Road bikes are what we’re all about here at road.cc – the clue’s in the name! – and here are the very best that we reviewed in 2020.
First up, the rules. Bikes must fulfil these criteria to be considered in this category:
1. They must have been tested on road.cc during 2020 (earlier reviews that were republished in 2020 don’t count). If a particular bike company didn't send us their bike, we can’t ride it or rate it!
2. They must have a price tag of under £4,000. The cut-off has been £3,500 for the past few years but we’ve nudged it upwards this time. Road bikes costing more than £4,000 are dealt with in our Superbike of the Year category.
3. They must be race/race-inspired road bikes; sportive/endurance bikes have their own category.
We make that distinction in our awards between race/race-inspired road bikes and sportive/endurance bikes because most people decide on the genre of bike they want to buy before choosing a particular model.
Performance and speed are key criteria for bikes in this category, and aerodynamics has become ever more important over recent years, even at lower prices.
Rim brakes are still a popular choice, especially at the lower prices, but disc brakes have become dominant.
Availability is an issue this year. Some bikes featured here are hard to get hold of because of interruption to the supply chain caused by the global pandemic and an increase in demand for bikes. Other 2020 bikes have been updated for 2021, which we've mentioned in the text. We don't take ease of sourcing a bike into account in our awards; we don't think that would be fair.
So which bikes have made it on to the list? Last year the Cannondale CAAD13 Disc 105 won this category. Read on to find out which bike gets the honour this year...
The Merida Scultura 300 gets into our roundup as it proves that you don't need to spend a fortune to get a highly capable and comfortable performance road bike. At the centre of things is a very good aluminium alloy frame, plus a full carbon fork and a smattering of decent kit.
Aluminium used to be branded as harsh, but those days are gone. Now, with the use of various alloy grades, butting, hydroforming and computer analysis software, manufacturers are delivering bikes like this Scultura, with a frame that is stiff where it needs to be, but with plenty of comfort included. The Maxxis tyres that came on our test bike aren’t exactly the most supple, so it’s even more impressive that the frame is able to deal with road buzz before it gets to the rider.
At 9.26kg, this isn’t the lightest bike, but it is good for the money and the weight only starts to be noticeable on the steepest of climbs. Should you have a lot of accelerations to do on your ride, such as away from traffic lights, the Scultura isn’t held back by its weight. It actually feel quite nippy.
The flip side of that weight is that you get a planted feel on the road. Hit a section of rough tarmac and the bike remains calm, a feature that will please new and experienced riders alike.
The geometry balances a sporty ride position with enough comfort for longer days in the saddle, and the frameset is perfect for some upgrading down the line if you want to make it faster.
The handling is balanced and, despite a pretty steep head tube angle, the steering is neutral, offering a nicely controlled ride that isn’t boring.
The Scultura makes for a very good first serious road bike or a quality upgrade from bikes around the £500 mark.
The Scultura 300 has a very good frameset that delivers a great balance of stiffness and comfort, which is what makes it so upgradable. If you are new to riding, this is definitely a bike that could grow with you as your aspirations, fitness and talent take off.
The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon retains its excellent aero frameset for 2021, but now gets a better groupset for no extra cost. This only boosts the already great versatility, and it's ripe for long-term upgrades.
The C7 frame and fork lie at the heart of the bike and these uses the same aerodynamic design and geometry as the rest of the SLR range, albeit here with a different grade of carbon fibre. That sacrifices a tiny bit of stiffness around the bottom bracket, although you can only tell when really going for it in a sprint or on a climb. For most of your riding it's not an issue.
The 8.9 provides a smooth ride. There's no harshness to speak of, and the riding position is well thought out. You can get a relatively stretched aero position that isn’t too extreme for those longer rides. This makes it quick and efficient.
The front end geometry is on the lively side of neutral. Technical descents can be taken at speed, not only because of the planted feel, but also thanks to the stiff fork and rigid, tapered head tube and steerer.
Feedback is also good, so you get a good sense of what the bike is doing, and you can improve this further with better tyres. On the whole, though, the SLR 8.9 is a fun bike to ride as hard and as fast as you like.
An upgrade this year to a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset featuring a 50/34T chainset and an 11-30T cassette gives you a little bit extra at both ends of the gearing. Shifting from the R7000 derailleurs and gear levers is crisp and it is simply one of the best groupsets out there for performance versus cost.
The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon remains a top-level contender for bikes around the £1,000 mark, especially with with its newly upgraded groupset. The frameset is highly upgradable, and also very versatile.
The Orro Venturi was been updated for 2021 with fully internal cable routing, and one of the new models that we reviewed in December secured third place in the road.cc Superbike of the Year 2020/21. Earlier in the year, we reviewed a more affordable 2020 model which still had partly external routing. Delivering the aerodynamics, awesome handling and stiffness of the top-level Venturi STC, this Venturi Evo 105 model gives a more affordable route into Orro ownership. It's certainly a lot of bike for the money.
The STC version of the Venturi is brilliant. Not many bikes do such an excellent job of balancing stiffness and comfort. A slightly different carbon fibre is the main change with this cheaper model. You’re getting the same shapes and an identical geometry, it is just that the STC uses spread tow carbon (hence the name) while the Evo uses uni-directional carbon fibre.
This means that the STC and Evo have slightly different characteristics, but it's much more subtle than we were expecting.
One of the stand out qualities of the Venturi STC is the ride quality. The Evo doesn't quite take the edge off like the top of the range model. It's still good but not quite as plush as the STC. Against many other similar bikes that use the same carbon fibre, it is actually really good.
The Venturi has a race bike feel to it in terms of how it responds to power input. Standing on the pedals for a climb shows no bottom bracket flex. It's the same story when sprinting. The bike is excellent for getting out for a blast around the lanes.
The geometry is just backed off a bit from a full-on racer, especially at the front end with a slightly slacker head angle of 72.2° which keeps the handling just the fun side of twitchy. You can still get low at the front too thanks to the short head tube.
The handling is dialled and fast descents are great fun. Get the bike into tight corners and it is unflustered. The fun is helped by a short wheelbase that keeps things agile.
Long rides can be ticked off in relative comfort, and with such great handling the bike helps you when the fatigue rises.
Aerodynamics is one of the main focuses of the Venturi's design and it is noticeable out on the road once speeds get high. It comes with a set of 30mm-deep wheels which help, but you can easily make it even faster by changing to 40 or 50mm-deep rims.
More importantly, against other aero bikes in the same price range it delivers a very competitive ride quality, feel and spec. That’s why it makes our shortlist.
One of the new breed of aero road race bikes, the Scott Addict impressed us with the way it looks and the way it rides. We reviewed the 2020 model which is hard to get hold of now, although the model remains in Scott's range for 2021, priced £3,399.
For the latest Addict design, Scott has focused heavily on aerodynamics to boost its already impressive performance. By keeping all hoses and cables virtually hidden it is certainly one smooth-looking machine, backed up by plenty of stiffness and a very comfortable rear end.
Take one look at the Addict and you can predict what you’re going to be getting. The huge down tube, oversized bottom bracket area, chunky chainstays and tapered head tube all shout rigidity and speed, and that’s what you get.
You’re going to want to kick the pedals around with this bike and thankfully there isn’t the slightest hint of flex anywhere through the bottom half of the frame. Add in a relatively light weight (7.88kg on our 54cm review model) and you have a very responsive bike.
All this stiffness does mean that the Scott can transfer some road buzz up through to the front end, but that is a feature of many thoroughbred racers.
Even though the frame geometry means not much seatpost extends out of the frame, there's enough flex there for a little extra comfort. It's not noticeable all of the time, but when you're cruising along you can just feel it doing its thing.
The steering here is very quick and you can really throw the bike into corners. Thankfully this fast steering is matched by a planted feel and this translates into excellent handling that allows you to flick through technical corners with loads of speed.
The short wheelbase results in a nimble feel, and the slightest body position change has an effect on the handling.
With the aero touches on the frame, straight-line speed is one of the Addict’s strengths and the bike allows you to get stretched out into a low race position.
On the whole, the Scott Addict RC 30 has all the benefits of a full-on race bike but with the easy riding characteristics of an endurance-based machine. It is very calm when riding at speed and a look down at your computer can present a surprise when you see just how fast you’re going.
First and foremost, we love the way the Addict RC rides. The stability that you get out on the road plus the handling is absolutely spot on. It is also a very good looking bike with a tidy front end. It's a great-handling, fun aero road bike for riding hard and fast.
The Vitesse Evo Team eTap AXS makes the shortlist for being a true pro race bike at a really good price. It combines a great frameset with excellent handling, an impressive ride quality and flawless components to give us a machine that punches above its price tag. We reviewed the 2020 model. It has been given a revamp for 2021, which we haven't yet reviewed, the Vitus Vitesse Evo CRS eTap costing £3,749.99.
With a low front end, the riding position feels purposeful and aggressive, and thanks to loads of stiffness in the lower half of the frame it's a bike you can really ride hard.
The overall weight of 8kg is good for a disc-brake road bike and this translates into the bike feeling very responsive to power efforts. Add to this a chunky down tube, big bottom bracket and chunky chainstays and you’ve got a platform that climbs and sprints very well.
The front end feels very direct when flying into technical corners and it is good under heavy braking too. The handling is very well balanced, whether you're cruising along or really pushing it into the corners.
Vitus has managed to pack a decent level of comfort in the frame and fork with just enough road buzz taken out before it reaches you. Should you want to slow things down for a longer ride, it behaves very well and presents no problems.
Overall, the Vitus is a very good bike. The way it rides is easy to live with and it does a great job of balancing stiffness with comfort. Topping the excellent frame and fork off with such good components results in a great bike for the money.
One of the most budget-friendly models that we’ve tested, the Allez makes it into our shortlist because it represents the perfect starter road bike. There is a return to full mudguard eyelets on the fork, too, although clearance is tight if you want year-round usage. We reviewed the 2020 model; the most affordable Allez in Specialized's 2021 range is £799.
The handling is pretty neutral, which will suit commuters tackling the same route day in, day out in a range of weather conditions, and carving your way through traffic if needs be, but if you've had a challenging day and need to blow off some steam you can stamp on the pedals and really go for it.
The Allez uses Specialized's own-spec E5 Premium aluminium alloy tubing in various shapes and diameters, finished off with decently smooth welds. The overall weight is 9.66kg which for a sub-£700 bike is pretty good. It climbs well and acceleration doesn't really feel like it’s hampered too much.
Specialized has dropped the seatstays lower for aerodynamics; it's not a major concern for this type of bike but hey, every second counts. They are thin, too, which brings a little bit more comfort to the rear end. They also feature rack mounts.
Some might smirk at the thought of using a Shimano Claris groupset, but it's a good 'un. You're getting the same looks, shifting and feel as you'll find with Sora and Tiagra but you're sacrificing a few sprockets on the cassette with 8-speed.
Specialized has specced Tektro dual pivot brakes and they do a decent job. They aren't the best out there, but they offer a degree of power and feel that isn't scary if you find yourself braking consistently in traffic.
The Axis Sport wheels use a 20-spoke pattern at the front, and a 24-spoke setup at the rear. They aren't the lightest, but reviewer Stu Kerton never felt that they hampered the ride at all and stayed true throughout.
The tyres are provided by Specialized: its Espoir Sport models in a 700x25mm size. They are wire beaded so quite heavy and a change to something folding and lighter would make a big impact, although no need to be in a massive rush. Grip is decent enough, wet and dry, and rolling resistance is okay too.
Overall, the Allez is a much better bike than any spec list or set of scales will have you believe. It left a big impression on us, even when put up next to bikes 10 times the price.
Netting itself a very high finish, the Triban RC 520 Women's Disc road bike is incredibly versatile, offers a comfortable ride on our rough roads, and is quite simply serious value for money. If you're looking for a bike that can handle the daily commute as well as take on some gravel trails and a bit of touring, the Triban is well worth considering.
While we love testing the bikes that you, the road.cc readers often ride, reviewer Emma wasn't screaming with excitement at the prospect of riding the 10.5kg Triban. Out on the road, though, the performance is genuinely surprising. Getting up to speed is a little slower than on a lightweight bike, but it's really not much of an issue.
The more upright position is ideal for the Triban's target market, offering a relaxed ride that isn't a handful in the corners. The comfort also extends to the space for wider tyres and the bike comes with 28mm rubber as standard. You can get up to 36mm tyres in there and our ventures onto gravel showed just how versatile the RC520 is.
One of the RC520’s strengths is that it caters to a very wide market. We’ve used it for wet rides, commuting, gravel riding and touring.
In the grand scheme of things the bike is a cracker when you consider what you are getting for your money here. The Triban RC 520 is well specced, versatile and affordable. Whether you are commuting, road riding, touring or hitting the towpaths or gravel tracks, the Triban is up to it all. You'll love the ride, and so will your wallet.
The Triban RC 520 is not available at the time of writing, but Decathlon tells us that it should be back in stock by the end of January 2021, so keep your eyes on the company's website.
One of the bigger bike launches over the past year has been the 2021 Trek Emonda. It makes our top three thanks to the firm yet fun ride, great component choices, and its climbing ability. It's a very good all-round package.
The SL6 Pro is a race bike and it rides like one. Stiffness through the bike is high and the it surges when you push the pace. A wide bottom bracket shell allows for a large down tube and chunky chainstays to reduce flex when you are really nailing it, while the front end backs this up via the tapered head tube and firm fork legs. Sprinting and climbing are all taken in the Emonda's stride.
As you'd expect from a race bike, the riding position can be set up to be pretty aggressive and you can easily get a large drop from the saddle to the handlebar. The rest of the geometry is race-focused too, with a steep head angle and a relatively short wheelbase.
Trek has balanced the bike very well. The shorter wheelbase makes it nippy, yet the handling has been tamed enough that the Emonda never becomes a handful. There is plenty of quickness in the steering and excellent agility that makes this a great bike to carve through corners.
On longer rides the Trek is just as well mannered; it is a very easy bike to ride quickly even when the hours are mounting up.
Frame stiffness isn’t an issue on higher mileage jaunts. Three to four-hour rides are a lot of fun. Unleash the power for the fun bits and then when you are on the flat, straight slogs you can just hunker down and keep the pedals turning over.
Overall, the Emonda is a very good bike. The aero tweaks have turned it into a very fast and efficient bike that still manages to deliver on the weight front and this SL 6 Pro model is so well specced that there's no need to update anything when it comes to the components, just the tyres when they wear out.
This is a stiff and efficient road bike that manages to offer loads of comfort and now aero features too.
The SuperSix Evo has always been known for its frame stiffness and that remains a key feature of the latest version. Stomp on the pedals and everything feels taut going on solid, even when you get out of the saddle.
The SuperSix Evo is an eager bike. It gets cracking when you put in the power, that rigidity giving you the firmest of platforms from which to launch your assaults.
The handling is sharp and cornering hard and fast feels perfectly composed, so you're inclined to lay off the brakes that fraction longer next time around.
You also get a high level of comfort for a bike with such a focus on performance. Cannondale says that’s down to the new SAVE (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) stays, plus a new internal seat clamp and HollowGram 27 KNOT seatpost.
This is probably the SuperSix Evo's most surprising feature. It feels impressively smooth over rough roads with good bump absorption both front and rear. The SuperSix is comfortable enough that the ride feels calm and composed even over pitted, jagged road surfaces. It soaks up the irregularities rather than skittering about when you ride fast into a bumpy downhill bend.
Cannondale has given the SuperSix an aero makeover, introducing truncated aerofoil tube profiles to reduce drag, dropping the seatstays to improve comfort and aero efficiency, and making the majority of hose/cable routing internal (it also offers an aero handlebar and stem system, although not on this particular model). Cannondale claims that the changes add up to the equivalent of a 30 watt saving at 30mph (48.3km/h) compared with the previous SuperSix Evo.
Built up with Shimano 105 components, our review bike is the most affordable disc brake SuperSix Evo, although a rim brake model is available for £2,000 (there's a rim brake Shimano Ultegra model for £2,500 too). 105 works every bit as well as more expensive Ultegra and Dura-Ace, it's just a little heavier.
Cannondale took a risk in updating the SuperSix Evo radically because the previous version was so popular, but it's a gamble that paid off. It has managed to retain all of the good bits and thrown aero efficiency into the mix.
The SuperSix Evo Carbon Disc 105 is super-stiff and responsive and far, far smoother than you might expect of a race bike. It's also highly upgradeable, the frameset being well worthy of some mid-depth carbon wheels as and when funds allow.
Our the road.cc Road Bike of the Year 2020/21 is Giant's TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc. It’s a lively and efficient road bike that boasts most of the aero features the new, top-level TCR Advanced SL (which earned second place in road.cc Superbike of the Year 2020/21) gained earlier this year, at a more achievable price. The Shimano Ultegra-based parts package is impressive. Pack in a power meter and great wheels and you’ve got a cracking bike.
Aside from being great value for money, the real strength of this TCR is the ride quality and amount of tech that it gets from the more expensive SL model. While the carbon used is different, you’ll immediately notice the Advanced Pro Disc's tube shapes are mostly identical to those of the SL, for example. The head tube, down tube and fork all feature the same new tube profiles and these are all shaped to reduce drag.
The down tube is designed to work aerodynamically with a water bottle in place, the majority of us riding with a bottle most of the time, after all. We've measured that tube at a whopping 65mm across at the widest point, which is about as wide as it's possible to go without interfering with the drivetrain.
The TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc is a lively performer that responds well as you increase the power. Press hard on the pedals and very little of your effort is lost. You certainly aren't left feeling the Advanced Pro is in any way flexy. Far from it. It feels solid and offers rapid acceleration, while climbing remains a real strength
Comfort is also good and there is space to enhance this with room for 32mm tyres should that be what you want. We found the 25mm rubber supplied was good for a balance of speed and comfort. The race-focused geometry allows you to hunker down at the front end if you want to get into a proper aero race position.
Giant specs a 52/36-tooth chainset with an 11-30-tooth cassette, which is a great choice for a bike of this kind, allowing you to mix it with your fastest mates when sprinting for signs, and still drag yourself up the toughest gradients when your legs are about to pack up for the day.
There’s also a Giant PowerPro power meter integrated into the chainset. It's a double-sided device that adds just 32g and has a claimed power range of up to 3,000 watts and boasts an accuracy of +/-2 %.
The Giant SLR-1 42 Carbon Disc wheels give you a 42mm-deep hookless carbon rim with an inner width of 19.4mm, and an outer width of 23mm. They offer loads of lateral stiffness that you notice when sprinting, and they’re just 1,452g. That is very good for the depth.
All in, the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc is an excellent road bike that performs with aplomb and even a flourish. It's zippy and efficient while offering well-balanced handling. Add in a high quality build, excellent wheels and a power meter, and you have a fabulous road bike.