road.cc Bike of the Year
We pick our top 10 test bikes from the last 12 months + 5 bike Superbike Shoot-out
2012 has been a fabulous year for bikes here at road.cc; we’ve had some absolutely brilliant models in for test. Which were best of all? The simplest way to decide would have been to simply tot up the scores we gave to each and rank them in order… but we didn’t do that.
Why not? Well, different reviewers have different priorities – one reviewer might mark a bike slightly more generously than another reviewer and we wanted to take that into account.
Plus, we review bikes individually here at road.cc, rather than as part of a comparative test. In choosing our Bikes of the Year, we needed to go more down the comparative route to decide how each bike stacked up against its rivals.
So we got all of our bike testers together, read the reviews, had a think, had a discussion, had an argument, had a fist fight, said sorry and then did it all over again.
Different people have different preferences so picking the Top 10 was never going to be an exact science. We disagreed even among our group of reviewers so we’re quite certain that plenty of road.cc readers will argue with our selections and wonder why a particular model has been left out. That’s always going to be the way.
Value, for example, is something that’s bound to divide opinion. For some people, spending two grand on a bike is nothing. Other people will think it’s a ridiculous amount to pay. We’ve tried to judge each bike on its merits to be as fair as possible.
With all that in mind, let’s reveal the bikes…
Before we get to the overall top 10, we've got some superbikes to sort out...
This year we were lucky enough to ride more money-no-object all-out performance superbikes than you can shake a jewel encrusted titanium stick at. If we judged our Bikes of the Year on performance and technology alone, these bikes and probably a couple more fantasy machines would dominate the list... but we don't.
Some of these machines make it into our main list but we thought it only right to give our five favourite superbikes from the past year their due in our Superbike Shootout. Even here it's a bit like comparing apples with pears: some are frameset only, some complete bikes and nearly all of them offer a full custom option or are custom only. What they all have in common, though, is that they are fabulous bikes to ride representing that point on the cutting edge where art, craft, and engineering intersect… and they all cost a lot of money.
5 Fondriest TF Zero £7500
Stu’s favourite bike of the year was the Fondriest TFZero, a handbuilt carbon fibre superbike from Italy. Each frame is made to order and you’re looking at £7,500 for the Campag Super Record model that we had in for review. Stu loved it, calling it, “As close to perfection as any bike I have ever ridden.”
So, should it be in the top 10, then? Maybe, but then we’d have to chuck something else out. A list that’s full of bikes costing several thousand pounds apiece wouldn't really work. Basically, this is an amazing bike and if you’ve got a serious wedge of cash to spend then you should definitely check it out.
4 Cyfac Gothica CS £6999,99 as reviewed
A lot of the same things apply to the Cyfac Gothica CS – you could easily make a strong case for it to be included in our top 10. It is a gorgeous bike for long days in the saddle. It's light, it's fast, and we'd say that it's one of the most stylish looking bikes we've ever had on test here at road.cc.
Cyfac make their bikes by hand in France using a tube-to-tube method. This one has a slightly taller head tube than normal to put you into a sportive-friendly ride position, but you can go for a more racy set-up if you prefer. The only down side is that it’ll cost you £6999.99 for the complete bike we reviewed.
3 Wilier Twin Blade £3750 (frameset)
At number 3 in our Superbike Shootout is the Wilier TwinFoil – since renamed the Twin Blade (apparently, Scott weren’t happy with Wilier using the Foil name. We’re not sure how Gillette feel about the Twin Blade thing).
This is one fast time trial bike, featuring Wilier’s ‘flow stabilisers’ – essentially, the fork legs continue right up to the stem, running alongside the head tube. There’s a ton more clever tech besides. Go along to our review to find out all about it.
This is a pro level machine with a pro level price tage to match, £3,750 for the frameset, and building it up with aero components isn’t going to be cheap either, but if speed (and head turning style) is your aim you'll probably be able to find the money down the back of the sofa or somewhere.
While we’re in the time trial world, Cervélo’s P5 should get a mention too. It’s a stunningly fast bike. We didn’t give it a full test, we just got a First Ride in at the launch, so we can’t consider it for our Top 10, otherwise it would doubtless be in there.
2 Bianchi Oltre XR £5800
We were blown away by the original Oltre when we rode it a couple of years back and this latest version sets the bar even higher. The Oltre XR is light and stiff with pin sharp handling too. The 'XR' bit in its name refers to 'extreme rigidity' so you get a sense of where Bianchi are coming from with this one. Further clues are given by the mighty downt ube and beefy chainstays. Oh, and they use a special weave process in the carbon layup to add even more stiffness to the head tube.
As you'd expect from an Italian bike it's got bags of head turning style too and is a welcome sign that at least one of Italy's major brands is still operating on the cutting edge when it comes to bike design and technology.
roadcc Superbike of the Year
1 Trek Madone 6 Series custom build £6,725
The big boys got to be big for a reason and the 2013 Trek Madone 6 Series is a reminder of why Trek are so successful. This is what happens when you focus a decent chunk of budget on your R&D department and then trust them to get on with the job.
Like the Bianchi, the Madone is light, and very stiff with accurate handling. Trek have also incorporated a number of aero features in to the frame itself including aero optimised tube profiles and integrated brakes. Mat rated it as the best out and out race bike he'd ridden this year, and though it's expensive one bonus for the rest of us is that Trek have a habit of cascading their new technology down their ranges very quickly. Indeed, the 6 Series is an example of that: it's not even the top of Trek's range, but it shares much of its technological innovation with the even spanglier 7 Series. That's our kind of superbike - a worthy winner.
That's the first course of luxury exotica finished: off now to the main feast of two wheeled deliciousness that is our Top 10 bikes of 2012…
10 Dawes Super Galaxy £1,499
It’s still a classic – a steel tourer that just keeps on performing. The frame is Reynolds 631 steel, a popular material for long distance bikes, being just a bit stronger than 520 and providing a comfortable.
The high front end makes for a stately riding position, but a very comfy one, suitable for enjoying the scenery as you trundle around. The Super Galaxy isn't exactly built for speed but it’s not as slow as some either. The handling is as steady as you'd expect from a touring bike but it's still enjoyable to ride while the shallow drop bars make it easy to cruise on the drops without putting your back in jeopardy. The drivetrain is a mix of road and mountain bike with Tiagra shifters and mechs controlling a 48/38/26 Deore chainset. Overall, it’s a sturdy beast, but by no means dull and it should last a lifetime.
9 Kinesis Racelite TK3 £1,169
The Kinesis Racelite TK3 is a proper race bike for all conditions that's just as at home on the commute, the chaingang or charging round the lanes.
The frame uses Kinesium tubing, an enhanced 6000 series alloy developed by Kinesis's engineers and built into a frame 25% stronger than a 6061 alloy frame with comparative weight.
With a largely Shimano Tiagra groupset, the Kinesis is more than just a winter trainer: it's a race bike that just happens to take proper mudguards. The handling is quick and gives huge amounts of feedback allowing you to really push on at a fair lick even on wet roads. You know where you are with it, how much you can lean, what grip you've got. All this information comes back through the bars and saddle allowing you to make micro changes to maintain speed and fluidity in a group. It’s a practical, comfortable winter bike with the spirit and stiffness of a racer.
8 Bianchi Oltre XR £5,800
Bianchi released the new version of the Oltre earlier in the year, which they reckon is 20% stiffer than the previous incarnation and 30g lighter. The frame weight is just 895g (+/- 5%), the fork is 355g, and our complete bike, built up with Shimano Ultegra Di2 components, weighed just 7.17kg (16.9lb).
The handling is sharp as a nail thanks to a super-sturdy front end and it climbs beautifully, shooting up the slopes when you jack up the power. Ultra-thin seat stays add enough comfort to keep you feeling fresh enough to sprint hard at the end of a long day in the saddle. It comes in a range of build options to suit your preferences.
There's no doubting that this is an expensive bike, but looked at in another way it is a relatively small amount of money compared to what it would cost ot own the equivalent pro level motor bike or performance car, so if you've got the cash it's definitely one to consider.
7 Specialized Ruby Elite £2,000
With comfort, style and a fair bit of speed, the Ruby Elite is an excellent bike. The Ruby bikes (the female equivalent of the men's Roubaix) are designed as Specialized's sportive machines, tuned for long distance comfort and performance.
You get a Specialized FACT 8r carbon frame with Zertz inserts to provide extra comfort, and a fork that’s full carbon – other than the Zertz inserts that you get there too. Most of the groupset is Shimano 105.
Out on the road, the Ruby Elite just eats up the miles without you even realising. Handling is excellent, with no problems cornering, and it manages to stay stable even at lowish speeds so isn't too stressful in traffic or at junctions. It climbs nimbly and comes into its own descending, with a stable and solid feeling that boosts the confidence of even the most nervous descender.
6 Giant TCR Advanced 3 £1,999
The Giant TCR Advanced 3 is a fast, precise road bike that offers a smooth ride. It is one of the stiffest and most efficient bikes we've ridden in its price band. It's solid when you put in the power and its tracking is superb however fast you ping it through the corners. Some riders would doubtless prefer a bit more give in the frame for a softer ride but it's still a pretty comfortable setup. Above all, this is a race-orientated machine with a competitive nature in its blood.
The Advanced 3’s frame is made from Toray 700 carbon fibre and features an oversized head tube, a press fit bottom bracket and internal cable routing, The Shimano 105 groupset offers exceptional value for money. A great bike!
5 Surly Disc Trucker £1,199
Into the top 5 and we’re back with steel. You might think that this is a slightly unusual choice but our man Rob loved the Surly. This is a super-practical bike and a lot of fun to ride – a well thought out tourer with bags of character.
Made from humble 4130 steel, it’s tough, rides well, and can be repaired by pretty much anyone with a welder. Build quality is excellent with nice tidy welds and the paint job is also very good. It has all the braze-ons you'll ever need: three sets of bottle mounts, low-rider mounts on the fork and sensibly placed rear mounts that don't foul the Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes.
The Trucker has a solid, well chosen spec with bar end shifters and a triple chainset from Andel. It’s one of those understated 'do-anything' bikes that’s happy hauling rider and luggage on anything from a commute to a round-the-world tour – and that versatility adds to the value.
4 Cannondale CAAD8 Tiagra £949
Cannondale’s CAAD8 Tiagra is a compelling package and great value to boot. When Iwein tested it back in January, he liked it so much that we had to prise his hands off the handlebars to send it back.
The frame is a really high quality piece of work featuring Cannondale’s SAVE (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) seatstays to provide bump and buzz absoption at the back, and it comes in a geometry that’s just slightly more relaxed than you’ll find on a full-on race bike. This really is a very comfortable bike for racking up the miles.
The bike feels light and nimble while the steering is precise and descending is stable thanks to the carbon-bladed Cannondale Ultra fork.
3 Jamis Quest £1,249
If you're looking to do long rides and you want something versatile and fairly quick but with plenty of comfort, then look no further.
The Quest is a cracking bike that’s built around a Reynolds 631 steel frameset – yes, steel again, for the third time in our top 10 – with a high front end. There’s space for long-drop calliper brakes and mudguards. There are rack mounts too if you want to commute on the Quest or do a bit of light touring. The Shimano 105-level equipment provides the usual solid performance.
The frame is stiff enough to deliver power efficiently when you're jumping on the pedals, but there's enough compliance in the bike that the rear wheel doesn't skip over rough surfaces. Our man Big Dave reckons it has just about the perfect balance of weight, comfort and speed for longer distance riding, and it’s well worth the money.
2 Trek Madone 6 Series – custom build £6,725
Most people will never spend anything like this much on a bike, we know that, but if you’re after the ultimate race weapon and you’ve got the cash, the new 6 Series Madone demands your attention.
Trek have completely redesigned the Madone with KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) aero tubing, a front brake integrated into the fork and a rear brake hidden behind the bottom bracket in a TT style. That allows them to do without a brake bridge between the seatstays.
The ride is sublime. Weighing in at just 6.78kg (14.9lb), our review bike flew. It’s stiff enough to handle all the power you can throw at it yet also incredibly comfortable. In terms of performance, you won’t be disappointed.
Yes, the new Madone is really expensive, but Trek are good at trickling their technology down the ranges very quickly. This bike delivers such a great ride that we were soooo tempted to make it our Bike of the Year despite the price, it really is that impressive.
road.cc bike of the year 2012
1 Canyon Ultimate AL 9.0 Di2 £1,939
Just edging out the Trek, though, is the Canyon Ultimate AL 9/0 Di2. We argued long and hard about this and in the end decided that the Canyon’s amazing value gave it the edge.
Controversial. This is an aluminium bike. Surely aluminium has had its day? Well, no. Some people would have you believe that carbon = good, aluminium = bad. They’re wrong. There are plenty of great aluminium bikes out there, as there are great titanium and steel bikes too. This one is fast and lively with electronic shifting and loads more besides. It’s a helluva bike for the cash.
This is one of the cheapest bikes out there with electronic shifting – it comes with Shimano Ultegra Di2 – but it’s far from a one trick pony. The aluminium frame comes with an oversized head tube, a press-fit bottom bracket and it’s stiff enough to launch forward when you hit the pedals hard. Weighing in at a highly reasonable 7.86kg (17.29lb), it climbs well and it’s an equally confident descender.
Canyon have been careful to engineer in plenty of comfort via pencil-thin seat stays and a slim seatpost that contains basalt fibres to dampen road buzz. All-in-all, it’s excellent value.
Canyon’s Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 came out as our Bike of the Year in 2011, so it’s two in a row for the German brand.