If you want your new road bike to offer great value for money and come with disc brakes, an aluminium disc-equipped road bike could be the right choice for you.
There’s a wide range of aluminium road bikes that typically offer really good value for money because less money is tied up with the frame there’s more budget for better components. And many of the latest aluminium frames offer really good performance.
The best aluminium frames give little away to carbon fibre in terms of weight and performance but cost a lot less
Disc brakes — especially hydraulic disc brakes — increase the price of a bike, so going for an aluminium frame is a sensible compromise if you want better brakes
Many of these bikes will take fatter tyres than rim-braked bikes, and still have room for mudguards; disc-braked bikes are versatile
Choose a bike with hydraulic discs if possible, they really do work better than cable-actuated brakes
Disc brakes are increasingly popular and we’re seeing more bike manufacturers releasing disc-equipped aluminium bikes, so thought it would be useful to round up some of the most interesting choices.
Cannondale is a brand famous for its dedication to aluminium, with its CAAD series stretching back a couple of decades and being raced in the pro peloton. The CAAD 13 Disc is the latest version, lighter than the CAAD 10 and smoother than the CAAD 12 (don’t ask about the CAAD 11, it never happened). There are three disc versions in the CAAD 13 range, plus a woman's version of the 105-equipped bike, which at £2,249 is the base model. There's an Ultegra-equipped version and at the top a bike with SRAM's Force eTap AXS 12-speed wireless electronic shifting for £4,799.00.
The Shimano 105-equipped bike is the CAAD13 sweet spot: you get the superb CAAD13 frame, with Shimano's most popular, versatile and reliable groupset and you still have the £750 premium for the Ultegra-equipped version in your bank balance.
Road.cc technical editor Mat Brett said of the CAAD13 105: "One ride on the CAAD13 is enough to demonstrate that aluminium bikes aren't always harsh. This bike offers a superbly smooth ride.
"You're not totally isolated from what's going on beneath your tyres, of course – let's not get silly about this – but the ride quality is high and not much annoying (and ultimately energy-sapping) vibration is transferred up to you in the saddle. Even when you're spinning through the most neglected, gravel-strewn back lanes, the whole feeling is very composed.
"The danger with chasing extra comfort and aero efficiency and altering the tubes so significantly is that Cannondale could have sacrificed features for which its CAAD bikes have always been famous: frame stiffness and snappy handling. Thankfully, that hasn't happened.
"I used to own a CAAD3 about 20 years ago – what's that? I don't look old enough? Yoooou! – and it was a burly beast. A lot has changed since then but the CAAD13 feels equally tight and strong. This isn't a bike that flinches when you muscle it about. Whether you're sprinting for signs, smashing up power climbs or slicing through tight corners, it has the beef required to stand up for itself."
AR stands for 'all roads' and is Liv's shorthand for a do-almost-anything endurance bike that'll take dirt roads and potholed city streets equally in its stride.
Comfort is taken care of with Liv's Approach women's saddle, shock-absorbing D-Fuse composite seatpost and 32mm tyres; there's room in the frame for 40mm rubber if you're venturing off-road.
There aren't as many women-specific road bikes around as a few years ago and Giant deserves kudos for sticking to its guns with the Liv brand where big hitters like Specialized and Trek seem to have dropped women's road bikes from their ranges.
For first time bike buyers after an optimum blend of build and price, or experienced riders after a great value winter bike or commuter, at £850 direct from French sports megastore Decathlon, it's hard to look past the Triban 520. What surprises most about the Triban 520 is just how accessible the ride is; how easy it is to pedal the bike at moderate speeds and feel like you're just cruising along.
This is a consistent characteristic for everything from a 5km commute to a 40km spin around the country – in each situation, it's a supremely easy bike to get on with. In fact, it's almost lazy. If you want sharp and direct responses above all else, this aluminium-framed bike most certainly isn't the one for you, but the easygoing manner lends itself to almost any other kind of road rider this side of a gravel specialist.
It gets our nod for value for money because of its Shimano 105 gears and TRP HY/RDdisc brakes with hydraulic final stage, features that are otherwise unheard-of at this price.
Launched in 2015 the Mason Definition is aimed at the cyclist wanting a four-season road bike with stable and surefooted handling with lots of practicality and versatility, with space for wider tyres and eyelets for mudguards and racks. The updated Definition 2 brings a few changes such and as a new fork and thru-axles front and rear. It’s one of the more expensive aluminium bikes here proving that aluminium isn’t a byword for cheap, especially when you bolt on a suite of SRAM's amazing Red AXS wireless electronic components.
Road.cc editor Jack Sexty tested the Ultegra-equipped version of the Definition 2 and wrote: "The acceleration and power transfer you can generate through the Definition2 is almost other-worldly, and although I knew of the bike's lofty recommendations it still took me by surprise. It's easily comparable or even better than a lot of the carbon frames I've ridden in terms of power transfer; you really feel that none of your effort is wasted and everything just works in unison.
"I made sure to test out the stiffness of the frame and comfort offered from the front end through the many potholes that my local council are kind enough to not bother covering up, and the Definition2 passed with aplomb. No buzz or vibrations that I dread with cheaper aluminium frames, it glides over with ease. The wider tyres and plush Deda RHM 02 handlebar with the comfy new Ultegra brake hoods would have undoubtedly contributed to this, but as a whole package you get a seriously smooth ride.
"Descending and cornering were equally as impressive, and the Definition has a great ability to hold its line."
Dom Mason's bikes represent the state of the art in aluminium, and the Definition 2 is a bike any of us would love to live with, if we only had the spare cash.
Spcialized brings its Allez Sprint to the disc-equipped aluminium road bike party. The frame uses a very trick hydroforming and welding construction process that leads to lower weight and improved stiffness, and it’s also aerodynamic with a teardrop shaped seat tube and down tube. There’s just one model available, the Comp, and it costs £2,200 with a Shimano 105 groupset.
Everything about the Allez Sprint Disc screams "faster!" from the shaped tubes and deep rear wheel cut-away to the dropped seatstays and airfoil seat post. Specialized says it's "the stiffest alloy bike we've ever tested, let alone made"
tester Stu writes: "With the Endurance AL Disc, Ribble has created a bike for the masses. 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. It's a lot of bike for the money.
"The Endurance AL embodies all of the good bits of the old Ribble Audax, a dependable aluminium mile-eater, but in a much more refined and up-to-date package.
"For starters, the alloy frame is much more comfortable. It's not the smoothest ride out there, but at this price, I'm certainly not complaining.
"With the tyres pumped up hard (the way I like them) I can feel what's going on with the road below, but the frame and fork dampen much of the harsh vibration. The contact points don't tire you out on long rides. And that's ideal because long rides are something the Endurance AL does very well."
You can commute on just about any bike, of course, but we love the Bergamont Grandurance RD 7 for its almost-unique set of features: a well-mannered frame with excellent handling across a wide range of situations; room for pothole-proof fat tyres; and a rack, mudguards and dynamo lighting as standard.
When she tested the Grandurance 6, off.road.cc editor Rachael concluded that it was "an ideal bike if you are going to be commuting, exploring the back lanes and occasionally bikepacking… as an all-rounder, it’s hard to fault". With its practical suite of standard equipment the Grandurance RD 7 tips away from all-rounder and towards commuting and touring, and that's not a bad thing at all.
The rest of the spec is top-notch too. Shimano's 105 components are light but reliable, and include the excellent 105 hydraulic disk brakes. The Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres are a do-anything favourite.
If the best part of two grand is a bit of a hefty price tag, there are cheaper versions. The Grandurance RD 3 with Shimano Claris components is just £989, while a step up to Shimano Tiagra components takes you to the £1,399 Grandurance RD 5. Both cheaper bikes still have rack, mudguards and lights as standard.
With the least expensive of Decathlon's Triban RC disc-equipped bikes you still get the easy-handling, comfortable aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork that makes its more expensive stablemates a compelling proposition, but Decathlon has kept the price down with cheaper components including Microshift gears and Promax brakes. These are still decent performers though: not as light as the Shimano equivalents on more expensive bikes, but the gears still have a wide range with a 1:1 low ratio, and the brakes will still bring you to a confident stop.
Overall, this is an excellent package for the money.
In a relatively small pool of female-focused gravel bikes, the Liv Devote 1 delivers a fun and sporty but confidence-inspiring ride, on tarmac or trail.
Straight away, I noticed how stable and planted it feels, both on the road and off, with the geometry and lower bottom bracket position placing me firmly within the cockpit for maximum control and confidence. To start with I felt the riding position was quite aggressive, but that was soon solved by adjusting the spacers to give a different bar position.
Climbing is an absolute pleasure, and even on a fairly tricky off-road climb it gave no twitchiness in terms of handling or issues with front wheel lift at all. It actually climbs better than my hardtail mountain bike!
The Condor Italia RC Disc is nimble, twitchy and exciting to ride fast. Aimed at racers, the frame is stiff and very well balanced, providing direct handling that makes the bike great in tight corners. The Campagnolo Chorus groupset on our test bike impressed with its braking and snappy shifting, but if you'd prefer something else, don't worry – you can choose whichever components you want.
A few miles of riding leaves no doubt that this is an out-and-out race bike. The frame and fork are stiff, a rather tight wheelbase keeps things fun, while the 8.2kg overall weight is very respectable for an aluminium disc brake bike.
The Italia RC Disc doesn't disappoint when the road goes upwards, responding quickly when you stamp on the pedals with no hint of flex at either the bottom bracket or the front end. It's a nice reminder that aluminium is far from inferior when it comes to frame construction.
For 2021 Merida offers two disc-braked bikes on its excellent aluminium Scultura platform; 'Disc' has been dropped from the name with rim-braked bikes now designated 'Rim' to differentiate them. When he reviewed the 2019 version of the entry-level Scultura Disc 200, our Stu Kerton said " It's yet another example of just how good alloy frames are right now, offering a very comfortable ride and plenty of stiffness to boot."
Not to be outdone, Trek has been investing heavily in aluminium and its Emonda ALR with its claimed 1,050g frame is one of the lightest options. The welds are as smooth as anything and there is internal cable routing and many features carried over from the carbon fibre Emonda, such as the tapered head tube and oversized bottom bracket. At £2,450 the ALR 6 Disc is the most expensive model in the range with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and hydraulic disc brakes, while at £1,600 the ALR 4 Disc features a Tiagra groupset.
German direct-sales brand Canyon is probably best known for offering carbon bikes at a fraction of the price of other mainstream brands but it also understands the value of a really good aluminium road bike. Using its endurance platform the Endurace AL Disc provides a more upright riding position for knocking out big miles in comfort, with a carbon fork and seatpost. There’s a 105 option at £1,749 or you can pick the Endurace AL Disc 6.0 with Shimano Tiagra. Both bikes share the same 1,350g frame with internal cable routing and 12mm thru-axles.
Cube’s Attain model is an endurance and comfort-focused road bike and several models bring disc brakes to the party. The Pro costs £849 with a Shimano Sora groupset or there’s the posher spec of the Attain SL Disc for £1,299 which upgrades the braking and shifting to Shimano 105 along with better wheels and tyres. It’s a smart frame, with slim dropped rear stays to boost comfort, a tapered head tube for precise steering and full internal cable routing giving a very clean appearance.
Kinesis is a brand synonymous with affordable aluminium frames and a couple of years ago it took the weight battle to the carbon competition, with the Aithein frame weighing a little over 1kg. Naturally, a disc brake version soon followed. When Mat reviewed it he said: “stiff and spirited aluminium road frameset that will appeal to people who like to take the battle to the roads, hammering the climbs and hitting the descents equally hard.” Sounds like he enjoyed it then!
The best thing is that the frameset retails for just £800.
Young Brit bike brand Bowman Cycles launched a couple of years ago with a couple of models, but it’s the Weald we’re focused on here. With an aluminium frame, carbon fork, clearance for wide tyres and disc brakes, it’s a really good choice for UK riding. The frame is made from a new 6069 aluminium tubeset with a threaded bottom bracket, internal cable routing and 12mm thru-axles with flat mount brakes. It’ll take up to a 32mm tyre, up from the 30mm of its well-regarded predecessor, the Pilgims. Best thing is it costs just £845 so you can build a complete bike for a pretty reasonable price.
The Contend is basically the aluminium version of Giant’s Defy, the endurance bike that is aimed at cyclists who value comfort as well as performance and speed. The Contend SL features an advanced aluminium frame made from what the company calls Aluxx aluminium combined with features borrowed from the carbon Defy, such as the D-Fuse seatpost, geometry and disc brakes. It’s available in two versions, one with Shimano Tiagra for £1,449, or a Shimano 105-equipped model for £1,649, with the respective groupset's hydraulic disc brakes in each case.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.