road.cc Superbikes Shootout 2014-15
The 10 best all out performance, money-no-object bikes we've reviewed over the past year, but there can be only one winner
We’ve reviewed a whole lot of superbikes on road.cc over the past 12 months – cutting-edge bikes with price tags that make most of us wince and pray for a big win on the bingo – and here’s our top 10 listed, in time honoured fashion, in ascending order.
First though, what does a bike have to do to get on to our prestigious list?
For a start, it has to have been tested by road.cc over the past year. We reported on the launch of Cervélo’s updated R5 (above) back in August, for example, but we’ve not reviewed it so it’s not eligible for our list. Only bikes that we’ve reviewed are permitted here.
Second, the bike has to have a price tag of over £2,000. Why £2,000? Because that’s the totally arbitrary figure that we’ve come up with as a cut off. We could have made the cut off £2,500 or £3,000 or any other figure, but we chose £2,000 so, rightly or wrongly, that’s what it is.
Third, the bike has to have impressed us massively in terms of performance. We’re also swayed by innovative technology and clever design, but only if it results in an improved performance out on the road. Innovation just for the sake of being different is no good to us. Art, craft and engineering all come into it, but it’s all about the performance.
These are the bikes with the wow factor. They’re the ones that made us smile when we jumped on board and turned the pedals, made us want to carry on riding for as long as possible, and made us want to get back on and go again as soon as we finished.
Finally, to get on to the list a bike has to have been tested by road.cc over the past year. Did we already say that? It’s worth reiterating because every year someone asks why such-and-such bike didn’t make the cut and the answer is usually the same: because we’ve not reviewed it.
One thing we don’t take into account is value. That’s the whole point here. We list the price of each bike, obviously, but it’s not a factor in our top 10. Money is no object in this list. Is it fair to compare a £10,000 bike and a £2,500 bike? No, it’s not, and for that reason we urge you not to use our Superbikes Shootout as a guide to buying; go to our individual reviews for that. This is simply a rundown of the high-end bikes that have impressed us most during testing over the past year, with value taken out of the equation.
One more thing to note on price before we start: each of these bikes is available in more than one build. You can choose from well over a dozen complete Trek Emondas, for example, including five built around the SLR frameset, the same one used for the SLR 8 that we reviewed. On top of that, you can have an Emonda S and Emonda SLR custom-built to your own spec. The point is, what you see here is not all you can get and in many cases you can get similar features at lower prices (and at higher prices).
Right, let’s get cracking…
Sitting one rung below the range-topping Oltre XR2 (see below) in Bianchi's range, the Sempre Pro is a seriously capable bike for racing or simply riding fast, with much of the performance of the Oltre but with a far more wallet-friendly price.
It winds up to speed quickly with the oversized down tube, PressFit30 bottom bracket and tapered head tube resulting in a very taut frame when pushing close to the limits. It's stiff enough for the most demanding rider, but not so stiff that non-racers will be put off.
It's not as silky smooth as Bianchi’s highly impressive Infinito CV when taking to rougher roads, but the gap between the two isn't as large as you might imagine.
The short wheelbase keeps the handling nimble and it has an energetic, keen and flighty personality that quickly wins you over. The Sempre Pro offers a great ride that is comparable to that of bikes costing a lot more.
The SanRemo76 impresses everywhere that matters: on the flat, down the hills, over rolling roads, even up the hills although it isn't the lightest at a shade over 7.6kg. Perhaps the most appealing trait of this bike is the handling. It's an easy bike to get to perform, equally happy at low speeds as it is at eye-watering, hold-your-breath speeds.
It's a highly capable race bike, but it's no one-trick pony. If you're seeking a high performance, high-speed road bike not for racing but just for blasting around the lanes of a weekend – maybe a sportive, maybe for riding with your club – the SanRemo76 is a great long-distance bike.
It's impressively comfortable for a bike displaying so much stiffness when you push hard on the pedals, despite the aero seatpost not providing as much deflection as a conventional round post. Four and six-hour rides? Not a problem.
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This is one of the most revolutionary road bikes road.cc has ever tested. With its striking looks, featuring a split down tube, extended fork and integrated stem, and Factor-branded and colour matched components, few bikes have been laden with as much anticipation. The Vis Vires is packed with innovative features and the best example of integration we've seen on a road bike.
This is an exhilarating bike, providing breathtaking performance and handling that lets you exploit the speed it is capable of producing.
The stiff frame ensures the bike responds to your every input. While it's happy to trundle along at a sedate pace, it comes alive when you pile on the watts.
The novel fork creates a rigid front end. This produces amazingly responsive steering although the slight downside is that on very bumpy roads the front wheel can occasionally struggle to follow the surface smoothly.
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While you can get Trek Emondas from £1,200, the models built around the SLR version of the frame fall very much into the Superbike category.
Trek boast that the Emonda range is “the lightest production road line ever”, and claim a weight of just 690g for a 56cm SLR frame. Our review bike, built up with a Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical groupset and Bontrager Race X Lite wheels, weighed just 6.27kg (13.79lb), and the £11,000 SLR is an astonishing 4.65kg (10.25lb).
This is a bike that's astonishingly quick on the hills. The steeper it gets, the better the bike feels. Get out of the saddle for the severe stuff and the frame holds its shape impressively, and the same goes for the fork. It is a strong, firm platform from which to launch your best high-power moves.
The only real downside is that Trek haven’t chased aerodynamic efficiency here, leaving that to the Madone lineup.
Buy it here
The Bianchi Oltre XR2 is a lightweight race-bred machine that's very, very fast. It's a humdinger of a bike that’s outstandingly responsive. If you have big ambitions and a loaded wallet, you should check it out seriously.
When you want to increase your speed, the Oltre XR2 jumps into action with a ridiculous amount of energy. That's partly down to its light weight, our complete review bike (minus pedals) in a non-standard build weighing in at just 6.62kg (14.6lb). It’s also extremely stiff. You can put as much power as you like through this chassis and it just won't bow.
The Bianchi designers have concentrated on aerodynamics too with a new integrated fork crown, and although the XR2 can’t live with something like Bianchi's Infinito CV in terms of its buzz-damping qualities, it still offers a decent level of comfort. An exceptional bike if you have the money.
Buy it here
The Cube Litening Super HPC SLT Di2 is the German company’s road range topper and you really are getting a huge amount of bike here.
If you were playing road bike Top Trumps you’d want the Litening Super HPC SLT Di2 card in your hand with stats like an overall weight of 6.32kg (13.93lb), a frame weight of 860g, and a wheel weight of 1,295g.
Getting the Cube up to speed is grin inducing. You’ll never tire of the way it surges forward from a standing start and you need the rapid-shifting Di2 gears just to keep up. It really seems to fly with what feels like minimal input.
Whether you’re sprinting away from the lights, climbing or just keeping the pace high, the oversized bottom bracket area does its job of efficiently turning your power into momentum. The pencil-thin chainstays stop road buzz travelling up through the seatpost, in turn reducing rider fatigue.
Everything works together to create a fast, lightweight, comfortable speed machine that’s just as happy racing as it is on the club run, sportive or summer commute.
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Compared to the existing C59, the C60 has a new press fit bottom bracket, oversized tubes, bigger lugs and new alloy dropouts – changes that have increased the frame stiffness and dropped some weight. It's available in both calliper and disc brake versions.
The C60’s handling is sublime. It tracks sharply and cleanly through the bends and feels safe at the high speeds it makes easy to achieve.
It devours big rides in buttery smooth comfort. If you're going to do a 100 mile ride, the C60 is a fine choice. You'll feel as fresh as a daisy at the end of it. Equally, it's right at home in the frantic high speed peloton of a road race. It's simply an outrageously good bike.
At 7.25kg (15.98lb) in our Campagnolo Record build, the C60 isn’t the lightest bike for the money, but it proves that weight isn't the most important consideration when choosing a road bike. If you are lucky (and wealthy) enough to buy a C60, you will be rewarded with one of the most balanced and intoxicating road bikes money can buy.
The Tarmac S-Works offers flawless performance with crisp, balanced and stable handling, and the disc brakes are a game changer on a bike like this. You can't compete in any UCI-sanctioned race on the road using disc brakes, but if they changed the rules tomorrow, this bike would be ready to perform.
On the surface it looks as though little has changed from the old Tarmac SL4 aside from the addition of disc brakes, but in fact it has been engineered from the outset with disc brakes in mind. Changes to accommodate the discs have resulted in a mere 80g weight increase in the frame, the whole bike in this range-topping build hitting the scales at 6.9kg (15.21lb), about 350g heavier than a non-disc Tarmac with mechanical Dura-Ace.
Compared to the previous SL4, this bike feels a bit sharper, a bit more focused when you're really pushing the pace, yet it's a little smoother and more comfortable too.
The Tarmac is a stunning bike that benefits from the disc brakes. A host of other changes underneath the paint job combine to create a truly remarkable road bike with an outstanding performance.
The Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 7.0 Di2 is one of the more affordable bikes in this year’s Superbike Shootout (it’s all relative!) and it offers a superb level of performance. This bike will take your breath away every time you ride it.
Canyon have brought in features based on those of their Speedmax time trail bike, using aero tube profiles for the down tube, seat tube and post, for example, and wrapping that seat tube around the leading edge of the rear wheel.
The ride is delivered with a sense of urgency in the way the bike responds to inputs, both from the handlebars when you guide it through corners, and when pushing hard on the pedals, whether that's scaling ascents or sprinting for finish lines.
Canyon offer the Aeroad CF SLX in various different builds, complete bikes starting with the £2,699 7.0 with a mechanical Shimano Ultegra groupset. Our 7.0 Di2 comes with the electronic version of Ultegra and Mavic Cosmic Carbon wheels. Thanks to Canyon’s direct to consumer retail model, you can get a lot of speed for not a lot of money.
Light, stiff and comfortable, the Storck Aernario Platinum dazzled us when we reviewed it back in March.
What's so good about it? The biggest characteristic that you really can't fail to notice is the frame stiffness. The bottom bracket simply doesn't budge sideways even when you put the bike into an unsuitably large gear, get out of the saddle and jump on the pedals with your sinews popping.
The front end is equally solid while the back end smooths over the lumps and bumps and stays in contact with the road rather than jumping about over rough surfaces.
The Aernario Platinum accelerates beautifully. It sparkles on the climbs, flattering your abilities with a wind-behind-you feel.
The tubes have been designed with what Storck call 'sectional aerodynamic shaping' – in other words, they’re designed to minimise drag – and the frame weighs sub 800g. Our complete bike (size 57cm) with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLE wheels, weighed in at 6.8kg (15lb).
Of course, the Aernario Platinum comes with a big price tag – this is the Superbike Shootout, after all. The frameset is £4,799 and the cheapest complete bike is £5,549, with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and DT Swiss R23 wheels.
If only the best will do, this could be the bike for you.
Find out more here