Our first batch of awards honour the best Framesets, Bargain Bikes and Kids bikes that we've tested here on road.cc over the past 12 months.
While most people buy a complete new bike, many prefer to buy a frame and build it with their own selection of parts. Buying a new frame is a good way to upgrade your bike if you have some good parts as well you can transfer over as well. If you're looking for a bespoke frame custom measured to your personal dimensions, a frameset is often the way to go. It's a category that a few years ago seemed to be dropping out of favour, but which has seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years as one way of getting yourself a new bike at a bargain price. Speaking of which…
Bargain Bikes is self-explanatory and is a roundup of the most affordable road bikes that we've tested in 2015, with a maximum price limit of £750. One of the best things to happen in the cycling market in recent years is that entry-level bikes have gotten much better, with frame lighter bikes, higher quality components and higher grade finishes making this bikes better than ever before.
There have been more children’s bikes tested over the past year as well, a reflective of the fact that more and more young children are keen to follow in the tyre tracks of the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins. There are some really good choices for that very first road bike.
Pinnacle's Aspen 5 is a good quality all-rounder for kids who like to muck about on bikes. What it loses in being a bit heavy it makes up for by being fun to ride and simple to operate. With a list price of £260 it's decent value as well - more so now that it has been reduced to £234.
Built around a sturdy 6061-T6 heat-treated alloy frame with 24-inch wheels, the Pinnacle 5 comes with Sturmey Archer's SRF5(W) five-speed hub gear that’s good for most general riding. It’s also equipped with Tektro V-brakes and kid-sized levers, and large tyres that are a good compromise for varied surfaces. Basically this is a good bike for messing about on - not something to be sniffed at in a bike we'd say.
Why it’s here This is a solid and simple and kids' bike that's enjoyable to ride which, let's face it, is what most of us want from a bike whatever age we are.
A balance bike is all about learning and developing confidence on two wheels and the Tineo has a good range of features to get your youngster rolling: adjustable saddle and bar, a rear brake, a footplate, and even a limit lock to stop the bar from spinning. The frame is made from 6061 aluminium, and it's robust but not too weighty. The Tineo is well made and should still be in good working order and hold its value once your child has finished with it. It's also very orange, which may, or may not, be important to the rider.
Why it’s here It’s a really impressive balance bike with features that will help guide kids towards a proper pedal bike.
The Luath 700 is something of a classic. One of the original versions is a long time favourite with the offspring of various road.cc team members having been passed between kids and families over the years. The original owner still says she wants it back from from time to time too. She's 22.
No surprise then that the testers of the latest Luath 700 were keen on the sporty and responsive ride. It changes direction easily, responding to a light touch without feeling fly-away or skittish – just what young riders need in a fast road bike. It's a bike the builds confidence.
Descending seems to be a particular penchant of the Luath, gobbling up sweeping turns with an appetite only beaten by that of the growing rider. We put this down to good geometry, a relatively compact cockpit, a fork that gives the front end a planted feel, and grippy Kenda tyres.
Though climbing is the bike's least-best talent, it's no slouch winching up steep climbs effectively.
Why it’s here If /when your child's legs are long enough, the Islabikes Luath (Small) is an excellent first step to 700C wheels.
The JA26 was almost permanently clocking up miles during our test period with a steady rota of 'interested' young riders offering to test it. That most tried not to come back with it speaks volumes... The feedback was almost unanimous in its high praise for the Worx JA26.
The aluminium alloy frame has a matt black paint job with strong white and Team Sky-esque light blue livery detailing which just looks awesome, and the bike’s running gear is a compilation of ‘best of’ junior-sized components.
What would we change about the Worx JA26? Nothing. Well, maybe we’d go to a lighter cassette, but that's it. It's a work of cycling art.
Why it wins As riders grow, Worx makes race-ready bikes to fit, and this 650C model is a blinder.
This category perhaps demonstrates the diversity of bikes we’ve tested better than any other. The frames here show the many different applications that bikes can be designed for, from high-performance race bikes to bespoke carbon frames, disc-equipped bikes to classic touring bikes. This was a very strong category and picking a winner was no easy task.
For those that don’t know, Ritte is a small US brand named after Belgian cyclist Henri "Ritte" Van Lerberghe who won Tour of Flanders way back in 1919. There’s nothing historic about the new Ace though, it’s a thoroughly modern carbon fibre frameset and offers an insanely smooth ride despite the appearance of the frame, which suggests maximum stiffness. There’s no lack of stiffness when riding hard, but unlike some frames which can be overly harsh, the Ace is very composed over rough surfaces. If you’re in the market for a top-end carbon frame that stands out from the crowd, the Ritte Ace is worth a look. It sets the initial benchmark for the road.cc Best Frameset of the Year award very highly indeed.
Why it's here: US carbon fibre frame with race-ready performance and a silky smooth ride
From Bristol-based Engineered Bicycles comes the Gezel, a disc-equipped steel road bike that we found ideal for sportives, club rides and gravel and dirt track riding. It’s a bike that blurs the traditional boundaries between conventional bike categories. The position is a bit more relaxed than a typical road bike and there is huge tyre clearance, up to 32mm wide without mudguards, or 28mm if you make use of the mudguard eyelets. Rack mounts are are a free optional extra if you wanted to increase the versatility. The steel frame is thoroughly modern, and features a fat 44mm head tube and press fit headset bearings, but sticks with tried-and-tested external threaded bottom bracket bearings.
Why it's here: British designed steel frameset with bags of versatility and loads of modern touches.
One of the most expensive framesets we’ve tested this year, but with a flawless performance and sublime road manners, the Sarto Seta is definitely is a bike to buy if you win the lottery. If you do happen to win the lottery though (lucky you), the Sarto is an Italian handmade carbon fibre frame which can be completely customised to your exact requirements. Sarto isn't the most recognisable name in cycling, but the company has been building frames by hand for the past 60 years, and they've actually supplied many leading brands with frames, details of which they're not allowed to share - yes, we know that's part of the schtick of every boutique Italian bike brand you can shake a stick at. In most cases it's true for a variety of reasons, but often mostly to do with the fact that back in the days when handmade steel was the thing some of the better known Italian marques didn't always have the resources in-house to meet demand .
Anyway back to the Seta, it offers a stunning ride, both effortlessly fast on the flats and up the climbs, and it's buttery smooth and the handling is wonderful.
Why it's here. Lovely Italian custom carbon frame with sublime smoothness
Thanks to the oversized double butted 3AL/2.5V tubing and 44mm head tube, along with the carbon fibre fork, the Enigma Evade provides a fast, energetic and effortless pace coupled with a lovely smoothness - yeah, okay this is becoming something of a theme with our favourite framesets, but that's because a smooth ride is such a good quality in a bike frame.
The Evade is a good showcase for the abilities of titanium. We found it ideal for short blasts and long rides and it makes a good alternative to a high-quality carbon fibre. It’s rare to see a painted titanium frame but the Evade is beautifully finished and really stands out against more mainstream rivals. Quite nice to have a bike that hides its true colours under some colour - comforting too to know that when the paint does eventually start to chip there's titanium frame underneath.
Although if we were taking a more contrarian line we might ask why you'd spend proper money on a cool Ti frame (the full build we tested worked out at £5,000) that looked like a cool steel bike? We're not though.
Why it's here: Wonderful demonstration of titanium ride quality with stunning looks
Classic touring and audax bikes never go out of fashion instead like the Fratello - London-based Condor’s best-selling model - they evolve. The Fratello has been given an updated steel frame. And now it's got disc brakes too - with its own disc specific carbon fork. With its mudguards and relaxed yet sporty ride characteristic, it’s both fun for short rides yet hugely comfortable for long Audaxes or multi-day adventures. Condor offer a range of build options or you could buy the frame and build it up yourself. A bike like the Fratello will get ridden through some horrible weather and over some mucky roads, and the disc brakes suit this sort of riding, with more braking power when you need it most. If you're after a bike for doing the long haul in style - whether that's the daily commute, or a weekend audax, tour or sportive this could be the frame for you.
Brighton-based Mason Cycles is one of the most interesting new bicycle brands to launch in the past 12 months, with a choice of a steel or aluminium frameset. The Definition is the latter, and combines a custom shaped Dedacciai aluminium frame, handmade in Italy, with a dialled geometry and space for up to 28mm tyres. The Definition offers the manners of a tourer and the temperament of race bike. The carbon layup of the fork means you get no chatter from the road surface even at extreme lean angles, and the aluminium frame is anything but harsh, it’s impressively smooth. The bike is shaped by its disc brakes (there is no rim brake option) which provide incredible control on unfamiliar roads.
Why it's here: Flawless finish with lovely attention to detail and a completely dialled ride.
Another aluminium frame at number 3 from another new British brand. The Pilgrims, combines a load of things we love in a bike uppermost being versatility allied to a real world price tag - it's also built for disc brakes too. The whole package delivers a fast, characterful ride on the road but, better still the wide tyre clearance means it isn't restricted to the smooth stuff. With the right rubber it will happily accommodate any desire to go exploring bridleways and countryside trails and even with fat rubber it's no slouch on the road. The Pilgrims proves that aluminium can be a valid choice if you favour performance, and it certainly saves a wedge of cash compared to a carbon alternative. But it’s all about the handling with the Pilgrims: the quick steering and hydraulic disc brakes give loads of fine control, and the front end has plenty of stiffness for being aggressive behind the handlebar.
Why it's here: Impressively blends versatility and affordability without compromising performance. It's a looker too
The Kinesis Gran Fondo Titanium is a class act, earlier incarnations have featured heavily in BoTYs gone by… and it's now offered with disc brakes. Oooh! Finally. The new disc brake version benefits from increased tyre clearance, with space for up to 32mm tyres without mudguards, 30mm with - so a lot more of the world suddenly becomes your oyster .
Discs really appeal to the sort or cyclist investing in this sort of bike. Because at £1,800 for the frame, it's quite an investment - don't get us wrong the price is by no means nuts, in fact we'd say it is about spot-on. Given the bike's colossal versatility you could argue it's a bargain given all the other bikes it's going to save you ever needing to buy. As Mike Stead observed in his review the Gran Fondo Titanium is the ultimate N+1 killer.
That's because it offers near superbike capabilities in a frame that is just at home on the commute, audaxing, sportives or tackling bridelways and much more. It’s a fabulous all-rounder that doesn't compromise on the ride quality or performance whatever sort of riding you're doing on it and wherever you're riding it. Indeed it's so good that there really isn't much, if anything to separate it from our winner.
In a nutshell, the GT_Ti Disc is fast, comfortable, light, tough and good looking. If you're looking for a bike that marries performance and versatility with the reassuring longevity and ride characteristics of titanium you won't go wrong here.
Why it's here: Updated classic gets even better with wider tyres and disc brakes
And so to the winner of the frameset of the year award, and it’s the Resolution, the steel frame version of Mason’s Definition earlier in this list. There’s little to match the sublime ride quality of a really good steel frame, and the Resolution is a really good steel frame.
It offers that classic 'steel feel', which just takes the edge off road vibration, but there are underlying hints of an aluminium frame, even carbon too at times. This is a bike that likes to be ridden fast but is just as at home cruising along with mudguards and loaded panniers - even then it will reward you if you want to kick on. With the Mason the more you put in the more you get back.
The Mason Resolution is a classy frame and you’ll love it if you’re the sort of cyclist that favours the qualities it offers. In many respects it's coming from a very similar place as the Kinesis Gran Fondo Titanium in second place (just) and offering very similar things. Which you prefer is likely to come to come down to whether you want a perormance oriented super-versatile steel bike or an aluminium one.
For us it came down to the narrowest of split decisions with the Mason getting the nod on price (and again there was a good counter argument for the Kinesis) and the really impressive attention to detail present throughout the frame.
Why it wins: Classic steel ride quality with modern details including disc brakes and space for wide tyres
This category is open to bikes priced £750 and less, and it once again proves that you can get a helluva lot for your money if you’re prepared to look around and choose carefully.
Bikes in this category benefit massively from technology that trickles down from higher price points, and this past year on road.cc we’ve reviewed more impressive budget bikes than ever before. Here’s our pick of the very best.
The aluminium Trek 1.2 puts in a solid performance out on the road, offering a stable, predictable ride. The frame and fork are reliable options and the Sora shifters and mechs are better than anything previously available for this kind of cash.
This is a very able road bike that'll reward your efforts with decent speed, and it's comfortable enough to ride all day long. The fact that it comes with mudguard and rack eyelets increases its versatility, so you can use it as a year-round workhorse if that's what you're after. Shop around and you can find the 2015 model we tested for considerably less than it's suggested retail price.
Why it’s here The Trek 1.2 is a good value well sorted bike, ideal for anyone looking for a first real road machine.
With an aluminium frame, carbon-fibre fork and a Shimano Claris Claris Shimano Claris Claris groupset, the Technique is a very decent bike, especially for the price. It feels like a proper road bike, with nothing at all scary to put off the new road rider.
It's a fast, nippy and responsive bike. Once up to speed, it feels settled on the road, and offers an attractive level of stability. This surefooted nature makes it very approachable for the less experienced.
The Technique steers and turns nicely through corners, the carbon-fibre fork giving the bike an edge in the handling department compared to other similarly priced rivals.
Why it’s here It's ideal for anyone on a budget or who is looking to get into the sport; perfect for sportives, riding to work and leisure rides.
This is a very good road bike with a really accessible performance, regardless of your level of road cycling experience. All at a very likeable price. Depending on component spec the list price starts from as little as £449 with a Shimano Claris groupset rising to £649 with Shimano 105. We tested the105 option with the Vision Team 30 wheel upgrade which added another £100 to the price – significantly less than the cost of the wheels if bought separately. The good news now is that the cost of that wheel upgrade has dropped by £30 making the Point R even more of a bargain.
The Point R delivers stable handling without any of the twitchiness or nervousness of some bikes at this price. There's fun in the way it corners, with a good weight to the steering which encourages you to throw it about. Other highlights include a smart looking frame and most of a Shimano 105 Shimano 105 groupset are highlights.
This is a bike that will suit anyone new to cycling or looking to upgrade from a cheaper first road bike, better still though it's really fun to ride.
Why it’s here The Mango Point R is an engaging, enjoyable machine and it's a lot of bike for the money - we reckoned it was good value when we tested it in September - and it's now £30 less (although the yellow colour we tested is sold out - we could live with the blue or black versions though).
This bike proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a very good road bike. The well designed aluminium frame, carbon-fibre fork and a full Shimano Shimano Tiagra groupset all come together to provide a brilliant ride.
It’s smooth and compliant over any sort of road surface, you get a good level of agility, and if you really like to throw your bike around the road, the Criterium Sport indulges. It’ll suit wannabe racers as much as sportive challengers. Criterium Sport indulges. It’ll suit wannabe racers as much as sportive challengers.
Why it’s here The Criterium is a great bike for the cash and one that can more than hold its own against more expensive rivals.
Read our original review here
The road.cc Bargain Bike of the Year is the Triban 520 from B’Twin. When we reviewed it back in July we said, “If you're starting out in road cycling and you've got less than £500 to spend, then this bike is one you should be chucking your hard-earned cash at. It's not just a good bike for the money, it's a good bike, full stop.”
This is a fun bike to ride. The alloy frame and carbon-bladed fork are well made and finished, and they give the bike an assured feel. Spin the Triban up to speed and it's pleasingly neutral, without feeling lazy in the turns.
You can commute on it, do sportives on it, tour on it, even race on it if you want. It'll take mudguards and big tyres for winter, and it's fast enough to keep up in the summer.
Why it wins The Triban 520 is simply an exceptional bike that delivers a great ride and stunning versatility for an exceptional price.
Next up tomorrow we've got an awards double header with the best adventure, cyclo-cross, and commuting bikes being followed by our pick of the best sportive and endurance bikes.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.