Showing the rise of the gravel/adventure bike, we’ve split that out from the cyclo-cross category for the first time this year, and because many of these bikes can be used for commuting, we've grouped them together with our commuting award as well.
To even stand a chance in these awards, each bike had to score at least an 8/10 to even be considered, and it wasn’t simply a case of selecting the highest scoring bikes, we included other criteria depending on the category and the aim of those bikes – you can read a full list of this year's awards and our criteria for choosing them here.
Selecting the best bikes wasn't an easy task. We’ve tested some very good bikes in the past 12 months, but just like cream always rises to the top, we reckon these are the cream of the crop. So without further ado let's look at some great bikes and give out some prizes!
With adventure bikes starting to make better sense for those who might previously have bought a cyclo-cross bike and added mudguards/rack for a go anywhere machine cyclo-cross bikes can get back to being a lot more focused on the job of racing around a technical and challenging muddy circuit. Each bike here is perfectly suited to cyclo-cross racing, from occasional racers to serious trophy hunters.
We're talking pure cyclo-cross racers here, with geometry designed for cyclo-cross racing (adventure bikes often lean closer to road bikes in the geometry details). Versatility isn't completely out of the window, many of these bikes still have mudguard mounts and there's still plenty of the versatility that made the 'cross bikes so popular with people who never ride cyclo-cross. But for the purposes of this award, we’ve looked at how well they perform as cyclo-cross bikes first and foremost - seems logical.
If you want an affordable cyclo-cross bike that is ready to race, then the latest aluminium framed Giant TCX in this Shimano 105 11-speed build is a really smart choice.
Giant has plenty of pedigree when it comes to cyclo-cross racing at the highest level, and it has been committed to disc brakes for some times now. The D-shaped carbon fibre seatpost provides a noticeable damping of bumps through the rear wheel, and the Maxxis tyres find good grip in the mud. The simple (and light) mechanically operated TRP Spyre disc brakes are more than adequate in race and non-race situations. All in the Giant TCX is a fine choice that won’t disappoint, especially if it’s your first foray into cyclo-cross.
Why it's here: Really good value for money cyclo-cross race bike
For a very long time Kinesis UK has been the go-to choice for a race-ready cyclo-cross frameset, and the Pro 6 is a common fixture on the cyclo-cross race circuit. The aluminium frame is suitably reinforced and oversized in the right places to provide an astoundingly stiff and responsive ride, and doesn’t rob you off any power when in the white heat of a race.
Handling is excellent with real point-and-shoot confidence. It’s a disc-only frame and the top tube has been flattened for easy shouldering, and all cables are routed externally along the top of the top tube. While it’s perfectly suited to racing, the frame does have mudguard and rack mounts so it offers the versatility that some people look for in a cyclo-cross bike, especially if you want to use it for more than just cyclo-cross racing. In fact this is one of those cross bikes that could be morphed in to an adventure bike. That combination of great race handling and all round versatility certainly impressed our reviewer, Jez when he rode the Crosslight Pro 6 earlier this year.
Why it's here: Affordable aluminium build-it-yourself 'cross racer that is a more than capable race machine and has the added bonus of being a good all-rounder too
For just under a grand you get Merida’s top-tier Cyclo Cross Lite 6066 triple butted aluminium frame, with internal cable routing and a carbon fibre fork, which all provides the Cyclocross 500 with a very composed performance off-road, and good road manners and a comfortable ride on the road. The generous wheelbase and steering provides predictably when riding at speed and dealing with obstacles, like off-camber banks and steep drops. The thru-axle on the fork keeps the front-end tracking accurately and helps to resist unwanted flex. Like most cyclocross bikes at this price, there are mudguard eyelets and you could easily fit a gravel tyre for more mixed terrain riding.
We tested the 2015 versions, but for 2016 a rather natty blue paint job aside not much seems to have changed on the spec front (I'm sure someone from Merida will set us straight if it has). To be fair they pretty much nailed it first time including with the price which stays reassuringly unchanged too.
Why it's here: A lot of bike for not a lot of money, a proper race bike, but one that gives more than capable service for other types of riding too
The Norco Threshold C Rival 1 comes in at second spot in this category with a strong offering if you’re looking for a ready-to-race cyclo-cross bike. The carbon fibre frame and fork makes use of thru-axles at both ends.
As is proving quite popular on cyclo-cross bikes this year, the Norco is specced with SRAM’s Rival 1 groupset, which combines a single chainring with an 11-32 cassette. Brakes come courtesy of SRAM too – hydraulic disc brakes with 140/160mm rotors that deliver strong and predictable braking.
When he tested it Dave Atkinson reckoned the gearing was a bit too restrictive for general riding, or indeed hillier courses - we’d like to see an 11-36 instead to provide a bit more range. But to some extent we're quibbling on that one - this is a bike designed for racing, the sort of machine likely to be bought by someone planning a season long campaign and who is probably going to be up there duking it out for the win. Dave reckoned straight line speed rather than tight cornering was the Threshold's strongest suit. But all in all it’s a good package and very good value (even more so in the January sales).
Why it's here: Modern carbon frame with discs and thru-axles gives very solid performance - and good value too
And so to the Specialized Crux Elite X1, this year’s Cyclo-cross Bike of the Year winner. The Crux simply provided the best performance of all the cyclo-cross bikes we tested this year, with flawless handling and impressive speed, all wrapped up in one of the boldest paint jobs we’ve seen in a while.
It’s right at home for racing, with the SRAM Rival 1 providing quick gear changes and reliable shifting even in claggy mud. The single ring means there is no front mech to get clogged with mud, and the 40t chainring and 11-36t cassette provided an adequate range of gears for the fastest courses and steepest inclines.
The carbon fibre frame provides outstanding power transfer while the 27.2mm seatpost adds comfort. Thru-axles at both wheels keep everything tracking in the same direction, and allow for easy wheel changes, and the hydraulic disc brakes provide amazing control and stopping power, even with one finger. We really like that the wheels and tyres are tubeless-ready, so it’s easy to ditch inner tubes and lessen the risk of puncturing when riding off-road with lower tyres pressures.
The only slight downer for us is that Specialized have gone with a 135 x 12mm rear axle spacing rather than a 142 x 12mm which is going to restrict both future wheel upgrade potential and the wheels you'll have to choose from if your the sort of 'cross racer that wants spare wheels handy during a race - okay, that's not going to be an issue for loads of us but it might be for some.
The Crux is expensive but it’s a great package and won’t hold you back in a cyclo-cross race. You won’t be able to blame the bike for poor results...
Why it wins: Impressive package with flawless performance
This is the first year that we’ve given adventure bikes their own category in the road.cc Bike of the Year Awards – we had a ’Cross and Adventure’ category last time around – and that’s a reflection of a vibrant market that’s growing massively and looks set to grow even more.
So what are we including here? We’re essentially talking about drop-bar bikes that are designed to tackle more than just smooth roads. These bikes are generally built with relaxed geometries, bigger tyres and disc brakes, and most have rack mounts for added versatility.
Beyond that, definitions get tricky. Are adventure bikes the same thing as gravel bikes? Some people would say no, true gravel bikes are designed only for gravel racing, others would say that they’ve morphed into more or less the same thing. Let’s not get into that debate now. For our purposes, we’re talking about bikes that can handle road riding and can also turn their hand to forest trails, towpaths, bridleways, maybe a bit of singletrack… You know the kind of thing.
From being a suitable candidate for the weekend club run to the daily commute, the Grade has all the speed and performance, plus the comfort and stability, of an endurance road bike, but there's more to it than that.
It also has the capacity to tackle gravel tracks, bridleways, moorland paths, canal towpaths and tree-lined singletrack, along with the ability to be pointed down terrain normally reserved for a mountain bike. Add in the generous tyre clearance, disc brake performance and reliable kit, and this Grade is a very accomplished performer.
Why it’s here The Grade is a brilliantly capable and fun disc brake-equipped bike for tackling both the rough and the smooth
The Kinesis Tripster ATR is a disc-only titanium frame and a carbon-fibre monocoque fork that can handle a really wide range of riding, and do so with real aplomb. It’s beautifully made, comfortable and responsive. The ATR (ATR stands for Adventure, Tour, Race) offers a composed and comfortable ride. It's quick if you want it to be, but also relaxed and easy to pilot.
The long wheelbase gives it plenty of stability and the neutral steering and handling forgive the odd lapse of concentration and there's plenty of space for a fat, comfy tyre. If you're looking for a bike for Audaxes, touring or just charging around lanes or bridleways on, the ATR is brilliantly capable.
It's very well made, the ride quality is excellent, and it'll throw its hand at most things with only minimal changes to the build. In many ways you could see it as a more rugged version of the Kinesis Gran Fondo Titanium Disc which features prominently in our Frameset of The Year Awards.
Why it’s here This is a capable and beautiful titanium all-rounder that offers a great ride on or off road.
The Croix de Fer is something of a British classic built from Reynolds 725 chromoly it's been around for years.
Up until recently Genesis categorised it as a cyclo-cross bike and while it's been a stalwart of the mud-plugging scene it's also been one of those cross bikes that's been even more visible plugging away to and from work as a super-dependable commuter. Versatile then, like an adventure bike before there were adventure bikes which is funnily enough how Genesis bill both the 2015 incarnation - we tested (as a frameset) and the slightly tweaked 2016 model.
Comfortable over longer distances, the Croix de Fer has a delightful springiness to the frame and space for bigger volume tyres. The frame cushions you from the harshest road surfaces - yeah okay, so do those fatter tyres. With the right tyre choice, it easily tackles off-road sections as well, so you can throw in the odd bridleway or byway to spice up an ordinary road ride. With mudguards on the Croix de Fer is an admirable daily commuter and grinds out the miles - as you'd expect really given the years various versions have been doing just that.
Strip away the mudguards and slap on some fast wheels and it reveals a surprisingly rapid turn of pace, with enough energy to make pacey Sunday club rides exciting.
For 2016 Genesis have tweaked the geometry, lengthening the fork offset slightly for more toe clearance but without, they say, sacrificing the neutral handling. They've also dropped the 2015 model's carbon fork (now an aftermarket option) for a steel one - they've dropped the price too as a result. We'd probably rather have the carbon fork as standard, but there you go.
The comfort, well mannered handling, and that weight saving carbon fork make the Genesis a compelling choice.
Why it’s here This is a good value disc brake steel frame that offers great handling and lots of versatility
This is a really fun bike with a fast pace on the road and enough capability to explore off-road trails. With hidden mudguard mounts, it also has the versatility to suit a number of uses, from daily commuter to weekend grinder. Show it some dirt or mud and you'll leave all your mates on their skinny 23mm tyres for dust. The Schwalbe tyres provide a load of cushioning and, as long as you run low enough pressures to really exploit their true potential, let you barrel along bumpy dirt tracks with plenty of pace.
On the road, the Roker has a calm and stable presence. It’ll dive through fast, flowing corners, the precise steering and a good weight balance helping to place the wheels right where you want them, and the carbon frame smooths out vibrations well.
Why it’s here Fun and fast on and off asphalt, the Roker Pro suits those wanting more capability than a regular road bike
Our winner is the Jamis Renegade Elite, a bike that’s adept on the road but also super-capable off it.
With an intoxicating combination of road lightness and trail toughness plus Shimano's stunning hydraulic disc brakes and a great wheel and tyre package, the carbon framed, Renegade offers excellent road manners and is outrageously good fun off the beaten track. In fact, its off-road ability is simply astonishing.
Don't mistake it for a simple mud-plugger with drop bars though. A change of tyres is all that's needed to use it for fast all day road rides or even chaingang lung-busters. In fact even with its standard knobblier rubber on it's no slouch on on the road.
The Renegade Elite leaves no boxes unticked, it's a very well thought through design that also takes mudguards and a rack, and can accommodate tyres up to 40mm. In short, it's an absolute belter.
We tested the 2015 version - one of the very few bikes in the history of road.cc to get a 10 for its combination of stunning performance and value - that wheel package in particular really is amazing value. The good news if you ride a 54cm is that Evans (who have the exclusive on Jamis in the UK) is that you can still get one, and at a reduced price from the original list price.
For 2016 the Renegade Elite gets a new paint job and Shimano's Ice Tech Freeza rotors but the price bumps up to £2699. Were we testing it now we'd consider knocking it down to a 9, but even at it's new price it's still a bargain.
Why it wins This is a brilliant do-it-all bike; it’s light, tough, very well-specced and a lot of fun
There’s no real definition of a commuting bike, you can commute to work or college on just about any bike, even a Penny Farthing if you really wanted. That said, we reckong there are some key features that people buying a bike for commuting will be looking for, such as value for money, easy handling, comfort, durability, reliability and versatility. These seven bikes demonstrate the variety of choice available and demonstrate that that whatever your commuting needs you should be able to find a good bike to meet them.
The fourth bike from Kinesis to feature in this year's awards, the UK designed Kinesis Tripster ACE is a really good quality flat-bar commuting and general purpose bike, with a solid build kit for the price.
ACE stands for Adventure, Commute, Explore - and while it's definitely up for all three in our opinion the Tripster ACE is most suited to the commuting and exploring bit. It’s a faultless choice for the demands of the daily commute. The more upright position given by the flat bars is ideal for those who spend a lot of their journey riding through traffic, or indeed those who simply don't like riding on drops.
The aluminium frame is tough and stiff, and the carbon fork saves a bit of weight. Shimano Sora parts provide decent gear changing performance and the disc brakes, in this case, Tektro hydraulics, will pull the bike to a clean stop at the traffic lights. While the 11Kg overall weight means you're unlikely to be streaking away from the lights (or up hill) the Tripster is by no means heavy.
All the necessary brazings and clearances are there to fit racks and mudguards (even with 35mm tyres) making the Tripster ACE a highly versatile and utilitarian machine. Shop around and you can find it for well under it's £799 list price.
Why it's here: Super simple bike that won't let you down
Electric bikes are getting better every year, and the Bergamont E-Line Sweep N8 Di2 makes it onto this list because it’s a really well-considered city bike. Okay, the top of the range model we tested is by no means cheap, but you are getting a lot of bike for the money.
The Bergamont makes uses of Shimano’s latest STePS power system, located at the bottom bracket, which centralises the weight low in the frame for better handling. The Nexus 8-speed hub provides a good spread of gears and the Di2 shifting is a joy to use, with a handlebar-mounted control unit to keep tabs on your speed, battery life and distance. A plethora of features make it ideal for riding in the city, with mudguards, reliable and powerful hydraulic rim brakes, and dynamo-powered lights - our version came with racks front and back too.
Why it's here: e-Bikes continue to get better and this is an impressively well thought out bike, if you don't want to break sweat on the way to work it could be just what you're looking for
For those that want their commuting bike to combine a fair measure of performance with a big dollop of value the Point R, the first aluminium road bike from British bike company Mango Bikes, is one to check out.
Mango offers a range of builds for the Point R using the same frame, priced from £450 to the £750 model we tested (now down to £719). No surprise that the Mango Point R also put in a strong showing in our Bargain Bike of The Year awards.
It’s a very modern looking bike with smooth tube profiles and internal cable routing, normally something you only see on much more expensive road bikes. The geometry is relaxed and it’s ideal for dodging potholes and racing through city streets, just the thing if you’re if you’re late for work. It’s a comfortable bike as well, but you can add 28mm tyres to boost the ride smoothness further. It’s also got mounts for mudguards as well, something you definitely want for winter/wet weather commuting.
Why it's here: Well designed aluminium road bike, great handling makes it ideal for fast commutes
Didn't we see this bike earlier? Yes, the GT Grade is an adventure bike but just like cyclo-cross bikes have long been well-suited to commuting with a change of tyres, so the Grade is ideal for getting you to and from the office too in fact the more relaxed geometry of an adventure bike make it even better suited to pounding Britain's often atrocious roads to get you to and from your place of employment. It’s rugged build shrugs off rough roads and the bigger tyres handle potholes and drain covers with aplomb. The aluminium frame isn’t as smooth as the carbon fibre version of the Grade, but it still offers a composed ride, and the big tyres really help in the comfort department.
Why it's here: Rugged and easy handling disc-equipped bike will take whatever the mean streets can throw at it on the way to, and just as importantly from work and put a smile on your face while doing it
Audax and touring bikes have long been popular with many commuting cyclists, especially those with decent length commute. The new Condor Fratello Disc (which also features in our Frameset of The Year awards) is a fine example of what has come to be called the “super commuter”.
For 2015 the Fratello got new, lighter steel frameset that gives a fine ride, with crisp and responsive handling overcoming its weight disadvantage against some of the other bikes in this list. The full-length mudguards protect you in crappy conditions(good to see those as standard) and the disc brakes provide bags of power and control in a range of conditions, with excellent reliability and long pad life. The Fratello is more than just a commuting bike of course, it’s a fine year-round choice, as happy on a lazy Sunday ride as a sprightly summer sportive.
Why it's here: Super for longer commutes with mudguards for riding in the rain, with disc brakes and a good carbon fork. Oh, and it's also very, very pretty which should cheer you up on the way to work
Singlespeed and fixed wheel bikes are common sights in big cities, where the lack of big hills (usually) means you can get away with the simplicity provided by just having one sprocket to turn. The Genesis Flyer combines an excellent frame and fork with durable wheels and at £649 it’s reasonably priced too.
It’s a fun bike to ride, with well-honed geometry making it balanced and stable. The position makes for a comfortable, rather than racy, feel too. The double butted steel frame and carbon fork provide a good combination of seated comfort and front-end stiffness and control. You don’t get a lot of kit on a bike with one speed, but all the equipment on the Flyer is no-nonsense stuff and works just fine. The 2015 model came with 28mm tyres which you had to ditch to fit mudguards. The 2016 model addresses that by coming with 25mm Maxxis Re-Fuse tyres as standard AND some custom made thermoplastic mudguards.
During the time we were testing the Flyer some of those running changes come in hence the mudguards in the pic. Genesis have also dropped the gearing slightly to 42-17; and you get the option to run it fixed or freewheel straight out of the box - that also means the horizontal dropouts have gone, good news if you have to mend a p*ncture on the way home in the dark.
Why it's here: Simple and honed ride quality makes it ideal for urban riding, and keeping you fit
In at the top spot then is the cracking Triban 520 from B’Twin. The Triban is a popular choice with new cyclists and commuters, and for 2015 it has been updated with an improved frame that builds on everything that was good about the previous version.
Of course, it’s a fine road bike in its own right (look out for it in our upcoming Road Bike of The Year awards) but because of its versatility and price it also makes the perfect commuting bike. (It's probably not a surprise that it's already bagged our 2015/16 Bargain Bike of The Year award too).
For £450 you get Shimano’s excellent Sora gears, a carbon fork, space for up to 32mm tyres, or 28mm with mudguards, and the handling is pleasingly neutral and relaxed. The Triban 520 is a very compelling buy if you’re looking for an affordable road bike for commuting.
Why it wins: A great bike for not a lot of cash and mudguard eyelets and space for wide tyres are the reason it's already an established commuter favourite
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.