With the Tour de France being decided on the toughest mountain passes, it’s important to have a lightweight race bike to get you up the climbs. Here is our pick of six of the best, though our last choice might not even appear at this year’s race.
First up is the Merida Scultura of Bahrain Victorious. We went to check out this bike at the Criterium du Dauphine where we got our hands on Damiano Caruso’s bike. He’s a key domestique for Australian Jack Haig, so keep an eye out for this bike at the front of the bunch.
The Bahrain Victorious Scultura features a very tidy build with a full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, Vision wheels and Continental GP5000 S TR tubeless tyres.
The front end shows no cabling at all, creating a very clean setup with the Vision Metron integrated cockpit.
While we know a lot about that bike, our next pick is a bit of a risk because it has only just seen its first serious climb. The brand new and, as-yet-unreleased Canyon Ultimate is a bit of an unknown quantity right now, but it replaces a design that is a whopping 7-years old and the big changes are easy to spot.
The new Ultimate has ditched a round seatpost in favour of a more aero, D-shaped one, appears to have inherited the adjustable cockpit on the Aeroad and has no visible external cabling.
The new frame doesn't appear to have had a radical revamp but it has followed the current trend of blurring the lines between lightweight and aero, with some of the improvements no doubt made with watt-savings in mind.
If there's a party to be had anywhere it's at the back, which is quite a departure from the current Ultimate. Although the seatstays join at the top tube and have not dropped further down the seat tube like the Aeroad, there's a strong D-shape at the junction and the seat tube is straight with no cut-out following the rear wheel. There's still plenty of room between seat tube and rear tyre on this particular bike, suggesting that the new Ultimate will have plenty of tyre clearance.
At the front, we see the bike has retained a tall--ish head tube and angular fork, with the big changes coming at the cockpit. The same quill-style stem included on the current Aeroad appears to have been specced here, which suggests that this is the same CP0018 Aerocockpit that - after a few bumps in the road to start with - is included on the latest generation Canyon Aeroad. This means new Ultimate owners will also be able to adjust their bar's width with three settings to choose from, and adjust the height by up to 15mm without having to cut or chop anything up.
Movistar is a SRAM-sponsored team, so they use RED eTap AXS and Zipp wheels. Most of the riders seem to be on tubular Competition Pro Limited tyres from Continental.
With possibly the best paint job in the peloton, the Cannondale Supersix of EF Education First was certainly turning a few heads. While Magnus Cort rode around his homeland of Denmark mopping up all of the king of the mountains points aboard the more aero SystemSix, it won’t be long before we see the Palace edition of the lightweight SuperSix making an appearance.
The SuperSix is actually set to be available to buy in this colour way, so if you really like it and you have a few grand burning a hole in your pocket, then it could soon be yours.
The EF team bikes feature Shimano’s 12-speed Dura-Ace Di2 shifters, brakes, derailleurs and cassettes. The chainset is the FSA powerbox carbon which uses internals from Power2Max.
The wheels are from Vision and the team has a full range of depths available. It looks as though the team is exclusively running tubeless tyres which come from Vittoria.
The Giant TCR of Team Bike Exchange is a lovely machine and we got a very look at the bike of Aussie Nick Schultz prior to the race starting in Denmark.
This is a build that has a (relatively) classic feel with the partially exposed cabling and tubular tyres being features that we don’t see much in the pro peloton these days.
Shimano provides the groupset and the wheels come from Giant’s in-house brand Cadex.
The Trek Emonda was specifically developed for being as fast as possible on the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez.
The Trek Segafredo riders have a choice of the full range of Bontrager’s wheels and these are set up with Pirelli tubeless tyres.
The groupset comes with a power meter built-in and as SRAM uses a 10T smallest cog in the 12-speed cassette, the chainrings are generally slightly lower than the equivalent Shimano or Campagnolo offering.
The hydraulic disc brakes use 160mm rotors front and rear which offers plenty of stopping power. With the integrated front end, it is a lovely-looking bike.
Our final bike is a slightly left-field choice. You might not agree with this, but the Specialized Aethos is one of the best climbing bikes in the world.
This bike has only, to our knowledge, done one Tour de France stage in its lifetime. That was in the 2021 edition of the race and Kasper Asgreen was the lucky rider to have a new bike for one day in the mountains.
6 kilos is how little the S-Works Aethos Dura-Ace Di2 model can weigh with the lightest colourway when built with the lightest Specialized components. To get that weight you’d use the Roval Alpinist CLX II wheels, the S-Works SL stem and S-Works Short and Shallow carbon handlebar, but plenty of paying customers have gone even lighter with fancy components.
With the UCI’s minimum weight limit of 6.8kg in place, there is quite a bit of work for the mechanics to do to make this bike heavier and one measure that we saw Asgreen using to bring the weight up was to use the deeper Rapide CLX wheels.
So why don’t we see this bike used more by the pros in the mountains? Well, quite simply, their more aerodynamic Tarmac SL7s are pretty easy to build down to the 6.8kg limit, so there’s no real reason for the pros to use the Aethos.
We’re sure that you’re going to disagree with at least one of our choices so let us know which ones are terrible down in the comments below.