To some manufacturers, having their bikes and equipment being ridden in the World Tour by the best riders out there is the ultimate sign that they’ve made it, not to mention it is undoubtedly a huge marketing opportunity (okay, the latter is probably the bigger draw). However, no amount of wins or success is a guarantee that it’ll last forever. Recent years have seen some absolute behemoths exit the top tier of racing, so here are some of the best road bikes and bike brands that we think have missed out.
World Tour teams don’t choose their bike suppliers on sentiment, and that means that even some of the biggest and most storied racing marques can be left high and dry when it comes to visibility in the pro peloton. Sometimes it has nothing to do with how good their bikes are; supporting a pro team is expensive, and some smaller brands just can’t afford it.
Taking all that into account, here are some of the best road bikes and brands that, for whatever reason, aren’t in the World Tour in 2024. We've stuck to brands that we think have a realistic chance of being in the arena of pro team sponsorship, or who have dabbled in the past, as we appreciate for many bike brands and manufacturers, top-level team sponsorship isn't on their radar and probably never will be.
Let’s dive right in...
2024 has seen some huge shakeups in the World Tour peloton when it comes to bikes and equipment, and none bigger than AG2R ditching long-term partner BMC for Van Rysel after 32 wins and 106 podiums on the Swiss brand’s bikes.
That’s despite BMC releasing the very attractive Teammachine R, developed in partnership with Red Bull. It seems evident that the team weren't prepared to keep going with a bike sponsor just because the bike looks nice, then...
BMC does still sponsor the up-and-coming development team Tudor Pro Cycling, who have managed to bag themselves a wildcard entry into the Giro D’Italia, so we might see BMC on the top step yet.
Now that Red Bull has purchased a majority stake in Bora–Hansgrohe, could this be a way back into the World Tour in future years?
2024 also sees the end of one of the longest team/bike partnerships in the world of pro cycling, FDJ and Lapierre, a story that started some 22 years ago.
The likes of Bradley Wiggins, Thibaut Pinot and Phillippe Gilbert racked up some 300 wins on Lapierre bikes, but the next generation of FDJ riders will be trying to write their names into the history books aboard Wilier bikes.
It is worth noting that you will still find Lapierre bikes under the women’s team FDJ-Suez. To be fair, on the looks front, it’s one brand known for making lovely-looking bikes being replaced by another with the same reputation (maybe aesthetics do come into it sometimes).
Let us know which one you'd rather - Wilier or Lapierre - in the comments section below.
Another brand that will be conspicuous in their absence in 2024 is Ridley, as the oldest pro cycling team Lotto–Dstny switches to Orbea for the 2024 season.
Riders such as Caleb Ewan, Arnaud de Lie and Thomas De Gendt have ensured that over the last few years bikes such as the Ridley Noah, the Helium and more recently the Falcn RS (above) have often been first over the finish line no matter the terrain.
Since it split with Astana at the end of 2018, Argon 18 is another brand that doesn’t feature in the World Tour. At the time Argon 18 said that it wanted to diversify its sponsorship contracts with a focus on track and triathlon. However, if it had remained as a sponsor to a World Tour team, then we could have had the world's best riding bikes such as the Argon 18 Sum (above).
In 2024 the World Tour is once again devoid of some historic brands which were once absolute powerhouses of the sport. Peugeot, Concorde, Gazelle and Coppi are no longer in the bike business, Battaglin never progressed from steel, Raleigh is nowhere and Moser’s latest offering is an e-bike. That won’t be being used in a Grand Tour any time soon, unless some serious liberalisation occurs at the UCI...
Some brands that hold records in the all-time wins list still make excellent racing bikes, though. For example, Eddy Merckx bikes were a staple of the peloton throughout the 1990s and 2000s, but it’s unlikely you’ll find the latest 525 adding any Grand Tour stage wins this year at least.
Other brands with similarly enviable heritage are De Rosa and Time, the latter of which does feature in the World Tour peloton but only in the form of pedals. Most of Time’s success came in the Classics under a certain Tom Boonen - but in recent years, despite making some very light frames and having a great reputation for its braided carbon frames made in France, the brand hasn't been represented on the World’s biggest stage.
Meanwhile, De Rosa does have more recent representation, featuring up until the end of 2021. Cofidis has now switched to Look bikes, though, which means that carbon machines such as the 70 and the Merak will have to wait before potentially getting a chance to add to the brand's plethora of big stage wins.
While the whole Wiggle/CRC saga drags on, we couldn’t help but include Vitus in our line-up. After all, it's the brand that produced the favourite bike we tested in 2023 (check out the full countdown at the link above). Vitus makes some tremendously good value bikes, similarly to the Van Rysel.
If the brand didn’t have so much uncertainty ahead of it, then we’d definitely like to see its bikes in the World Tour. In reality, it's probably one headache too many for Vitus' troubled parent company in this current climate.
Felt has seen its fair share of reshuffling and economic hardship in recent years, but put that to one side and it makes some bikes that we don’t think would look out of place in the World Tour. Felt has sponsored plenty of Continental teams in the past, and up until recently the women’s World Tour Team Human Powered Health.
Focus is a brand that knows what it takes to supply the world's best, and last did so in 2016 for the AG2R team. If Focus was to sponsor a World Tour team again then it would undoubtedly be with the Izalco Max (shown above), the brand’s all-round race bike that it claims is "true essence of pace."
Ribble, Handsling and Orro
Ribble, Handsling and Orro are three British brands that have yet to make the jump up to the World Tour, but are three brands that have their foot in the door when it comes to racing. All three have sponsored British teams, and in the case of Ribble and Handsling the women’s Pro Conti teams Lifeplus Wahoo and DAS Handsling (shown above) respectively.
Perhaps more likely bike to be seen at the Giro in particular is the Basso Diamante. Basso sponsors multiple second-division men's teams and women’s teams, and seems like a brand on the up. Would you like to see another Italian manufacturer back in the peloton?
Our final pick is Cinelli, a brand with so much history we could make an entire other feature on it. Cinelli famously designed the super aerodynamic hour record-beating bike. 28 gold medals between the Olympic Games and World Championships have been won on Cinelli bikes.
Which bike do you think most deserves a spot in the peloton, and which do you think we're most likely to see in the World Tour soon? Let us know in the comments section below.
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...