Two grand is clearly a lot of money to spend on a bike but it can get you a very good, well-equipped machine. At this price there’s a vast choice of brands offering very high-quality road bikes, whether it’s for racing or sportive riding.
Carbon fibre dominates frame materials at this level, and you’re looking at advanced high-quality carbon frames that benefit from technological trickle-down effect from the very top end. You'll also encounter titanium frames that bring that unique aesthetic and ride quality that only titanium can offer.
And don’t discount steel. While similarly uncommon, the latest Reynolds and Columbus tubesets build into splendid frames, especially if outright stiffness isn’t top of your list of priorities, and you value the traditional look of a skinny tubed steel bike.
Aluminium frames are now rare in this price bracket, but there are some very good ones out there, and choosing the cheaper frame material can pay dividends elsewhere in the spec. You may be able to go up a level in groupset quality or add a power meter without busting the budget.
While the frame still makes up a large chunk of the price, you can expect groupsets of the Shimano Ultegra level and even some smattering of Dura-Ace. SRAM’s Force and Campagnolo Athena and Chorus are alternative choices. Electronic shifting? It's possible.
As for finishing kit, you can expect branded components from well established brands that specialise in handlebars, stems, seatposts and saddles. Carbon starts to replace aluminium for items like handlebars and seatposts, but don’t automatically assume carbon is better — some aluminium components can actually be lighter than carbon.
The Giant Propel Advanced Disc is an efficient, firm-feeling road bike with aerodynamics designed specifically with disc brakes in mind. It's not the lightest bike available for this kind of money but it's fast whether you're soloing off the front or sprinting for the line.
The Propel Advanced Disc might not lurch forward like some lightweights do when you accelerate out of a slow turn, but that's not what aero road bikes are all about. It's designed with efficiency in mind, both in terms of aerodynamics and stiffness. The aero side of things is difficult to discern but this bike certainly feels stiff when you stamp on the pedals, with very little flex to speak of even when you're standing up and giving it everything you have.
You'd have to say that the Propel Advanced Disc provides quite a firm ride, and that might or might not be to your taste. By that I don't mean that it's uncomfortable – it's not that – but it is, yeah, firm. This isn't a gran fondo or endurance bike, it's a race bike (even if you don't race it) and that comes through in the feel.
That said, we got on fine with Giant's Contact Forward saddle with a composite base that flexes enough to take the edge off things, and Giant's own 25mm Gavia Race 1 tyres are set up tubeless so you can run them at lower pressures than you otherwise would without the danger of pinch flatting if you hit a pothole.
The Orro Terra C 105 Hydro is a stable carbon bike that's quick on the road, with the strength and confident handling required for heading on to gravel and other hard-packed trails with the appropriate tyres. Mudguard and rack mounts make this a versatile option that can cope with everything from commuting to adventure biking.
The Terra C 105 Hydro that we have here is the same price as the Adventure model (£2,099.99) and it, too, is built up with a Shimano 105 groupset and Fulcrum R700 DB wheels. This time, though, you get a compact chainset (with 50-tooth and 34-tooth chainrings) and an 11-28t cassette (rather than 11-32), a Deda Zero 1 handlebar with a round drop, and smooth Continental Grand Sport Race tyres in a 32mm width.
One of the most noticeable characteristics of the Orro Terra C 5800 Hydro is its stability, and that's apparent whether you're tackling uneven roads or negotiating busy traffic. I've been riding it a lot in both environments – for blasts out in the sticks and for commuting to the office – and it has a settled, confident feel with enough agility to handle more technical situations.
The Whyte Wessex One is a fast and comfortable endurance bike with lots of practical details. The easy and simple 1x11 gear shifting has all the range needed for tackling hills and flat roads. It's a really good all-season bike at a very good price.
The original Wessex brought together a lot of trends then emerging in the road bike market – wide tubeless tyres on wide rims, disc brakes, endurance geometry, optional mudguards – and combined them into a very cohesive package. And now there is another new trend to add to that list: 1x11.
The combination of a 44-tooth chainring and 10-42 cassette gives a wide gear range that's plenty for flat roads and hills alike (28.3 to 118.8 gear inches, which is a shade lower than a 34/32 low on a compact system, and a shade higher than a 50/12). The gearing's a tiny bit gappier than a double, but you gain ease-of-use.
As with the original Wessex, the ride is both fast and stable, thanks to the stiff carbon fibre frame and fork and the geometry, which is longer and slacker than a race bike. It provides fast and flighty performance when you spin the cranks up, yet there's adequate comfort from the 30mm tyres to ensure you're not going to be battered and left all achy after a couple of hours tackling ruinously potholed and cracked UK roads.
Canyon's Endurace WMN CF SL Disc 8.0 is a really tempting option if you want to travel fair distances in comfort at a decent speed. It's a tiny bit heavier overall – 490g – than the same size and similarly specced non-disc unisex version, losing a very slight degree of that excellent bike's 'twitchiness', but that could be seen as a bonus as much as a drawback, depending on how you like your ride.
Tester Tass felt immediately at home on the CF SL Disc. Not in a boring way, but an easy-to-live-with, ride-all-day, into the sunset, forever, kind of way. A ride with no surprises – with that being very definitely a good thing.
Compared with the non-disc model, the handling feels more solid and planted, more 'endu' than 'race'. Don't get us wrong, it's still a fast bike with loads of zip, and still light enough to move around when you need it to, it just feels slightly less 'flickable', less twitchy.
The Mason Definition2 is simply a superb machine, crafted with attention-to-detail to give a ride sensation that almost defies logic. It's lively yet relaxed, delicate yet you'd take it anywhere, and is just really fun to ride. Tester Jack was sure he'd never get bored of it, and found it put any other alloy bike he'd ridden firmly in the shade.
The Definition2 has seen some subtle alterations that bring it up to date with the latest and most popular disc brake standards, namely the flat-mount and thru-axle formation. This meant a change to the rear dropouts, which Mason worked hard to design itself with its Italian frame makers – rather than stick on a part from a third-party that might not work with the chainstay design.
The Definition2 is a real triumph and represents the pinnacle of what can be done to date with an aluminium frame. A massively responsive ride, the latest disc brake standards accommodated successfully, and plenty of tyre clearance with no discernible disadvantage other than some weight penalty and, of course, a price premium. But you are really getting the best of everything with the Definition2, so the outlay goes much further.
One of the smoothest endurance bikes out there, the latest incarnation of Trek's Domane platform has the company's IsoSpeed bump-absorbing feature front and rear. When he reviewed the SL 6's lighter sibling, Dave Arthur called it "incredibly smooth".
A common complaint with the original Domane centred around the front end feeling much stiffer than the compliant rear end.
To solve this, Trek integrated an IsoSpeed decoupler into the head tube, allowing a specially shaped carbon fibre steerer tube to bend slightly between the two headset bearings. We're only talking a very small amount of deflection, with rider weight and stem length being a factor in the bending range. The SL6 also has Bontrager's Race Lite IsoZone VR-CF handlebar with foam pads on the tops to deal with road buzz.
For 2018 Focus's Ultegra-equipped endurance rig gets the new Ultegra R8000 groupset as you'd probably expect, and is £300 cheaper than last year, which you might not. The Paralane offers a fast and comfortable ride with a healthy dose of practicality and versatility.
At £2,699 it's a good value proposition against other contenders for the endurance bike throne such as the Canyon Endurace, Cervelo C5, Trek Domane and Specialized Roubaix. You're spoilt for choice, but after riding the 2017 model, we have to say that the latest Paralane should definitely be on your shortlist.
South Coast-based Reilly Cycleworks has produced the Gradient as a do-everything adventure and gravel bike, with a lovingly finished titanium frame and smart specification. It provides a ride that is as lovely as the bike is to look at, with space for wide tyres for heading off into the wilderness or adding dirt and gravel roads to your route, and a high level of refinement.
Fairlight Cycles' new Strael is an absolutely stunning machine to ride, offering four-season adaptability and durability without sacrificing high speed or a racy performance. Intelligent tube choices coupled with a long and low geometry make for a bike you can blast about on all day long and the only muscles that'll ache at the end of it will be from grinning too much.
The Orro Gold STC Ultegra is a gran fondo bike that's as lively and responsive as most road race bikes, with plenty of comfort thrown in.
This is an excellent bike for gran fondos, sportives, and other fast sports rides. It's quick and responsive, essentially a race bike in a slightly more relaxed geometry, and as such it has tons of appeal. The frame is superbly stiff and the Ultegra groupset doesn't lag far behind top-level Dura-Ace in terms of performance.
There's a disc-braked version for £2,500 and an bike with Ultegra Di2 for £2,800 as well.
The CAAD12 is the latest in a long series of well-received bikes from Cannondale, most recently its predecessor, the fabled CAAD10. The CAAD12 is lighter, stiffer, more comfortable and available with or without disc brakes. Showing the company's commitment to disc brakes, the disc version was actually designed first, and the new frame is a whopping 206g lighter than the CAAD10 Disc that came out a couple of years ago.
Following the popular and likeable CAAD10 was always going to be a tough act, but Cannondale has succeeded not only in retaining the key qualities of the previous model but also improving the ride quality. It's nothing short of marvellous.
The CAAD12 is a finely honed bike with a level of comfort and refinement that makes you wonder why you would buy anything else. It's so smooth that it outshines many carbon fibre road bikes we've tested over the years.
Our Lara Dunn tested an earlier version of the Ruby and found a comfortable, fast and stylish bike that proved to be an excellent all-round women’s sportive choice. Specialized use their own FACT 10r carbon to craft the frame and fork with comfort provided by the clever flexible seatpost and 20mm of suspension travel in the head tube to absorb bumps.
The Ruby Elite — like quite a few other bikes in the Ruby family — has hydraulic disc brakes. It's lost 2016's Di2 shifting, but if forced to choose we'll take better stopping over clicky-whirry gears. It rolls on DT Swiss R470 wheels with Specialized's Turbo Pro tyres. A Body Geometry Ruby Comp saddle and Specialized Hover Comp short reach/shallow drop handlebar complete the package.
Merlin Cycles has been offering its own brand of bikes for a while, and the Nitro SL is an excellent addition thanks to its balance of speed, light weight and comfort. A lot of companies get slated for rebadging off-the-shelf carbon fibre models but Merlin has chosen well with this Belgian beauty.
It's no secret that Merlin has opted for Ridley's Helium SL frameset as its base for the Nitro SL. With the Helium SL being upgraded to the SLX, the Nitro SL could be considered outdated tech, but it is far from it.
The frameset holds its head up high and delivers across the board against the competition. The ride is sublime, that balance of stiffness and the way it deals with the bumps in the road is a masterclass in carbon fibre layup and tube design. The Nitro SL just seems to take everything in its stride with regard to road surface imperfections.
Okay, we're cheating slightly here: this is a 2017 model, and Merlin only has size Medium left. But it's probably the cheapest bike you can buy with Shimano's excellent Di2 electronic shifting.
This manufacturer-direct deal from Germany straddles the border between race and sportive bikes. With a carbon fibre frame and full Shimano Ultegra groupset with disc brakes it's excellent value for money at a price that includes shipping from Germany.
The Endurace's riding position is higher than that of a race bike, but not as upright as a canonical sportive bike such as the Specialized Roubaix, the bike that arguably kicked off the whole sportive category. But it's closer to a race bike in its handling, demonstrating race bike speed when you stamp on the pedals and letting you get pretty low on the drops if you're trying to make keen progress into a headwind.
The large-volume tyres keep you comfortable, while the superb Ultegra brakes and gears are the pinnacle of Shimano's considerable component design and manufacturing ability.
The Diverge is part of what Specialized call their Adventure range. It's a bike that's designed for the road less travelled and long, all-day rides over rough roads and that's something it does incredibly well, fast and with a silly grin on its face.
When he reviewed the original Diverge, Jo Burt liked it so much we thought he was going to propose to it. He wrote: "I bloody love it. I like my road bikes but I also like my cyclo-cross bikes and I like my mountain bikes, and because of this I often find myself on my road bike bouncing around on inappropriate terrain. The Diverge makes this stupidity a lot easier without your riding jollies being jeopardized by the bike being a tedious slug on the road. A friend who borrowed it said it's the sort of bike that makes you want to move house because it opens up a vast web of riding possibilities. Bit of Flanders, section of Strada Bianche, poxed tarmac, random 'where does that go' moments? Bring it on."
Since then, Specialized has completely revamped the Diverge in ways that make it even more capable and versatile. The frame now has room for 42mm tyres and up front gets the Future Shock impact-damping fork from the Roubaix line. Dave Arthur reviewed the top-of-the-line S-Works version and said: "It's a comfortable, long-distance cruising bike on the road, with fantastic poise and cornering ability. Off the smooth stuff and the combination of the big tyres and Future Shock let you attack any rough paths, gravel tracks and technical descents with relish. It's a very accomplished bike and more than most manages to be master of all terrain."
Our 2015 Bike of the Year and Sportive Bike of the Year, the Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra Disc boasts fast and smooth performance with all the benefits of Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes with mechanical shifters. It's a very attractive bike for the cyclist who likes to ride fast, but doesn't want to race and demands comfort and the option to run wider tyres; it comes with 28mm tyres as standard.
This is a super smooth and comfortable distance bike with rewarding handling and fast performance; the hydraulic disc brakes make it an even more compelling package as a year-round bike.
We don't lightly hand out five-star reviews, and in fact this superb machine is one of very fews bikes we've ever given our highest accolade.
The Renegade Elite has an intoxicating combination of road lightness and trail toughness plus Shimano's stunning hydraulic disc brakes and a great wheel and tyre package. It offers excellent (if relaxed) road manners and is outrageously good fun off the beaten track too. In fact its depth of off-road ability is simply astonishing.
But this isn't a simple mud-plugger with drop bars. A change of tyres is all that's needed to use it for fast all day road rides or even chaingang lung-busters. Leaving no boxes unticked, it also takes mudguards and a rack, and can accommodate tyres up to 40mm. In short, it's an absolute belter.
If you can live without the 2018 Ultegra R8000 groupset, the 2017 model is still available in all but the smallest sizes for £2,299.
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Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.