Updated April 27, 2021
The bike shops are stocked with new road bikes for 2021 and here are 12 of the most eye-catching, priced from £800 right up to over ten grand.
These bikes are designed for riding fast on the road, and they’re all new, updated, or particularly interesting in some way.
Brands release their new model year bikes any time from the middle of the preceding year – so the first 2021 bikes began appearing in mid-2020, with many more arriving in the UK from autumn onwards.
Disruption to the supply chain caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has meant some models have been delayed, while a surge in demand has also contributed to the shortage of bikes, particularly at lower price points. With that in mind, we’d suggest you get your order in as soon as possible to make sure you aren’t disappointed.
Boardman has equipped its SLR 8.8 with disc brakes in place of rim brakes for 2021, with only a modest increase over last year’s £750 price tag. Many other brands have seen increases of 20% or more.
Boardman also sticks with a triple-butted, hidden weld 6061 aluminium frame and C7 carbon fork with tapered steerer. You get space for 28mm tyres and mounting points for mudguards and a pannier rack, adding to the bike’s versatility.
The groupset has been upgraded to 10-speed Shimano Tiagra 10-speed with a 50/34-tooth FSA Vero compact chainset and an 11-32-tooth cassette.
Although the MD-C511 disc brakes are cable-operated rather than hydraulic, Boardman has specced 160mm rotors front and rear to give as much power as possible.
The wheels are Boardman’s SLR tubeless-ready hoops and are shod with 28mm Vittoria Rubino tyres.
The £1,100 Boardman SLR 8.9, which we’ve reviewed, is a similar bike but with a carbon fibre frame, Shimano 105 groupset and rim brakes.
If the past few months are anything to go by, bikes at this price are going to be super-popular in 2021 so our advice would be to get in early or you could end up missing out.
The Ribble Endurance AL Disc is a lot of bike for the money. It’s ideal for winter training, commuting, club runs, short blasts or long rides – it's even quick enough for entry-level racing. The balanced, neutral handling works for the beginner without feeling overly relaxed for the seasoned roadie.
The frame is made from double-butted 6061-T6 aluminium tubing and comes with a threaded bottom bracket, and mounts for mudguards. The fork is full-carbon and, like the frame, offers enough space for tyres up to 32mm wide.
The Endurance AL Disc isn’t the smoothest bike out there, but it’s comfortable enough. The geometry is more relaxed than the majority of race machines, with a slightly shorter top tube and taller head tube giving you a slightly more upright position.
The Endurance AL Disc feels nicely balanced. The steering is quick enough to be fun in the twisty bits without stepping over the line and becoming a handful.
Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra groupset and Tektro MD510 mechanical disc brakes come as standard on the £999 build but you can upgrade to Shimano 105, complete with hydraulic disc brakes, for an extra £300.
Trek announced a range of new Domane AL Disc aluminium endurance bikes for 2021 with claims of all-road suitability thanks to 35mm tyre clearance – do-it-all mile munchers with prices starting at £800.
The Domane ALs are made to an endurance geometry from Trek's 200 Series Alpha Aluminium, and come with mounts for mudguards, front and rear racks, three bottle cages, and a top tube-mounted bento box. The Domane AL is also equipped with a Blendr stem for attaching lights, a bike computer, and more.
The geometry is exactly the same as that of higher end carbon Domane models, giving you a ride position that's quite a lot more upright and relaxed than that of most road bikes.
There are four models in the range, the £800 Domane AL 2 Disc and the £900 Domane AL 3 Disc both coming with mechanical disc brakes. Step up to the Domane AL 4 Disc (£1,350) and you get a Shimano Tiagra groupset complete with hydraulic disc brakes, while £1,600 gives you a Domane AL 5 Disc and an upgrade to Shimano 105.
Rim brakes aren’t dead! Canyon still offers rim brake versions of its Ultimate lightweight road bike at prices right up to £7,349, although demand is such that you might have to wait a while for delivery of some of them.
The Ultimate CF SL 7 is the most affordable model in the range, built around a carbon-fibre frame that’s made to an aggressive, race-focused geometry, with Canyon’s F35 carbon fork.
The groupset is full Shimano 105 11-speed with a 52/36-tooth chainset matched up to an 11-30-tooth cassette. You get Fulcrum Racing 900 wheels and good Continental Grand Prix SL tyres.
There’s very little to argue with here; it’s an extremely good spec for the money.
The Ultimate is about due a redesign so we wouldn't be surprised to see a new version revealed some time in 2021.
The latest SuperSix Evo, introduced for the 2020 model year, is the first to focus on aerodynamics, Cannondale incorporating truncated aerofoil tube profiles and dropping the seatstays. Higher level models also come with an aero handlebar and stem system. Cannondale reckons that the changes add up to significant improvement in efficiency.
Cannondale also tweaked the geometry, making the head tube taller for a slightly more relaxed ride position than you’ll find on many road bikes.
The latest SuperSix Evos are still amazingly stiff – stomp on the pedals and everything feels taut going on solid – and handling is sharp and precise.
You get a high level of comfort for a bike of this kind. Cannondale says that the new SAVE (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) stays, plus a new internal seat clamp and HollowGram 27 KNOT seatpost, improve compliance by 18% over the old SuperSix.
If you want still more comfort, the clearance for 30mm tyres with 6mm of space around them, although stock tyres are 27mm. All of this adds up to a bike that feels impressively smooth over rough roads with good bump absorption both front and rear.
Boardman's imminent SLR 9.4 is, as far as we know, the cheapest bike you can buy (or at least, pre-order) with electronic shifting. And it's not just any electronic shifting, it's the latest version of SRAM's wireless electronic gear system which now comes in a Rival incarnation.
Boardman says “The new 9.4 Disc is built around the same C10 carbon frameset as the current 9.2 Disc and 9.6 Disc, designed to offer the best combination of aerodynamic efficiency, weight and ride quality.”
Boardman has gone for the combination of 46/33 chainset and 10-30 cassette to give a sporty range of gears from the many options available from SRAM.
Vitus has redesign its Vitesse Evo race bike, the 2021 version being lighter and much stiffer than previously, according to the brand. Vitus has also dropped the seatstays for additional comfort, and altered the geometry to give a more aggressive ride position.
The Vitesse Evo has a focus on weight with the medium-sized frame coming in at a claimed 840g. Vitus says that stiffness has also been increased in all areas: head tube, bottom bracket, rear triangle and fork.
The Vitesse Evo is a disc brake-only platform and there are five models in the range for 2021, starting at £1,999.99 for the Shimano 105 build.
The £2,999.99 Vitesse Evo CRS pictured above comes with a Shimano Ultegra groupset, including hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless Reynolds AR 29 DB carbon wheels. The complete bike has a claimed weight of 7.65kg.
The 7000-E tops the new Scultura Endurance range from Merida, and is a more relaxed, less aggressive version of the Scultura race bike. It still offers plenty of performance and comfort, but it's more suited to those big rides – and, thanks to large tyre clearances and mudguard mounts, you can use it whatever the weather too.
The geometry puts you into a performance-focused riding position, but it's not quite as extreme as that of a race bike. The Endurance still feels fast bike, and even with that slightly taller front end you can get tucked down for speed.
The Scultura Endurance excels in its comfort. The carbon layup in the frame and fork, coupled with the geometry, gives a plush ride, and 32mm Continental tyres add to that feel. It’ll take full mudguards with these tyres fitted, and if you aren't worried about getting wet you can go up to 35mm slicks.
Not only would the Scultura Endurance make a comfortable audax machine, it could be a versatile winter trainer or year-round commuter.
The 'E' in 7000-E's name denotes an electronic groupset, in this case Shimano's Ultegra Di2. If you don’t have £3,500 to spend there are three other models in the range. The cheapest of them – the Scultura Endurance 4000 – is fitted with a Shimano 105 groupset and costs £2,000.
Giant says that its new 2021 TCR bikes are lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamically efficient than ever before. The main idea is that they climb as well as ever while being faster to descend and sprint.
Giant is one of many leading brands that have added aero features to their lightweight road bikes recently. Although the Propel remains the full-on aero road bike in the range, the TCRs now have tubing shaped to reduce drag. The super-wide down tube is designed to work aerodynamically with a water bottle in place while the fork and seatstays are now more open than previously, the idea being to allow greater airflow efficiency plus increased tyre clearance (you can now run 32mm tyres from most brands on the disc brake TCRs).
The TCRs come in three different levels, the Advanced Pro being the middle one. The TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc is built up with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and Giant’s excellent SLR-1 42 Carbon Disc wheels. It puts in an exceptional performance and is well worth the money.
Bianchi has updated its lightweight Specialissima CV road bike for 2021, adding disc brakes for the first time.
The claimed frame weight of 750g is the same as that of the previous rim brake Specialissima and the full-carbon fork is 370g. Both the frame and fork accept tyres up to 28mm wide.
Bianchi says that the Specialissima CV Disc features improvements to aerodynamic efficiency that have been carried over from its Oltre aero road bikes, including internal cable routing, an integrated seat clamp, and tubing that’s shaped to reduce drag.
The bikes use FSA’s ACR (Aerodynamic Cable Routing) system with all the cables and hoses routed internally through the handlebar and stem.
The Bianchi Specialissima CV Disc is available in several different builds, this Shimano Ultegra-equipped version being the most affordable. The range tops out with a Campagnolo Super Record EPS model that’s priced £12,000.
Specialized has released a new disc brake road bike range called Aethos for 2021 which it says is the most technologically advanced model it has ever made. The Aethos frame is UCI-approved but it isn’t designed for racing, complete bikes being under the 6.8kg minimum weight limit – in some cases well below it. Adding deeper section wheels to some versions would bring them up to the permitted weight.
Specialized says that it used supercomputer simulations “to subtly alter round tube shapes, [making] them more conical in key areas to deliver huge gains in stiffness and balance with the minimum amount of material”.
One thing Specialized hasn’t focused on here is aerodynamics – the bike is all about the ride quality and weight.
The Aethos frame is compatible only with electronic drivetrains and hydraulic disc brakes, and it’ll take tyres up to 32mm-wide on 21mm rims.
We reviewed the Specialized Aethos Pro Ultegra Di2 and loved it.
“The ride is truly stunning, with incredible acceleration and handling that's just spot on,” we said. “Make no mistake, this is the gold standard for general road bikes. What a bike! If you have the cash and don't care about aero, buy it.”
All together now: "You can get a car for that!"
You can, but why would you want to when you can get one of slickest and shiniest Italian bikes around with performance that equals its looks?
Mat Brett spent the latter part of the winter hitting the roads on the Filante SLR and reports: "The Filante's acceleration is really impressive. From a standing start, getting up to speed after a tight turn, or simply when you're trying to put some daylight between you and the rest of the bunch, you're rewarded with easy speed when you flick the pedals. Let's not over-egg it, but this bike feels taut and keen when you hit the power, rather than sloppy and reluctant. If someone tries to get the jump on you, they'd better have planned it well because the Filante is up for getting on their wheel in an instant."
And as for those looks, over to OnYerBike in the comments section: "I saw one of these 'in the wild' a few weeks ago and it looked gorgeous - I don't think any of the bikes from Specialized, Giant etc. come even close on the looks department. I can't afford one and certainly couldn't make the best use of one if I could, but I really want one!"
And so say we all.
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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.