Pros: Price, compact geometry, simplicity, warranty
I rode about five bikes before buying the Giant TCR Composite 1. In fact, I had my heart set on the TREK 5200 from the beginning, but wanted to ride a few other bikes in the $2,500 range before dropping about $2,300 for the TREK.
I'm 5'8" and 145. The regular rides I enjoy most are in the mountains, so climbing ability was a huge consideration. I wanted light, fast, and I wanted to try a carbon frame for a couple of seasons.
After visiting a TREK dealer in Boulder for a 5200 test ride, I asked for other bikes at the same level as the TREK carbon fiber 5200 to compare the TREK with. Among a couple of other bikes, he mentioned the Giant TCR Composite series. I hadn't really given Giant any consideration; I actually had a fairly low opinion of the manufacturer.
The 5200 has a more traditional frame geometry than the Giant TCR Composite, which is considered a true compact frame. The benefits of compact frames are several, and after riding a few hills in my test ride I immediately took to the Giant over the TREK.
Wanting to make sure I was selecting from a decent pool of bikes, I rode a couple more, including the Specialized Elite at the lower end. Everything I rode was fitted with Ultegra with the exception of the Elite, which had the New 105. The 105 was decent at half the price, but wasn't a significant jump up from what I was riding on my 00 Allez A1.
Having decided on Ultegra fitted to a carbon frame, my choice boiled down to two bikes. The TREK 5200 and the Giant TCR Composite 1. The only reason the TREK was still under consideration was because it was my primary motivation for buying a new bike. I liked the Giant that much.
The TREK is fantastic. It's really hard to find anything I didn't care for other than the geometry. But once I experienced the power transfer of the Giant's compact frame I was sold.
The TCR Composite 1 corners with serious confidence, the carbon frame is stiff enough to transmit excellent road feel while retaining many of the forgiving benefits of a carbon frame at the same time.
One of my riding friends asked me if it felt like mush when I really put down the power on a sprint or a climb. He was thinking of earlier carbon frames for sure. Giant has really dialed in their carbon design and manufacturing process. I'm not an expert, but I would say that I haven't given anything up moving from aluminum to an all carbon frame.
The Ultegra group isn't Dura Ace, that's for sure, but it does nicely here. Giant did everything right with the fit and finish. The satin over natural carbon fiber looks insanely great. The graphics are rarely this tasteful. And the compact geometry is nutty aggressive. Love it all.