It’s that time of the year when we pick our Bike of the Year - this year because we’ve tested so many more bikes in so many different categories over the past 12 months we’re expanding the awards and instead of running them over two days they’ll be running over four.
We will be giving prizes out in seven categories before we pick our overall Bike of the Year 2014/15. Those categories are:
To decide which made it into the road.cc Bike of the Year 2014/15 top 10 we drew up a shortlist from the winners of the seven categories above. We looked at all the bikes we’ve tested in the past 12 months, divided them into the most relevant categories, and the winners from each get nominated into the road.cc Bike of the Year 2014/15 shortlist.
Each bike in the seven categories had to first earn a nomination by getting a review score greater than 8/10. It wasn’t simply a case of selecting the highest scoring bikes, we included other criteria depending on the category and the aim of those bikes. Selecting the best bikes wasn't an easy task. We’ve tested some very good bikes in the past 12 months, but just like cream always rises to the top, we reckon these are the cream of the crop.
Today we’re going to announce the winners in five categories: Best Budget Bike, Cross and Adventure bike, Frameset, Commuting Bike, and Touring & Audax Bike. We've tested a lot of good sportive and endurance bikes and superbikes in the past year so both those categories get their own Top 10 Awards before we reveal our Bike of the Year 2014/15 Top Ten on Wednesday.
So without further ado let's look at some great bikes and give out some prizes!
With this award we’re looking simply for the bike that offers the most return on your investment, a bike that will be a great introduction to a new cyclist or someone looking to upgrade to a proper drop bar road bike. We reviewed more budget bikes this year, but our resolution for 2015 is to review a lot more. There certainly are some real bargains out there and our Budget Bike of the Year top three reflects that.
What the Moser Speed, from online retailer Wiggle, offers is essentially a £700 bike for just £450, making it a real bargain, packed with Shimano Sora parts, a solid frame with carbon fork and decent turn of speed. As Steve Worland said in his original review at this price "the Moser Speed is everything you need from an entry level road bike".
Sadly as we write this the Merlin Cycles' website lists the PR7 as out of stick and is quoting availability for March 2015, but at a higher price. If you were lucky enought to have bought one from the original batch you landed a real bargain one of the best specced bikes we’ve seen at this price.
Buy it here (currently out of stock, and it seems Merlin Cycles have increased the price since we tested this bike, we've contacted Merlin to find out more).
Proving that budget bikes don’t have to be compromised, heavy and slow, the smart looking and smartly packaged Triban 500 SE is a lot of bike for not a lot of cash. We liked it a lot. It's a really versatile machine - the SE model was specced especially for the UK market. It's no surprise that that Triban has such a loyal following. A worthy winner, even more so when you consider that it was £379.99 when we first tested it and it was a fantastic bargain at that price.
This category reflects the supreme versatility of the cyclo-cross bike platform and the continuing evolution of the cyclo-cross bike from pure mud plugging racer to racer/commute. The humble cross bike has now spawned the new genres of go anywhere gravel and adventure bikes or all road bikes - or whatever term bike company marketing departments come up with for what we'd simply call do-it-all bikes. Such is the level of diversification going on here that there’s a good chance that by next year this will be two categories - or more. If you want a super-versatile bike these are the bikes to check out
With its traditional steel frame and fork the Straggler stands out, and it’s eminently adaptable with loads of tyre room and luggage rack mounts. As we said in our original review this is a "wonderfully versatile all-rounder that can hit the trails, the streets or the long-haul open road" it certainly struck a chord with road.cc users - being one of the most searched for reviews on the site in 2014.
The Tripster ATR is beautifully made, comfortable and responsive with disc brakes, carbon fork and all the mounts for racks and mudguards, making it versatile enough for touring, racing and having adventures. It's a bike that really puts the 'V' in versatile but all that versatility doesn't come at the price of handling or enjoyment and the titanium frame and carbon fork (the ATR is frameset) really delivers on that score. Since we tested this one it's had a number of builds and tackled all sorts of terrain. It impressed enough that Big Dave who tested bought the framest afterwards.
The Eastway is a really capable cyclo-cross bike with good racing credentials but rack and mudguard eyelets to make it a good all-rounder. It's another bike that exemplifies the versatility of the cross bike: you can race; you can commute on it; light touring is on the agenda too; and if you want to just muck about on some light trails the CX 2.0 is up for that too. What we particularly liked about the Eastway was that it manages to offer all of this verstility without too many compromises and for a reasonable price too.
The Arkose 2 is one of the more out and out cross bikes to make our shortlist… but it's still different. Why does it make the podium? Well as I said when I tested it the Arkose 2 is one fo the most brilliantly fun bikes I've ridden in a very long time. That's down to a great frame and fork and equipment pakcage and in particular the quirky 1x10 drivetrain with a bar-end shifter which provided simplicity with a wide spread of gear ratios. Oh, and it's got some nice crisp disc brakes too.
Not only does the On-One Pickenflick ride really nicely and have the versatility for a spot of road and off-road riding, but you get a fully built bike for the price most manufacturers are selling just a titanium frame. It's also available as a frameset too - currently at a frankly amazing £699.99. Ironically the Pickenflick is the bike trying the least to be versatilie of the bikes to make our shortlist - although when we tested it last spring there was talk of it evolving in to more of an 'all road' type of bike with longer geometry and rack and mudguard mounts. That hasn't happened yet. We reckon On-One would be on to a sure fire winner if it did.
The current full bike version of the…ahem, limited edition Pickenflick we reviewed nine months ago costs one hundred pounds more, but for that you get the stonking upgrade of SRAM Rival 22 hydraulic discs over the Avid BB7 mechanical stoppers on our test bike which seems a fair trade in our book. Stonking bargain. Stonking bike.
You can ride to work on pretty much any bike, but over the past few years we've seen the rise of distinct types of commuter bike often but not exclusively with a large dollop of cyclo-cross bike in their DNA. The bikes that made it on to our commuting bikes shortlist reflect that. We've gone for five bikes that will get you to work (and back again) while keeping a smile on your face; and which should be up for a bit of weekend fun too.
The Foffa Urban is ideal for blasting around town, with its sit-up-high flat handlebar and the Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub providing great simplicity and ease of use, with very little to ever go wrong.
If your commute includes some unsurfaced roads, woodland trails, bridleways, then the Eastway is a very appealing choice, but it equally has the mandatory mudguard mounts and benefits of disc brakes.
It’s a bit of a classic but it’s not showing its age, the Racelight T2 hits the magic Ride-To-Work price point and provides plenty of character and performance.
Cycle commuting is the mainstay of many cyclists riding week, and the Dorset is a super commuter that provides a fun ride with all the practically you could ever need.
Not only does the Triban 500 SE win the Best Budget award, it also clinched the Best Commuter bike. Why? It’s a very affordable bike that costs much less than an annual Oyster card, and has mudguard eyelets so you can weatherproof it.
Bikes built for going the distance with all the eyelets you need for fixing on mudguards - a typical Audax requirement - and racks if you want to go touring
Pleasingly simple, almost retro, looking steel frame and fork masks a bike that is a real joy to ride and with bags of versatility for any sort of riding you want to do, with all the credentials to make a fine Audax or touring bike.
This is your classic touring bike and it’s been designed for the long haul with fully loaded panniers to take you across Europe or around the world if you’re feeling adventurous.
A well designed titanium frame ready to be pushing into service in any number of roles, from cyclo-cross to touring or adventure, a really competent all-rounder.
The September Disc is ideal if you want a bike for commuting, for light touring, for Audax, for sportives, for just riding around on, the September Disc is good at all those things.
British built steel to order with a choice of tubesets, the Alpine Audax has the traditional Audax appearance but there’s nothing traditional about the ride it’s sport and fun.
This category perhaps demonstrates the diversity of bikes we’ve tested better than any other. It's also the first time we've ever had a tie for top spot, not just a two way tie either - three ways. Each one of the bikes that shares top spot is trying to do a very different job, and each one does so superbly and for a fair price which is why they’re joint first place. All in all this was a very strong category.
This US hand-built bespoke carbon fibre frame simply blew us away, a fast, exciting bike to ride with a fine balance of comfort and stiffness that few carbon race bikes we've ridden manage quite as well. The Helios is available in a choice of custom or six off the peg stock sizes - being hand-built in the US none of them are exactly cheap but for such a high quality boutique bike the prices aren't outrageous either. Just wish I could afford one.
This British built steel frame from Enigma makes use of the latest Columbus Spirit HSS tubeset and delivers a fantastic ride quality that makes a compelling case for a fast high-performance steel road bike. This is an eye-catchingly modern steel bike that offers beautifully refined handling - a bike that really charmed us.
One of the last bikes we tested in 2014 the Bownman is a simply brilliant aluminium race frame with bags of stiffness providing a massively responsive and rewarding ride, and it’s not at all heavy or expensive. When he tested it, Stu Kerton described the Palace as "absolutely awesome" and he's a man who knows his aluminium race bikes having one of the current benchmark setters in his personal stable. This is a bike built to handle at high speed and it really delivers. If you're looking for a mighty bangs per buck pocket rocket the Palace should definitely be on your list.
The Tripster ATR is available as a complete bike for £2349.99 but we tested it as a frameset. Buying the frame on its own means you can built it up in a particular way to suit the sort of riding you do, or in such a way that maximises the versatility it offers. Since we've had the frame it's certainly delivered on that offer going through a number of different builds. The ATR is a really well thought out and well put together as we've already said Big Dave was impressed enough to buy this one rather than have to give it back. If you're looking for one bike to do it all… well, as Dave said in his review, that doesn't actually exist, the ATR though gets closer than most.
Hands-down, the Hewitt Alpine Audax was the best Audax and touring bike we tested, with its smart and light steel frame and fork providing a crisp and smooth ride. And it's second award is well deserved too.
The Hewitt Alpine Audax is another frame that so bewitched its reviewer - in this case Rob Simmonds - that he dipped in to his pocket and bought it rather than endure the pain of sending it back. Hewitt offer the Alpine as a bespoke frameset that can be built up using a variety of tubesets and then decked out in the parts of your choice. It's all about the details with Hewitt they even sent Rob pictures of his baby as it was being built. A class act that will put a smile on your face as you munch miles in audax or sportive, or just for the hell of it.
Tune in for the Superbike Shootout, Best Sportive bike and the main road.cc Bike of the Year 2014/15 award in the coming days.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. 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.