Road tested: the ultimate carbon-frame bikes
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From pot-holed Surrey country lanes to smooth Swiss mountain passes, HTSI has amassed around 1,000 miles of test-riding in order to put these carbon road bikes through their paces. Each has a cutting-edge carbon-fibre frame – the result of computer-testing thousands of iterations to find the perfect geometry – and the very best electronic groupsets. The combination makes for sublime riding where every pedal stroke gives instant propulsion with near-perfect efficiency. To rate one above another will depend on what you’re intending to use it for, whether climbing, racing or as an all-rounder. Here is our selection:
BMC Teammachine SLR01 ONE
Winner of World Championships, Tours de France and Olympic road races, the Swiss brand’s updated flagship model – now in its fourth iteration – is built with hill-climbs and descents in mind, but will also serve you brilliantly as a top-flight all-rounder. The new handlebar cockpit system is not only phenomenally light, with internally routed cables, but has a very sleek and clean look, bringing aero benefits with it. The bike offers a very balanced and responsive ride, and being very lightweight – it is 9 per cent lighter than the previous generation – you’ll glide up steep mountain climbs, while its stiffness ensures accuracy in the descents, particularly with its lower front end and longer reach.
The bike is fitted with brand-new carbon bottle holders – a really neat touch – which are aerodynamic and light and hold the bottles very securely. It wears 25mm Vittoria Corsa tyres, which are fantastic all-purpose race tyres: fast on dry roads as well as grippy in the wet. Marvellously lightweight with sure-footed handling, this bike is a go-to choice if hills and racing are your thing, but it’s perfect for general riding too. £8,399, from sigmasports.com; bmc-switzerland.com
Specialized S-Works Roubaix
Taking its name from Paris-Roubaix – a historic one-day 250km bike race famed for its gruelling surfaces and cobblestones – this great-looking bike incorporates features that make it a particularly comfortable ride while still delivering speed in spades. The all-new aero seatpost and carbon frame – both designed to absorb road vibrations for a smoother ride – are partly to thank for this, but the wizardry really comes in with the Future Shock 2.0 – an adjustable, hydraulically damped suspension built into the handlebar stem.
When riding on rougher surfaces, twist the two-pound-coin-sized-knob atop the stem and instantly receive 20mm of vibration dampening joy. Once the road becomes smoother, twist the knob 180 degrees back the other way – or anywhere in between to fine-tune the ride – and the bike instantly feels stiff again. It comes as standard with Specialized’s 28mm Turbo Cotton tyres, which are brilliant and inspire confidence, and the frame can accommodate tyres up to 33mm wide if you want to take the comfort level up even further. Other than the non-aero handlebars – which are cylindrical in profile with non-integrated cables – the Roubaix unquestionably remains a performance-oriented road bike, great for sportives, yet offers unparalleled comfort that’s ideal for regular morning or weekend rides. £9,500, from specializedconceptstore.co.uk
Pinarello Dogma F12
Sometimes referred to as the Ferrari of bicycles, the family-run Italian brand Pinarello produces bikes for the premium end of the market, and this – its flagship model – was the choice of the Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky) for the 2020 Tour de France. It is a thoroughbred racing machine that will rival anything. It’s no surprise, then, to hear this is a very stiff and lightweight bike, but equally it retains sufficient comfort for weekend social rides too.
Pinarello’s styling can have that Marmite effect on riders – look to the distinctive features such as the kinked Onda front fork, which offers a touch of comfort from road vibrations as well as aerodynamic benefits – and for efficiency reasons the frame is slightly asymmetrical in places. The F12’s handlebars house all cabling internally and are highly aerodynamic, plus they provide a greater surface area on which to rest your hands, which is very welcome for longer rides. The wheels come fitted with Pirelli P-Zero tyres, which you might want to change if you’re riding rougher roads – but, other than that, this is a top-class bike that is not only fast but robustly built and will help you raise your game. £10,500, from pinarellostore.co.uk
Look 795 Blade RS Disc Proteam
This eye-catching race-focused aero bike is certainly fast, yet by incorporating a good touch of comfort it’s a versatile all-rounder too. The frame has a unique style feature in the form of a continual sweep from the top tube to the bottom of the seat stay, which looks great. The handlebar has some external cabling, and the cockpit area isn’t as slickly designed as others. That said, it does allow for customisation if you wish, for example, to change the handlebars – plus, keep in mind you are paying around £1,000 less compared to other brands’ comparable top-end models.
The gloss-white Proteam model is fitted with 47mm-deep aero Corima WS Black wheels, which are high performance as well as being very much in keeping with the bike’s aesthetic. Even if this bike isn’t as ludicrously light as some, and it lacks the odd feature such as integrated handlebar cabling, it is unquestionably a great performance bike that offers both comfort and versatility, keeping you happy in the saddle on any road you might find yourself traversing. From £4,000, from lookcycle.com