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Check out the best £3,500+ road bikes we've reviewed over the past 12 months and find out which takes the top spot

We reviewed many superbikes here on road.cc in 2018 – cutting-edge bikes with hefty price tags – and now it’s time to decide on the very best.

This category covers road bikes; we also have a Gravel and Adventure Superbike of the Year.

How do we make our decisions? Bikes must first fulfil these criteria:

1. Must have been tested on road.cc between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2018. If a brand chooses not to send us a particular bike, we can't assess it and it's not going in.

2. It has to have a price tag of over £3,500. We could have made the cut off £3,000, £4,000, or anything else, but we chose £3,500, as we have for the past two years .

All £3,500+ road bikes that we've reviewed this year are up for consideration. 

Every bike on our list has put in a seriously impressive performance out on the road, of course. We’re also looking for engineering innovation and smart design features that lead directly to improved performance. 

What about value? That’s one thing we don’t take into account in the road.cc Superbike of the Year. While our other Bike of the Year categories consider value, we put the price to one side here because this is our money-no-object category. If you’re interested in looking at value, click on the link to the full review at the end of each entry on our list.

To conclude, this is a rundown of the high-end road bikes that have impressed us most during testing over the past year, with value taken out of the equation. Let’s get going.

8. Rose X-Lite Six Disc Ultegra Di2 £4,417.79

Buy it here 

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The Rose X-Lite 6 Disc Ultegra Di2 (now priced £3,720) is a quick, sharp-handling disc-brake bike that can thrill and excite as well as the best of them, and with Rose's custom direct-to-consumer business model, it's also excellent value.

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As its name suggests, the Rose X-Lite is extremely light with a frame weight of 790g and a further 365g for the fork. Our complete 57cm review bike, with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and deep-section DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels, tipped the scales at 7.08kg.

The fork has a maximum tyre clearance of 30mm, and swoops outwards in the style of many current aero bikes. Flat mount callipers and 12mm thru-axles? Check. There's also a Kevlar insert inside the shaft that Rose say helps to damp out road buzz.

On the aero front, Rose has done its research and wind tunnel testing to incorporate kamm tail sections on the rearsides of the fork blades and down tube while the compacted rear triangle, smooth frontal areas and small features like an integrated seatpost clamp all help to boost efficiency. In fact, Rose says the new X-Lite is practically the same in terms of aero drag as its CWR aero bikes.

The X-Lite 6 Disc gives an immediate sense of sharpness from the first pedal stroke. Instantly, you know that you're riding a precision tool.

Steering is super-quick and direct, with only the lightest touch or lean required to influence the direction of travel. In fact, it takes a little getting used to if you're not accustomed to such quick responses.

Settle down on a climb and spin away, and you get a stable platform, free of any flex or distracting front end runaway, allowing you to focus on the business of pumping the legs.

It's an incredibly involving ride on descents too. The frame responds instantly as you lean, carving a very direct line as you aim for your chosen apex.

There's no doubt that the stiff front end is on the sharp side of 'poised', which means you need to blend confident riding with delicacy to make the most of its racy potential. Bluntly executed inputs at the handlebar result in nervous behaviour from the front end; this isn't an easy bike to ride 'switched off', you need to pay attention.

At its core, the stiffness from the bottom bracket and chainstays transfers power very efficiently, allowing for entertaining accelerations when you want, or spinning away efficiently when you don't.

Comfort is markedly improved over the previous X-Lite. Still, reviewer Ash Quinlan found it a touch rigid compared to some. Anything more than a few pimples in the road feeding into the contact points results in a ride quality that could be described as 'shaky'. 

Certainly, the dropped seatpost junction, integrated clamp and carbon seatpost are doing their best to round off the bike with comfort that'll make it an easier ride for long days in the saddle. However, they can't fully mask the rigid side effect of such a stiff and fundamentally aggressive ride.

Even so, the X-Lite 6 Disc is an incredibly quick and entertaining bike to ride, with bags of speed packed away within its understated frame.

Why it's here Incredibly quick, sharp-handling bike that will appeal to a great many keen riders
Read the review 

7. Reilly T640 £4,499.00

Buy it here 

reilly_t640_-_riding_1.jpg

The Reilly T640 is a stiff titanium road bike that offers sharp handling and lively responses. It also looks very, very cool!

Rather than 3Al-2.5V titanium – which is far and away the most common variety used for bike frames – the main tubes, bottom bracket shell and braze-ons of the Reilly T640 are all seamless 6Al-4V titanium (meaning that the alloy is 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium). It's just the stays that are 3Al-2.5V. The tubes are ELI (Extra Low Interstitial gas purity) grade titanium which allows Reilly 'to butt and shape seamless tubes to much tighter tolerances'.

6Al-4V is a little lighter than 3Al-2.5V, stiffer and stronger. Titanium bikes are difficult to produce well, 6Al-4V particularly so because the tubes are hard to draw in the first place. Titanium frame building is notoriously demanding but the benefits include excellent corrosion resistance and very high cycle fatigue properties – so, treated well and barring an accident, a titanium frame will last an age.

The T640 is a lovely looking piece of work with tidy welds and little R logos on the bottom bracket shell and dropouts. Even the down tube cable stops are neatly sculpted. The branding throughout is subtle and classy rather than shouty and brash, and that certainly suits this bike.

The characteristic of the Reilly T640 that you just can't miss is its stiffness. Wow! We've got used to very stiff and efficient carbon bikes over the past few years and a lot of titanium bikes seem a little flexy by comparison, but the Reilly T640 isn't at all. Get up out of the saddle and pound the pedals for all you're worth in a sprint and the central section of the bike holds firm. Completely firm. The front end is similarly solid, Reilly's own C-290 full-carbon fork (claimed weight of 290g) offering sharp handling and very little ducking when you haul on the brake.

In many ways the T640 feels more like a stripped down race car rather than a plush saloon. If you're expecting the supple, whippy ride that adherents often ascribe to titanium, you're in for a bit of a surprise here. The T640 has quite a firm feel to it, especially through Reilly's own saddle – which doesn't have masses of flex in the shell – and the Vector 31.6mm carbon seatpost, giving plenty of feedback from the road surface. It doesn't rattle your bones but it isn't going to mollycoddle you either. Whether that's a good or bad thing depends on your point of view.

You can buy the Reilly T640 off the peg or go for a custom geometry. A standard option is aggressive but not extreme. You'll certainly be able to set things up without any trouble for a flat-backed riding position when you're down on the drops.

Our review bike was built up with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset (with mechanical shifting). If you'd like electronic shifting, Reilly doesn't bother with the gear cable stops and runs the cables internally.

The Reilly T640 proves that carbon fibre isn't the only answer for those who value speed and sharp handling. It's stiff and solid, and although it weighs a little more than a carbon alternative, it's not so much that you'd notice in use. Add in an elegant design and excellent craftsmanship and you have a really appealing proposition.

Why it's here Stiff and efficient titanium road bike that demonstrates carbon fibre isn't the only option for those in pursuit of speed
Read the review 

6. Cervélo R5 Disc, £7,299.00

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cervelo_r5_disc_-_riding_3.jpgThe redesigned R5 Disc is fast, stiff and responsive, with great handling, but it does have a firm ride – the only blemish on an otherwise fine package.

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The R5 is an 'all-rounder' intended to excel in all situations, from the slopes of Alpe d'Huez to the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. The front end has been lowered but so has the bottom bracket so the geometry doesn't feel extremely aggressive. The lower BB gives the R5 a feeling that you're sat 'in' the bike rather than perched on top, good for a low centre of gravity, and the position is very comfortable on longer rides.

It also provides a good balance for all-round riding and racing, being stable when descending and carving corners at high speeds, while the reduced trail ensures the steering feels light, giving the R5 a lively and agile ride. It is planted at high speeds, and descending is an area where it really shines. It flies downhill.

The frame is clearly very stiff. Cervélo makes lots of claims about how stiff it is, and in the real world it resists flexing during powerful sprints and surges up steep climbs. Cervélo's own handlebar and stem are also stiff; we couldn't detect any flex from the drops at all.

Comfort hasn't always been a concern with race bikes, but it is increasingly a consideration in the design process, so it's a bit of a disappointment that the R5 Disc doesn't handle rough roads as well as some rivals.

For the most part it's reasonably smooth, but get onto a patch of broken tarmac and it struggles to soak up the vibrations and sends the shocks through to the contact points. The front end is markedly firmer than the rear, suggesting the D-shaped seatpost is minimising some of the chatter.

Fit 28mm tyres rather than the usual 25s and you'll immediately notice an increase in smoothness, not surprisingly, so if you buy an R5, maybe invest in some wider rubber.

The R5 is available with either rim brakes or disc brakes. Our review bike came with SRAM Red HRD disc brakes and there was no rubbing under power or screeching at high speeds, just calm and authoritative braking. 

The new R5 is better than the previous bike, with changes that reflect the modern requirements of an all-round race bike. It's certainly fast, responsive, agile, light and reasonably comfortable, with an aero boost as well.

Why it's here Fast and stiff with great handling although it doesn't offer the smoothest ride
Read the review 

5. BMC TeamMachine SLR01 Disc Two £4,450.00 

Buy it here

BMC TeamMachine SLR01 Disc Two - riding 3.jpg

Fast, stiff and direct with great handling, the BMC TeamMachine SLR01 Disc Two is a highly capable carbon fibre race bike, with the hydraulic disc brakes delivering impressive stopping ability and great control in all weathers. It's one of the benchmark disc-equipped race bikes.

We reviewed the 2018 version of this bike that's currently reduced to £3,300 at Evans. The closest model to it in BMC's 2019 range is the £4.400 BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc Four

The BMC TeamMachine is a top choice if a fast ride with all the performance you could ever wish for are on your list of requirements for a new bike. The disc brake version has only a small weight penalty over a non-disc model.

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That it is fast, direct and great fun to ride is no surprise at all, but reviewer Dave Arthur wasn't expecting the smoothness and composure he experienced over rough local roads.

The new frame, still modern looking if not as distinctive as it used to be, is the result of BMC's in-house bike design computer software, which is able to run thousands of simulations before arriving at the optimum design with regard to the tube shapes and profiles. 

The down tube is the defining feature of the frame: it's massive! That girth combined with the oversized bottom bracket and chainstays ensure the TeamMachine has the chops to handle any sort of sprint or surge, and is up there with the best race bikes in this category in terms of efficiency.

Up front, the new fork with a 12mm thru-axle and neatly attached brake calliper – the bolts go through the front of the fork to save weight – give the steering a very precise feel, with good feedback through the handlebar. Changes of direction are snappy.

The skinniest of skinny seatstays and their low attachment point to the seat tube, along with a narrow seatpost, ensure that seated comfort is impressive for a race bike. It's not quite as sofa-surfing-soft as an endurance bike but it's light years ahead of race bikes from a few years ago

Despite a host of changes, BMC hasn't messed with the geometry, which is pretty much identical to the previous model. That's a good thing because the set of angles and measurements that BMC uses for the TeamMachine give it a well-balanced character, stable at speed and agile when turning through the corners. Only the chainstays have grown slightly in length, but at 410mm they're still short and don't ruin the handling – it's still as agile as you want a race bike to be.

Although the new bike feels similar to the previous model, it's noticeably stiffer when putting the power down and more direct in the way it responds to your steering inputs. It's a properly quick bike and while it might not have the aerodynamics of some of the latest race bikes, over challenging undulating terrain with lots of climbs and tricky and fast descents, the new TeamMachine Disc is exhilarating and rapid.

Add in the ability to accommodate up to a 28mm tyre thanks to the disc brakes, and you have the option to tailor the bike for longer rides if that's more your thing than bashing around a crit circuit for an hour.

It might not be the biggest bargain going, but this is one of the best carbon fibre, disc brake-equipped race bikes out there. 

Why it's here Quick, stiff and great handling carbon disc race bike
Read the review 

4. Orbea Orca Aero M20 Team £3,632.00

Buy it here

Orbea Orca Aero - riding 3.jpgThe Orbea Orca Aero M20Team is a fast and great handling aerodynamic road bike with a surprising talent for smoothing out all but the roughest roads. But it is speed, not comfort, that is at the top of the list of requirements for an aero road bike, and that's an area where the Orca Aero feels very competent. This is one exceedingly quick bike. 

The fact that the bike is so quick is down to the cutting-edge aerodynamic frame and fork design. One of the key UCI rules, the 3:1 ratio that governed the overall size of the tubes, was relaxed in 2018, and the Orca Aero embraces this change. The differences are found in the deeper profiles of the down tube, seat tube and fork blades. 

The handling is a highlight, and helps to set it apart from some aero bikes that can be exceedingly quick but a little lacking when it comes to the way they ride and translate your inputs into actions. The Orca Aero is fun and engaging, putting a smile on your face when you're descending or chasing a friend along an undulating ridge road.

The Orca Aero feels planted at high speeds yet is nimble when you want to have some fun, whether that's sprinting after your buddies or weaving a fun line through a bendy country lane. On the descents, it feels surefooted and very easy to manoeuvre at high speed.

Steering balance is good, reasonably quick when you turn in through a corner or change direction, giving you good control at a range of speeds. The short wheelbase, typical of a race bike, gives the ride a lively feel, while the oversized bottom bracket, down tube and chainstays provide impressive responsiveness when you dish out some watts.

The Orca Aero shows just how refined the latest breed of aero bikes have become. The 25mm tyres fitted as standard help, but thanks to direct mount brakes there's space for 28mm tyres. About halfway through the testing reviewer Dave Arthur swapped to wider tyres and found that the bike lost none of its speed or agility, but comfort was ramped up considerably. 

He rode the Orca Aero daily and everywhere from short rides with punchy sprints to more relaxed rides taking in the views – where you'd think an endurance bike might be the better choice – and it felt right at home both in its capacity as a speed demon but also a bump-soaking long-distance cruiser.

If you can handle the position, which is typical of an aero race bike, then it is comfortable for the longer rides you might want to use it for when not slinging it around a race circuit. 

Why it's here This is a fast aero bike with impressive handling and decent smoothness
Read the review 

3. Specialized Tarmac SL6 £3,500-£5,400

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We reviewed two different Specialized Tarmacs in 2018, the £3,500 Women's Tarmac Expert and the Tarmac Pro at £5,400. They share the same superb Tarmac SL6 frameset so we're coupling them together for the Road Superbike of the Year 2018/19.

The Specialized Women's Tarmac SL6 Expert is an excellent investment for anyone looking to buy a high quality bike that will perform in all areas. While the groupset and wheels keep the price below Specialized's top of the range bikes, the frameset itself is absolutely outstanding. It will satisfy any budding amateur racer, avid sportive rider or those who simply value and enjoy riding a really decent bike.

The rim brake version of the Tarmac SL6 Expert Women's isn't in Specialized's 2019 range, but there is a disc brake version at £4,250

The Specialized Tarmac Pro (£5,400.00) is a highly appealing race and fast performance bike that also puts in a stunning performance. The 2018 version we tested is still available. The closest model to it in Specialized's 2019 range is the Tarmac Expert (£4,500)

Not only is the Tarmac SL6 frame significantly lighter than before, it's claimed to be more aero and comfortable than the previous bike. The dropped seatstays are a distinguishing feature. They look great and they serve two purposes, the first being to allow a lower seat tube, which leads to greater flex of the seatpost. The second relates to aerodynamics. The lower position helps maintain uninterrupted airflow over the back of the bike. 

You get a responsive and exhilarating ride with steering a highlight. The bike responds to your inputs at the handlebar really well, being neither too fast nor too slow when steering into corners and bends. It's a really easy bike to ride at pace and getting accustomed to it takes little time.

There's no lack of stiffness evident when sprinting for finish lines, and out-of-the-saddle efforts reveal a climbing ability that's on par with any other high-end race bike.

It used to be that a top-end race bike would be overly stiff and uncomfortably hard, crashing along rough roads with no ability to soak up vibrations, but the Pro isn't harsh, and doesn't beat you up if the road surface suddenly deteriorates.

The new seatpost design certainly helps here. It provides a noticeable amount of saddle deflection – you can actually see and feel the saddle moving – and that really contributes to the wonderfully smooth ride. There's also space for 28mm tyres if you want an even smoother ride.

Buying a Specialized Tarmac has always been a safe choice if you wanted a very capable race bike. The latest changes push its performance and desirability up a massive step from the old bike, making it also a smart choice.

Why it's here Stunning performance across the board and great looks – if you've the money to spare, consider spending it on this 
Read the review  

2. Storck Aernario.2 Platinum Edition G1, £9,520.00

Buy it here

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With its price tag of nearly 10 grand, you'd expect the Storck Aernario.2 Platinum G1 to be something very special indeed... and it is. Light, stiff, fast and comfortable, it delivers everything by the bucket load. 

The Aernario.2 doesn't feel like a race bike to ride. It's fast, yes, but there don't seem to be any of the compromises you usually find with an out and out race machine.

The Aernario.2 is part of Storck's Allround range and it's a joy to spin along even when the surface isn't the best. It cancels out the high frequency buzz you get from slightly rippled and broken road surfaces, and that makes a difference on rides of over four hours, especially to your contact points.

As well as being so comfortable, the Aernario.2 impresses with a huge feeling of stiffness from the frame. Stamp on the pedals and this bike surges forward. If you need to bridge a gap or beat the lights, it responds readily, and you don't even need to get out of the saddle!

If the urge to sprint does take you, no matter how hard you are laying down the power and flinging the bike from side to side, every single watt feels as though it is going straight to the tarmac. If you are out for the long haul and want to take things a little bit easier, though, this is still one quick bike.

All this stiffness and the light weight – it sits below the UCI's minimum bike weight limit – mean it's one hell of a climber. Attacking the local hills became a joy and reviewer Stu Kerton even started riding climbs that he generally avoids just to set personal bests!

When it comes to technical sections and descending, the Aernario.2 is an absolute hoot. 

As you'd expect for such a performance bike, the handling is on the quick side, so you need to be relaxed and smooth to really exploit the brilliance. The short head tube allows you to get into a perfect tuck to lower your centre of gravity and once in the drops, slight shifts of position and bodyweight mean you can pick your line through the bends with absolute precision.

Storck's Platinum bikes use a higher grade of carbon fibres than the cheaper Pro and Comp models, giving the Aernario.2 an impressive claimed weight of 790g for the frame in the smallest size and a fork weight of just 270g. 

The frame is designed in such a way that the tubes and their junctions offer as little resistance to the wind as possible while still functioning in other roles like stiffness. It also takes into account the entire aerodynamic package including the rider and other components. Short 399mm chainstays mean that the rear wheel is tucked into a recess in the seat tube for improved airflow too.

Overall, this is among the very finest all-round race bikes available.

Why it's here One of the best all-round race bikes out there, and also one of the most expensive
Read the review

1. Specialized S-Works Venge Di2 £9,750.00

Buy it here

Specialized S-Works Venge - riding 1.jpg

Top spot goes to the new Specialized S-Works Venge which is faster, lighter, stiffer, better handling, easier to adjust and better looking than the previous version. If you crave speed, this is the bike for you. There's just the small matter of the massive price tag, but this is the pinnacle of aerodynamic road race bike design.

With two entries in the top 3, Specialized has been busy in the past year. The new Venge is seriously quick! Obviously, the speed you go mostly comes down to what you have in your legs, but what impresses about the Venge is the way it translates all the power you've got into forward motion. The speed builds quickly and keeps on coming. 

The Venge is impressively smooth and tolerant of rough roads, the handling is superb and the fit is easy to adjust.

In some ways, it feels like a sharper and edgier version of Specialized's Tarmac SL6 (above), a little firmer on the road with a smidgen more feedback through the contact points perhaps, but there's a similarity in how well the bike turns and handles. This is good because the latest Tarmac is also an excellent bike.

The Venge is also comfortable and remains composed on the roughest of roads. Granted, it's nowhere near as smooth as endurance bikes like the Cannondale Synapse or Trek Domane, but the gap has narrowed significantly. There's no overwhelming feedback from the handlebar or saddle and it doesn't bounce and skip over broken tarmac or freak out when you show it a scarred road surface. The capacity to fit tyres up to 32mm wide means there's more comfort available if you really need it. 

Specialized has chopped a whopping 240g out of the frame (the 56cm version weighs a claimed 960g) giving the Venge a more all-round appeal than previously. It is just as good on a long, hilly route as it is flying around a flat criterium circuit. With the bike's all-in weight of 7.1kg, you're not exactly facing a massive handicap riding in the hills and mountains. Out-of-the-saddle climbing reveals the stiffness improvements in the new handlebar and stem, and the frame doesn't waste any of your watts at all.

If you're a fan of going fast and have deep pockets, you'll adore the S-Works Venge.

Why it's here Incredible performance – if you can afford it
Read the review 

Mat has in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.