accompanying costs tied up in stocking multiple tube sizes and the installation of expensive factory jigs and tooling.
So Giant could bring high quality bikes to market with significantly greater economies of scale and a much lower price for the consumer – also aided by Taiwan’s (then) lower labour costs.
In 1997 Giant began sponsorship of the Spanish ONCE team. At first many in the pro peloton laughed at the design of the funky TCR, but as the team started to rack up win after win scorn turned to envy.
It turned out that it wasn’t only the compact TCR bike that helped ONCE riders to go fast, with another three-letter product from the pharmaceutical industry also coming in handy. But that’s another story…
Whatever the case, the Giant TCR became an established mainstay of the professional peloton over the following decades, ridden by teams such as T-Mobile, Rabobank, Belkin and CCC.
And almost all of today’s pro-level bikes have a sloping geometry, even if not quite as radical as the first TCR.
If you are interested in cycle design, please visit us at the Flandrien Hotel to see our extensive collection of bikes that represent industry art and innovation over the past three decades.