Over the past year we've reviewed some of the world’s best superbikes – high-end bikes with big price tags – and here are the very best of them.
A bike must fulfil these criteria to be considered in this category:
1. It must have been tested on road.cc between 1 January and 31 December 2019. If we've not published a reviewed, it isn’t eligible.
2. It has to have a price tag of over £3,500. We could have made the cut-off £3,000, £5,000 or anything else, but we chose £3,500, as we have for the past couple of years.
3. It has to be a bike designed for the road. We're dealing with gravel/adventure bikes elsewhere.
All £3,500+ road bikes that we've reviewed this year are up for consideration.
This category is all about performance – how well the bike accomplishes its job out on the road. There's likely to be smart engineering innovation behind that performance, but it's the ride that counts.
There are loads of decent bikes out there, and plenty of impressive ones too, but these bikes go well beyond that. They're among the very best of their kind.
What about value? This is the only road.cc Bike of the Year category where we don't take it into account. This is our money-no-object category. A bike costing £4,000 and a bike costing £10,000 are treated exactly the same. If you want to know what we think about the value of a particular bike, click on the link to the full review.
In short, then, this is a rundown of the high-end bikes that have impressed us most during testing in 2019, with value taken out of the equation.
The 2018/19 winner was the stunning Specialized S-Works Venge Di2, the pinnacle of aerodynamic road race bike design. It's time to find out what follows in its tyre tracks this year...
When we reviewed this bike earlier in the year it was equipped with the mechanical version of Campagnolo's Record groupset and was priced £5,099, but the version available now has a top-level Super Record EPS (electronic shifting) build for £6,849 (there's a rumour that Movistar is shifting to SRAM, so there could be further changes afoot). Whatever the groupset, the Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 Movistar is stiff, fast and impressively light for a disc brake bike, our review bike coming in at 7.2kg.
Canyon's Sport Pro geometry is used here, the same as used by Canyon's pro riders – it's an all-out racer.
As is usual nowadays, you get flat-mount standard disc brakes with 12mm thru-axles front and rear, with the single detachable lever used to remove either axle, negating the need for tools.
Canyon's H36 integrated bar and stem provides a surprisingly settled front end that didn't feel at all twitchy. It's also got a really comfortable flat top section and provides some vibration damping, with the only small annoyance being that the shape won't accommodate standard out-front GPS mounts; Canyon sells mounts for most of the major brands that bolt under the stem.
Canyon has placed the internal seat clamp quite far below the top of the seat tube, which it claims has provided a 15% improvement in vertical deflection. Teamed with the VCLS seatpost, it adds up to a bump-taming ride. Reviewer Jack also found the Fizik Antares R5 saddle to be plenty comfy enough.
The Ultimate CF SLX Disc will take tyres up to 30mm wide if you want some extra plush comfort, although we found the 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4000s to hit the spot and provide a reliably smooth ride. The same can be said of the Bora One 50mm clincher wheels, which strike an excellent balance between stiffness and speed while being very light. You don't have to worry too much about sidewinds, and it's a high quality wheelset: an excellent addition to the bike build, with an RRP of over £1,800 when bought separately.
The Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 might not be quite as aerodynamically efficient as Canyon's Aeroad aero road bike but in this spec, with 50mm-deep carbon hoops and an aero cockpit, it is a fabulous all-round race bike. Whatever build you buy it in, you won't be disappointed.
Why it's here Stunning all-round racer made even better with 12-speed shifting and superfast wheels
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The revamped Cervelo S5 is one of the most exciting bikes in the peloton right now and it's a mighty impressive piece of engineering. The new V-shaped stem solves the issue of having no adjustability on integrated front ends, even though it looks as clean as any one-piece bar and stem system out there. You do pay a little more for the S5 than some notable high-end aero options from other big brands, but no one who wants to go faster will be disappointed with this bike.
Cervelo set itself a goal of creating a bike with fully integrated cable routing, built around flat-mount disc brakes, tyre clearance up to 30mm, easy positional adjustment and an increase in stiffness. It would also have to be considerably faster of course, and Cervelo says that using computational fluid dynamics and extensive wind tunnel testing it achieved this to the tune of 5.5 watts (42g of drag) compared to the 2014 S5 riding at 40km/h.
Cervelo has named the specific tube shapes chosen to improve aerodynamic flow 'TrueAero', with examples being the oversized bottom bracket area, seat tube and down tube and a larger sized asymmetric left chainstay. The frame is also 100g lighter than the old version, with our test bike coming in at 7.8kg.
In terms of usability and allowing adjustments, the party piece is the new V-shaped stem. Even though it's technically not integrated and can be bought separately in various sizes, it cleverly bolts straight into the underside of the new AB08 handlebar, creating a look as clean as any integrated bar and stem system out there – with rubber caps covering the bolts to complete the tidy aesthetics. The bar/stem combo also allows for electronic and mechanical gears to be routed straight through, which means the cables are completely concealed on any spec of S5 you choose.
Reviewer Jack felt that the S5 offered so much advantage in terms of road speed that it almost seemed like cheating, barely averaging under 20mph during the test period. Although it's almost a kilo heavier than the best lightweight race bikes, the S5 doesn't hold you back much on climbs, and it feels snappy and responsive out of corners.
The S5 is one of a new wave of aero race bikes that truly makes a difference to your average speeds, and getting up to those speeds feels easier thanks to the S5's ability to accelerate so quickly off the mark. The amount of research and development involved in producing such a weapon forces the price up, but if going fast is your priority and you're willing to fork out for that advantage, this bike comes highly recommended.
Why it's here Superfast, cutting-edge aero road bike that's a more comfortable ride than you might expect
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The Aspect is the latest titanium offering from Mason Cycles and it's a beauty, not only in looks but also in performance. The frameset offers so much depth in the way it behaves thanks to the tubeset, the fork and the geometry all working together to give a sublime ride quality and an excellent level of feedback no matter how rough the road surface is.
The stiffness around the bottom bracket under acceleration is impressive, the tautness of the front gives a very direct feeling to the steering and the rear triangle takes the sting out of poor road surfaces.
It really is amazing how a longish wheelbase and relatively slack front end can deliver such sharp and confident handling. Point the Aspect downhill and it feels absolutely planted, even when things start to get technical. The whole bike responds well to subtle shifts in body position and Mason's own Aperture2 fork supplies plenty of stiffness.
Mason has produced its own tooling with Dedacciai to create tubing specifically for its bikes. Here on the Aspect it's most notable in the D-shaped down tube, the ovalised top tube and the custom bends on the stays.
The overall finish is very impressive indeed, and not just around the tube junctions but also around all of the MultiPorts (Mason's internal cable routing solution) and the multiple eyelets for bottle, rack and mudguard mounts. Mason chooses to weld these rather than rivet them, for longevity.
The Aspect is welded to order, which does give you a little bit of customisation – leaving off the Di2 ports, for example, if you are only going to be running a mechanical groupset.
The Aspect is very much endurance-based, but it really is a fast bike. For anything other than road racing it won't be found wanting, delivering an excellent balance of speed, handling and comfort.
The Mason Aspect is a brilliant bike for those who like to ride far or fast, or both. The way it behaves, however you are riding it, is downright genius. It's machine and rider in unison. And then you just have to look at it.
Why it's here An exceptional balance of speed, comfort and handling backed up by exemplary handbuilt quality
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The Bianchi Oltre XR4 Disc is a fabulous race bike, offering speed and agility, aero features and an excellent ride quality alongside the power and consistency of hydraulic disc brakes. This bike is a real star!
The Oltre XR4 Disc jumps into action with no fuss whatsoever. The central part of this frame is solid. Get out of the saddle and slam those pedals with everything you've got in a quad-busting sprint and it's still solid. The front end is equally impressive. Lean the XR4 over as hard as you dare, the tyres scrabbling to grip the road surface, and the steering is spot on.
The Oltre XR4 Disc is just as good on the ups. We've certainly reviewed disc brake bikes that are considerably lighter, but stand up on the pedals and everything feels very efficient.
One interesting feature is the forward sweep of the Vision Metron 5D ACR Disc Integrated Aero bar/stem. From the centre point of the stem section, the flattened tops curve forward 10 degrees. This means that when you rest your hands up there for climbing, your elbows stick out slightly. Vision claims that this makes for easier breathing. We're not 100 per cent sure about that but the position definitely feels a little less cramped than usual.
The ACR (Aerodynamic Cable Routing) system also allows the gear wires and brake hoses to be routed inside the bar/stem and from there into the frame and fork. There's nothing to disturb the clean lines here, although if you choose a mechanical groupset, Bianchi runs the cables externally between the centre of the bar and ports at the top of the down tube.
The other big feature of the Oltre XR4 is its smoothness. Bianchi will tell you that this is down its Countervail (CV) technology – a patented carbon-fibre architecture designed to reduce vibration.
Of course, there are a whole load of factors that affect a bike's feel, from frame geometry and layup to fairly simple things like tyre pressure and the type of handlebar tape used. We couldn't tell you the degree to which Countervail helps but the Oltre XR4 is among the most buzz-free race bikes out there. This is, though, still very much an aggressive race bike with sharp reflexes so don't expect the deep, soft comfort that you get with some endurance road bikes.
This really is a great race bike. You'll find lighter bikes and you'll find bikes that beat it on price, but the Oltre XR4 Disc offers a sparkling ride. It's quick, agile and very smooth. Add in an excellent electronic groupset and hydraulic disc brakes and this is a fabulous proposition.
Why it's here Pro-level race bike with fast reactions, a smooth ride and excellent braking
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The latest generation Specialized S-Works Roubaix offers unmatched comfort – largely thanks to 20mm of suspension from its Future Shock 2.0 system – and excellent bike speed. Granted, this lavishly equipped S-Works model is eye-wateringly expensive, but there are more affordable options in the range that inherit all the key changes.
We used the new Roubaix over the ferocious pavé of the Arenberg in northern France and it was deeply impressive. It's comfortable, shields your body from the brutal impact forces, and above all it's fast. On everyday roads, the Future Shock – with rebound and compression damping and on-the-fly adjustment –works overtime to smooth out the wrinkles, cracks and holes. You don't notice it, apart from the smoothness you're feeling through the handlebar and when you look down to see the protective rubber boot being constantly squashed.
Should you come to a smooth road or a steep climb requiring some out of the saddle antics, the top dial lets you almost totally lock out the suspension. It's not completely solid – hit a big enough impact and the Future Shock will still work – but it's a lot firmer than when open.
The Future Shock works particularly well on coarsely surfaced roads, the sort where the top layer of tarmac is peeling away to leave a rubbly texture. It's like the road is being resurfaced ahead of you. The Future Shock delivers a level of smoothness that few bikes, even those with fat tyres, can match.
The new Pave seatpost offers built-in flex, and the seat tube into which the post slots has a lower integrated clamp than previously, allowing the post to bend more. Seated comfort is the equal of any other endurance bike on the market, if not a touch more impressive. Combined with the Future Shock, the result is a very balanced bike that dishes out silky smoothness over the worst roads.
The riding position is very comfortable, with a higher stack than a race bike, ensuring you can ride on the hoods or drops for hours on end without getting a bad back. If you find it a touch too high, you can swap the Hover riser handlebar for a regular bar.
The handling is a nice blend of sportiness to indulge your inner Sagan, but super-relaxed when you just want to ride steadily for five hours. The Roubaix doesn't have the same snap and agility as Specialized's Tarmac nor the outright savage speed of the Venge, but it's still a fast bike and unless you're racing the comfort of the Roubaix is a compelling reason to choose it.
Whether you need the Future Shock is down to whether you want the smoothest bike that will isolate you from lots of jarring impacts. It's a big improvement over the original, being smoother and better controlled, leading to a much nicer ride quality. That, along with all the other changes to the new Roubaix, ensure that it's fast, comfortable, efficient, precise, rewarding and fun to ride everywhere. It's one of the best endurance bikes currently available.
Why it wins Innovative endurance bike with impressive speed and unmatched comfort – it's a real star!
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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.