[This article was last updated on November 30, 2017]
Perhaps one of the most appealing things about professional cycling is the opportunity to be able to ride the very same bicycle that Mark Cavendish sprints to victory on, or like the one Chris Froome won the 2016 Tour de France aboard. You really can walk into a bike shop and ride away on a bike that's almost identical. Try doing that in Formula One.
The one small — okay, large — caveat with this is the very high prices such bikes usually command. Happily, however, it is possible to get bikes that are very similar, not only in appearance but also in construction, to the ones the stars of cycling ride, but at cheaper prices. Okay, before anyone says it, these bikes aren't cheap, but they are cheaper. It's all relative, isn't it? These aren't actual race replicas, but they use very similar frames, just with cheaper spec sheets.
To see what is available, we've had a look at six manufacturers — Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, Giant, Canyon and Pinarello — to show that you can realistically get a bike that can trace its DNA directly up the chain to those that the professional cyclists are racing. We've focused on bikes that share the same (or very similar) frame and keep the cost a little more achievable with less posh components. Aside from parts like wheels, transmission and handlebars and stems, these bikes are essentially the same as the WorldTour bikes.
We've also assumed that for the moment race bikes have rim brakes, which is the safe bet until the UCI finally gets off the fence and decides whether disc brakes are a major contribution to road racing safety, or the modern equivalent of the scythes on Boudica's chariot.
The main bike of choice of the teams sponsored by Specialized is the Tarmac, and this £2,400 model is the most affordable build using the same frame. The Tarmac range actually starts at £1,500. Granted, they both look very similar and changes are very subtle but include size-specific tube profiles and an integrated seat clamp, which allows for more seatpost extension to provide a bit more deflection at the saddle.
If you desperately want a Dogma just like what Chris Froome rides, but the budget won’t stretch to the price of £9,250, Pinarello has your back. It introduced the Gan as a more affordable version of the Dogma, and while it shares a similar frame profile, it’s made from a different blend of carbon fibre. This brings the price right down, with a full Shimano 105 bike costing £1,750. To bridge the gap between the Gan and the Dogma series there are two Gan variants, the Gan S and Gan RS, which use higher grades of carbon fibre.
If you want to emulate Alexandra Kristoff, then you need Canyon’s Aeroad. The attraction of buying from a direct-sales brand like Canyon is the savings from not having bike shops and distributors are big savings are passed onto the consumer. In the case of the Aeroad, that means a starting price of £3,249 for the entry-level bike in the range. It’s the same frame, carved in the wind tunnel, with an Ultegra groupset and Reynolds Strike wheels.
Read our review to find out what we thought of Canyon's aero race bike.
Cannondale's SuperSix Evo in regular and Hi-Mod versions continue to be a popular choice with amateur riders and races, and the most recent incarnation is more aero, more comfortable and lighter. All the currently-available Hi-Mod versions have disc brakes, which rather suggests which way Cannondale thinks the UCI will jump for 2018. This is the most affordable in the range with Shimano's Di2 electronic shifting, and Mavic Aksium wheels.
Trek offers its team a choice of three bikes (Domane, Emonda and Madone) and there’s an even bigger range of models for the public, with models ranging from £1,800 for this Emonda SL5, the cheapest in this range, and rising to over £10k for a bike with all the bells and whistles. This Emonda shares a similar frame design to the ones used in the Tour, but it swaps out the expensive 700 Series OCLV for 500 Series OCLV, which makes a big impact on the price. It does keep many of the same key details like internal cable routing, a tapered head tube, Ride Tuned seatmast and a full carbon fibre fork.
If you’ve got your heart set on a Madone, however, the good news for 2018 is that there's an 'affordable' version, the Madone 9.0 at £3,500. It’s the same frame as the one the pros race and features a version of the Domane’s Isospeed decoupler for enhanced ride comfort, slippery drag-reducing frame profiles, and a Shimano Ultegra groupset.
Giant revamped its TCR Advanced SL for 2017 and it’s the bike the likes of Warren Barguil and Simon Geschke are currently riding on for Sunweb Giant. The TCR Advanced SL has been a staple of Giant’s range of a long time now, and the changes have concentrated on producing a frame with a class-leading stiffness-to-weight ratio. In this SL range are three models, this is the most affordable and it uses the same Advanced SL-Grade Composite frame and fork with an Ultegra groupset keeping the price down, compared to the range-topping Advanced SL 0, which is about as close as you can get to a replica race bike.
The 2018 Giant range is due September 5, so there'll doubtless be a new version along shortly, but in the meantime, this is a bit of a bargain.
The TCR Advanced range does offer some better deals if you’re on a tight budget, with this Advanced 3 priced at £1,149 and built from Giant’s own Advanced-Grade Composite carbon with a similar frame design, but a more conventional seatpost, and a Tiagra groupset.
*Relative to the actual bikes the pros race, that is. We know that these aren't cheap.
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.