Here it is, it's what you've all been waiting for this week, time to unveil the ten best road bikes we’ve reviewed in the past year and the road.cc Bike of the Year 2016-17.
It’s been a good year for road bikes. There are new trends and some now very established developments (we’re mainly thinking disc brakes here) that have changed the shape of the road bike market forever. What it all means is ever more choice of you, the consumer, with faster bikes, more capable and versatile bikes, bikes that offer more choice to suit the style of riding that you do, whether it’s racing or commuting.
Our list of 10 bikes has been whittled down from the many bikes we've reviewed over the past 12 months. It's a diverse collection that highlights the many directions in which cycling has been evolving in recent years. We’ve seen trends like disc brakes from a few years ago become firmly established in the road market, and perhaps the big trend over the past year is the rise of ultra versatile adventure bikes, ideal for gravel racing, touring or commuting. Companies are still investing in state-of-the-art aerodynamic performance bikes for racing, and affordable bikes are increasingly offering better value than ever before.
In putting together this list, we have noticed the Brexit effect; prices in some instances have gone up. Some of the bikes featured here are 2016 models and while they’re still available in 2017, there are some price changes that we’ve highlighted where applicable. Some manufacturers have managed to provide upgraded components without the price moving much, and some of the 2016 bikes we’ve reviewed are still available, so it’s worth shopping around for a good price.
How we picked the winners
Let’s explain how we reached our conclusion for the road.cc Bike of the Year 2016-17 awards. We first rounded up all the best-reviewed bikes (that’s bikes that have scored higher than 8/10), and then we grouped them into the nine categories (Commuting, Cyclocross, Adventure, Framesets, Best sub-£1,000 Road Bike, Endurance and Sportive Bike, Road bike and Superbike) and picked the winners from each.
Picking the best bikes in each of these sub-categories was quite a task, but the marking criteria is pretty straightforward. The bike that won Superbike of the Year did so because it offered the highest level of performance, price didn’t even come into it, and for the Best Bargain Bike value was right at the top of the requirements.
The best bikes from those categories were then brought forward into the main road.cc Bike of the Year 2016-17 list and we set about picking the winner from the 10 bikes on this shortlist. Much arguing then ensued until we all reached an agreement. But how do we pick the best bike? In our view, it’s bike that offers the best balance of performance, value, price, handling and specification.
You might not agree with our final order, and that’s fine. The best bike for you might depend on the sort of rider you are, the style of riding you do, your budget and many other factors, but there is something for all tastes in this list. It’s not an easy job picking just 10 bikes from the past year, given how many we've tested, but we feel this list is a fair and honest assessment of the bikes we've ridden in the last 12 months.
The new CAAD12 Disc is one of the standout bikes of 2016. Carbon fibre might get all the attention because it’s light and futuristic, but Cannondale, a company with a long love affair with aluminium, has in the CAAD12 provided solid proof, if it were ever needed, that metal is still a viable choice for a high-performance road bike.
It’s no secret we like disc brakes here at road.cc (the CAAD12 is available with rim brakes if you prefer) but unless you’re racing, the disc version makes a bit more sense. You get all the extra braking control but you lose none of the sprightly and accessible performance the CAAD has also been known for.
The other benefit to an aluminium frame is that you get a better-specced bike than if you choose carbon; there aren’t many carbon bikes with Dura-Ace at this price. There is a lack of mudguard mounts, but we’ll forgive Cannondale because it hasn’t set out to produce an all-weather year-round UK bike here, but if you’re being hard on Cannondale you could say they missed a trick.
The new CAAD12 is a finely honed bike with a level of comfort and refinement that makes you wonder why you would buy anything else, and certainly ask questions of the short lifespan of aluminium at the cutting-edge of racing bicycle technology back in the 90s. It's so smooth that it outshines many carbon fibre road bikes I've tested for road.cc over the years.
The handling is fast and direct when being ridden at pace, and it never becomes skittish or erratic. The steering is direct and sharp; it's a very focused bike and the material and geometry come together to form a really beautiful whole. There's an impressive degree of compliance from the rear triangle.
That Cannondale has eked out such compliance from the frame is highly impressive. I'm not exactly spoilt with smooth roads where I live, and on many of the rough and poorly surfaced lanes the CAAD12 is superbly smooth. The combination of the changes to the rear triangle, with the flat seatstays devoid of a brake bridge and the skinny seatpost, help to filter out much of the vibration that can lead to an unsettled ride.
Why it's here: A superb disc brake-equipped race bike, but it does come with a weight penalty
One of the most interesting new bikes for the 2017 year is the radically redesigned Roubaix. It’s the US company’s biggest selling model and helped to grow the sportive category following its launch way back in 2003. It’s been refined and tweaked over the years, but the new bike is very much out with the old and in with the new, and as a result provides stellar performance and is one of the smoothest and most comfortable bikes in the endurance class.
There’s a new FutureShock providing 20mm of bump-taming comfort at the front, and it really works, trust us it’s not a gimmick - you need to try it to believe us, though. Out back is a large diameter seat tube and lowered seat clamp to provide more deflection for the CG-R seatpost, and seated comfort is brilliant. The bike is exceptionally well balanced between the handlebars and saddle. Add to the mix a lighter and stiffer frame, more aggressive geometry, disc brakes, clearance for 32mm tyres and thru-axles, and you’ve got a first-rate bike with remarkable performance. Our biggest gripe is the lack of mudguard mounts, but Specialized isn't alone here.
The FutureShock might feel soft on the shop floor – I can easily bottom it out if I lean heavily on it – but out on the road it's a different matter. Because the Future Shock is positioned between the stem and frame, it's only supporting your upper body weight. That means it's not soft and bouncy – it's definitely no pogo stick – but is instead quite firm, yet soft enough to react to the smallest road buzz very well.
Critically, the Future Shock isn't soggy or saggy when riding. There's no sense that the handlebar isn't anything but securely connected to the frame. You don't really notice the Future Shock's 20mm of travel when you are riding along: it's not like you feel the handlebar moving up and down or anything. You certainly notice the smoothness it provides, and if you concentrate and watch the Future Shock (making sure you're on a quiet traffic-free road to do this!) you can see the protective rubber boot gently compressing and extending. But ignore it and focus on pedalling and enjoying the ride, and you forget it's even there, and just enjoy the smoothness it provides.
Why it's here: Light, stiff and comfortable, the new Roubaix with its FutureShock delivers an impressive ride
One of my favourite bikes was the mighty impressive C5, a brand new bike from Canadian brand Cervelo, and its first entrant into the endurance bike market. Cervelo is a company best known for producing race bikes, it pretty much pioneered the aero bike with the original Soloist market, but it put all its know-how into producing one of the best endurance bikes on the market right now.
The careful shaping of every tube, from the famous Squoval 2 rounded square down tube to the super skinny rear stays, provides a butter smooth ride and proves that you don’t need any gimmicks to filter out the vibrations generated by riding over a rough road surface. Clearance for wide tyres (up to 32mm), disc brakes, thru-axles and even mudguard mounts tick all the boxes we look for in a bike like this. Cervelo has played the geometry game just right. It has lowered the bottom bracket, lengthened the chainstays and slackened the head angle, which all contribute to a ride that is highly stable and planted at ay speed.
The high price of the bike we tested nets you a full Dura-Ace mechanical groupset with a Rotor 3D chainset and excellent HED Ardennes Plus LT Disc wheels, for a total bike weight of just 7.51kg. That’s impressively light for any sort of disc-equipped bike, let alone an endurance model. If the price of the C5 is too rich for you, it’s worth adding that you can get the C3 - same frame shape but lower grade carbon fibre - with an Ultegra Di2 and HED Ardennes build for £3,899.
Why it's here: Fast, stable, predictable and balanced, Cervélo's new C5 is a class leader
7. Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 £3,599 (price when tested)
Canyon has featured prominently in the awards over the years, due to engineering some brilliant road bikes that deliver a lot of performance for your pound. The Ultimate was always our go-to bike in the company’s range, right at home in the cut and thrust of a fast moving peloton, but equally adept that ushering your around a century ride with plenty of climbing. Canyon faced the tricky task of updating the Ultimate, but pulled it off with gusto, producing a bike that retains the brilliant performance whilst adding aero gains and improving the comfort, and keeping the frame weight the same, 780g.
By selling bikes direct to the consumer, Canyon has always offered extremely good value for money, but like most bike brands, prices have gone up for 2017. That means the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 we tested, with Dura-Ace, now costs £4,099, but you are getting the brand new Dura-Ace 9100 groupset and Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon wheels. The new Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Di2 costs the same as the bike we tested, but it gets an Ultegra Di2 groupset with the same Mavic Ksyrium Pro wheels instead of mechanical Dura-Ace. It's a tricky one, bike prices are going up across the board but Canyon does look to have made some sizeable equipment changes that need to be taken into account when considering the price changes. What's important is the frameset and we've tested it with several build kits, and been equally impressed each time.
Why it's here: Stunning performance from a bike that balances stiffness and comfort, and stability and excitement
If you want a race bike with disc brakes, your options are growing. One of the newest is the Giant TCR Advanced 2 Disc which came to the awards ceremony late but blew us away with its well-rounded performance. Giant has adopted all the latest standards, so there are thru-axles and flat mount disc brakes, but critically it has kept the geometry and most of the frame the same as the regular rim brake model. That’s a good thing because one thing we’ve always liked about the TCR is the way it handles and performs when put to task on a demanding road or in a race situation. The 105 specced model we tested might not be the lightest, but the heft didn’t dull its ability when laying down the power, and there’s certainly potential for going lighter. Giant sweats the details and the finishing kit is all spot on, and there’s not a component that doesn’t deserve its place.
Why it's here: Exceptional speed-focused road bike that offers efficiency, precise handling and the reliability of Shimano's hydro disc brake
In at number five is the winner of the Adventure Bike of the Year Award, the Specialized Diverge. The US company got into this market early with the Diverge but it’s sort of gone under the radar a little bit, but it’s a thoroughly competent and highly rewarding bike that needs to be on your adventure bike shortlist. We like adventure bikes because as well as the obvious ability to tackle off-road technical terrain, they’re also suitable for more mundane duties like riding to work or gentle Sunday cafe rides. They can be whatever you want them to be, with the versatility and adaptability to suit a wide range of riding styles and demands.
The Diverge is available in aluminium or carbon, we tested the latter, and found the mix of performance and handling a really good combination. It’s comfortable for bashing out long miles with the CG-R seatpost doing a really good job of cushioning your bottom and back. The tyres, with a folding bead and BlackBelt puncture protection, are good for anything you might want to chuck the Diverge down. And that can include everything from regular road rides but where the bike is most at home is in opening up a vast web of riding possibilities. Everything is possible on the Diverge, and that’s why it’s on this list.
Why it's here: Fast and fun bike that's good for much, much more than just sticking to tarmac
Our Sub-£1,000 Bike of the Year 2016-17 winner comes in fourth in the overall. The Triban is one of the best-selling bikes in the UK and once again it fends off some strong competition from more expensive bikes in the BOTY. Don’t let it ever be said we don’t love a good affordable road bike because we do, we actually find them more interesting because flaws show up much more when a manufacturer is working to a tight budget. It’s not exactly a cheap bike, though, but certainly offers a top level ride that really impressed.
The aluminium frame and carbon fork keeps the weight down and the geometry is friendly and accessible, ideal for new cyclists but even more experienced cyclists will revel in its smart handling. The Triban is adorned with mudguard and rack mounts making it an ideal winter or commuting option. The Shimano groupset provides slick shifting and it’s durable, and provides a wide spread of gears, handy if tackling a hilly sportive. Overall, this bike is a great buy for those new to road bikes and those looking to their next cycling challenge. And Decathlon offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, fork, stem and handlebar.
Why it's here: A pleasure to ride whatever the road surface, with an excellent spec for the money
The Whyte Wessex, a brand new bike from the British brand, has already bagged the Endurance and Commuter awards and can add a podium finish in the many BOTY awards to its credentials. It also won both the Commuting Bike of the Year and Sportive and Endurance Bike of the Year, an impressive feat for a completely new bike.
Whyte really nailed it with this bike, taking all the best new technology and equipment and packaging it together to form a bike that is splendidly well suited to British rider. Be it commuting, sportives or winter training, the Wessex is right at home in muddy country lanes eating up the miles. You get a sleek looking carbon fibre frame and fork with ample clearance for the 30mm Schwalbe S-One tyres it comes with, and they’re tubeless on the wide profile Easton AR-21 rims, a huge benefit for winter riding when punctures are the last thing you want in the rain or cold. Eyelets provide mudguard compatibility - our test bike had the company’s own custom ‘guards, and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes provide superb control in tricky riding conditions.
Fast and sporty, with all the practicality and dependability of hydraulic disc brakes, wide tyres and space for full-length mudguards, the brand new Whyte Wessex is a bike that is up to the task of taking on the roughest roads and toughest weather. Racing aside, it's all the bike you really need for year-round riding in the UK, fast enough for sportives and pacy training runs, comfortable and reliable for grinding out winter miles, and at home on longer commutes. Only a British company could design a bike that is absolutely, perfectly, 100 per cent suited to the demands of year-round UK road cycling. If you want a thoroughly dependable road bike with wide tyres, mudguards and disc brakes for year-round riding, the Whyte Wessex is a solid choice.
Why it's here: A British designed bike that is perfect for year-round British road cycling
In at number two is the winner of the Superbikes award, the sensational Bianchi Oltre XR4. The legendary bicycle brand has been gently evolving the Oltre, its flagship race bike, over the years, but in the XR4 it took its biggest step forward. Top of the list of changes is the introduction of its CounterVail technology. First utilised in its Infinito CV endurance bike, it’s a special carbon fibre layup that aims to suppress some of the high-frequency vibrations and provide a smoother ride. Used in the Oltre XR4 has resulted in a race bike that offers outlandish smoothness. It’s also mega-stiff with pin-sharp handling, very responsive and agile, all the traits you want in a bike that is purely designed for racing. And it’s that performance that earned the Oltre XR4 its place on the BOTY podium.
One area where the Oltre XR4 really scores is in its frame stiffness. There's virtually no flex through the centre of the bike, even when you get out of the saddle and sprint. Select a stupidly high gear and throw it from side to side in an exaggerated manner and the bottom bracket stays exactly where the bottom bracket should be. The whole frame just feels very efficient. The Oltre XR4 feels superbly efficient around the bottom bracket despite its low weight. It's a similar story up front where the steering is excellent, giving you the courage to slam the bike hard into corners and jump about in a group of riders knowing that you'll end up exactly where you want to be. No sketchy reactions, no dicey moments, just fantastic handling whatever the situation.
Now, you’re probably thinking that of course, a £9.5k bike is going to do well. And you’re not wrong. To be honest, we’d rather Bianchi had sent us a more affordable version of the Oltre XR4, and with builds starting at £4,700 with Campagnolo Chorus, you don’t have to spend quite such a large fortune. It’s worth adding that Bianchi is selling the frameset for £3,100 on its own so complete bikes are never going to be cheap.
Why it's here: Lightweight, quick to react and very, very smooth, this is a superb pro-level race bike
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the winner of the road.cc Bike of the Year 2016-17 award, the Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR.
The Boardman has already scooped the Road Bike of the Year award and it put off all contenders in the overall Bike of the Year shortlist to be named this year’s winner. It put in a really good performance when we reviewed it. When you combine the top level ride and handling, decent equipment and finishing kit, and the price, it just all adds up to offer a complete package. Whether you’re new to cycling or looking for an upgrade, the Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR ticks all the boxes.
The Road Pro is a stunning bike to look at. That mirror effect silver paint job makes it stand out, especially in the sunshine; you're going to get noticed for sure. That beauty isn't just skin-deep, though. In a cycling world where bikes are starting to cross as many disciplines as possible, the Boardman knows exactly what it is: a proper race bike that just begs to be ridden hard. It likes being on the tarmac, getting chucked downhill on the ragged edge of the tyre's grip, or being sprinted hard up that 20 per cent climb without the slightest hint of flex from the frame.
It’s hard to find fault with the Boardman, and believe us we tried to find one. It’s a high-quality carbon fibre frame and fork with a spot on geometry that provides a pretty racy position, ideal for tucking in fast for some rapid pedalling action. It’s not going to disappoint you whether, in a sportive or race bunch, that’s for sure. The frame is well appointed, with a SRAM Force 22 groupset that is light and easy to use, and it’s finished off with the excellent Mavic Ksyrium wheels and decent finishing kit. It’s a good price at £1,799, but it’s currently discounted to £1,619 which makes it an even better buy, leaving you a couple of hundred quid to spend on some new clothing to go with your new bike, or just leave in the bank.
Why it's here: Impressive weight and value, and an exciting, rewarding ride – Boardman has nailed the race bike format
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.