Six affordable* pro race bikes
Bikes like the pros ride from Specialized, Trek, Canyon, Giant, Pinarello and Cannondale... but a bit cheaper
Perhaps one of the most elegant attractions of cycling is the opportunity to be able to ride the very same bicycle that Mark Cavendish sprints to victory on, or like the one Bradley Wiggins rode to Tour de France success last year. You really can walk into a bike shop and ride away on 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?
To see what is available, we've had look at six manufacturers - Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, Giant, Caynon 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 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.
So you want to get your hands on Mark Cavendish’s bike? Who doesn’t? It’s one of the fastest on the peloton (with Cav piloting it, of course; not sure we’d have the same turn of speed). He rides Specialized’s Venge, a slippery aero number. The entry-level model is the Venge Comp which costs £2,500.
The frame is nearly identical. It has the same aerodynamic design but makes a concession with a less expensive grade of carbon fibre: FACT 10r carbon versus FACT 11r. Carbon aside, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference externally. This bike is built with Shimano’s 105 groupset and an FSA Gossamer Pro chainset, functionally very similar to Shimano’s more expensive offerings, and finished with DT Axis 4.0 wheels and Shimano finishing kit.
Sir Bradley Wiggins is riding Pinarello’s flagship Dogma 65.1 Think 2, the latest state-of-the-art model from the Italian brand that uses a new carbon layup not seen in their range before. They don’t come cheap. A Dogma 65.1 Think 2 with Campagnolo Super Record EPS will set you back a cool £9,275, and even the Dogma 2, the bike Brad actually raced most of last season aboard, costs £3,950 just for the frame, so if you really want a bike that's almost identical to Brad's, you’d better start saving.
So we’ve instead picked Pinarello’s entry-level carbon fibre mode, the FPUNO Carbon Veloce. Admittedly, there’s little shared between this and the top-end bikes, but you do get a bike that looks very similar to Team Sky’s bikes with those distinctive curved fork legs and seatstays.. And it's £1,999 for the complete bike with a Campagnolo Veloce groupset and MOst (Pinarello’s in-house parts label) wheels, tyres and finishing parts.
Canyon supply Katusha this season and the German bike manufacturer has made big inroads into the UK with its direct-to-consumer business model meaning the bikes are very well priced. They’re also excellent bikes - we should know, we gave their Ultimate AL 9.0 Di2 the coveted road.cc bike of the year award in 2012.
The team race both the aero Aeroad CF or the lighter Ultimate CF SLX. We’re testing the latter at the moment, and with a full SRAM Red groupset and Mavic R-Sys wheels, giving a low weight of just 6.08kg, it costs £3,689. That’s an extraordinary good looking price for a bike that is considerably lighter than the ones the professionals race, as stipulated by the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight limit.
So that’s a very good looking bike, but you can also get the Ultimate CF SLX 7.0, which shares the same frame, but with a Shimano Ultegra 6700 groupset, Mavic Ksyrium wheels and Ritchey and Selle Italia finishing kit, for £2,559.
Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo is the choice of - you'll never guess - the Cannondale Pro Cycling team with the irrepressible Peter Sagan pedalling it to many victories in the past couple of seasons. The team race the Hi-Mod version, and last year Cannondale introduced a lighter nano version, the Evo Black, and a slightly heavier but more affordable Evo Carbon. Sharing the same tube shape and construction method,but substituting a less expensive intermediate modulus carbon, the frame weight is just 950g.
The entry-level SuperSix Evo Red costs £3,499 and comes with a SRAM Red groupset and SRAM S951 compact chainset, Mavic Ksyrium Equipe S wheels plus Yksion Pro 23mm tyres and Cannondale’s own C2 finishing kit. It comes in two colourways, a matte black and red or a white/blue/green option that echoes the team livery.
The bike of choice for Radioshack-Leopard is the Madone 7.9. This latest version of their flagship race bike incorporates aero design features for the first time, most noticeably with the shaped head tube and down tube and the rear brake being located behind the bottom bracket. We’ve reviewed the 6-series version and found it light, very fast and comfortable, a real super-high performance bike.
Such is their size that Trek were immediately able to trickle the key changes of this top-end frame right down to the 5-series, and that means you can get an almost identical frame to the pros. The Madone 5.2 costs £3,000 and comes with a lower grade of carbon fibre, but it looks the same. Critically, it shares the same aero shaped tube profiles and the relocated rear brake. It’s built up with a Shimano Ultegra groupset, Bontrager Race wheels and matching finishing kit.
While Giant have given a few of the Blanco pro team guys their new aero Propel, most are still doing duty on the TCR Advanced SL. One of the frame's standout features is the OverDrive 2 head tube, a 1 1/4-to-1 1/2in tapered steerer tube, to stiffen the front of the bike. That, plus the extra wide bottom bracket and oversized down tube, contribute to a very stiff frame with a weight of around 820g.
The top model you can lay your hands on, with Shimano Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 just like the Blanco bikes (albeit with Giant’s own wheels) will set you back £6,999. Not cheap! Opt instead for the TCR Advanced SL 4, however, with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and Giant’s P-SL0 wheels and it will cost £3,249.
*Relative to the actual bikes the pros race, that is. We know that these aren't cheap.