Ridley X-Night 10 Disc
Ridley is based in Belgium, the cyclocross capital of the world, and appropriately invests nearly as much technology into their cyclocross bikes as they do their road racing bikes. The carbon fiber used on the X-Night 10 is manufactured using some of the most advanced methods available to make it stronger yet thinner and, as a result, lighter. It’s designed for use with a pressfit 30 bottom bracket which offers excellent stiffness when pedaling as well as internal cable routing and SRAM Red22 and Force22 components. The advanced technology and design of the bike is reflected in the price, so at more than $6000, this is a bike for the serious racer willing to invest the money in a top-of-the-line bike. Look for the 2015 X-Night SL (Super Light) to feature an even lighter frame.
Redline Conquest Team
The Conquest Team uses many high quality FSA components including a hollow forged crankset that provides a light weight with high stiffness while featuring Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifters and derailleurs. However, electronic components are not preferred by some cross racers, due to their sensitivity and short range of motion which can lead to accidental shifting during bumpy cross riding. The Conquest Team is designed to use disc brakes if the rider desires although a disc brake-specific fork would need to be installed. Finally, the frame has internal routing for derailleur and rear brake cables to protect them from the elements and make shouldering the bike more comfortable.
Kona Super Jake
Beginning with the frame of the Super Jake, the rear triangle is built with shorter tubes which increase maneuverability which is especially useful around the sharp corners that are common in cyclocross racing. The chainstays are also noticeably wider than normal which improves stiffness and pedaling efficiency. The frame was designed with plenty of clearance to avoid mud buildup between it and the tires as well. The bike is built with SRAM's cross-specific Force CX drivetrain and disc brakes while as an added bonus, the mounts for the brakes are set slightly inside the frame for protection and cables are all routed internally. While there are faster bikes available, the Super Jake has plenty of features that make it obvious that it was designed by people who definitely know about riding cyclocross.
Specialized CruX Expert EVO
The frame of the CruX Expert EVO has cyclocross specific features like shorter chainstays for better maneuverability, internal cable routing for reliable shifting in sloppy conditions, and Specialized's exclusive "Love Handle" which is an indentation in the frame to make carrying the bike (slightly) easier. Component-wise, it uses a light and stiff FSA carbon crank, Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, and TRP hydraulic brakes for the most consistent stopping power available.
Specialized does make other models of the CruX with more expensive features like electronic drivetrain but many serious cross riders prefer mechanical shifting because it has less of a tendency to accidentally shift while riding through bumpy terrain. As great as the brakes on the CruX Expert EVO are, the bike has no option for caliber or cantilever brake which is another component choice that is up to individual rider preference.
Hydraulic disc brakes, Ultegra Di2 electronic drivetrain, and a top of the line FSA crankset give the F2X the necessary components for professional cyclocross racing. The frame also has a shortened rear triangle for greater agility and a flattened top tube for more comfortable shouldering. At almost $6000, the F2X is more expensive than comparable bikes and for that price Felt could have at least included internal top tube cable routing. Despite this and other tweaks that the frame could include, it provides enough advanced components to round out this cross bike that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Salsa Vaya 2
Being a smaller company, Salsa provides attention to details sometimes forgotten by the larger manufacturers. Bonuses like forward facing dropouts on the fork and vertical dropouts on the rear make removing and replacing tires easier. The Vaya 2 also includes mounts on the chainstays (instead of the seatstays) for the brake, fender, and rack, which make these components more accessible.
The disc brakes on the Vaya 2 provide greater stopping power and reliability, especially in extreme weather although they’re not as easily serviced as v-brakes. The Vaya 2 comes with Shimano 105 shifters, brake levers, cassette, and derailleurs. These are reliable and durable components which, like the rest of the bike, the cyclist can have full confidence in even when miles from home.
Jamis Aurora Elite
All of the designs and components of the Aurora Elite are intended for providing what the touring cyclist wants most; a reliable bike. Shimano 105 derailleurs are durable and shift easily, the disc brakes offer excellent and consistent stopping power, and the all-steel construction ensures broken frame or components will not be an issue. To add comfort, the fork has an extended head tube which allows the rider to raise or lower his or her riding position depending on preference.
The Aurora Elite uses bar end shifters instead of shifters integrated into the brake levers and while the bar ends are easier to maintain and repair, some cyclists prefer the integrated type for their ease of use. Jamis also includes spoke holders, fenders, and a rear rack with a higher than average weight limit of 55 pounds.
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Out of the box, the Long Haul Trucker (LHT) has a comfortable ride and includes extras like mounts for a third water bottle cage, a pump peg, and frame-mounted spoke holders. Surly builds the LHT with a mix of road and mountain components, cantilever brakes, and bar end shifters. However, the frame is designed with clearance for a double or triple crankset, lever, bar end, or downtube shifters, and either cantilever or linear pull brakes.
This touring bike also uses a versatile square taper bottom bracket and the rider can choose between 26 inch wheels or 700c on certain frame sizes. The LHT uses thicker steel for the frame and the included components are intended to be reliable and not lightweight which makes it heavier than comparable bikes. For the inspired cyclist, the LHT can be tailor made to provide one of the most comfortable rides on the market.
The pièce de résistance on the Sojourn is the included Brooks saddle which has a historical reputation for being the most comfortable available. It also comes with fenders and a rear rack customized for the bike and the fork has mounts for a front rack if the rider chooses to add one. The gearing of the Sojourn is more speed than climbing focused but the triple crankset and nine speed cassette will provide a wide range of gears.
Disc brakes are usually only found on higher priced touring bikes but Raleigh adds them to the Sojourn to provide more reliable braking and is a nice bonus along with the spoke holders, pump peg, and third water bottle cage. While the cheaper front and rear derailleurs don’t have the smoothest shifting, they carry the trustworthy Shimano name and are easily upgraded if the rider chooses.
There is a good reason Trek has been producing the 520 for more than 30 years. It was and still is one of the most touring specific designed bikes on the market with a more comfortable upright riding position, low bottom bracket and rack mounts to improve balance, and a wide range of gears. Additionally, there’s Shimano components including Deore and Deore LX derailleurs give it reliable shifting performance. However, the bike lacks some features that can be found on other bikes at a comparable price like disc brakes, extra water bottle and pump mounts, and included fenders. Regardless, the 520 is a comfortable and reliable touring bike that is ready to go for a long ride the day it is taken out of the box.
Trek Madone 2.1
The Trek Madone is a legendary frame and the 2.1 edition lives up to its lineage of racing. Every aspect of this frames’ design was taken into account, with speed in mind. Performance cable routing through the frame of the bicycle minimizes the encumbrance of getting cables getting snagged and helps maintain a longer cable life by protecting them from the elements.
The Madone’s unique frame design offers greater strength while minimizing weight. While in most road bikes you sacrifice comfort, Trek’s “H2” fit features a higher head tube which adjusts the rider’s position and places less strain on the neck and back, a great feature for someone just getting into the sport and not used to aggressive riding positions. The Madone also features an asymmetric steering system which paired with the Shimano 105 drivetrain, maximizes the rider’s power transfer through steering and gearing.
The Madone 2.1 sits on Bontrager Tubeless Ready rims and is pre-mounted with R1 road tires, which is rare to find on an entry level bicycle and unique to this bicycle alone on this list. This attention to detail in combination with Trek’s reputation and warranty makes this easily my choice for best budget road bike.
The FELT F75 was the surprise for me on this list. In addition to its carbon fork, FELT has also added a carbon seat post which further buffers the rider from the stiff and aggressive frame. The F75 also features a full Shimano 105 drivetrain giving you 11 gears of smooth shifting for getting through tough climbs and maximizing your downhill speeds.
The F75 also comes with Vittoria Rubino Slick tires offering a more responsive and durable ride than any of its counterparts. The F75 does fall short in its ability to up be upgraded which would mean rather than the bicycle growing with your hobby, you’d have to purchase an entire new frame when you outgrow this otherwise great entry level bicycle.
Fuji Roubaix 1.1
The Fuji Roubaix 1.1 is unique on this list because it was designed specifically to be a racing bicycle for the consumer who didn’t want to spend money on a full carbon frame. Fuji instead found other ways of improving the bicycles performance like designing an asymmetrical chain stay which gives a more consistent power transfer to the wheels, so every pump of the pedals transfer energy more efficiently into your ride.
The Roubaix also offers the best drivetrain on this list with a mixture of Shimano 105 and the upgraded Ultegra rear derailleur and shifters. Fuji also upgraded the tires offering Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tires, which are the lightest on this list; however lightweight and fast design does have the trade off of being a less durable tire for everyday street riding.
Cannondale CAAD8 Tiagra 6
The Cannondale CAAD8 Tiagra 6 is the middle entry of the CAAD8 bicycle class. Its alloy construction makes it the lightest aluminum frame on this list. Through specialized design and hydroforming the Tiagra 6’s frame and fork have “flex zones” offering a more comfortable ride with less friction and drag, making the bicycle faster.
The innovations in the design don’t quite make up for the lesser drivetrain on this bicycle as it is only outfitted with a 10 speed Shimano Tiagra 4600, and comes with lesser Schwalbe Lugano tires. Aside from the design elements this frame shares with more expensive Cannondales, the Tiagra 6 doesn’t have the components or performance to keep up with the other frames on this list.
Specialized Allez Elite Road Bike
The Specialized Allez Elite is a staple at this price point and the 2015 edition has received some great upgrades over its predecessors but the lightweight aluminum frame doesn’t make up for its sub-par drivetrain or tire/wheel set up. However, the Allez Elite does outperform the other bicycles on this list in terms of comfort.
The Allez Elite’s Shimano components do offer a wider range in gearing on a compact crank set and it also comes standard with a specially designed saddle offering more comfort in the ride. The re-imagined aluminum frame is also better than any previous Allez Elite edition as well. Overall this bicycle still falls back to pack as a good but not a great ride.
Cannondale CAAD10 Black Inc
Cannondale carefully designed every part of the CAAD10 Black Inc. to make it as similar to elite carbon fiber bikes as possible. The ability to custom fabricate carbon fiber has allowed it to have stiffness and flex not easily obtained with aluminum. Cannondale uses specifically molded aluminum tubing for the CAAD10, however, which replicates the variable stiffness of carbon fiber.
Cannondale also uses shaping and welding technology that allows the frame to have the weight of carbon fiber without compromising the greater durability of aluminum. To top it off, this bike features SRAM's top of the line, 22-speed components. While carbon fiber still holds a few advantages over aluminum, the CAAD10 Black Inc. comes very close to closing the gap entirely.
Jamis Icon Elite Road Bike
Jamis makes bikes that are, simply, excellent. As such, with the Icon Elite they have made an excellent aluminum frame road bike that’s as comparable to a carbon fiber frame bike as possible. To compensate for the inferior stiffness of aluminum, the Icon Elite is constructed with a combination of oval-shaped and tapered tubes. Tapered tubes are becoming more common on aluminum frame because, like on the Icon Elite, they provide stiffness where it’s most needed while shaving off overall weight. To additionally save on weight, the Icon Elite uses a carbon seatpost, Shimano Ultegra components, and 18/24-spoke wheels. This bike comes with a full size 52/36 tooth crank which may or may not be preferred by some cyclists.
Trek Madone 2.5
Instead of throwing the Madone 2.5 into the never ending battle between aluminum and carbon fiber over weight, stiffness, and durability, Trek uses the technology in which the materials have equal footing: aerodynamics. Both materials can be molded equally well into aero designs so Trek's drag-reducing KVF tube shape translates easily to aluminum frames. The bike also includes lightweight and smooth-shifting Shimano Ultegra components and removable mounts for rear fenders. It falls short of the competition with heavier steel and aluminum saddle rails and seatpost respectively, although the additional weight is negligible to all but the most discerning racer.
Giant TCR SLR 2
The TCR SLR 2 by Giant has an aggressive race geometry and tapered frame tubes including the steerer tube, adding increased responsiveness and control. It also uses a lightweight composite seatpost which is a feature not always found in this price range. The low price comes from the downgraded Shimano 105 components which are heavier although reliable. Sizing for this bike ranges from extra small to extra large rather than numerical centimeters as is the industry standard. It also lacks 2-4 size options that competitors provide, so finding an exact fit with this bike may be more difficult to achieve.
Specialized S-Works Allez Di
Some may consider it a waste to put Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 electronic shifting components on an aluminum frame. In truth, it’s up to the rider to decide if this quality of component offsets the weight of aluminum. There are so many lightweight carbon fiber parts on this bike, however, that the frame is the only reason the S-Works Allez Di2 can be classified as an aluminum bike (this is the only reason that this bike is not rated as our top best pick). Besides the aluminum frame, every other part is of the highest grade and advanced materials available. By producing this bike, Specialized provides competition to the most elite carbon fiber bikes at a lower price.
BMC SLR01 Road Bike
The low seatstay and split top tube of the BMC SLR01 are the most obvious departures from typical frame design and they allow a slight flex in the frame to absorb road vibration and make the longest races more comfortable for the rider. The next innovation is the hexagonal and octagonal shapes of the frame tubes which allow them to flex vertically but increase stiffness laterally for optimal transfer of pedaling energy. Of course, the SLR01 comes with all the expected features of an elite racing bike like internal cable routing, electronic drivetrain compatibility, and some of the highest performing components available. As far as responsive and efficient bikes go, BMC is a good distance ahead of the competition and with their SLR01 road bike, they will certainly stay there.
Orbea Orca M-LTDi
The Orca M-LTDi is designed around two ideas, being that the amount of material typically used on the upper tubes is excessive and not enough material is used on the lower tubes. This is why the top tube tapers so dramatically from the front of the bike into a thin, light tube and down into thin seatstays while the lower tubes are massive in comparison. Less material on the upper tubes decreases the weight of the bike while the extra diameter of the lower tubes increases stiffness overall. As Orbea claims, it’s through there the majority of the rider's pedaling power is transmitted to the rear wheel.
The Orca M-LTDi also features internal cable routing, electronic and mechanical drivetrain compatibility, comes equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifters and derailleurs and all of this put together make a very competitive bike. If considering this bike, it should be understood that it’s a speed-specific bike and has a very aggressive riding position that may get uncomfortable on longer endurance races.
Focus Izalco Max
The Izalco Max doesn’t have the strange bends and angles of comparable carbon racing bikes and at first glance, doesn’t look like anything special. However, there are small, strategically placed ridges along the headtube that not only increase stiffness over the entire frame but create very responsive and predictable steering due to their location.
Rather than adding massive amounts of extra carbon to the lower frame tubes like some other manufacturers, Focus has also designed the chainstays of the Izalco Max with a horizontal D shape to increase stiffness laterally while allowing slight flex vertically to provide comfort. Despite all of this technology it uses external cable routing which is normally only found on much lower grade bikes. What really ties this bike together are the Fizik cockpit and saddle which make it not only a fast bike but a very comfortable one as well.
Bianchi Oltre XR2
There might not be a single sharp angle on the sleek and curvy frame of the Oltre XR2. Every piece of this bike is designed to cut through the air from the deep wheels to the internal cable routing to the sculpted aero seat tube and seatpost. It uses the less common BB368 bottom bracket which is wider and therefore allows greater stiffness and more effective power transfer.
The ultra thin seatstays look almost flat, greatly reducing road vibration and increasing comfort although the bike still has a very aggressive riding position which will be uncomfortable for all but the most speed-minded rider. With the best Campagnolo components available, this is a racing bike with one purpose: to win.
Ridley Noah Fast 10
F stand for “fast” in Ridley's F-Brake, F-Surface, and F-Split fork technologies and that’s exactly how these features make the Noah Fast 10 ride. The F-Brake is Ridley's own design and is integrated into the fork to reduce drag, the F-Surface exterior paint is claimed to maintain even air contact along the frame, and the F-Split fork controls air movement around the wheels to reduce turbulence. All of this put together equals a bike that not only cuts through the air but uses it to its advantage.
As if this bike needed more speed, it uses light and aero Zipp wheels and electronic Shimano Di2 drivetrain to complete the package. For being supremely aerodynamic however, the Noah Fast weighs more than it should and there are lighter bikes available for the price.
Colnago Master Steel Road Bike
Colnago introduced its Master race bike to the world in the mid-80s and it has remained a cycling connoisseur’s favorite ever since. I own one of these glorious bikes and it’s true when people say there’s something special about a Colnago. Explaining it is akin to putting to words the warmth of a child’s embrace. Riding a Master feels great every single time, and you know it will feel great so the anticipation of that next ride builds into a big ol’ grin because each mile out there will be sublime. This bike performs at the highest level no matter the topography, built with specific geometry to keep it stable and fast on descents, springy on climbs, and with tarmac-eating speed in the sprints. Describe the Master with one word you ask? That's an easy one: fluid.
The Master’s trademark, star-shaped tubing which are joined by exquisite chrome lugs bring a tailored balance of stiffness and compliance. The Precisa, chrome-plated straight fork helps reduce ride fatigue and adds to the bikes overall elegant look; Colnago bikes are true works of art, with eye-popping paint schemes and glowing finishes. After all, a bike with this kind of pedigree should look the part, no? With 16 sizes and several color variations, the Master delivers. Dealer builds allow a wide range of component choices and expect frame/fork to weigh in at around 5 pounds to round out a 57cm full bike weighing in at less than 18 pounds.
LeMond Washoe Road Bike
The innovator Greg LeMond still can’t sit still who has kept busy jetting around the world to meet a plethora of responsibilities, LeMond has managed to come out on top yet again, introducing a new bike into a hyper-competitive market by bucking the carbon-everything trend. LeMond chose steel for his return, and the Washoe is testament to its namesake’s go-for-it pedigree.
Using Reynolds 853 tubing, every Washoe frame size is built with a specific construction processes to ensure that supple ride quality shines through. Depending on component build choice, these rigs weigh in at 17-18.5 pounds, very close to many carbon-framed bikes in similar price ranges. The Washoe can run with electronic or mechanical components and the bike’s geometry is designed for perfect fit and balance, bred from LeMond’s countless miles in the saddle.
A longer wheelbase brings a very smooth ride, along with long-haul comfort and rock-solid stability. The Enve carbon fork offers legendary performance in handling and its vibration-eating qualities give the bike the ability to climb and sprint and flow through turns with spot-on precision. Sit in and cruise all-day miles or wring every ounce of speed on any terrain; the Washoe loves it all.
This bike is a real beauty, too. In addition to the base coat, all of the bike’s graphics are hand-painted at the LeMond facility in Minnesota, USA with elegant finishes and colors that give the Washoe a killer look to match its ride quality.
Rivendell Roadeo Steel Road Bike
Rivendell’s Roadeo is a speedy, club racer bike; a lightweight and versatile ride with plenty of zip to contest town line sprints and the chutzpah to dress in fenders and scoot down to the local pub on a rainy evening. When asked about the construction and end goal of the Roadeo, Rivendell’s founder, Grant Petersen, said, “We wanted to break 20 pounds without using dumb wheels or foolish parts.” His team succeeded and created a responsive and safe bike with a geometry and tube layout (notably the longer than typical chain stays) ideal for demanding riding and a complementary, smooth-as-silk ride over long miles.
Live in a wet area, or a place with choppy roads? The Roadeo’s frame setup allows for the use of fenders to make rain-day rides immensely more tolerable, and room for running tires as wide as 35mm for better traction and with a lower pressure, a soft ride over bumpy tread. The Roadeo is recliner-like comfortable too, thanks in large part to bars set higher than is customary, allowing riders to use the drops easier than traditionally constructed frames. This is a huge deal when you are ticking over mile 90 and there are still 20 to go.
Aside from a superb ride feel and lifetime durability, a finely crafted lugged steel bike is an elegant piece of machinery to behold. Rivendell uses proprietary lugs that join tubes in gentle curves and a fork crown befitting, well, royalty. Gleaming paint finishes make these bikes so gorgeous you might get uncomfortable staring at them so long, and graced with Rivendell’s pastoral scene on their iconic head tube badge, you’re sure to be smitten.
Ritchey Road Logic Steel Road Bike
Out there on the road, a Ritchey bike speaks of its own volition, and any aficionado of fine steel will hear the call as Ritchey’s name alone commands respect. You need only ride one of his bikes to understand why. Staying true to his reputation as a pioneer in the industry, Ritchey remains tireless in their pursuit of perfecting the very soul of steel and discovering innovative ways to make the material perform at the highest level. The Road Logic is testament to that spirit.
The bike’s frame layout captures Ritchey’s classic geometry, engineered to respond to all the nuances of the road. When called on to climb, the Logic answers with an instant burst of speed and the bike invites you to dig in and drill it. Love to plunge into turns at high speed? This is where the Logic shines best. Arc it through a long corner and the bike clings to the road with Spidey-like grip, letting you rip through with confidence. Ritchey’s zeal for innovation beams with the Logic’s integrated head tube, forged instead of drawn, that allows for weight-saving steerers. Heat treated and triple-butted, the Logic’s tubing incorporates sections that can be tailor welded to save weight and ensure that great Ritchey ride feel. At only around 17 pounds, fans of steel can’t go wrong with this Logic.
The bike flows effortlessly on the road and boasts a comfort quotient akin to a poolside lounge chair. The Logic is distractingly handsome, too, with its small-diameter tubes and elegantly understated paint job, fittingly adorned with Ritchey’s TR head tube badge, revered by many as the sign of one very sweet bike. This bike also scored bonus points for Ritchey being a prolific component guru and decked out with one of his carbon wheelsets, the Road Logic is downright dreamy.
Seven Cycles Axiom Steel Road Bike
Seven Cycles custom designs and builds every bike from the ground up for each rider. Repeat: Your Seven bike is like a snowflake; there’s not another like it. From your dreams of what your perfect bike will look like to the day you pedal that first mile, passionate two-wheeled tailors bring your bike to life, infusing their specific expertise into every little detail. The fit and ride feel gleaned from a custom-fit bike nearly defy any written or audible description, and Seven is one of the most revered custom-oriented bicycle companies out there.
Every single step of the production process focuses on a single bike, built to spec for its rider. It’s an attention to detail not often seen in today’s “build-and-ship” world. Using the company’s Origin butted steel tubing, the Axiom incorporates your specific geometry desires into their bikes’ off the charts quality, delivering unparalleled performance careening into turns and attacking a climb. Out for a five-hour spin? The Axiom’s compliance from its fitted tube set and in-house carbon fork keeps you comfy from the first mile to the last, and with an overall weight below 18 pounds you shall fear no hills. Seven’s swoosh 7 head tube badge is a laser-cut gem that puts the final, elegant touch on your very own dream come true.