Perhaps one of the most appealing things about professional cycling is that you can buy and ride the very same bicycle that Peter Sagan sprints to victory on, or the one Tao Geoghegan Hart used to win the 2020 Giro d'Italia. You really can walk into a bike shop and ride away on a bike that's identical. Try doing that in Formula One.
The one small — okay, large — caveat with this is the very high prices such bikes usually command. Happily, however, it is possible to get bikes that are very similar, not only in appearance but also in construction, to the ones the stars of cycling ride, but at cheaper prices. Okay, these bikes aren't cheap, but they are cheaper. It's all relative, isn't it? These bikes use very similar frames, just with cheaper spec sheets.
To see what is available, we've had a look at nine manufacturers — Colnago, Bianchi, Scott, Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, Giant, Canyon and Pinarello — to show that you can realistically get a bike that can trace its DNA directly up the chain to those that the professional cyclists are racing. We've focused on bikes that share the same (or very similar) frame and keep the cost a little more achievable with less posh components. Aside from parts like wheels, transmission and handlebars and stems, these bikes are essentially the same as the WorldTour bikes.
2020 was a good year for Italian bike makers. First Colnago with Tadej Pogačar and then Pinarello and Tao Geoghegan Hart took top honours in the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia respectively, followed by Bianchi and Primož Roglič finishing on top at the Vuelta a España.
The V3 is the affordable incarnation of the Colnago V3Rs Pogačar rode for the Tour, though being aimed at riders who aren't necessarily aiming to ride a bike that's bang on the UCI 6.8kg limit, it has disc brakes rather than the rim brakes of Pogačar's bike, and Shimano Ultegra rather than Campagnolo Super Record EPS. It rolls on Continental's Ultra Sport II clinchers instead of tubular Vittoria Corsa's. And the complete bike costs the same as a V3r frame.
If you want to channel the other Slovenian star you'll want an Oltre XR4. Problem is, you're looking at five figures for Bianchi's top aero bike in any sort of quality trim, so here's the more sensible version. The Oltre XR3 is virtually identical to the XR4 but made from a less exotic grade of carbon fibre. That means it's a shade heavier (a 55cm frame is claimed to weight 1,150g which is still far from shabby for an aero bike) but a lot cheaper.
Now that the UCI has decided disc brakes are not in fact the modern equivalent of the scythes on the wheels of Boudicea's chariot, we're seeing a lot more bikes in the pro peloton with disc brakes. The Mitchelton-Scott team that includes Adam Yates is using the latest version of Scott's Foil aero bike. The full-dress Foil Pro with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifting and deep-section aero wheels will make an £8,000-deep dent in your bank balance, but there's a cheaper alternative.
The Foil Disc 30 has the same frame shape, but uses a less spendy grade of carbon fibre to keep the cost under control. It has Shimano's excellent Ultegra mechanical shifting and Scott's own Syncros RR2.0 Disc wheels, but retains the sleek aero seatpost and new all-internal cable routing of the top-end bike.
If you want to be Peter Sagan, but can't afford eleven grand for a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Sagan Special Edition, here's a slightly more sensible option. The Tarmac SL7 Expert uses the same frame design as the Bora-Hansgrohe team's Tarmacs, but laid up in a less expensive grade of composite: Specialized's FACT 10r carbon rather than the S-Works bike's FACT 12r.
A complete Shimano Ultegra groupset with hydraulic brakes makes it go and stop, and it rolls on Roval C 38 Disc carbon wheels with 26mm Specialized S-Works Turbo tyres.
So you desperately want a Dogma just like Tao Geoghegan Hart, but the budget won’t stretch to eleven or twelve grand. Pinarello has your back. Pinarello recently updated the Prince, which continues as a more affordable version of the Dogma. It shares a similar frame profile, but it’s made from a different blend of carbon fibre.
This brings the price down, with a full Shimano Ultegra bike with Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels costing £4,000. To bridge the gap between the Prince and the Dogma series there are two Prince variants, the Prince and Prince FX; the latter uses a higher of carbon fibre.
Still a bit spendy? The base model of the new Paris is just £3,000. It's allegedly an endurance bike, but it clearly shows the racy influence of the Dogma.
If you want to emulate Movistar's Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas, then you need Canyon’s Aeroad, a range that starts with the £2,899 Aeroad CF SL 7. However, if you want a bike based on the new Aeroad that Movistar have been riding, then the range starts with the £3,499 Aeroad CF SL 7 Disc, which has the same frame shape as the pro bikes, carved in the wind tunnel, with an Shimano 105 groupset and Reynolds AR58 wheels.
We're sufficently fond of Shimano's Ultegra groupset that we'd go for the Aeroad CF SL 8 Disc, though you could argue that since the team uses SRAM Red AXS components, the title of 'affordable team replica' should go to the Aeroad CF SLX 8 Disc AXS with its SRAM Force eTap AXS kit. But it's £5,499, which is probably stretching the defintion of 'affordable' to breaking point.
Cannondale claims the SystemSix, the team bike of EF Pro Cycling (formerly known as Education First), is the world’s fastest UCI-legal road bike. But the top model, with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 components, Cannondale's own HollowGram deep-section carbon wheels and Power2Max NG Eco power meter cranks, will cost you £9,500.
Inevitably, there's an Ultegra-equipped incarnation at a price that won't scare the bank manager quite as much.
Trek offers offers riders of its Trek-Segafredo team a choice of three bikes (Domane, Emonda and Madone) and there’s a big range of models for the public, including this new version of the lightweight Émonda. Except the 2021 Émonda isn't just about shaving grams.
While still aiming to keep the weight low, Trek's engineers have reshaped the Émonda frame for better aerodynamics, with the aim of making bikes that use the top-end SLR version of the frame the fastest-climbing bikes ever.
This cheaper version uses the same shapes, but swaps out the expensive 800 Series OCLV for 500 Series OCLV, which makes a big impact on the price.
Our Stu was very impressed with the SL 6 Pro, calling it "a very fast and efficient bike that still manages to deliver on the weight front". You can read his review here.
If there's a theme to this year's top-end road racing bikes it's 'light weight with aero tweaks' and Giant's on board too with the latest TCR series bikes.
Greg Van Avermaet and Team CCC colleagues are currently riding the new TCR Advanced SL, a frame that owes its low weight to a level of obsession that even extended to finding a lighter paint finish compared to its predecessor.
Mat Brett recently tested the new TCR and pronounced it "stunningly good. This lightweight bike is hugely responsive and handles precisely"
It'd want to be for the best part of ten grand, but you'll get a lot of the same refinement, and especially the aero shaping and stiffness, with the far more sensibly-priced TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc.
*Relative to the actual bikes the pros race, that is. We know that these aren't cheap.
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.