Road bikes designed to boost comfort for long rides and the rough roads of the UK continue to be hugely popular with road.cc readers, and these are the very best bikes we've tested in 2019 from this category.
These are bikes designed to enable and encourage you to cycle further and for longer. They commonly feature more relaxed geometry compared to their racier cousins (which get their own awards category) and more practical considerations like wider tyres and often mudguard and rack mounts for extra versatility, because some manufacturers realise that these bikes might also do service as a daily commuter as well as weekend sportives.
We’ve seen some exciting developments in this category but in the past year, we’ve really been impressed with the affordability of new bikes, bringing all the benefits of endurance bikes to more accessible price points. This list includes contenders all priced below £3,500 and proves you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a highly capable bike for comfortable distance riding.
The Pyro Evo 105 Hydro has been created with the sportive rider in mind – the non-racer's race bike, if you like – and it fits the bill perfectly. It offers a comfortable ride but with plenty of stiffness, and handling that delivers speed through the bends without the twitchiness of a race machine.
The geometry is beautifully balanced throughout the frame and fork. The chosen angles and tube lengths give neutral handling when you want it, but with just that hint of speed there if you are confident enough to push it on the next descent.
Mixing it with the traffic through intersections and large roundabouts, the responsiveness of the rear end of the frame when you need to keep pace with vehicles or slot into a queue is very impressive indeed. Stamp on the pedals and point the Orro in the right direction, and it's job done.
The Pyro Evo is a good climber, too. The stiffness of the frame and fork mean it is great for attacking those short, sharp hills out of the saddle. You can feel the results of the oversized bottom bracket junction and chunky chainstays as you mash the power out.
The carbon frame has been designed here in the UK and there’s great attention to detail, like the internal routing for cables and the brake hoses giving a very smooth, clean look throughout. The paint job is very high quality, too; the Pyro Evo looks like a much more expensive bike.
The Pyro Evo gets a full quota of Shimano's 105 hydraulic groupset. That even includes the chain, where many brands go for cheaper alternatives. Orro has gone down the compact route with the chainset, with 50/34t rings paired to an 11-30t cassette. The bike could easily work well with larger gears for speed, but taking the design brief into consideration it's a decent spread for long distance, quick riding.
Overall, if you want a bike that you can cover short and long distances on in reasonable comfort, with nearly all of the benefits of a race bike but none of the trade-offs, then the Pyro Evo is a very good choice.
Why it’s here: Excellent road manners and a comfortable ride – the Pyro Evo is a very fast mile-muncher
The Forme Longcliffe 2 delivers a very good ride indeed. If you are looking for your first road machine for fun and fitness or you want a budget winter machine, then it is definitely worth considering.
Not only is the Forme a good-looking bike with that striking blue paint job, it also delivers a great ride. Aluminium alloy frames have changed beyond all recognition from those available at the turn of the century, but when you receive what could be considered a budget option you do tend to wonder just how refined it is going to be.
It ain't the most supple out there, but considering the whole bike has an RRP of just £650, it's pretty darn good. It all has a bit of a buzz about it, in an exciting way rather than a comfort issue, feeling like a race bike but without the associated quick or twitchy handling, which makes it absolutely perfect for those new to road riding or for use in dodgy winter road conditions.
It has a longer wheelbase than a race bike, giving a stable ride that is quite confidence-inspiring. Its weight actually helps here, as on rough descents or when your speed is pretty high it never gets unsettled by rough road surfaces and feels properly planted.
The Longcliffe 2 comes with a Shimano Claris groupset, which when it started appearing on road bikes was a bit of a clunker, but since it has been overhauled is a very fun groupset for the money. In fact, alongside Sora and Tiagra, the only thing noticeably different are the number of sprockets on the cassette. Claris gets eight, Sora has nine and Tiagra is blessed with 10.
The Forme shows that you really don't need to spend a fortune for a fun day in the saddle.
Why it’s here: Great ride quality and sorted geometry make the Forme a fun choice, especially when conditions aren't brilliant
With almost faultless ride manners, a perfectly practical spec and the extra incentive of that enhanced stopping power, the RC120 Disc has more potential as a high-mileage road machine than its price might suggest.
Handling is absolutely secure with very little upsetting the Triban's progress. It's comfortable too, both in terms of position and in its ability to filter out the worst of your route's road surfaces.
Start turning up the wick a little and power delivery is decent: keeping a high cruising tempo is a particularly satisfying pleasure. Fast flat sections or moderate climbs are dealt with ease and even more testing challenges benefit from the RC120 Disc's stable ride, which allows out-of-the-saddle efforts to be handled without drama. It is pretty much exactly what anybody wanting a friendly, benign road bike would hope for.
The tall head tube creates a nice 'n' high riding position that is not too intimidating and actually tempting to get down on the drops. If you'd rather stay upright, it's a bike that you could happily tick along on for hours. The overall weight of almost 11.5kg seems a tad lardy, though. The carbon fibre fork is effective at taking the sting out of the road and it even features front rack mounts should you want to turn this into an ultra-fast tourer.
Also in the Triban RC120 Disc's favour is its obvious potential versatility. For relatively inexperienced riders, it's a very safe welcome to the world of fast drop-bar bikes. With rack mounts front and back, it could also be a high-speed commuter. And for more experienced hands, with that potential to go tubeless, it could make for a surprisingly effective aluminium winter training bike too.
Why it’s here: Fast, stable and ultra-reliable entry-level road bike that forgoes fireworks for long-term and long-distance enjoyment
The Ribble R872 Disc Tiagra is a carbon fibre road bike that's built to a sportive-friendly geometry and it offers much higher performance than you might expect at this price. Plus, there's the bonus that you can tweak the spec to suit your taste and budget.
The R872 Disc is part of Ribble's Endurance range but 'endurance' means different things to different people, so let's deal with that a sec. By the standards of most endurance bikes, this frame is built to quite an aggressive geometry. It's suitable for sportives, for example, and other long, pacy rides, but the setup isn't as relaxed as you'll often find elsewhere.
The bottom line is that the R872 Disc sits towards the racier end of the endurance bike spectrum. That's not to say that you're going to spend the whole time gnawing your handlebar but Ribble hasn't slung a super-long head tube on here. Make sense? Efficient but not extreme.
Coming in at 9.69kg (21lb 6oz), the Ribble R872 Disc isn't mega-light, but this is a £1,100 disc brake bike we're talking about so the UCI's 6.8kg minimum weight limit is always going to be a distant horizon. If you're bothered you could always go through Ribble's web-based Bike Builder system (see below) and select lighter components.
Overall, the Ribble R872 Disc offers an exceptional carbon fibre frame that's suited to tackling long rides at pace, and a strong components package that you can adjust to your requirements. It has to be a contender if you're after a sportive-style road bike that offers high value for money, especially if you want something that's upgradable over time.
Why it’s here: Highly impressive carbon road bike that offers exceptional value, and you can tweak the spec to your own taste and budget
The remarkable Triban RC 500 is better than any £500 bike has any right to be. Unless you have serious go-faster ambitions, it's hard to see why you'd buy any other drop-handlebar bike in its price range.
The Triban RC 500 shares a frame with its £730 big brother, the RC 520, which we reviewed at the end of 2018 and rated very highly indeed. To shave £200 off the price Decathlon has dropped the groupset two levels to 9-speed Shimano Sora instead of 11-speed Shimano 105, used cable rather than semi-hydraulic disc brakes and fitted heavier wheels. But out on the road none of this matters very much because many of the components are the same, especially ones that determine ride feel.
The result is a bike that's just as reassuring, welcoming and accessible to ride as the RC 520, but cheaper. That's a very appealing prospect for a lot of riders. Like its big brother, the Triban RC 500 bowls merrily along when you feed it even relatively modest effort. There's a pleasant, floaty feeling to both bikes. They demand very little in the way of concentration even at significant downhill speeds, and they cruise uphill with aplomb.
The upright riding position inspires a generally unhurried attitude; this is very much a bike for sitting up and admiring the scenery. The position on the drops is deep enough to be useful for fighting a headwind or getting down to bomb a descent, but it's by no means a Mark Cavendish flat-back super-tuck, even with the stem slammed.
The RC 500 gets Shimano's 9-speed Sora shifting. The Sora shifters have a slightly heavier feel than the 105; a tiny bit more effort is required to effect the shift, but it's a barely-perceptible difference. The 11-32t cassette provides good range, but we think they missed a trick in not speccing an even more generous 11-34t cassette, but that’s a very small niggle.
The RC 500 is a very, very good bike for £530. It has a welcoming ride, decent brakes, and a usefully wide gear range. It’s also very versatile. Mounts for mudguards and racks, and plenty of room around the tyres mean it'll make a brilliant year-round commuter, and a great light tourer. It's an easy bike to cover distance on too, so if you're not in a screaming hurry it'll happily take you from your first long-ish rides to 100-milers and more.
Why it wins: Excellent commuter and all-day cruiser that's amazing value for money
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.