The vast majority of bikes are sold complete, but buying a frameset and building it up – or having someone do the job for you – can sometimes be the best way to get exactly what you want. Here are the best framesets we reviewed on road.cc in 2020.
This category is open to frames of any type, the only stipulation being that the review was published last year.
We don’t review all that many framesets (as opposed to complete bikes) but some companies offer various options, allowing customers to choose the exact spec before building it up for them. This is more frequently something you’ll find with mid- and high-end models than at the entry level.
Buying a frameset can also be a good option if a manufacturer doesn’t offer exactly what you want in their standard builds, or if you already own your preferred wheels, say, and buying a complete bike would leave you saddled with a new set that you don’t need.
Putting together your own bike can be daunting, but it can also be satisfying if you’re prepared to do your research and put in the time required. On top of that, you could end up with a build that nobody else has, and that’s always a good thing!
Last year’s winner was the Argon 18 Krypton Pro. Which model will ride off with the title this year?
Basso has launched a heavily changed Diamante SV for 2021 but we tested the old model in March, which still had exposed cables and rim brakes; and while reviewer Jack loved the ride quality, he did note that the bike felt a little dated when compared with the competition.
That said, the 2020 edition is still a real head-turner and a fine option for those who want quality Italian craftsmanship, which is why this iteration makes it on to our list.
The Diamante SV is not only fast, but is surprisingly smooth too. Jack rode it in places he felt like he shouldn't ride a bike this expensive and didn't notice any discernible harshness when riding over rough roads, finding it on the comfortable side compared with other aero bikes.
The frame is 100% handmade in Italy using Toray T1000 and T800 carbon fibres. This blend of carbon has a very high tensile strength, which has allowed Basso to make a very stiff frame with less material to bring the weight down to 954g.
With a 530mm stack and 393mm reach on Jack's 53cm test bike, it's about as aggressive as you're going to get on a road bike. Some of the shapes are a little more rounded than you'd expect on a full-on aero bike around the head tube and fork, but there's still no doubt this is a fast yet balanced frame that is meant to be ridden at speed.
The unusual seatpost design is known as the 3B-Basso system. It allows for a totally smooth and clean clamping mechanism, with the U-shaped seatpost sliding into a wedge in the down tube that all tightens together with three Allen bolts at the back. It's super-clean, works very well and there's also an elastomer surrounding the post that's supposed to add a bit of vibration damping for a smoother ride.
As you'd expect with a frameset of this quality, handling is lively but not twitchy, and we were very impressed with the responsiveness. It’s cable routing is a little untidy compared to some aero offerings, but overall the appearance is stunning.
The Moots Vamoots Disc RSL is one of those bikes that, once you've had the chance to ride it, you just aren't going to want to give back. It delivers the performance of many high-end carbon fibre race machines while retaining that beautiful titanium ride.
This is a no-nonsense race bike. The front end is low and the angles are steep, which means this frame is fun to ride, while the compact frame delivers loads of stiffness for when you really want to get the power down.
The steering is fast, yet not quite twitchy. It's close – just like any quality race machine should be – but a positive hand and plenty of confidence will guide the Vamoots through the most challenging of bends without the feeling of being out of control.
Elsewhere, when you need to get a shift on, the Vamoots also delivers. The tubes themselves are pretty beefy for the front triangle, which makes for good stiffness, while the more slender rear end focuses more on comfort.
The double butted tubing soaks up a lot of the road buzz, but does only just take the edge off. Reviewer Stu Kerton admits its not the most comfortable bike he’s ridden, but for one that is focused on performance it doesn't batter you about, so you can cover some decent distance without starting to feel too much fatigue in your wrists or lower back.
It’s rear dropouts aren't machined or cast like many others, they are 3D printed, something we have seen on a few high-end frames and makes this bike very special. It's a very neat and lightweight solution to the manufacturer, allowing the designer to put material exactly where it is needed, plus it can create much more complex detailing and shapes – as can be seen with the Vamoots gear hanger design.
Up front, Moots has gone for a large 44mm diameter head tube, which certainly delivers on the stiffness front when paired with the full carbon fork. The front end is really direct and tight as a drum, most noticeable when really hauling on the brakes as you fly into a tight bend.
The Vamoots Disc RSL is probably the most custom bike that ever came off the peg. Manufacturing quality titanium frames is neither quick nor cheap, yet the company offers this model in nine sizes.
With a design that is focused away from the race crowd, Open's MIN.D disc frameset is an excellent option for general riding. Balancing low weight with loads of stiffness at the front end and bottom bracket along with a compliant rear end, the frame is perfect for cruising broken roads in comfort and then smacking it up some climbs.
The bike climbs beautifully, rewarding out-of-the-saddle efforts with instant surges in pace, thanks to the combination of stiffness and low weight (Open claims 870g for a medium frame, 335g for the fork). Reviewer Liam Cahill was also incredibly pleased with how its handling is razor sharp, making it a fun bike to ride both uphill and back down.
A 71° head tube angle means that the 535mm stack and 361mm reach (on a size small) create a riding position that suits the general purposes of the bike as a comfortable ride. Drop down and you'll find a setup that is anything but slack. The rear centre of 405mm and front centre 578mm (measurements from hub centres to BB) with a BB drop of 73mm create a tight wheelbase of 971mm. This allows you to flick the bike around both when climbing and through tight corners, and this is what Liam found makes the MIN.D such an exciting ride.
The design of the frame has been well thought out to offer a smooth ride. The continuous seat tube that extends right from the bottom bracket runs for the majority of its length at 25mm, where a bike with a 27.2mm seatpost would use a 30mm external seat tube. This is really thin and is one of the advantages to a continuous seat tube as it allows for extra flex just where it is needed.
Joining that seat tube are two incredibly thin seatstays. Again, these add flex to the frame where it is needed, but the main factor affecting comfort is the space for massive road tyres—according to Open there’s clearance for up to 32mm but Liam found that 32mm Schwalbe tyres mounted on a rim with a 21mm internal width sit at just under 34mm and be used with the frameset.
The MIN.D won't ever compete on the flats with today's race bikes with their aero tube shapes, but in all other regards Open's first road bike excels and that’s why it makes it into our top picks.
Boasting a beautifully made Columbus steel frame with a stunning ride quality, the Condor Bivio Gravel is well suited to long adventures whatever the terrain. The comfort levels are impressive while the endurance-based geometry delivers a machine that is stable on loose surfaces, but with just enough 'edginess' for fun.
The tube lengths give quite a racy position. Reviewer Stu Kerton’s 55cm model came with a 555mm effective top tube and 135mm head tube. That's quite a low front end on a bike of this type, but this makes the Bivio fun yet reasonably predictable.
The frame and fork absorb a lot of tiny vibrations which reduces wrist and arm fatigue, and the Condor even responds well to a little dig on a short, sharp climb out of the saddle.
It's not such an aggressive position that you aren't relaxed when resting on the hoods for longer stints in the saddle, but when you do want to get a lick on you can stretch yourself out, crouch down in the drops and go for it.
With steel alloys that have wall thicknesses down as low as 0.38mm to reduce weight while still offering excellent stiffness levels, this Columbus Spirit triple-butted tubeset is top quality.
Handmade in Italy, the finish is stunning, with exceptionally neat welds throughout. It's colour coating is hardwearing too. Even with chinks of large and small stones attacking the down tube on fast gravel sections, not one has left a mark on the paint job.
The Bivio has a threaded bottom bracket. This is preferable to some press-fit BBs for gravel riding as the combination of dust/grit and rain can cause creaking as the elements enter the small gaps between bearing cups and frame. No such issue here.
Tyre clearance has been increased to 42mm if you are using a 700C wheel size, or up to 47mm if you want to go down the 650B route. Mounts are included for mudguards and a rear rack so the Bivio has added versatility and can be used as a wide tyred commuter.
The Bivio Gravel gets such a high placing on our list of the best framesets as it is an absolutely top quality steel option, especially in the way it rides. Its slacker front end, long chainstays and associated wheelbase mean that while it is a placid machine on the tarmac, on the gravel it behaves like a race bike does on the road.
The Kinesis Tripster ATR (Adventure, Tour, Race) is a founding father of the new gravel/adventure bike scene, and this third iteration feels like it has come of age in terms of its adventure capability whilst keeping the comfort, road manners and reasonably light weight it has always had for covering distance at speed. It is an excellent frameset, around which you can build any number of different bikes.
In essence, the Tripster ATR V3 is a multi-surface, multi-purpose drop bar bike made from cold-drawn, butted, seamless 3Al/2.5V titanium tubing. It has 12mm thru-axles – now with a neat removable lever – and flat mount discs.
The geometry allows you to get into a reasonably efficient position, yet it's slack enough that rougher surfaces don't make it skittery and send you off line.
The new ATR V3 is built from an entirely new tubeset, and it is still a lovely thing to ride. It has the sort of unhurried calm that translates into distance at a reasonable speed.
The underlying feel is exactly what you want from a titanium frame. There's a springiness to it that gives the ride character without feeling like it's robbing you of momentum. When you sling a leg over the Tripster ATR, clip in, and push off, it feels like the kind of bike that could cope whatever the length of the ride, and the longer the better.
There are a raft of minor changes to the frameset. The bottom bracket shell has been redesigned, for example, so you can run Di2 cables internally even if you're using cranks with a 30mm axle.
The stays have all been reworked, both to increase compliance and to add a bit more heel clearance, and the seat tube weld area has been enlarged to beef up that section of the frame for load carrying.
The V3 bike will take a 700C x 45mm tyre but it's also happy running on 650B wheels where anything up to a 50mm tyre will fit.
The Tripster ATR has undergone a bit of a transformation in terms of carrying capacity too, with Kinesis moving to triple bosses in the main triangle. That means you get two possible mounting points for your bottle cage, setting the bottles lower giving more room for a frame bag. There are also full luggage mounts on the new Range fork.
Maybe it's not the steal it once was, but the Kinesis Tripster ATR is a great bike that's everything from a fast audaxer to a fully laden bikepacker, depending on how you build it. It's fun and engaging, well thought out and beautiful.
The Condor Fratello Disc Thru-Axle frameset manages to keep hold of the traditional look and feel of a winter/fast audax/commuter/year-round mile-muncher bike while having been adapted to the demands of the modern roadie.
At its heart is a custom drawn Columbus Spirit triple-butted steel frame which is paired with a carbon fork, giving an exceptional ride quality. You can pump your tyres up hard, have a firm saddle, a stiff, narrow handlebar, and whatever you want to throw in its way, the quality of the steel tubing will override it.
Condor has kept a traditional look to the frame by keeping a straight-through 1 1/8in head tube, whereas most bikes these days, including steel ones, tend to go tapered to not only improve stiffness but also to increase the weld area for a large diameter down tube. Condor hasn't needed to do this as it has kept the majority of the tubes quite slender without sacrificing overall stiffness.
The geometry means the Fratello is no slouch. The Condor has very similar measurements to an endurance style bike, with a stack/reach of just under 1.55, which means your overall position isn't too aggressive. But the front end does have a 73.5° head angle paired to a fork offset of 45mm, which is sportier than most bikes of its ilk.
Tyre clearance is pretty impressive for this style of bike. Able to take full mudguards with 32mm tyres, Condor’s Fratello allows you to have your winter/training/commuting bike set up pretty much to the same position as your race bike.
With a frameset weight of 2,375g, the Condor has a very confident feel on the road – it doesn't skip about on broken tarmac and you can really chuck it down a technical descent. The only slight downside is that the weight blunts the acceleration a touch and takes the edge off climbing.
The Fratello frames are handmade in Italy and the finish quality is absolutely stunning, really highlighted by the beautiful paint job — available in Stone Blue, Agate Grey and Black on Black. The white decals and the logos are all reflective, which is a neat little detail.
Condor has achieved the style of a traditional looking all-year-round road bike while bringing it bang up to date with the ability to accept wider tyres and the inclusion of flat mounts and thru-axles. It's a worthy winner.
Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.