road.cc Superbike Shootout 2013-14
11 of the best performance road bikes of 2013, but only one winner...
We first introduced the Superbike Shootout two years ago as part of our Bike of The Year Awards and for 2013-14 we’ve expanded it to 11 bikes (11 being the new 10 and all that) and given it its own article. These are the cream of the crop bikes, the bikes judged purely on performance and technology alone.
This year to get the full Superbike Shootout effect you need to watch the video… helpfully embedded below in which we run through our choices and give you some extra insight in to some of the thinking that went in to why the top bikes on our list impressed us so much. We'll be doing the same for our Bikes of the Year too.
We've ridden some really interesting superbikes in the last 12 months, and what is clear from the testing, and the bikes ridden, is the level of performance on offer at the top-end is phenomenal. Our awards are limited to the bikes we've tested but make no mistake, these are some of the finest riding bikes currently available - bar none.
Most significantly carbon fibre technology, still the mainstay choice for race-bred performance bikes, has moved on a notch and some manufacturers are really starting to deliver on the peformance promises made for carbon fibre as a frame material. Weight is clearly dropping (the lightest ever bike road.cc tested passed through the office in 2013) but what is most interesting with these bikes is that they also balance stiffness and comfort to an exceptional degree. Perhaps the most exciting thing of all is that manufacturers reckon there is still more they can or could do were the UCI technical regulations on minimum weight relaxed.
One other postive trend in this year's Superbike Shootout is the emergence on the list of bikes that don't have what we'd call a superbike price tag. Price is not one of the scoring criteria when it comes to drawing up the list it's purely about performance in their intended roles. None of these bikes are cheap, but they are not as eye-wateringly expensive as the bikes in previous lists in fact some of them offer outstanding value for the level of performance they deliver. It’s also worth noting that many of the frames in this shootout are available with cheaper groupsets, and most can be bought as framesets so you can build them up to your personal specification.
11 Ridley Noah Fast £6,400
In at number 11 is Ridley’s Noah Fast, the only aero road bike to feature in our Superbike Shootout. Aerodynamic road bikes are all the buzz at the moment and the Noah Fast is brimming with cutting-edge technology in the pursuit of absolute speed. The Noah combines three aero features, F-Splitfork, F-Surface and F-Brake, to smooth airflow over its carbon frame, and by jolly it really works, this is one exceptionally rapid bike. What was surprising was how smooth and comfortable it managed to be, while also chucking you along the road at a ridiculous pace.
10 Legend HT 7.5 £2,999.99 frame and fork
If it’s a silky smooth ride quality you’re after, with little compromise in stiffness and weight, then the Legend HT 7.5 was a hit with David when he tested it early in the year. You might choke on the price (that’s just for the frame and fork btw) but it’s handmade in Italy to your own specification, and fitted to your exact measurements. Devoid of unnecessary tube profile manipulation, the frame has a simple and classy look but you can’t let its modest appearance fool you, it’s deceptively fast and capable for the most demanding riding.
9 Passoni Top Force W £5,499.99 frame only
Look no futher, this is the most expensive bike road.cc has ever tested, an eye-popping £5.5k just for the frame, and the bike we tested costing the best part of £10k. But it’s not just in our Superbike Shootout because of its ability to empty your bank account. Oh no, this is a true thoroughbred of a bike. Hand built from 3Al/2.5V tubes at the company’s Milan factory, a company started in the 80’s by Luciano Passoni who had the dream of building the best, most luxurious and exclusive handbuilt bikes in the world. Well, he certainly succeeded. Stu summed up his review by saying “acceleration either from a standing start or on the move just sees the bike surge forward with no scrabbling about of the rear tyre, as the rear triangle holds everything true.”
8 Guru Photon R £4,250 frame only
Mat was blown away by the Guru Photon R, a high-end race bike made by hand in Canada. It’s a bit different, you’ll certainly stand out in a crowd (and not just because of the bright yellow paint job). At its heart is an 800g frame made from a mixture of high-modulus and standard-modulus carbon fibre, so its light, but it’s the stiffness of the frame that puts the Guru in our Superbike Shootout. Despite the resounding stiffness, this is a very smooth riding bike that nullifies the vast majority of road buzz, handles bumps and holes just fine, and sticks to the road even when you're descending fast over knackered old Tarmac.
7 Raleigh Militis £2,500
Hands up if your first bike when you were a kid was a Raleigh? There’s a good chance it was, which is why we’re so happy to see Raleigh producing a bike of such quality as the Militis that is helping to return the marque to its former glory. The reason the Raleigh is in this roundup and surrounded by some exotic bikes is because it is a sweet-handling pro-quality race bike, the decent price and build kit is an added bonus.
6 Kinesis Gran Fondo Titanium £2,069.99
Frameset of the Year 2013-14
The highest placed metal road bike in this collection of Superbikes is the super-fine handling Kinesis Gran Fondo Titanium. It’s fair to say Kinesis bikes have always impressed road.cc testers and the titanium flavoured Gran Fondo hit a nerve with our testers this year - it was Stu Kerton's favourite bike of the year earning the ultimate tester's accolade - 'If I had all the money I needed and one bike to spend it on this would be it'. There are few frames that offer such potential versatility, this is a bike you could ride sportives on, go touring across Europe or simple commute to work every day. In its titanium guise it really is a superbike.
5 Storck Fenomalist £4,909
In terms of pure balls out performance there isn't much out there to beat the Storck Fenomalist. It's a bike that dares you to exploer the limits of your riding skills, offering phenomenal speed and phenomenal handling, with phenomenal looks. The speed this bike is capable of producing will have your eyes watering, the geometry produces an aggressive position favouring aerodynamics and the handling is boosted by a very stiff front end.
4 Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 £3,719
Best Value Superbike of the Year 2013-14
With a top-drawer build kit it hit the road.cc scales at a whisker over 6kg making it the lightest bike we’ve ever tested, astonishing really when you look again at the price tag. But performance not its price tag that earns the Canyon its place in the Superbike Shootout, the exceptional lightness producing a stunning ride. It’s incredibly quick off the mark, it’s also impressively comfortable. A performance bike at an affordable price is a good way to sum up the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0.
3 Merida Scultura SL Team £6,000
We’re getting to the pointy end of the Superbike Shootout here, and in at number three is the fabulous Merida Scultura SL Team. This is a pro level machine out of the box from the biggest cycle manufacturer in the business. It’s super light, but producing a light frame is easy. A light frame that is stiff in the right places and comfortable at the same time is tricky, but it’s a trick the Merida pulls off brilliantly.
2 Bianchi Infinito CV £7,100
Okay, we’re into the final sprint for the line in the Superbike Shootout. In at number two is a bike that massively impressed everyone that rode it is the Bianchi Infinito CV. It’s also a bike that the Italian company has completely resdeisgned and utitlise some cutting-edge carbon fibre technology to make it one of the smoothest riding performance bikes road.cc tested in 2013.
At its core is the CounterVail Vibration Cancelling Composite Technology, which in simple terms gives the frame the ability to soak up a lot of the high-frequency vibrations compared to a regular carbon frame. The result is a silky smooth ride that floats over any rough road with astounding grace.
That’s not all. Bianchi have also got the geometry spot on, a little longer and higher in the front, that will suit racers as much as it will non-racers. You could race it quite happily, you could also ride it all-day and finish relatively fresh. Oh, and you can stick 28mm tyres on it too.The Infinito CV heads up the growing number of endurance road bikes which are aimed at normal real-world cyclists.
1 BMC Team Machine SLR01 £6000
Of all the Superbike contenders in 2013, the BMC Team Machine SLR01 is the bike that clearly stood out. Earning it the envious title of road.cc’s Superbike of the Year award is a bike that ticks the three stiffer, lighter, faster boxes. This lightweight successor to the Tour de France winning TeamMachine SLR01 raises the stakes with a new 790g frame designed using BMC's own computer modelling software,
David rated it as the best performance race bike he’d ridden in 2013, with joyous handling, supreme comfort and outstanding acceleration. It’s a good example of carbon fibre technology at its best. And that’s why it’s our Superbike Shootout winner.