Sportive and endurance bikes have a lot in common with road race bikes in that they’re intended to be quick and efficient, but designers usually give them a more relaxed geometry and incorporate features designed to add comfort – and these are the best that we reviewed in this extremely competitive category during 2020.
Manufacturers looking to improve comfort over rough roads tend to spec wider tyres than you’ll typically find on a race bike – you’ll often find clearance for tyres over 30mm wide – and they sometimes offer practical features such as mudguard and rack mounts for increased versatility, realising that these bikes might also be used for commuting during the week as well as for getting in the long miles at the weekend.
Our list of the best includes bikes made from steel, titanium, aluminium and carbon-fibre, representing the diversity of the market. Prices vary from £999 all the way up to £3,600 (any road bike with a price of £4,000 or more is dealt with in road.cc Superbike of the Year 2020/21), and all of the bikes feature disc brakes simply because that’s the way that bike design is going, particularly at mid and high levels (sorry rim brake fans). One thing that you can be sure of looking through our rundown is that you’re getting better features for your money than ever before.
Starting at number 7 – because, why not? – let’s take a look at the very best sportive and endurance bikes reviewed on road.cc over the past year.
The Endurace AL Disc 6.0 may be the entry point to Canyon's endurance bike range, but its stiff yet comfortable frame delivers a fun ride with plenty of feedback. It earns a place on our list because it's a great package for the money too.
The amount of feedback you get from an alloy frame is often criticised, but it can create a machine that really speaks to the rider, so long as it isn’t too harsh. You feel everything that is going on between the tiny contact patch of the tyre and the road, allowing you to react instantly.
We’d say that Canyon has got the balance of providing feedback and killing road buzz just right.
The Endurace offers a comfortable ride which is helped by the carbon fibre fork up front. Adding to this is the compact, sloping top tube frame design which allows you to expose a lot of seatpost.
Being an endurance bike, the geometry is a little slacker than that of Canyon's Aeroad race bike, with the most noticeable difference being the height of the head tube: 167mm in length on this medium, with a similar sized Aeroad measuring just 146mm.
The position doesn’t feel too upright though. The drops are accessed easily, and you can get into a decent enough tuck for descending or battling the wind.
When it comes to carving your way down a technical descent, the Endurace AL is a very confident bike and responds well to your input. Slight shifts in bodyweight have the desired effect on the handling and you can really carry some speed through the bends without feeling the need to cover the brakes.
The disc brake-equipped Endurace has just a 5mm-longer wheelbase than a rim-braked Aeroad, so while there is a little bit of extra stability it's minimal and never feels ponderous through tight turns. The slightly higher stack from the taller head tube lifts your centre of gravity, and this is the only thing that just takes the sharpness off the steering when entering really fast, technical sections.
Canyon’s Endurace AL Disc 6.0, equipped with a Shimano Tiagra groupset, is £1,299 for 2021.
The Attain GTC SL is a mid-price option in Cube's endurance range, and makes it into our roundup thanks to a very good combination of comfort – both from the frameset and the geometry – and performance. It's not a bad weight either (our 56cm model weighed 8.77kg) and certainly feels responsive to your input, making it fun to ride fast as well as comfortable for longer, more sedate jaunts.
The 56cm model has quite a tall head tube at 182mm and can feel a little upright at first, but that feeling doesn’t last long. Once you’ve adapted to it, the Cube will surprise you with how racy and fast it can be. The bike maintains speed well too and, with the relaxed position being easier on your lower back, smashing out the long miles is a breeze. Should you want to tuck down at the front, the short and shallow drop of the handlebar makes doing so easy.
The Cube feels sprightly and responds well to big efforts. One thing that certainly helps here is the stiffness in the bottom bracket area.
Handling is another highlight with a composure that is perfectly suited to a calm ride. Sure, there could be a little more sharpness when the corners are really tight, but that isn’t what this bike is really about.
Topping all of this off is an impressive level of comfort from the frame tubing. It's a stiff bike, but the frame does a very good job of damping road buzz without totally killing the feedback that gives this bike such a great ride quality.
The Mission was first designed as a cyclocross bike and, as the name suggests, Merida has introduced a version for the roads. This isn’t just a cyclocross bike with slick tyres, though. The Mission Road gets some key spec changes that make it ideally suited to long road miles.
If you want a bike that is quick and fun handling on the road but also able to take knobbly tyres for a bit of off-road action, the Merida Mission Road 7000-E is a very good choice. It's pretty light, it's comfortable and it offers plenty of versatility.
We tested the Mission CX 8000 cyclocross bike back in 2018, and the speed of the bike on the tarmac was impressive. Merida has taken that speed and added road tyres along with a proper road groupset. The result is a brilliant bike for fast, long rides.
With a 1,016mm wheelbase and a slack 71.75° head angle on our medium test model, and wide 32mm tyres, the Merida certainly gives you a sense of confidence and security when the road surface is pretty rubbish.
The handling is neutral on the road which, combined with the feedback that you get from the frame and fork, allows you to push on into the bends carrying plenty of speed.
A tapered head tube and chunky down tube lead into the oversized PF86 bottom bracket and box section chainstays. This gives you a stiff platform when you decide to stomp on the pedals.
You might be rolling your eyes at the thought of a press-fit BB, but considering all of the rain and crap we rode the bike through, and the conditions that the cyclocross version saw during testing, the fact that we’ve not heard anything from it is impressive.
The geometry is pretty aggressive, with a short 125mm head tube on our medium bike, but if you take into account the taller fork for added tyre clearance, it means that the stack height is just over 15mm less than the equivalently sized Scultura, Merida's race bike. Reach is practically the same, but Merida fits a stem to the Mission Road that’s about 20mm shorter than on a standard road bike.
The compact frame means you can expose a lot of seatpost for additional comfort. A relaxed position is each to achieve but should you want to focus on speed, the front end can be lowered for a bigger saddle to handlebar drop.
Thanks to all of this, the Mission Road is a great for long road rides, which is why it earns its place among the very best sportive/endurance bikes we tested on road.cc in 2020.
Ribble has been very clever when it comes to the design of its Endurance Ti Disc Enthusiast. By using tube profiles that exploit the natural smooth ride feel of titanium, and geometry designed to offer the compact, aero position of a race bike but without the associated fast and sometimes twitchy handling, Ribble delivers a bike you can ride quickly and comfortably regardless of the distance.
Bike designers and testers often wax lyrical about the ride feel you get from a titanium frame, and it's true that it's one of the best out there. Just like any frame material, though, the tube profiles, wall thicknesses and the way each tube interacts with the others all play their part; get it right and your titanium frame will deliver a smooth ride that removes plenty of high-frequency road buzz while still delivering on side-to-side stiffness.
Ribble has got it right. Long distances on the Enthusiast are a joy – you can really cover a lot of miles very quickly, and it'd make a great audax or sportive machine – but it's not just because of the comfort coming from the frame and fork, it's also to do with the geometry.
Reviewer Stu says that from the moment he got on board the Ribble, his position just felt right. If you look at the tube lengths, the geometry is actually much more aggressive than you would normally find on an endurance style bike.
On the medium you are getting a stack (the vertical distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) of 541mm and a reach (the horizontal distance between those two points) of 390mm. That gives a stack/reach ratio of just 1.39, which is definitely at the racier end of the scale – an endurance bike of this size is typically around 1.5 to 1.55.
What this means is that Stu could not only get a good saddle-to-bar drop, he also felt that his position gave a great distribution of bodyweight, which in turn meant that the Endurance Ti felt very confident and stable. For long, flat efforts it is very comfortable, remaining reasonably aero without being in so extreme a position as to bring on any lower back niggles or fatigue in the shoulders or wrists.
While the riding position might be quite sporty, Ribble has backed off the head angle to just 72.5° for this size. On a race bike you'd be looking at something at least a degree steeper. This tames the handling a bit, just taking the edge off the sharpness and bringing in some neutrality so that the Endurance Ti never feels a handful. With a wheelbase under a metre, Ribble has ensured the Enthusiast still feels nimble and agile.
Bearing in mind that this bike can take mudguards and rack, so it's ripe for being ridden loaded up and/or in bad weather conditions, the neutrality at the front end is ideal.
Our review bike wasn’t super-lightweight (just over 9kg) but it never feels like the weight is holding you back. The frame and fork offer good levels of stiffness, which makes for efficiency when you are climbing out of the saddle.
Merida gets its second appearance in our roundup with the Scultura Endurance 7000-E. This model tops the new Scultura Endurance range and has been included for its combination of performance and comfort. Alongside this, thanks to large tyre clearances and mudguard mounts, you can use it whatever the weather.
The Scultura Endurance has taken a lot of its styling cues from the Scultura race bike which has been a feature of Merida’s range for many years, but while they share the same seat tube and head tube angles, pretty much all other elements of the geometry are different.
The Scultura Endurance has a shorter top tube and a taller head tube than a standard Scultura, creating a reach that's 10mm shorter and a stack height 10mm taller on our 55cm review bike. The chainstays are 10mm longer too, for a slightly longer wheelbase.
What this all means is that you're still getting a performance-focused riding position, but it's not quite as extreme as that of the standard Scultura. The Scultura Endurance still feels like a fast bike, and even with that slightly taller front end you can still get tucked down for speed and get out of the wind.
An overall weight of 8.58kg is good, which certainly aids acceleration and sprinting. It's a pretty useful climber, too. The slightly more upright position and tweaked geometry allows the rider to stay seated on the majority of climbs. Merida has specced a 50/34T compact chainset and an 11-34T cassette, giving a few extra low gears over the common 11-28T, which also helps.
When descending or hammering along on the flat there's a sense of stability thanks to the metre-long wheelbase. The Scultura Endurance feels well poised at speed, and doesn't feel unsettled by rough road surfaces.
This stable feeling continues on technical descents. It feels as close to a race bike as it needs to for the speed and performance required of a fast day in the saddle. But it's also fun to ride, either when going fast or going far, something that's only helped by its excellent comfort levels.
We reviewed the Condor Fratello Disc Thru-Axle as a frameset, and a really good one it is too, managing to keep hold of the traditional look and feel of a winter/fast audax/commuter/year-round mile-muncher bike while having been adapted to the demands of the modern roadie. Condor will build it up to your specification.
A custom drawn Columbus Spirit triple-butted steel frame is paired with a carbon fork, giving an exceptional ride quality. You can pump your tyres up hard, have a firm saddle, a stiff, narrow handlebar, and whatever you want to throw in its way, the quality of the steel tubing will override it.
Condor has kept a traditional look to the frame by keeping a straight-through 1 1/8in head tube, whereas most bikes these days, including steel ones, tend to go tapered. This not only improves stiffness, but also increases the weld area for a large diameter down tube. Condor hasn't needed to do this, as it has kept the majority of the tubes quite slender without sacrificing overall stiffness.
The geometry means the Fratello is no slouch. The Condor has very similar measurements to an endurance style bike, with a stack/reach of just under 1.55, which means your overall position isn't too aggressive. But the front end does have a 73.5° head angle paired to a fork offset of 45mm, which is sportier than most bikes of its ilk.
Tyre clearance is pretty impressive for this style of bike. Able to take full mudguards with 32mm tyres, Condor’s Fratello allows you to have your winter/training/commuting bike set up pretty much to the same position as your race bike.
With a frameset weight of 2,375g, the Condor has a very confident feel on the road – it doesn't skip about on broken tarmac and you can really chuck it down a technical descent. The only slight downside is that the weight blunts the acceleration a touch and takes the edge off climbing.
The Fratello frames are handmade in Italy and the finish quality is absolutely stunning, really highlighted by the beautiful paint job — available in Stone Blue, Agate Grey and Black on Black. The white decals and the logos are all reflective, which is a neat little detail.
Condor has achieved the style of a traditional looking all-year-round road bike while bringing it bang up to date with the ability to accept wider tyres and the inclusion of flat mounts and thru-axles.
Top spot in the road.cc Sportive & Endurance Bike of the Year 2020/21 category goes to a second model from Ribble – the Endurance AL Disc, a bike that’s ideal for long rides, short blasts, club runs, winter training and commuting. It's even quick enough for entry-level racing. The balanced, neutral handling works for the beginner, without feeling overly relaxed for the seasoned roadie. It's a lot of bike for the money.
With tyres pumped up hard you can feel what’s going on with the road below, but the Endurance AL Disc aluminium alloy frame and carbon fibre fork damp much of the vibration. The contact points don't tire you out on long rides, and that's ideal because long rides are something the Endurance AL does very well.
The geometry is more relaxed than that of most race machines, with a slightly shorter top tube and taller head tube putting you into a more upright position. The head angle is a touch slacker too, which takes the edge off the steering speed, while the longer wheelbase (there to allow the frameset to accept mudguards) adds to the stability.
The Endurance AL Disc still focuses on performance, though, and by slamming the stem (removing the headset spacers) you can get a good saddle-to-bar drop if you want to get a shift on.
The steering is quick enough to be fun in the twisty bits without stepping over the line and becoming a handful, which is perfect if you're new to road riding or when heading into bad weather.
Although the 10kg weight can hamper things under acceleration, the Endurance AL Disc gives a real feeling of confidence when gravity is giving you a nudge. The decent spread of gears helps you up the steeper slopes, and the Ribble is plenty stiff enough for out of the saddle shenanigans when the going gets tough.
The frame is made from 6061-T6 aluminium alloy tubing which is double-butted (the thickness of the wall varies) to reduce weight and increase comfort by balancing stiffness levels. The head tube is tapered for front-end stiffness and Ribble has gone for an externally threaded bottom bracket which is a sensible choice on a bike that is likely to encounter plenty of wet weather.
The majority of the groupset on our review bike came from Shimano’s Tiagra range. It offers a very good balance of shifting performance versus cost. If the mechanical disc brakes aren’t to your taste, Ribble also offers the Endurance AL Disc in a next-level-up Shimano 105 standard build for £1,299.
The other option is to have the frameset built up to your own chosen spec based on your preferences and budget. This is really easy to do via Ribble’s online system. As well as the model of components, you can also choose sizes and things like the cassette range.
The Ribble is a loveable bike that’s fun and quick to ride, plus it's just so easy to live with – and all at an impressively competitive price. This makes it the road.cc Sportive & Endurance Bike of the Year 2020/21.
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.