Home
If you want a carbon fibre road bike, there are plenty of choices

Carbon fibre is the wonder material of the cycling world. Once it was exotic and hugely expensive, now it is commonplace and prices have tumbled.

Carbon fibre has rapidly become the most desirable and popular material with performance-minded cyclists. It’s an attractive material because it is extremely light and strong and can build a very stiff frame. It can also be moulded, which has allowed designers to step away from the traditional constraints of round metal tubes.

There’s a bewildering choice of carbon fibre frames these days. From super lightweight climbing bikes to aerodynamic racing frames designed and honed in a wind tunnel, to bikes built to provide comfort for endurance and sportive cyclists, to a growing breed of adventure and gravel bikes, there’s a carbon bike for all riding styles.

There are two key carbon frame construction methods. The majority are made using a mould, with layers of carbon fibre precisely positioned to create the frame, usually in a couple of larger sections, that are then bonded together. The other popular method is tube-to-tube, where tubes are bonded together, sometimes with lugs and sometimes the joints are wrapped with carbon, and is a process favoured by bespoke frame builders as it allows easier customisation.

Not all carbon frames are the same. There are many buzzwords used to describe carbon frames, and many manufacturers have their own names to describe the carbon used in a frame. Typically a manufacturer will use various different grades of carbon fibre depending on what they want to achieve with the frame, or section of a frame, whether it’s the pursuit of stiffness, low weight or a price point.

The more you spend, the better the quality of carbon used to make the frame. Typically higher modulus (stiffer) carbon is used in more expensive frames, which means less material is needed, so the frame weight can be reduced. That's why there is such a range of prices on show in this article.

Carbon manufacturing is complicated, though, and this video explanation by Gerard Vroomen, previously co-founder of Cervélo and now heading up Open Cycle, provides a good description of the business of making carbon frames

B’Twin 560CF — £799

B'Twin triban 560 cf.jpg

B'Twin triban 560 cf.jpg

As far as we know, this is currently the cheapest carbon fibre framed bike on offer in the UK. French sports megastore chain Decathlon claims a frame weight of just 1,080g for a size M, and you get a full Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset including brakes and chainset. It only comes in three sizes, but if one of them fits you, it's a staggering bargain.

Read our review of the B’Twin Mach 720

Ribble Sportive Racing — from £999

Ribble Sportive Racing Special Edition - full bike.jpg

Ribble Sportive Racing Special Edition - full bike.jpg

This is Ribble’s cheapest carbon fibre model, with a range of options starting at £999 for a Shimano Sora group on a carbon fibre frameset designed for taming sportives. The benefit of the Bike Builder option is that you can spec exactly what you want.

Read our review of the Ribble Sportive Racing

Giant TCR Advanced 3 2017 — £959.20 (Size S)

97740_1_SuperSize.jpg

Giant TCR Advanced 3 2017

Giant offer their amazing TCR in a Tiagra 4700 version. The groupset is Tiagra throughout with no cutting corners. Giant supply all the contact points, wheels, tyres, stem and seatpost to bring a bike that really impresses both on the spec sheet and out on the road. With 2018 models just around the corner, there are excellent deals on 2017 bikes, including 20 percent off this one, though available sizes are limited.

Find a Giant Retailer

Canyon Endurace CF 7.0 — £1,239

canyon endurace-cf-7_c1065.jpg

canyon endurace-cf-7_c1065.jpg

The Endurace is Canyon’s bike for riding long distances in comfort, with a more relaxed geometry than the racier Ultimate, and wider tyres also contributing to the smoother ride this model aims to offer. You get a full Shimano 105 11-speed groupset with this bike, no shortcuts, even the brake calipers and crankset are 105. Quality abounds with Mavic Aksium wheels shod with Continental Grand Prix 4000S II tyres. Canyon claims a bike weight of 7.7kg which, if accurate, is a very respectable weight for a bike of this price.

Read our review of the more expensive Endurace CF 9.0 SL

Merida Scultura 6000 — £2,000

merida-scultura-6000 (1).jpg

merida-scultura-6000 (1).jpg

Merida is one of the biggest manufacturers of carbon fibre frames, and that experience and expertise show in this Scultura 6000. This is also one of the lightest frames in this guide, with a weight of just 750g for the frame, impressive considering the price of the whole bike. It’s certainly not a cheap bike but that sort of frame weight is highly impressive at this price. You also get a full Shimano Ultegra groupset and direct mount brakes, with the rear being position under the chainstays to decrease drag.

Read our review of the Merida Scultura

Cannondale SuperSix Evo Ultegra Di2 2018 — £2,999

2018 cannondale supersix evo carbon ultegra di2.jpg

2018 cannondale supersix evo carbon ultegra di2.jpg

'Next year' models are in the shops already and one of the picks of 2018's range is the latest incarnation of Cannondale's SuperSix Evo Ultegra Di2, which packs quite a lot of bike for three grand. The SuperSix Evo frame features Cannondale's BallisTech carbon fibre in a traditional frame geometry. The Ultegra Di2 a very nice balance of perfect shifting and more attractive price point. The semi-compact 52/36 chainset is paired with an 11/28 cassette to give aggressive climbing gearing. The Mavic Askium WTS wheels are a little out of their league on this setup, but you can always treat yourswlf to some top-flight wheels later and keep them for training. Best of all, the 2018 model is £200 cheaper than the 2017 version.

Read our review of the 2016 Dura Ace model

Trek Domane SL 6 Disc 2018 — £3,000 

2018 Trek Domane SL 6 Disc.jpg

2018 Trek Domane SL 6 Disc.jpg

If comfort interests you most in a carbon road bike, then the latest incarnation of the Domane might be the bike for you. It features a unique system that allows the seatpost to move independently of the frame, which works to smooth out bumps and vibrations generated when riding over a rough road. Or cobbles. The SL also features the same technology at the front and it, along with a new rubber infused carbon handlebar, helps to provide an incredibly smooth and composed ride over any sort of road surface. There are also hidden mudguard mounts for the winter. It's truly a bike for all weathers.

The 2018 model is significantly cheaper than 2017's, and has the latest Shimano R8000 Ultegra groupset, but lacks last year's Vision Metron carbon fibre wheels.

Read our review of the Trek Domane SLR 6

Colnago C60 — £3,799.95 (frame, fork & headset)

COLNAGO-C60-PLWH-1600x1085.jpg

COLNAGO-C60-PLWH-1600x1085.jpg

Unlike the majority of carbon frames in this guide that are made using the common moulding process, the C60 is constructed by bonding the tubes together using oversized lugs. It’s the same approach the Italian company has been using on its flagship carbon frames since the C40 some 20 years ago. It gives the frame a more traditional appearance perhaps than the smoother frames, but there’s no doubting the performance and quality of the ride it produces.

Read our review of the Colnago C60

Cipollini NK1K (frame & fork) — £4,800

CIPOLLINI NK1K Direct Mount Frameset (Camouflage Grey) .jpg

CIPOLLINI NK1K Direct Mount Frameset (Camouflage Grey) .jpg

A monocoque frame made in Italy. For many, that fact alone warrants the price tag. If you're not convinced by that alone, the NK1K is made for sprinting. The chap with his name on it was rather good at going fast after all. Build options are up to you and depend on the depth of your pockets.

Read our review of the Cipollini NK1K

Specialized Tarmac SL6 Pro Ultegra Di2 2018 — £5,750

2018 Specialized Tarmac Pro.jpg

2018 Specialized Tarmac Pro.jpg

If you're looking for proven race pedigree, then Specialized's Tarmac series can probably win you a game of Top Trumps. In its various iterations, this frame has won Grand Tours, Classics and rainbow jerseys. The 2018 Di2 version gets the latest 8000 Shimano offering in electronic form. The Roval CL 50 wheels are shod with Specialized Turbo S-Works tyres and a Specialized Toupe saddle sits atop an S-Works carbon seatpost.

Have a look at Tour de France winner Alberto Contador's shiny chrome version

Bianchi Specialissima — £7,500

Bianchi Specialissima.jpeg

Bianchi Specialissima.jpeg

This Italian brand is one of the most desirable, with its history and iconic celeste paint, and this new Specialissima is its newest creation. It’s a bike designed unashamedly to be as light as possible, but there’s a concession to comfort, without compromising frame stiffness. The carbon layup incorporates the same vibration damping CounterVail technology first seen on the Infinito CV endurance bike a couple of years ago. The Campagnolo Super Record groupset and Bora Ultra wheels produce a complete bike weight that tickles the UCI minimum weight limit. So light that it’s illegal in any UCI race.

Read our review of the Bianchi Specialissima

Basso M150 Super Record EPS — £8,879

Basso Diamante SV.jpg

Basso Diamante SV.jpg

Do you like your Italian road bikes? Then you’ll like this Basso Diamante Super Veloce, or SV for short. It’s a brand new bike for the company that's celebrating its 40th anniversary. We first saw it at Eurobike earlier this year, and it was one of the standout bikes at the show. The new full carbon frame weighs just 820g, and it’s made in Italy, a designation that's a lot less common than it used to be on bikes from Italian brands. There are various frame and build options, we’ve got a very fancy Campagnolo Super Record EPS build with a full complement of carbon wheels and handlebars. It weighs just 6.5kg.

Check out the sneak peek we got at Eurobike

BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc Team 2018 — £10,000

2018 BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc Team.jpg

2018 BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc Team.jpg

Swiss manufacturer BMC has stepped up a notch with its top model for 2018, incorporating the brain for Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 electronic shifting into the frame and adding disc brakes and DT Swiss PRC 1100 DICUT carbon fibre wheels to the mix foe a thoroughly up-to-date race bike. It's dripping with clever details: BMC's own super-light through axles, the sleek Integrated Cockpit System bar and stem, brake hoses and gear  wires routed almost-invisibly through the frame, super-tidy Direct Frontal Flat Mount brake mounts.

[This article was last updated on August 29, 2017]

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.

2 comments

Avatar
macrophotofly [289 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

The Cipollinis are mad, beautiful bikes and whilst I will never own one, I can lust after them

Avatar
Gourmet Shot [172 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
macrophotofly wrote:

The Cipollinis are mad, beautiful bikes and whilst I will never own one, I can lust after them

Same.......very nice bike