road.cc Bikes of the Year Top 10

Our pick of the best bikes we've tested in the last 12 months already has us itching to ride more in 2012

by nick_rearden   January 1, 2012  

We've reviewed a lot of bikes this year; more than ever in our third year as we also endeavour to maintain a level of quality that we're building a reputation for. Certainly enough road tests that at the end of 2011 we can look back and pick out the cream of the crop for a very first road.cc Bikes of the Year Top 10.

Picking the ten from the opinions of five bike reviewers and an editor was easy enough - we had the scoring system to start with and each of our ten had rated at least a 9/10. Forming a consensus on a Top 10 though was never going to be easy especially when comparing the least expensive at £259 with the priciest for £8,568. Even as you read this the discussion is rolling on and as you'll see when the comments start coming in, it's not going to stop any time soon.

As you will notice though when you read the individual reviews - click on the title for each one - the text is often just a starting point to an interesting discussion and this Top 10 will surely be no different. After all, each review is just the feeling of one cyclist with a particular set of requirements, however experienced they are.

This Top 10 will hopefully get you asking some of the right questions when the time comes to choose a new bike and in the meantime we hope you feel free to dive into the comments and ask more questions. There is a growing tradition of intelligent and respectful debate on road.cc that we're keen to encourage not least because it's incredibly useful for us as well as the readers to read the opinions and experiences of as wide a cross section of road cyclists as possible.

So in timeless poptastic tradition and featuring the comments of Technical Editor Mat Brett plus Dave Atkinson and Tony Farrelly, we have a countdown to number one, starting with, in at 10…

 

10.  Vitus Vee-1 £259

Bit of a leftfield entry this one, but the Vee-1 is everything a great urban knockaround bike should be. It's fun to ride, built to last and cheap. Essentially a singlespeed rigid mountainbike, the Vee-1 is one of the cheapest bikes we've ever tested but it punches way above its weight in terms of enjoyment. There's not a single penny wasted on stuff you don't need and the geometry and gearing make it a cracking ride on the tarmac and off - you can happily rant the Vee-1 round your local trails too. Okay you won't want to ride too far on it and the short gear means top speed is limited, but it's not always about what's fastest. Enjoy.

 

9.  Cannondale CAAD10 Ultegra £2,000

If you’re looking for a sub-£2000 all-round road bike, you’d be nuts not to consider the CAAD10. Some people will doubtless be put off by the fact that the frame is aluminium at a price where carbon is certainly an option; don’t be. This is a high-quality frame that’s stiff and responsive, and it doesn’t leave you aching as you rack up the miles. It’s a good climber and descending is a joy thanks to the accurate steering. Shimano’s second tier Ultegra groupset provides a high performance and Mavic’s Aksium wheels both very capable and reliable. This is an excellent bike for the money, outperforming many more expensive carbon rivals.

 

8.  Dawes Audax Century SE £1,100

Surprisingly the only steel bike in our top 10 the Dawes Audax Century SE proved a worthy representative of the ferrous breed, indeed so impressed was our tester Rob Simmonds that he went out and bought one. As its name suggests this is a bike built for distance so  comfort is high in its mixt of attributes. It's also versatile; the basic but well thought out spec package majors on Shimano Tiagra 9-spd,  mudguards come as standard and there are braze-ons to fit a rack making it ideal for commuting or a spot of light touring – the 50-39-30 triple makes it extremely hill capable. At 10.5Kg it's not the lightest bike ever, but it demonstrates that clever speccing and a corking frame play a much greater part in how a bike rides than overall heft. It's a looker too which can't hurt; better still shop around and you can find it for some real bargain prices way below the £1,099 SRP.

 

7.  Trek Speed Concept £7,500

It ain’t cheap – in fact, it’s far from cheap – but Trek’s top-level time trial/triathlon bike boasts more technology than a whole series of Tomorrow’s World (RIP) and it’s insanely fast. The tubes are made with an innovative (Kammtail Virtual Foil) profile, the front brake is integrated into the fork and the back one is hidden away behind the bottom bracket, the seatpost clamp is recessed out of the wind… Oh, there are so many features designed to improve the aerodynamics that we can barely scratch the surface here. Plus, there’s a ton of adjustability so you can get the setup just right. Thankfully, not all the models in the Speed Concept lineup are as pricey as this SRAM Red-equipped version.

 

6.  NeilPryde Alize £4,100

New kids on the cycling block NeilPryde have a long pedigree in the windsurfing industry. We've tested both bikes in their first range; the Diablo got high praise from tester Trev Allen as a stiff and aggressive race iron but the Alize is the pick. It's an excellent aero road bike that'll turn its hand to time trialling and triathlon with the option of a 76° seatpost and Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels for a more slippery build. The standard Dura Ace setup we tested weighs 6.9kg and will set you back over four grand but it's a bike that tester Liam Glen dubbed "a bike worthy of any privateer racer's attention" and the fact that it's multi-disciplinary means you're getting plenty of versatility for your money. If your pockets aren't that deep there's an Ultegra version for about £1,000 less.

 

5.  BMC Teammachine SLR01 £3,500

No surprises that BMC's team level carbon race bike ticked all the boxes for being fast, stiff and light. That combination of qualities normally comes with a hefty price tag and this bike is no exception, but Evans Cycles put together a Dura-Ace equipped 2011 model towards the end of last year that, at £3,499 and bang on the UCI weight limit, was a significant saving over the other models in the range. And you can't argue with full Dura Ace. Tester Stuart Kerton called it "a true rider's bike... you get out what you put in and it'll reward you for your efforts. All the parts work well together and feel as if they've been chosen on merit rather than just looks and price". It still ain't cheap, but it definitely lives up to its name.

 

4.  Viner Maxima RS £8,568

This is a very special bike for those who want a pro-level performance and a perfect fit. Every Maxima is made to measure and handbuilt in Italy, our test model weighing in at 6.9kg (15.2lb). It rides beautifully. It’s rock-solid through the tight turns and highly manoeuvrable when you want to change your line. It accelerates and climbs superbly… we found it hard to fault in terms of performance. The downside, of course, is that it’s way out of the price range of most of us – although essentially the same frame and fork package will be called the Mitus and will cost £3,300 for 2012. If you want the ultimate custom-made road bike and have the cash, this bike demands your attention.

 

3.  Kinesis Racelite GF_Ti £1,400 & Kinesis Racelite Gran Fondo SC £750

The only framesets in our top 10, we couldn't split the Titanium and Scandium Aluminium versions of the geometrically identical Racelite Gran Fondo… the deal with these two babies is a winning combination of comfort, performance and handling. These are bikes for big miles that demonstrate once again that  when it comes  to ride and handling the angles  are the biggest part of the story – whatever the frame is made of.

Essentially the GF_Ti offers the ultimate combination of those and the Gran Fondo SC is not far behind… but almost half the price. The Gran Fondo SC is also another of the current crop of aluminium bikes to nail the myth that all aluminium bikes are harsh, as our reviewer Stu noted, the ride feels more like steel while the GF_Ti delivers all the comfort you'd expect from Ti and gets your power to the back wheel sharpish too.

 

2.  Cannondale SuperSix 105 £1,800

When we reviewed the SuperSix 105 this time last year we were stunned by its energy. “It’s sparky and full of life,” we said, “and the ride quality is high.” It really is an excellent model that can hold its own against bikes costing hundreds of pounds more. At the heart of things you get an outstanding carbon-fibre frame that emphasizes rigidity although skinny seatstays provide enough give at the back to keep you comfy as you get in the big miles. Shimano’s 105 groupset provides a solid, dependable performance and the same goes for Mavic’s Aksium wheels. We’d be hard-pressed to find a weakness here; this bike leads the way at its price point.

 

1.  Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 £2,619

Now we know that £2,600 is a lot to spend on a bike but, believe us, the Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 is still fantastic value for money. You get the same carbon-fibre frame as the 2011 Omega Pharma-Lotto team and it’s incredibly rigid and efficient; even big, powerful riders (ahem..Phillippe Gilbert) won’t be able to push this one out of shape. Various builds are available but this one gets Shimano’s top-level Dura-Ace groupset which is professional-level stuff. Our test bike weighed in at 6.96kg (15.3lb) and was amazingly responsive. More surprisingly, it also managed to provide a decent level of comfort thanks to some smart engineering, particularly in the seat post and the fork. An absolute gem for the money.

30 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Good to see the Dawes made the cut. I did 3,200 miles on a combination of the test bike and my own bike, including a 400k audax and several century rides. I love it. Love Struck

Rob Simmonds's picture

posted by Rob Simmonds [253 posts]
1st January 2012 - 20:31

26 Likes

No Wilier Twin Foil? Big Grin

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8941 posts]
1st January 2012 - 22:01

25 Likes

The Canyon.com looks good...

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
1st January 2012 - 22:01

30 Likes

Gkam84 wrote:
No Wilier Twin Foil? Big Grin

Ah well we haven't tested that one yet… that'll be battling it out for a place in next year's top 10

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4147 posts]
1st January 2012 - 22:40

28 Likes

No Boardman bikes? That's a bit surprising (not bad, just surprising), especially that you are a British site.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [189 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 6:28

29 Likes

I just love that super six paintjob Cool

posted by Spankey [29 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 8:25

25 Likes

Amazed not to see a single Boardman bike in the top ten, not even their new AiR and SLR range. They seem to have some oustanding reviews this year. Also strange to see no place for the Scott Foil, which again seem to have amazing reviews in regards to the frame.

Coldwell

posted by SOMERSETCYCLING [5 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 9:10

27 Likes

Halfords has been great for Boardman, but not so great in turning real enthusiastic cyclists heads - the Halfords touch?

posted by tomascjenkins [34 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 9:39

30 Likes

mikroos wrote:
No Boardman bikes? That's a bit surprising (not bad, just surprising), especially that you are a British site.

Ah, not that surprising - we can only pick a top 10 from the bikes we've actually tested, and we haven't tested any Boardmans… though we have asked and we'd certainly like to

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4147 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 10:47

32 Likes

No this? No that? The whole point of any Top Ten is to create a conversation regarding what's been left out, not what's been put in. I'd say this is a top result Nick! Personally I can't believe you didn't include 'Betty', Dave's 2-spd Raleigh. Not on the list? Shurely shome mishtake?

Low Speed Wobble's picture

posted by Low Speed Wobble [140 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 11:25

30 Likes

Low Speed Wobble wrote:
Personally I can't believe you didn't include 'Betty', Dave's 2-spd Raleigh..

That's not a bad point, LSW. Although maybe Dave's new BSA project will make into into 2012 Smile

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 11:48

27 Likes

tomascjenkins wrote:
Halfords has been great for Boardman, but not so great in turning real enthusiastic cyclists heads - the Halfords touch?

Think you might be being a bit hard on Halfords there, tom. It's true the average Halfords staffer doesn't have the same experience and enthusiasm for cycling as the average local bike shop but the undoubtedly good Boardman bikes exposed to a whole new market through hundreds of outlets has sold many, many bikes which has certainly been good in most respects for everyone. It's certainly also true that a few 'enthusiastic' cyclists have been a tad sniffy about riders on Boardman and other 'new' brands but the clubs attracting most new members it's probably fair to say are as brand-blind as they're oblivious to gender, race, religion and sexual orientation Smile

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 12:12

33 Likes

no cervelo? r5? s5?

posted by pj [141 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 16:51

24 Likes

pj wrote:
no cervelo? r5? s5?

Hi pj, nice blog! And very heroic of you to be riding today. No, no R5 or S5 but that's not because they've not been reviewed not because we necessarily have anything against them. To be honest the S5 hasn't really been around long enough in actual test bike form but who knows; it might appear in 2012 and if it does you can be sure it will be a thorough and worthwhile review.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 17:31

32 Likes

thank you! the weather wasn't that bad in the end. tomorrow looks unholy.

the r5 is the loveliest bike i've ever ridden. i bought it for hillclimbs and it does those very nicely indeed, but i didn't anticipate how amazing it would be on the descents; hitting 60mph on the croix de fer (briefly) was achievable simply because of the incredible handling. only caveat is the 'light-cheap-strong' adage. you can only have two, and i had to sell a kidney.

posted by pj [141 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 17:37

28 Likes

I guess I'm at a disadvantage here since I don't really know many other cyclists in "real life", but do people actually go out and buy £8500 bikes?

I enjoy my bike but am of a sufficient age where I'll never be competitive, and in my mind I could envisage paying a maximum of maybe £2k for a bike. I mean, I don't have £2k to spend on a bike, but if I did....

So that pushes around half of the top ten out of my price bracket immediately. I realise that for most of these tests road.cc are probably loaned the bike in question, but again, does anyone actually shell out on these wonder-machines? (apart from AMS1 of course)

Pete

PeteH's picture

posted by PeteH [159 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 19:56

24 Likes

PeteH wrote:
...does anyone actually shell out on these wonder-machines?

Yes, Pete, they do. But just to reassure you, if the whole value of the bike market was represented by a pyramid-shaped triangle the great majority of the height would be occupied by bikes below £1,000 with the tiniest little tip representing the kind of bikes we're talking about here or nine of them anyway.

Perhaps in coming years we'll be able to offer you Top 10 bikes in various categories including price but I'd still like to think there would always be an interesting place for an absolute Top 10. It's always pleasing when a bike like the Vitus gets in because it proves as ever that cycling is all about the pure experience but to be honest there would be something very wrong if the absolute Top 10 *wasn't* won by some of the more expensive bikes, after all don't forget these are models that have already scored a 9/10 during the year so certainly wouldn't be there if the reviewers thought they were poor value among their peers. Note also that the £8,000 bike you're presumably thinking of, the Viner, *is* incredibly expensive with the remainder being a lot less than that and the winner, the Canyon, being genuinely astoundingly good value for what it does and assuming you're looking for a 15lb Dura-Ace equipped racing bike.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 20:56

24 Likes

Cheers Nick, I'm afraid if it weren't for your photos I wouldn't recognise a Viner if I sped past one!

Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not knocking the top ten - when I've read the reviews throughout the year (and I actually bought a Dawes based partly on Rob's review) there's an implicit recognition that things are being reviewed in the context of their price. This article is good because it kind of turns that on its head and puts a £250 bike in the same list as a £8k bike. As you say, to see them together is a reminder that its all about the "experience".

In the same vein as my earlier question, however, let me ask another one. What types of people buy these superbikes? I suppose the obvious type of person is the guy who has the stable of ferraris. But other types of people? What about competition/performance? Do people need a superbike in order to win races?

Just interested...

Pete

PeteH's picture

posted by PeteH [159 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 21:55

37 Likes

@Pete

I guess I could be one of the sort of people who buy these kind of bikes. I'm looking to spend about £3k on a bike in the next couple of years, which is about 10% of my net take home pay (cripes - hadn't thought of it like that before!)

I have a mortgage, and I won't borrow to buy the bike, but I like to get the best tools I can for my hobbies. I consider it better to spend a lot and get what you really want rather than quite a lot and get something you're not happy with. That's not to say I'm not happy with my 3 year old Boardman, just that I think I'll be ready to replace it by then. Oh, and I seriously doubt I'll be winning any races (although I hope to improve on this years run of top 20 finishes in Sportives)

posted by mbrads72 [129 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 22:47

29 Likes

Quote:
In the same vein as my earlier question, however, let me ask another one. What types of people buy these superbikes? I suppose the obvious type of person is the guy who has the stable of ferraris.

ferraris cost a whole heap of money; expensive bikes – even the *really* expensive ones like a custom-made Viner – are only as much as a cheap family runaround. Bikes like the Canyon and the Cannondale are within the grasp of more people than you might think, and you only need to show up at the Dragon or another big sportive to see hundreds and hundreds of £3k+ bikes. Whether you want to spend that kind of money on a bike, well... that's up to you. Personally, I'm never happier than when I'm on my 'affordable' Genesis. Each to their own.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7437 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 23:15

31 Likes

Hi Pete, I'm sure the big city bike shops will have their fair share of millionaire bike buyers but they will be the exception rather than the rule. Go to any well attended road race, time-trial or sportive and you'll see plenty if not a majority of £2-£3,000 bikes and the riders will only have two things in common; that they're mad keen on cycling and they'll be planning their next upgrade on a limited budget. OK, and they'll have a job to finance it all. There is a marked drop off in racing participation among parents with children, partly because of time constraints but mostly to do with financial responsibilities. One of the great things about sportive-type events is the possibility to enjoy the best parts about racing without such a commitment in time and money. Essentially, if you care *that* much and you can do it you'll find a way to buy an expensive bike. If you don't and you're just as happy to ride along the canal with the family, enter Sky Rides or just cycle to work that's fine too. In our book, the style and value of your bike and what you're wearing to ride it doesn't make you any more or less valid or important at your cycling. It's all good and as anyone knows who's cycled off somewhere with a picnic, it's certainly not all about money.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
2nd January 2012 - 23:37

22 Likes

already the winner has morphed into a focus

posted by Cervelo12 [78 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 10:44

26 Likes

@mbrads - top 20 in sportives, respect buddy, the first sportive I did - last year - I had to summon up a lot of courage just to look at the times in case I was last! (I wasn't, in fact, far from it which was a pleasant surprise.) You're obviously pretty fast at cycling so I can totally understand why you're targetting a £3k bike.

Interesting that you, Dave and Nick all mention the £3k figure. I guess up to that kind of price region I can understand what is going on and maybe £3k is not an unreasonable price to pay for a good bike (the #1 bike in the review looks like a cracker @£2600). I mean, it would be a better bike than I'd need, but as Nick says, if you're serious enough about it you'll maybe find a way.

However as a married parent (nail my flag to the mast!) I look at £8.5k and think "Holy ****". But as Dave says if you're sufficiently into cycling that you'll equate your bike to a car, maybe its not so much.

Pete

PeteH's picture

posted by PeteH [159 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 13:56

27 Likes

PeteH wrote:
...if you're sufficiently into cycling that you'll equate your bike to a car, maybe its not so much.

I think this gets to the heart of it really - it's not just about how much available cash you have, but also about what you think it is 'worth' spending that available cash on. My best bike is worth about the same as my car, and all my bikes together are worth a fair bit more than my car. I could have bought a 'better' car and saved money on the bikes, but decided to do it the other way round - after all, I get way more enjoyment out of my bikes than I do from the car, so I bought a reliable, cheap second hand car and put the money towards something fun instead. Looking around at my club, plenty of people do the same - and there again, lots don't. There's certainly no need to spend a fortune to get a well performing bike - but as Dave points out, even the most expensive bikes are comparatively affordable compared to a mid-range car...

posted by step-hent [694 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 15:00

27 Likes

Well, at the top it says "Our pick of the best bikes we've tested in the last 12 months".

Not necessarily the best value or the best on the market. While it's difficult to compare these disparate bikes, it's good to see the team choose a top 10. Interesting that Cannondale get two bikes in there, obviously all this talk of the ride quality isn't just marketing bollocks. I also like the opportunity to read the reviews, some of which I may have skipped over.

If companies make expensive bikes then it will be because they can sell them. I don't see a problem with that, a vibrant (and profitable) top end encourages 'trickle-down' as well as keeping shops and so on solvent as well as the mags and websites we rely on. If you think this is pricey you want to browse the handmade/bespoke market in the USA. But make sure you're sitting down first, the prices are eyewatering!

Even £2-3k bikes are out of reach for my pocket, but it's nice to admire nicely made machines (and maybe to dream a little).

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2001 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 16:00

29 Likes

@step-hent can't fault your thinking there, driving has become distinctly less enjoyable over the last 20 years or so and I get far more enjoyment out of my bike.

Just for comparison I reckon my (3) bikes are probably worth about 15% of the value of my (2) cars, so the huge discrepancy between us hits the nail on the head. If I also include the "family" car (which technically belongs to the missus but which I seem to pay for...) then that ratio becomes smaller still.

Pete

PeteH's picture

posted by PeteH [159 posts]
3rd January 2012 - 16:50

29 Likes

I agree with the £3k level. My summer bikes worth around £3.5k and the winter about £1k. I suppose EPS will take the summer bike up to £5k - but not for the foreseeable future! At the end of the day though it's the legs that push the thing. I remember with relish the fat bloke on a £6k Cervelo on The Cat a couple of years ago. Every time we stopped for a pee or a puncture he'd come puffing past and within 10 minutes we'd wave him goodbye again. That's the great thing about cycling; you can flash as much bling as you like at the ride start but fitness always has the last word.

Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1072 posts]
4th January 2012 - 8:28

29 Likes

I actually bought the Canyon frame this year, partially from the review on Road.cc. I absolutely love it. Just felt I had to tell everyone that Wink

posted by The Flying Scotsman [14 posts]
4th January 2012 - 16:02

31 Likes

Absolutely merc. But the other good thing is we can all have our personal goals. The fat guy on the Cat might have been doing his pb, you never know.

I read with awe about mbrads coming top-20 in sportives, I mean I wish I could be that good but my age and frankly the time I have available means that it'll never happen. My own definition of success is something like going into a shop just before christmas and being able to buy a jumper in size S whereas maybe three years ago it would have been an XXL - seriously. Or when my missus says "you need to buy some new undies 'cos those ones are too baggy". Sad but true. Apologies if that thought puts anyone off their food.

Pete

PeteH's picture

posted by PeteH [159 posts]
4th January 2012 - 16:19

30 Likes

i bought a caad10, looked at the supersix and rode both. i was willing to go to the supersix but found i prefered the caad, the weight was near identical as well. i would pay up to 3k for a bike but the only thing is i would worry about damaging it, and having to replace something horrifically expensive. its all relative though isnt it? like phones. not many people can have a £1,000,000 house or a supercar but in bike terms a superbike is 8k or an iphone 4s is obtainable without difficulty. kinda means normal people can have a glimpse of the super rich life. i suppose in shorter words, its a product where the pinnacle is not totally out of reach!

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
4th January 2012 - 21:41

29 Likes