We've reviewed dozens of road bikes here on road.cc during 2018 and here are the best of them.
One thing to note right away is that this category is capped at £3,500, as it has been for the past couple of years. Road bikes with a retail price higher than that are considered in our Road Superbike of the Year category. Everything below £3,500, right down to the cheapest road bike we reviewed this year — £249 — is eligible for this category.
A second thing to note is that we consider only bikes that we've reviewed during the past 12 months. If a brand has launched a new bike but not sent us one to test, well, to put it bluntly, that's too bad. We can't make judgements on bikes we haven't ridden.
Disc brake-equipped bikes account for three of our top 10 places compared with two last year. Be careful of drawing any conclusions from that, though: there were four disc brake bikes in the road.cc Road Bike of the Year 2016-17 top 10. Rim brake road bikes are still dominant in the market and aren't going to disappear any time soon.
The road bike market is ever more obsesses with aerodynamics — that's a trend that doesn't show any signs of diminishing — and two new aero road bikes have made it on to our list while other bikes here include aero features.
So which bikes have made it on to the list? Read on to find out…
Lightweight and very fast, the Vitus Vitesse Evo CRI Ultegra Di2 offers race bike handling and speed with a very good parts package at a price that embarrasses most other brands — and it is currently reduced to £1,999.99 at Chain Reaction Cycles. If you want a highly capable race bike, this is a top choice.
Power transfer from the oversized frame is very good. Stamp on the pedals and the Vitesse is highly responsive. The front end feels very sharp and direct, the handlebar doing a good job of communicating the road surface underneath the front tyre without being overly harsh.
The Vitesse Evo's geometry is at the racier end of the scale: this is a bike designed for racing and with pro feedback, so it's all aggressive and low for maximum attack. That's good if you want to get a wiggle on and make rapid progress, whether at the pointy end of a road race or simply trying to bag a few KOMs. The short wheelbase provides a high level of agility and nimbleness on a tight race circuit, which contributes to its lively ride.
Provided you have the flexibility to handle the position, it's a comfortable bike, and not just for an hour's blast – we found it a good choice on longer jaunts, too.
The frame and fork are carbon fibre with an oversized down tube, tapered head tube and BB386 Evo press-fit bottom bracket, all designed to deliver race bike levels of stiffness while keeping the weight low. That focus on stiffness is balanced by the slim top tube and seat stays which are designed to absorb vibrations and impacts. Tyre clearance is pegged at 25mm, increasing to 28mm on the disc version.
You get a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 build, with Prime RR-38 carbon fibre clincher wheels and top quality Ritchey finishing kit. The Ultegra Di2 groupset shifts with ease and precision.
The Vitesse offers an exceptionally good ride with fast handling that will suit speed merchants and budding racers, but enough comfort if you have your eye on longer rides and sportives and don't want an excessively upright position. Add in the excellent value for money and a decent parts list, and you have a very appealing bike.
Why it's here A fast, light and responsive race bike at a very compelling price
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The Boardman ASR, or "All Season Road", is a really good value package that offers a relaxed ride with the classic looks and feel of steel, the modern convenience of hydraulic discs brakes, and clearance for wide tyres. ).
We reviewed the top-specced version of the ASR with Reynolds 725 steel tubing, a full Shimano 105 groupset with hydraulic disc brakes, and Boardman's own bar and wheels.
The 8.9 arrives ready for winter with mudguards fitted, 28mm Vittoria tyres, plus reflective frame details ticking all the boxes for commuting through the rough British weather. Remove the mudguards and the bike easily has clearance for wider tyres, so it also fits the bill for summer towpath pootling and brief gravel forays.
Boardman has gone for slacker frame angles than usual for stability, and it balances out a long top tube with a short 90mm stem to speed up the steering. You get a chunky carbon fork to damp vibrations up front and a threaded bottom bracket that should sidestep any of the creaking issues that you sometimes get with a pressed in BB.
Eating up long, steady miles in comfort is what the ASR does best, easy gearing making up for a little extra weight over a carbon frame. When you're up to cruising speed you wouldn't know you're riding a bike that weighs over 10kg. Full-length mudguards offer enough weather protection, and fit fine over the 28mm tyres supplied.
We can see the ASR appealing to an audience who appreciate style just as much as value and function. As well as providing a highly comfortable ride, the steel frame looks cool, the joins are smooth, and this really doesn't have the look of a mass-produced bike.
Why it's here Good value, comfortable and sturdy steel commuter that's nice and smooth and set up for year-round riding
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Vitus gave the Razor a new frame and fork for 2018, along with some upgraded components, and although the weight was increased, the ride is still as fun as previously. More good news is that this model is currently reduced to £399.99 ahead of the launch of Vitus's 2019 road bike range in the spring.
The Razor VR feels pretty quick on the climbs and handles with confidence through flowing bends. The geometry has become shorter and more aggressive.
As long as you keep a bit of momentum going it's surprisingly nippy. A quick stamp on the pedals will see you dart through a gap.
You get a compact chainset with 50/34 chainrings and an 11-28 tooth cassette spread over nine sprockets, but the gearing isn't anywhere near as low as that found on other bikes at this price point aimed primarily at those new to the sport.
It's easy to tap out a rhythm in the saddle – and out of it for that matter. We mentioned in our review of the 2016 model that it could suffer a bit of flex around the bottom bracket area, but that is much improved on this version.
When it comes to descending, the Razor VR has a smooth style considering that its angles are similar to those of a race bike.
It's not the sharpest handling of bikes, but its weight gives it a planted feeling, inspiring confidence and allowing you to push things a little through the twisty sections.
You get plenty of feedback so you know full well when you are getting near the bike's limits, and it's easy to bring back into line by way of a shift in body position or dab of the brakes.
Overall, the Razor VR is still a fun bike to ride and very easy to live with.
Why it's here Entry-level road bike that belies its weight when it comes to performance
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This entry level to Specialized Allez ownership is very impressive, from a great aluminium frame to the excellent finishing kit, making it one of the best sub-grand bikes out there. The only thing letting it down is the fact that the fork doesn't take proper mudguards like the frame, although the fork on the 2019 model (this bike is priced £630) does have mudguard eyelets.
Specialized has taken its aluminium race bike and slackened off the angles a little, raised the front end, extended the wheelbase and given it mudguard mounts, to create a bike that is set up perfectly for commuters or winter training. It achieved all of this without losing the Allez's fun and appealing ride. Good work.
The first time reviewer Stu went out for a ride on the Allez, it was just going to be a quick blast around the block to make sure everything was set up right... 20 miles or so and back home.
It was so comfortable and fun to ride, though, that he was out for three times that, and rolled home with a massive grin on his face.
The Allez is simple to ride and easy to control so you can focus on enjoying the experience.
The handling is pretty neutral, which will suit commuters tackling the same route day in, day out in a range of differing weather conditions, and carving your way through traffic if needs be, but if you've had a challenging day and need to blow off some steam you can stamp on the pedals and really go for it on the way home.
It's an exciting bike to ride and you'll easily get that little adrenaline giggle when you really push it. If you're confident, you can definitely take a few risks.
The overall weight is 9.6kg which for a £600 bike is pretty impressive. It climbs well and acceleration doesn't really feel like it is hampered.
If you still think alloy frames are harsh, ride one of these and you'll realise they definitely are not. The Allez is a much better bike than any spec list or set of scales will have you believe. You get an excellent ride quality and plenty of fun.
Why it's here Massive performance on a minimal budget
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This carbon fibre Focus Izalco Race punches well above its weight, confirming that if a designer knows what they're up to you can get an absolute blinder on any budget. Handling, ride quality and above all, fun – it's got it in spades.
The Izalco Race Carbon Sora is still available in the shops — currently £849 at JE James — although it's not in Focus's 2019 range. The closest model to it is the Izalco Race 9.7 at £1,499, with a Shimano 105 groupset — two levels higher than Sora. We wanted to include the Sora version in Road Bike of the Year because it impressed us so much.
Reviewer Stu Kerton said, "I ride maybe 25 to 30 test bikes a year and... just a few give you that extra little buzz, bringing an uncontrollable smile across your face as you've just chucked it down your favourite descent, nailing every apex, or getting back from a blast of a ride that was hugely satisfying from the moment you left the front door to the second you got back. You don't quite know why, it wasn't necessarily the quickest or most challenging, it just felt right. The Izalco has that gift."
There are few better entry-level carbon fibre bikes if you have racing ambitions now or in the future.
Like other bikes in our top 10, the Izalco is stiff and responsive and the geometry is racy. You can get low in the drops or on the hoods and just smash the tempo out, and you feel like you're getting a decent return for your outlay.
It's a good cruiser too. You can head out for three or four hours and cover some decent distance without ever feeling beaten up. For such a stiff bike it's never uncomfortable, even with the 25mm tyres pumped up to 100psi.
The Focus never disappoints on the descents. The steering is just on the tameable side of twitchy, allowing you to really let the bike go through the technical sections. You get plenty of feedback from the frame and fork, which lets you take a few risks.
We can't overemphasise how good the Izalco's frame and fork are.
Why it's here An awesome carbon fibre frameset that gives a grin-inducing ride, backed up with solid components
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The Bianchi Aria Disc is an aero road bike that offers efficiency, sharp handling and a responsive character, now with the additional all-weather assurance of disc brakes. It's available in three Shimano builds for 2019, priced £2,750 to £4,200 although you can still get the Campagnolo Potenza version that we reviewed (currently £2,680 at Winstanleys Bikes).
The Aria Disc responds keenly to increased effort. It isn't especially light but it feels direct when you put in the power, a meaty bottom bracket helping to keep everything solidly in place.
The deep-section head tube does a similar job up front. Like most performance-focused bikes these days, the Aria Disc comes with a tapered head tube/fork steerer and there's no lack of steering stiffness here. The bike felt great whipping through hairpins, giving enough confidence to attack them at speed rather than backing off to allow for imprecision.
The Aria Disc feels as manoeuvrable as the rim brake version, which isn't a surprise given that the geometry is virtually identical. Some bikes designed for aerodynamics offer plenty of straight-line speed but they're a little compromised when you want to flick around. The Aria Disc handles sharply, which gives you options when it comes to darting about a group or avoiding something in the road.
The Aria exhibits many tried and tested features that we've come to associate with aero bikes over recent years. The frame tubes and fork legs, for example, are slim and deep, the down tube is dropped in close behind the front wheel, the seat tube is cut away around the leading edge of the rear wheel, and the skinny seatstays, which join the seat tube low down to reduce frontal area, are inspired by those of Bianchi's Aquila CV time trial bike.
The seatpost is aero-profiled too, and it's held in place by a wedge-type clamp, the bolt sitting within the top tube. The fork crown is integrated within the profile of the frame as well.
The Bianchi Aria Disc might not offer quite the spark and dynamism of the higher level Oltres, but it's still a very good bike. it responds quickly and handles sharply. If you're a performance-focused rider – whether a racer or simply someone who likes to ride fast – it's certainly worthy of serious consideration.
Why it's here A responsive aero road bike in a race geometry – now with the all-weather performance of hydraulic disc brakes
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The Storck Fascenario.3 Comp is a thoroughbred high-speed performance machine with the long and low position to match. It's an absolute blast to ride, and when it comes to price it's not a bad package.
The Fascenario.3's stiffness is the first thing you notice as you set off. Everything feels so tight, especially through the bottom half of the frame and up front thanks to the fork. The whole bike is so responsive to your input, whether you are riding in the saddle or standing up on the pedals.
The Storck is a lot of fun in twisty lanes or anywhere else that you need to keep changing pace, accelerating fast before braking hard. The massive bottom bracket area, down tube and chainstays don't flex at all, and you can really smash as much power through the bike as you want without the feeling of any of it being wasted.
The handling is excellent too, so you can keep that pace high as you tackle technical descents, although the steering is on the quick side so it pays to be smooth with it. Go into a corner with your upper body tense or not having thought out your line and the bike can become a little twitchy.
On the downside, the Fascenario.3 can skip around a bit if the road surface is broken and rough. The stiffness of the frameset means you do feel rough road surfaces as they vibrate and resonate through the tubes, although the Fascenario.3 isn't uncomfortable.
This Shimano Ultegra-equipped package weighs in at a pretty decent 7.3kg (16.1lb) so climbing is an enjoyable experience. It's the stiffness here that brings the fun as you can really attack short, sharp climbs with plenty of out-of-the-saddle action.
Storck offers the Fascenario.3 in three different frame levels: Platinum, Pro and Comp. The Comp version, available in several different builds, is the most affordable, using a slightly different carbon fibre grade and layup than the more expensive models. It offers the best bang-for-buck entry into Fascenario.3 ownership, only giving away around 600g to the £10,000+ Platinum offering.
Why it's here An impressively fast machine with razor-sharp handling that really offers good value for money
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The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon is a quick and dynamic road bike with practical features that make it suitable for year-round riding, and it offers very good value for money.
The highlight is the new frameset, which is good news because that's the heart of any bike. The frame was developed with the use of CFD (computational fluid dynamics), the idea being to provide improved aerodynamic efficiency. You wouldn't call this a full-on aero road bike but you do get features designed to reduce drag. The down tube, seat tube and fork legs have truncated aerofoil profiles, meaning that the trailing edge is cut off square – a design technique that's widely used in the bike industry (and elsewhere).
The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon feels lively in use, offering a high level of stiffness for its price point. Okay, you'll probably notice a bit of frame flex if you absolutely hammer it in a quad-twanging sprint for a town sign, and a little from Boardman's own alloy tubeless-ready wheels, but that's about the extent of it.
A tapered head tube gives the front end a pretty solid feel that makes carving through the bends a whole lot of fun.
The handling is quick but a way short of twitchy. You can manoeuvre yourself easily enough without any sense of skittishness. This is a bike that's simple to control and the Tektro R315 long arm brakes allow the use of mudguards and 28mm tyres.
One thing that might surprise you is the level of comfort on offer here. Boardman has dropped the seatstays on this model so that they meet the seat tube low down, while the seatpost is slim and its clamping point is low. All of this helps to make for a reasonable amount of movement at the saddle; not so much that you bounce around when laying down the power, but enough to take the edge off holes and bumps in the road and to filter out a lot of vibration.
If you want to fit mudguards, the SLR 8.9 Carbon comes with eyelets. The ones on the inside of the rear dropouts are hardly noticeable when not in use and those on the outside of the fork legs aren't a whole lot more conspicuous. Subtle, then, but invaluable for year-round riding in the UK.
Why it's here Really impressive road bike that's built around a corker of a frameset, and the price is very good too
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The Giant Propel Advanced Disc is an efficient, firm-feeling road bike with aerodynamics designed specifically with disc brakes in mind. It's not the lightest bike available for this kind of money but it's fast whether you're soloing off the front or sprinting for the line.
The Propel Advanced Disc is designed with efficiency in mind, both in terms of aerodynamics and stiffness. A new truncated ellipse aerofoil profile is used for the fork legs, most of the frame elements and the seatpost. Giant uses other features that we've come to expect of aero road bikes over the years, such as a hidden seatpost clamp, a seat tube that's cut away around the leading edge of the rear wheel, and a horizontal top tube.
One other key feature is Giant's own aero handlebar and stem system that leaves no exposed hydraulic brake hose and just 5cm of gear cable showing on either side (between exiting the handlebar and entering the stem).
The other important fact regarding aerodynamics is that the new Propel framesets are disc brake only. Giant says it found that with proper integration a disc brake design can be more aerodynamically efficient than a rim brake bike.
This bike certainly feels stiff when you stamp on the pedals, with very little flex to speak of even when you're standing up and giving it everything you have. This stiffness extends to the front end with a head tube that features Giant's Overdrive 2 design with a 1 1/4in upper bearing and a 1 1/2in lower bearing. Giant's own alloy Contact SL Aero handlebar doesn't flex much when you haul on it either, which is notable because some aero options do thanks to their slim profile.
The Propel Advanced Disc treads the middle ground in terms of manoeuvrability, flicking around ably when you want to move within a group or change your line on a fast descent, and it isn't too much of a handful in crosswinds, partly thanks to Giant speccing a shallower-section (42mm) SLR 1 Aero Disc wheel at the front than at the back (65mm).
The Propel Advanced Disc is fast and efficient with excellent disc brakes and very good wheels. It does have a firm feel and you can't switch to a different handlebar and stem combo, but if you're happy with those things then this is a bike that'll give you a boost in your pursuit of speed.
The 2019 Giant Propel Advanced 1 Disc is the same price (£2,999) as the 2018 model we reviewed.
Why it's here Aero road bike that offers speed, efficiency and a strong spec
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The Ultra CF 900 is further evidence, if any was needed, that B'Twin knows how to build awesome-riding race bikes that offer excellent stiffness, handling and speed while also managing to be unbelievably comfortable. Bung in a sub-£1.5k price tag for a full-carbon frame and fork, Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels, and it really is an exciting package.
The ride is sublime, the bike absorbing pretty much everything the road surface can chuck at it, so you just waft along at a very impressive pace, smashing mile after mile without effort.
No matter what we threw at the Ultra CF when out of the saddle, we couldn't get even the slightest hint of flex anywhere in the bottom half of this frame. To get this level of stiffness in the frame while still allowing enough 'give' in other places shows some clever frame design and use of the various carbon grades used in its construction.
The handling is sweet too. The front end quick and precise without instilling any form of twitchiness. The Ultra CF is a fun, quick-handling machine to ride, no matter what your level of ability; it flatters.
The fork stiffness matches that of the frame, so banking the bike over from side to side and under heavy braking never finds any level of understeer or vibration through the legs.
The Ultra CF 900 comes with a full Shimano 105 groupset and gearing aimed at the performance rider — a 52/36 semi-compact chainset up front, with an 11-28, 11-speed cassette at the rear.
The Ultra CF 900 offers you a sensible entry into the performance road world and the frameset is ripe for upgrades as you improve.
Why it's here A beautiful frameset that excels in comfort and performance wrapped in decent components at a very competitive price
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Mat has been 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.