It’s time for us to reveal which of the road bikes we reviewed in 2023 were the best and the single model we rate most highly of all and are crowning the road.cc Recommends: Road Bike of the Year 2023/24.
Let’s explain which bikes are eligible for inclusion here. First, we’re talking about bikes that we reviewed on road.cc during 2023. If we didn’t review it, it’s not going in. Simple.
Second, as the title suggests, this category covers bikes that are designed for the road. We’re not limiting it to road race bikes, though. They’re certainly important here, but we’re also including sportive and endurance bikes. We used to deal with those in a separate category, but we’ve stopped doing that to avoid issues with categorisation. The line between race bikes and sportive bikes is fuzzy at best, so we’re treating them all together.
Gravel bikes get their own category, as do folding bikes and electric bikes. Superbikes, which we define this year as anything costing over £7,500, are treated separately too – so all of the bikes you'll see below are priced below that £7,500 threshold.
What about all-road bikes, though? Hmm! That’s a trickier question. All-road bikes are drop-bar bikes that are capable of taking on any road surface from smooth tarmac to light gravel. They sit somewhere between a traditional road bike and a gravel bike and you could make a case for them going in with either. Even though it has large clearances, the one all-road bike that makes our top 10 came fitted with 28mm tyres, so it was an easy choice to include here.
The prices quoted here were correct at the time of our original reviews, and they're what our comments are based on. In some cases, they've increased since then.
Okay, that’s enough jibber-jabber, let’s get started…
The Merida Scultura Endurance 4000 kicks off our top 10 in style. This bike is the entry point into Merida’s carbon fibre lineup, offering a geometry that’s geared towards comfort, a nimble character, and plenty of fun. It looks good and offers a competitive spec for its price, too.
Positioned between Merida’s lightweight Scultura and the gravel/adventure-focused Silex, the Scultura Endurance takes design cues from both road and off-road bikes. This results in a bike that’s quick on the road and also comfortable, thanks to its fairly relaxed ride position.
Don’t get the impression that the Scultura Endurance 4000 is just a staid mile-muncher; it’s never found wanting when you want to go out for a fast blast. While not overly flashy, it is responsive, stiff, and engaging – a joy on descents and challenging roads.
You get plenty of comfort thanks to details like ultra-slim seatstays and a compliant frame design. Merida’s CF3 frame strikes a balance between weight and stiffness, while the full-carbon fork, with a tapered steerer, follows suit. Space for 35mm (or 32mm with mudguards) adds versatility and the internal seatpost clamp maintains the bike’s sleek lines.
Shimano 105 hydraulic brakes inspire confidence, and the 50/34T compact chainset, paired with an 11-34T cassette, gives you enough options for tackling the hills. You get crisp shifting and the overall performance-to-price ratio of this groupset can’t be beaten.
Merida’s in-house components, including alloy handlebars and stem and a carbon fibre seatpost, add to the bike’s quality, although the wheels don’t really contribute to the fun factor. We’d also upgrade the Maxxis Detonator tyres to something grippier and more supple.
With a high-quality frameset and better components than most bikes at this price, the Merida Scultura Endurance 4000 is a well-rounded package that provides comfort, performance, and value.
Why it’s here Great value, with high-quality components and a top-notch frameset with a well-balanced approach to comfort and performance
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The Spa Cycles Elan Ti Mk2 is a belter of a bike, its geometry, contact points, and beautiful ride quality meaning that the longer you’re out there, the better it gets. With a first-rate titanium frame and a full carbon fork, it’s comfortable, agile, and quicker than you might expect.
The tall head tube looks a little ungainly compared to racier counterparts, but it puts you in a relaxed position that’s ideal for a bike of this kind. You can still get down on the drops when you want to be more aero, or bin off the headset spacers to lower the front end.
Despite a weight of 10.25kg, the Elan feels lively once you get moving. The tall front end improves your vision in traffic, and the neutral handling makes for stress-free manoeuvring when things get busy.
The Elan really shines on longer rides, responding to extra power through the pedals. Reviewer Stu Kerton said, “When you just want to ride and take in the scenery or let your mind wander, it is hugely stable and just a real joy to ride.”
The titanium frame, with its inherent smoothness, coupled with the carbon fork, offers a wonderful level of comfort, while the Elan’s tyre clearances add to its versatility. You can fit 45mm tyres without mudguards or 40mm with them. You get mounting points for full guards, along with bottle cages and a rear rack, helping to make this bike a practical and capable light tourer.
Lacking internal cable routing, the Elan only really works – or at least looks right – with mechanical groupsets. The titanium frame’s seamless tubing, brushed finish, and neat welding contribute to the cool aesthetics while 12mm thru-axles and flat mounts bring it up to date with modern build specs.
The Elan Ti Mk2 is built up with a Shimano 105 R7000 groupset that provides reliable gear shifting and braking. The compact chainset and 11-speed cassette offer versatility, although you can customise the spec.
It’s easy to recommend this bike. With a geometry that works alongside the comfort of titanium, it’s a great long-distance machine that’s perfectly capable of riding fast.
Why it’s here Belies its weight in terms of performance and offers an incredibly comfortable ride
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The Giant Propel Advanced Pro 1 is an excellent aero road bike that combines efficiency, stiffness, and comfort, and although it might take a while to get used to the idea of spending £5,500 on a bike with a third-tier SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset, it offers good value against models from other leading brands.
From the off, the Propel will impress you with its efficiency; there’s very little frame flex even when you crank up the power. The redesigned aero frame tubes are designed to contribute to the speed, too.
The Propel’s nimble steering makes for easy navigation through groups of riders or around defects in the road surface, and it inspires confidence in tight turns. Surprisingly for an aero bike, crosswinds aren’t a big challenge, even with deep 50mm Giant SLR 1 Carbon Disc wheels.
The Propel is also comfortable, especially by typical aero bike standards, and that’s a real bonus on long rides. The amount of vibration getting through to you in the saddle is minimal, and the tubeless 25mm Schwalbe One Folding tyres (measuring over 28mm on these wheels) contribute to a smoother ride.
Weighing in at 8.47kg (size ML), the Propel isn’t the lightest bike you can buy at this price, but it’s an able climber. Giant offers three versions of the Propel Advanced Pro, with the SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset model we reviewed providing crisp shifting and reliable braking.
The front end features a two-piece Contact SLR Aero handlebar and stem setup that provides easy adjustment and compatibility with components from other brands.
With its geometry mirroring that of Giant’s TCR road bike and neat design features such as an out-front computer mount that fits to the stem face plate bolts, the Propel Advanced Pro 1 is a great option for riders looking for a fast, efficient, and comfortable aero road bike.
Why it’s here Excellent aero road bike that provides efficiency, comfort, and good value in the current market
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The Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2 is a stunning women-specific endurance bike, offering impressive value and plenty of comfort for long days in the saddle. You get a great riding experience here.
Out on the road, the Avail combines comfort and stability. Although it’s at its best on endurance rides, it won’t slow you down when you’re out for a quick blast. While the more relaxed riding position doesn’t scream sprint or race, this bike surprises you with its responsiveness, efficiently converting your effort into forward motion. The frame is stiff but not harsh, and the exposed D-Fuse seat post flexes a little to add more smoothness.
The Avail is as enjoyable on long climbs as it is on flat roads, the reasonable 8.2kg weight helping to keep you ticking along. The gearing – a 50/34T chainset matched to an 11-34T cassette – provides sufficient options for both ascents and descents.
Made from Liv's Advanced-Grade Composite carbon fibre, the Avail boasts a women-specific geometry with a slanted top tube that’s designed to improve stiffness and dropped seatstays for added comfort. With quite chunky semi-slick tyres (32mm but measuring 33.5mm), and mudguard mounts, the Avail is a suitable choice for everyday riding.
Equipped with a Shimano 105 Di2 electronic groupset, the shifting and braking are dependable. The Giant SLR2 36 Disc WheelSystem, paired with 32mm Giant Gavia Fondo 1 Tubeless tyres, contributes to the stable and smooth ride. Those tyres, although a little weighty, provide a good balance between grip and durability.
Reviewer Suvi Loponen said she’d have preferred a narrower handlebar and thinner tape but those are minor quibbles. Overall, she found that Liv’s women-focused geometry and components worked extremely well for her. Add in the value for money and this is an excellent bike.
Why it’s here Great value bike with stable handling, suitable for a range of endurance riders from beginners to the more experienced
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A fixed-gear steel Audax bike from a British touring specialist? It’s not exactly a mainstream proposition, but the Spa Cycles Audax Mono will put a smile on your face and that’s why it secures sixth place in our roundup.
This bike combines extreme comfort with exceptional performance, eating up flat miles, climbing with finesse, and providing plenty of control even on the steepest descents. If you’re intrigued by the slightly eccentric world of long-distance fixed-gear riding, the Audax Mono offers high build quality and incredible value.
Made from Reynolds 725 double-butted steel, the frame strikes a balance between weight and strength, while wheels built in-house by Spa Cycles contribute to comfort and compliance. A carbon fork adds lightness and shock absorption into the mix.
The Audax Mono can handle a variety of terrains well and has enough space for 28mm tyres with mudguards. It delivers a remarkably smooth ride, even over neglected roads.
Although you might expect climbing to be a chore with just one gear, it’s actually a joy and the choice of a 42-tooth chainring and 16-tooth sprocket suits varied terrains. Okay, you have to attack every hill, but that’s part of the deal, and the Tektro R737 callipers and TRP-RRL brake levers provide confidence on the way back down again. With eyelets for mudguards and panniers, the Audax Mono is a versatile choice for winter training, all-weather commuting, and light touring.
Spa Cycles’ knowledgeable team can give you personalised advice on frame size and component upgrades and the Audax Mono offers plenty of value. If you’re looking for memorable adventures at an unbeatable price, it deserves serious consideration.
Why it’s here Exceptional value and performance on a bike that can unlock long-distance fixed-gear adventures
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Into the top 5, and it’s time to meet the Giant Defy Advanced 1 endurance bike. Giant has updated the Defy since we ran our review earlier in the year (we tested the high-end 2024 Defy Advanced SL 0 in October) but it’s worth telling you about the 2023 bike again because it’s still available in some places. There’s a 2024 model in a very similar build too.
This is a steady, ride-all-day bike with reliable handling. Although certainly focused on tarmac, there’s enough versatility here to tackle easier dirt roads and maybe even trails if you're feeling adventurous.
The Giant Defy Advanced 1 comes with a broad gear range, excellent hydraulic brakes, and the precision and tunability of Shimano Di2 electronic shifting. Reviewer John Stevenson described it as “the definitive modern sportive and endurance bike”.
The Defy Advanced 1 offers well-balanced handling and has a composed feel whether you're climbing or descending with your eyes on the speedo. Its confidence-inspiring ride encourages a bit of silliness.
Giant’s High Performance Grade carbon fibre frame sits at the heart of things, with internal routing for brake hoses and Di2 wiring, a press-fit bottom bracket, mudguard mounts, and space for tyres up to 35mm wide.
Shimano’s 105 Di2 shifting system provides flawless gear changes. The Synchro Shift feature offers a simple approach to shifting. No matter where the chain is on the cassette, you just decide whether you want to shift up or down and the Di2 automatically does the rest, even if that involves moving from one chainring to the other.
The Defy Advanced 1’s tubeless tyres, set up out of the box, are a revelation, while the D-Fuse seatpost adds more comfort, as does the firm yet supportive Giant Approach saddle.
The quintessential modern endurance bike, the Giant Defy Advanced 1 does everything you could expect of a bike at this price, and does it all very, very well. If you love long days on the bike – and especially if you're not averse to a bit of dirt road riding – this could well be your ideal bike.
Why it’s here Excellent do-almost-everything endurance bike; practically the type specimen for the genre
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Vielo has taken its 1x (single chainring) R+1 Alto and added a Classified Powershift rear hub to provide the gear range of a 2x (double chainset) setup, keeping the simple and smooth lines that the model is known for while adding versatility. This road bike is comfortable as well as fast and fun.
Vielo has been making frames tailored for 1x systems since 2017, but if you crave more gears, this Classified-equipped model steps in. The Powershift hub uses a wireless planetary 2x gear system, powered by contactless energy transfer from the thru-axle. This innovation moves the functionality of the front derailleur to the rear hub. You switch between hub gears via a user-friendly thumb lever that’s positioned on the handlebar.
The geometry isn’t as aggressive as that of a full-on race machine or even some endurance bikes, but you get confident handling that lets you ride fast through bends.
The exceptional stiffness around the bottom bracket and head tube makes the R+1 responsive when sprinting and climbing, and the Classified system doesn’t add much weight, so even steep hills are a breeze. You get a surprising amount of comfort thanks to the carbon fibre lay-up and tube profiles.
The Vielo R+1 Alto Classified weighs an impressive 7.87kg, just 170g heavier than its 2020 SRAM Force counterpart. The package includes a revised handlebar, integrated stem, carbon fibre seatpost, and a Selle Italia SLR Boost Super Flow carbon saddle.
Available in Alto (with a frame weight of 880g) and Strato (with a frame weight of 1,100g) versions, the R+1 delivers a unique blend of style, innovation, and performance. It is a versatile road bike that successfully bridges the gap between 1x simplicity and 2x versatility. If you want a fast bike with a touch of comfort, this is a smart choice.
Why it’s here A fast, fun and comfortable road bike that exploits the clean lines of a 1x with the gear ratios of a 2x
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Handsling isn't the biggest name in cycling but its A1R0evo is an excellent speed-focused road bike that doesn’t sacrifice comfort. Hitting the scales at just 7.72kg, it combines responsiveness with a supple ride. It’s quick off the mark and the frame’s aero attributes, along with the deep-section wheels, help you hold onto that speed even on rolling terrain. The A1R0evo feels at home in a mass sprint while also allowing you to cover serious miles with ease.
Handsling is a British brand that invests in its own moulds, so you won’t see the same design with a different name elsewhere. The slightly stretched geometry, coupled with a low front end, puts you in an efficient riding position here. The bike has a nimble feel to it, helped by the tight wheelbase, and offers confident and direct handling.
Descending fast, the A1R0evo is a point-and-shoot machine that gives you precise changes of direction. The fork doesn't wander even when you bank the bike over hard at high speed, and feedback from the road through the frameset as a whole is very good indeed.
Made with Toray’s T800 carbon fibre, the A1R0evo comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. Aerodynamic features in the frame design and integrated cable runs add to the sleek look. With space for tyres up to 32mm, this bike gives you the option of going wide (or, at least, wide for a road bike) for extra comfort.
The A1R0evo is available in several different builds, our review bike coming with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain featuring semi-wireless shifting. It’s superb stuff. The Parcours Strade wheels offer impressive performance too, while the Pirelli P Zero TLRs are fast, grippy and very durable for race tyres.
The Handsling A1R0evo is a high-value choice. If you’re looking for a bike that blends speed, comfort, and quality, this is an impressive all-round package.
Why it’s here A high-end, no-compromise road race bike that delivers stiffness and comfort in equal measures
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We’re up to number two in our countdown, and things are getting serious now. Our runner-up spot goes to the Orro Gold STC, which combines stunning ride quality with easy-to-live-with geometry. With aerodynamic enhancements over its predecessor, this is a very fast and comfortable road bike at a good price. Reviewer Stu Kerton described it as “one of the best all-round do-it-all, aero-cum-endurance bikes you can buy”.
The Gold STC offers a solid feel, providing the confidence-inspiring feedback typically associated with heavier bikes. The damping of buzz and vibration makes it a joy to ride even on less-than-perfect road surfaces.
The geometry is quite aggressive, while the front end is backed off just a touch, giving steering that’s quick but not twitchy. On descents, the Gold STC is sure-footed through tight corners and communicates what the tyres are up to with superb accuracy.
It’s nimble too, with the slightest of inputs being required to change direction, and the stiffness of the frame ensures that all of your power gets through to the rear wheel. Besides all that, you get tons of comfort courtesy of features like slender seatstays and the ability to take tyres up to 32mm wide.
Made using spread-tow carbon that’s designed to reduce weight while increasing stiffness, the frame comes in at an impressive 830g, and the build quality is excellent. The sleek design includes aero elements inspired by Orro’s Venturi model, resulting in a purposeful-looking bike with full internal cable routing.
Equipped with SRAM’s updated Force AXS groupset, this version of the Gold STC offers intuitive shifting and a good range of gears. The braking is top-notch, and Orro’s decision to forego an integrated cockpit in favour of a separate handlebar and stem adds versatility and adjustability.
Orro hasn’t cut any corners here. It provides a high-quality frameset built up with very good components and still manages to provide impressive value. Offering an awesome balance of stiffness, comfort, and smoothness, the Gold STC is the complete package for many road riders.
Why it’s here A wonderful blend of comfort and performance, at an awesome price for a build of this quality
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Top spot goes to the Vitus Venon EVO-RS Force AXS, an incredibly capable road machine with a forgiving ride and quick handling. There’s a twist, though. The huge bonus here is that, with the ability to take wide tyres, this bike has the versatility to take you on adventures well beyond the tarmac too. Two bikes for the price of one, then. Kind of!
Drawing inspiration from Vitus’ ZX-1 EVO aero road bike and Vitesse EVO lightweight allrounder, the Venon EVO combines sleek aero lines with comfort-enhancing slim seatstays. Vitus hasn’t just blended these two road bikes and added tyre clearance; the Venon EVO has a distinct identity that sets it apart.
This bike is responsive and eager to get a move on, and it’s a great climber too. The huge stiffness in the lower part of the frame, along with the lightweight build, means you get plenty of reward when you up the power. Hard accelerations feel great, and you won’t be left wanting if you take it on a club run.
The Venon EVO’s handling is a beautiful balance between efficiency and stability, and the frame and fork provide a plushness that lets you cover big miles in comfort.
Available in EVO-RS (road) and EVO-GR (gravel) versions, the Venon is designed for versatility. The EVO-RS we reviewed impressed us with a SRAM AXS Force groupset that offered precise shifting and powerful hydraulic braking. Well-selected components, including an aero carbon handlebar and a carbon seatpost, mean there are no weaknesses on the spec sheet.
One feature that sets the Venon EVO apart from its rivals is that you can fit tyres up to 45mm wide here. That’s reeeeeeally wide for a bike of this kind – more than you can fit on many gravel bikes – and this is a massive bonus if you want to add some variety to your riding and head off the tarmac.
Whatever guise it’s in, the Venon EVO does its job with aplomb. On the road, it is a fast road bike. Setup for gravel, it’s a fast gravel bike. It never feels like a compromise in either scenario, and that’s a hugely clever trick to pull off. With a fabulous frameset, a strong spec, and great value for money, this truly is an exceptional bike.
Why it wins A superbly versatile bike that offers exceptional performance and handling, whatever the terrain
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