It's time to reveal the best gravel/adventure bikes, E-bikes and urban bikes that we've reviewed on road.cc over the past year.
You probably know that once a month we add the top-performing bikes, components, accessories and clothing that we've reviewed to road.cc Recommends. Only a select few products make it in. Now it's time for us to announce the best of the best from 2021 in these categories:
Everything considered for our end of year awards must have been reviewed by road.cc, of course. If a particular company didn't send us their bike, we can’t ride it or rate it.
We've now been back to road.cc Recommends, looked at each bike on its own merits and chosen the very best of them to be included here.
We give out three types of awards:
We don’t necessarily give out each award in every category; it all comes down to what the bikes that have made it into road.cc Recommends deserve.
Right, let's get stuck in...
The gravel/adventure sector got busier than ever in 2021 and the standard of bikes continued to rise.
The Vitus Substance CRS-2 (£1,999.99) impressed us as a smooth-rolling gravel and adventure bike that works well as both an unladen speed machine and a fully-loaded workhorse. With a great frameset, sorted geometry and well-specced components, it also offers great value for money.
Orro’s Terra C GRX800 (£2,599.99) is a gravel bike at the sportier end of the spectrum that now comes with a new internal cable routing system to clean up the front end. This bike balances performance with comfort and is an absolute blast to ride.
Kona’s steel-framed Rove LTD (£2,399) offers an excellent ride feel, plenty of tyre clearance, and loads of mounts for adventures off the beaten track.
The All-City Gorilla Monsoon (£2,600) – which is also steel – is a comfortable, smooth handling beast of a bike that'll cope with whatever you throw in its direction. It comes with space for huge 2.4in tyres and is big on versatility.
Fairlight Cycles’ Faran 2.0 (£2,940) is steel too (the frame and fork are Reynolds 631), and it is excellent. The thought behind the design is second to none. If you're looking for a dedicated bikepacking or touring bike then the Faran 2.0 should be on your list.
Our Bargain Buy award goes to the £1,100 Boardman ADV 8.9 which provides an excellent entry point to gravel riding thanks to a great ride quality.
Boardman has frequently proved that it can deliver a lot of bike for the money, and it does so again here. The ADV 8.9 is built around a triple-butted 6061 aluminium frame with hidden welds and a full carbon fork. It is a classy bike, balancing comfort and stiffness, and the well-mannered handling will look after you should you be new to riding on a surface that moves beneath your tyres. It's a versatile package too, with a geometry that lends itself well to riding both on the road and off it, and is also a very capable tourer.
The Fearless Warlock frame and fork (£720) takes our Editor's Choice award. Like several other gravel and adventure bikes that impressed our reviewers in 2021, this is a steel option, built from a blend of custom-butted tubing.
Brighton-based Fearless has come up with a considered and well-thought-out frameset with no-nonsense, practical and appropriate features that mean it punches well above its price point.
The Warlock is light, fast, and extremely versatile, capable of handling road, gravel, and many types of more challenging off-road trails. It is an absolute hoot down rocky bridleways, fire road trails and trail centre singletrack, with handling that is nippy enough to remain inspiring without being too twitchy.
The Warlock is perfect for long, faster rides on surfaces right up to the point you could want suspension and a dropper post.
You could use the Warlock as the core to a great gravel or adventure bike if you have a limited budget or a few spares kicking around. It's equally deserving of a high-end build.
Overall, you get a an excellent performance coupled with a great price from this all-purpose frameset.
The best eBikes we reviewed in 2021 are a diverse mix, to say the least, covering everything from road bikes to commuters.
Ribble’s Endurance AL e Enthusiast Shimano 105 (£2,799) is an aluminium road bike that provides all the fun, pleasurable handling and ride quality of the non-electric model, but with the addition of a Mahle Ebikemotion X35+ motor that delivers plenty of smooth assistance for those of us who want or need a bit of help on the hills.
The Cube Reaction Hybrid Performance 500 (£2,099) is a great value all-round trail bike with commuting potential. Much of the impressive performance is down to the Bosch mid-drive system. The Performance Line is Bosch’s second-highest spec motor and we like it very much, It’s quiet, smooth, and easy to pedal when there is no motor assist.
Our Money No Object award goes to the Scott Addict eRide Premium (£9,199). This road bikes takes the design of Scott's flagship race model and adds electrical assistance to create a bike that is just as much fun to ride uphill as it is down.
The Addict eRide Premium still rides very much like a performance road bike though, and with all the cables and batteries hidden, your buddies will barely notice it's an e-bike. Well, until you start to pull away on the hills.
Scott has chosen Mahle’s Ebikemotion X35 hub-based motor system, and it delivers the power in a smooth, progressive manner. There’s no massive surge of assistance – it's more like having a strong tailwind nudging you along.
The handling, ride position and comfort levels are top-notch and, while it's an expensive bike, it’s fairly priced both for what it is and against the top-end opposition.
Our Editor’s Choice award goes to the practical and stylish VanMoof S3 (£1,998). One thing that sets the S3 apart is that everything to do with security is integrated. It has what’s called a kick lock that prevents the bike from being moved and also arms an alarm. If the bike is somehow stolen, you can track it through Apple's Find My app.
The S3 boasts a 504Wh battery which powers a 250W front hub motor. At the top setting, this gives you a claimed 39 miles on a single charge, which is slightly more than we managed. The motor picks up quickly, though, and when going uphill a boost button allows you to zip along without any effort at all.
With integrated lights, hydraulic disc brakes, mudguards and a kickstand, this is a supremely practical option.
As far as electric bikes go, you can find models that go further, are lighter and are probably more comfortable. As far as a form of personal transport that makes everyday travel easy, the VanMoof is almost unrivalled.
Two urban bikes made it into road.cc Recommends this year and they each warrant an award.
Our Bargain Buy award goes to the Vitus Dee VR City Bike Nexus (£429.99) which we called “possibly the perfect city runaround”. With an eager aluminium frame and some surprise speccing highlights at a very reasonable price, this is a most attractive hub-geared city bike.
The stiff frame effectively and efficiently translates your effort into forward motion, while the accurate and lively front end is supremely fun. Balance and control are assured and the positioning – a little bit head down and raring to go, rather than sitting up and admiring the view – works in harmony with the rest of the bike.
The Nexus 3-speed hub is simple to use and Shimano’s M400 hydraulic disc brakes offer good outright power and, more importantly, very accurate modulation.
When it comes to doing what it sets out to do – which is to get you across town, dependably, at speed, and even allow you to enjoy the experience – the Vitus Dee VR City Bike Nexus is very hard to fault.
The Giant Escape 0 Disc (£899) wins our Editor’s Choice award. This bike is functional but fun, good value and versatile. Its high-quality aluminium frame, full-carbon fork, and decent weight (10.5kg) make it a very attractive proposition whether you're sticking to the traditional commuting, fitness and day-to-day riding duties or loading it up for bigger, longer and more adventurous days out. It's comfortable on the roughest of roads and will cope with a variety of unsurfaced routes without complaint.
The Escape 0 Disc boasts a drivetrain made up of mostly Shimano components, and the brand’s MT200 hydraulic disc brakes that offer loads of power and control in all conditions. Giant’s CrossCut Metro Easy Ride tubeless tyres are another highlight – comfortable on tarmac, and grippy on grit and towpath dirt.
Reviewer Simon Withers said, “The Giant is well worth the money, especially considering the all-round quality of its ride, its simple 1x shifting and well-chosen components. I found it such an enjoyable ride it's one I would turn to even after I'd finished testing it.”
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 pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.