In 2020, we reviewed some amazing superbikes – high-end bikes that cost a lot of money – and here are the very best of them.
We'll be publishing various categories of the road.cc Bike of the Year over the next few day, finishing with our overall winner next Tuesday (19th January 2021).
First up is the Superbike of the Year category. Bikes must fulfil these criteria to be considered in this category:
Every £4,000+ road bike that we reviewed in 2020 was considered – whether the bike was designed for racing, endurance, sportives... The bikes don’t necessarily need to have been released in 2020.
A few of the bikes are above the £4,000 threshold by a relatively small margin while others are more than double that figure.
We have reviewed a lot of these bikes over the past 12 months with brands easily able to sell their cheaper bikes due to the year’s unusual events and keen to send us higher priced models instead.
This category is all about performance – how well the bike accomplishes its job out on the road. In most cases the bikes feature smart technical innovation, but we’re only interested in whether that translates into a better ride.
Some of these bikes are available only in high-end builds, but you can get more accessible versions of others.
To sum up, these are the high-end road bikes that impressed us most during testing in 2020.
The 2019/20 winner was the Specialized S-Works Roubaix. Let’s find out what takes the title this year...
The Wilier Cento10 SL provides a stunning ride. The frame comfort is sublime for such a stiff bike, and the geometry creates racy yet perfectly balanced handling. You aren't just limited to disc brake options either.
With its wide 86.5mm bottom bracket shell and large profile tubing, the Cento10 SL has a punchy, direct power delivery when you ask it to get a shift on. Stamp on the pedals and there’s no hint of flex anywhere in the frameset, and it’s smooth with it.
You notice the bumps and imperfections of the road, but there's none of the harsh vibration found on some super-stiff carbon offerings. The ride quality – the beautiful balance of comfort versus stiffness that Wilier has achieved – is what stays in your mind.
At 8kg, the Cento10 SL isn’t superlight for the money, but it's hardly a bloater either, especially for a bike with hydraulic disc brakes. Yes, there are bikes out there that are lighter, but few make you feel this good when you ride them.
On the climbs, the Wilier feels eager and sprightly. The stiffness in the frame and fork lets you go for it out of the saddle on power climbs, and on those longer drags the riding position lets you dig in and tap out the pace until you reach the summit. The sweet handling of the Wilier makes descending a joy.
Short chainstays keep the wheelbase short and make the Cento10 SL feel nimble and fun. The head angle isn't as steep as some race bikes which keeps the handling well away from twitchy while remaining direct and positive.
The Cento10 SL features NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a US agency that developed airfoil profiles) tube shapes that use Kamm tails, meaning they're cut off abruptly at the back, rather than tapering gradually.
The cables enter underneath the Stemma SL stem, while narrow headset bearings allow four cables to slip down through the head tube before heading off wherever they need to go. The design allows you to adjust spacers without having to remove the cables or handlebar.
Wilier has gone for an integrated seatclamp with an expander bung inside the seat tube. It's easy to tweak and once tightened shows no signs of slippage.
The Cento10 SL is available in a range of builds starting with Shimano 105, although all three main groupset manufacturers are catered for. The model we had used an Ultegra Di2 R8070 groupset and hydraulic brakes.
Right back at the start of January 2020, we said that the Mason Resolution was a “comfortable distance-crushing steel road bike with an ace specification.” It is here because, quite simply, it is a brilliant bike for long rides.
Rough roads are handled with ease by the steel frame and cushy 30mm tyres, ensuring no nasty impact vibrations can ruin the ride. Poorly surfaced roads, the odd gravel track, potholes and other imperfections are all smoothed away by the Resolution.
It's not the liveliest or fastest handling bike in the world; if you like it frantic and nippy you'd be best off on a race bike. The Resolution isn't designed to scare the living daylights out of you on a descent, it's all about helping you to waft along country roads in comfort and notch up big miles in relative ease. It's calm, sedate and measured.
You’ll find the Resolution to be predictable in the corners. The steering is rather lazy and plonks itself at the relaxed end of the spectrum, meaning it remains composed in all situations and it's predictable even through a high-speed corner.
Should you then want to smash it up a climb, the frame and fork gives a platform that is plenty stiff-enough for the job.
Since the Resolution first launched, discs have become the go-to form of brakes and wide tyres are de rigueur, not the new trend they once were. Both of these features could be found on the original and they remain, holding the Resolution true to its four-seasons capabilities with mudguards during the winter and speed for summer epics.
12mm thru-axles and flat-mount callipers have been added, but the frame retains the same Columbus Life and Spirit tubing, the former providing the lovely ovalised top tube and the latter the D-shaped down tube, profiles that are intended to tune the ride quality and stiffness of the frame.
The Condor Italia RC Disc is nimble and exciting to ride fast. Aimed at racers, the frame is stiff and very well balanced, providing direct handling that makes the bike great in tight corners, and you can choose whichever components you want.
A few miles of riding left reviewer Liam Cahill in no doubt that this is an out-and-out race bike. The frame and fork are stiff, a rather tight wheelbase keeps things fun, while the 8.2kg overall weight is very respectable for an aluminium disc brake bike. It's best suited to riders who prefer a quick smash in the hills to those who want to tick off long miles.
The frame geometry is anything but slack, though you can still achieve a comfortable riding position thanks to the relatively tall 165mm head tube. It made for a position that was comfortable both in the drops and on the hoods, even though Liam had to remove all the spacers from under the stem.
The double-butted 7000-series high-performance aluminium frame, handmade in Italy, is paired with a bladed carbon fork with a 1 1/8 to 1 1/2in tapered head tube. The frame is a proper double triangle that will please the haters of the trend for dropped seatstays.
Mechanical and electronic systems are both catered for – cable routing for the brakes (and electronic shifting, if you were to choose it) is internal, while mechanical shift cables run externally. The exposed shift cables might not look quite as tidy as internal routing, it does make adjustments and maintenance so much easier.
The frame can take up to 28mm tyres and Liam found it was best to use every millimetre. You can run them at lower pressures than narrower tyres, which helps to hide some of the harshness that such a stiff frame can produce.
The finish on the Italia RC Disc is very pleasing to the eye, with lovely touches that make it look very well made. The way the frame welds are smoothed at the head tube and seat tube give the frame a high-quality look which match its performance.
The Italia RC Disc certainly doesn't disappoint. It was designed to be lively and that is exactly what is, which is why it easily makes our list of this year’s best.
The Canyon Endurace CF SLX Disc 8.0 eTap is the ideal bike for riding fast and long. It's quick, offers plenty of stiffness, and comes fitted with the highly efficient gear ratios of a 12-speed SRAM Force eTap groupset.
The Endurace is Canyon's take on the endurance bike – a road bike that sacrifices a little bit of performance for a gain in comfort… although, this CF SLX Disc 8.0 model doesn't really sacrifice that much.
With hydraulic disc brakes and wireless shifting, our medium sized review model weighed in at a pretty light 7.77kg (17.1lb) It was very responsive under acceleration and pretty good on the climbs too.
Stiffness levels are high, which means you can attack the hills either seated or while smashing it out of the saddle, and it definitely has a get up and go attitude.
It's on longer trips where the Endurace shows its worth, though, mostly because of how comfortable it is.
The first thing you'll notice is the bump-taming ability of the leaf-spring S15 VCLS 2.0 CF seatpost. It allows a small amount of movement which takes the edge off rough road surfaces and just smooths the ride, without the bounce you get with a suspension seatpost.
The Endurace also has impressive tyre clearance, coming as standard with 30mm tyres with room to go up to at least 32mm.
The Reynolds wheels on our review bike were tubeless ready, so you can drop the pressures if you like.
The Endurace sits somewhere between a race bike and many other endurance bikes in terms of geometry. The medium sized model has a top tube 7mm shorter than the equivalent Aeroad (Canyon's race model) and an extra 12mm of height at the head tube for a more relaxed position, but that doesn’t stop you being able to get relatively stretched out if you want to.
It's a well-behaved machine that's easy to live with, but let it off the leash and you can have some fun. At speed on technical descents, the Endurace feels planted so you can stay off the brakes and let the bike get on with it.
Canyon offers the Endurace in both aluminium and carbon frames. If you want carbon, you can choose between the more affordable CF SL and the high end CF SLX version, prices for which start at £4,249 in 2021. The price for the Endurace CF SLX Disc 8.0 eTap, including a power meter, is now £5,499.
Merida's newly redesigned Reacto Team-E road bike is a race thoroughbred that excels on flat and rolling terrain. The straight line speed, stiffness and handling are all brilliant, although some may find the ride to be firm.
Kick the pedals round and the Reacto Team-E reacts with a surge befitting the superbike price. Merida says that weight was one of the primary concerns when moving the Reacto to more of an all-round race bike and away from just an aero rig. At 7.5kg for the small size that we reviewed, there is still some room before you worry the UCI's 6.8kg minimum weight rule, but it feels plenty lightweight enough.
In fact, reviewer Liam was dead impressed by the Reacto on the faster climbs and where the gradient shallowed to around 4%.
The low weight certainly helps get you up to speed, but the Reacto really reaches its happy place cruising the flatlands around 40km/h (25mph) and above. Merida doesn’t claim vast aero improvements over the previous model, but the Reacto was a fast bike already, so saving a couple of watts because the cables are now hidden is just a little bonus.
A notable ride feature we mentioned before is how stiff the Reacto is, particularly the rear end. It’s a bike that focuses far more on putting your power onto the road than about giving you a masses of comfort. The Reacto isn't harsh, but you should know what you're getting into. Merida designed this as a full-on race bike and while they may have worked to increase comfort, it is still a single-minded speed machine.
Despite the high stiffness that can sometimes result in rather jittery cornering, the Reacto is very impressive when you really push it through the bends. The long and low position helps you get your own centre of gravity low, load the front tyre and carve through turns.
Changes for the frame for 2021 can mostly be found at the front where the cables now stay hidden from the wind, entering the frame behind the upper headset bearing. It's a very clean aesthetic and a move that most bike manufacturers have been making in the last few years.
The seatstays have also been dropped slightly, but apart from that, the frame is very similar to the outgoing model.
The 2021 range opens with the £2,250 Reacto 4000 although that’s built around the CF3 IV frame that isn’t quite as lightweight as the CF5 IV frame that you get on the £3,600 Reacto 7000-E and above.
The R+1 Alto just feels spot on. Every detail and design cue makes sense, and it all comes together to create one hell of an experience. Its comfort levels are stunning for such a performance-orientated bike, while the handling is impeccably smooth and direct. The 1x gearing works superbly on the road too.
Efficient; that's probably the best way to describe the Vielo. The R+1 isn't all about speed, but it certainly delivers a high-performance ride.
The tube shapes maximise aero efficiency with Kamm tail profiles, and the seat tube curves close to the rear wheel.
It's the seatstays that are the most striking though. Vielo claims this design is aerodynamically efficient, and it has also been able to create some flex here for comfort. This is a very compliant frame which removes much of the road buzz. Even on very long rides, you’re unlikely to feel much fatigue in the wrists, lower back or neck.
The bike’s 7.7kg weight may not sound exceptional, but the way it responds to your commands and power input makes it feel a kilo lighter out on the road, even when hitting a steep ascent, which makes climbing a lot of fun.
The R+1's lack of an inner chainring means Vielo has been able to make the bottom bracket shell wider without affecting the Q-factor (the distance between the pedal faces). This wider shell allows for much larger tube cross-sections to mate up with it, which brings incredible stiffness.
The handling isn't the fastest ever, but it is wonderfully composed and smooth. This makes the Vielo easy to ride fast, even if you aren't the most confident of descenders.
1x for the road? The bike we reviewed was fitted with SRAM's Force eTap AXS groupset, although Vielo supply a chainring in a size of your choice (from 38t to 50t) plus a second chainring in a different size to swap to as needed. We found a 48t chainring paired to a 12-speed 10-36t cassette absolutely fine and the fact the larger jumps between the sprockets come at the lower end means that cadence isn't affected on the faster sections.
Two different versions of the R+1 frame are available. The Alto frame on the bike we reviewed has a claimed weight of 880g, while the Strato version tips the scales at 1,100g. You can buy a frameset only or choose from a selection of builds with some well thought-out components.
The new Specialized Aethos Pro is an exceptional bike that offers a stunning ride, amazing acceleration, and handling that's spot on. The price is high, admittedly, but the performance is outstanding.
Specialized says that a supercomputer analysed 100,000 frame designs in coming up with the Aethos. The frame is primarily optimised for pedalling stress and doesn't give any thought to aerodynamics. Specialized says this approach allows the use of fewer carbon layers than usual, leading to an impressively low frame weight.
At 6.66kg out of the box (no pedals), the Aethos Pro Ultegra Di2 only loses a few hundred grams to the (even more) super expensive S-Works versions. The low weight is instantly noticeable, and reviewer Liam loved the way it floats up any sort of incline. It feels like it's constantly surging ahead.
Specialized has nailed the handling. The tight wheelbase ensures the bike is very nimble, and it's brilliant for coming back down steep and twisty hills – an absolute blast when pushing the pace in corners – although it could be a little too twitchy for some.
Get the bike up to a cruising speed on the flats and it's a little harder to hold speed than on an aero bike with deep tube shapes and deep-section wheels. The difference isn't astronomical, though, and the Aethos’s short head tube allows you to hunker down into a low and efficient ride position.
Specialized has stuck with a bit of exposed brake hose, avoiding the current trend of sending everything through the headset. While it isn't as clean as those new race bikes, it's certainly easier to work on.
Elsewhere you find 12x142mm rear and 12x100mm front axles, a threaded bottom bracket – yay! – and space for 32mm tyres.
The Roval Alpinist CL wheels are just what you want for a bike like this. They are light and stiff, so they climb very well. The 33mm rim height means you won't be pushed around by strong winds, and you still get a small aero advantage on the flats.
The Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset is as good as top-level Dura-Ace – at least until a new version of Dura-Ace is launched, probably some time this year – and just a little heavier. It is fabulous.
We have some grumbles regarding the lack of a power meter and the pricing, but this is a brilliant bike. The way the Aethos constantly wants to bound forward like a dog after a squirrel makes it incredibly fun to ride. The low weight is matched with great stiffness, and the ride remains pretty composed over rough tarmac. It's a blast!
The 2021 Orro Venturi STC SRAM Force eTap Tailor Made takes all of the excellent qualities and attributes of the previous Venturi, but comes with smoother lines thanks to fully integrated brake hoses and some bling-looking cockpit components. SRAM's excellent eTap groupset makes a welcome appearance too.
The frame is made using spread tow carbon (STC) which means that the carbon fibre is arranged in flat, wide tapes; think of it as ribbons that are woven together. The idea is that this reduces weight and increases stiffness.
For such a stiff frameset the Venturi offers impressive levels of comfort. You still know you are aboard a taut, high-performance machine, but there is no harshness or irritating vibration even with the tyres pumped up hard. Speaking of tyres, the Venturi is designed around a 28mm width.
The smoothness means that even on long rides you don’t feel any fatigue at the usual points like wrists or lower back, allowing you to push on at a quick pace for longer.
The geometry and handling feel like those of a fast endurance machine with a racy edge. The stiffness from the oversized tubing and wide BB86 bottom bracket means that you won't be disappointed when you get out of the saddle. There isn't a whiff of flex anywhere.
The tube profiles and seatpost offer an aero advantage, especially when paired with the 40mm-deep carbon rims. This top-level model also gets the BlkTec Carbon Aero stem and handlebar, which give a clean front end (complete Venturi STCs are available with FSA ACR handlebar/stems too).
All this adds up to a bike that cuts through the air. This thing absolutely motors on the flat, especially when you hunker down into the drops.
If you like your downhills then you'll love the Venturi. It feels totally planted thanks to the riding position the geometry allows, and the steering is quick without sneaking over the border into Twitchyville.
If you head into a corner a little fast, the Venturi is easy to bring back onto line whether through the steering or the application of the disc brakes. It's forgiving without damping down the fun levels.
The Venturi range includes builds from Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM so you get plenty of choice.
The 2021 Venturi has retained all of the spirit and fun of the previous model but brings with it more refinement and makes a stunning looking bike even more appealing. The BlkTec components finish things off nicely, and the SRAM eTap groupset really exploits the performance of the frame.
2. Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc 2021 £9,499
The Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc is a lightweight and hugely responsive road bike with aero features, and it puts in a performance that is stunning. This top-of-the range offering is an absolute beaut!
Giant has updated the TCR for 2021, managing to cut weight while keeping frame and fork stiffness extremely high. Made using a new higher modulus filament that's stiffer and lighter than previously, the frameset (painted frame, painted uncut fork, integrated seatpost, seat clamp, front and rear derailleur hangers) has a claimed weight of 1,265g. We reviewed a large-sized complete bike weighing just 6.69kg (14lb 12oz). That's properly light for a disc brake-equipped model.
The TCR feels extraordinarily stiff when you jump out of the saddle and bang on those pedals, it is quick to accelerate and it’s fast on the climbs.
Chuck the bike around, brake hard, do whatever you want, you won't cause the front end to waver or fluster. It's more than confidence inspiring, it's almost freaky.
Although the Propel remains the true aero road bike in the range, Giant says that every tube shape on the TCR was analysed, engineered and tested to create an overall structure with significantly lower drag than before at a wide range of yaw angles.
The TCR now features truncated ellipse tube profiles – the leading edge and sides are designed to reduce drag while the trailing edge is cut off square to reduce weight and avoid handling issues. Giant says that compared with the previous version, the new TCR saves 34 seconds over 40km (25 miles) at 200 watts of pedalling power.
One thing Giant hasn't changed radically is the TCR's geometry and that's a good thing because its balance and handling were already excellent. There is increased clearance for larger tyres, though; the disc brake model will now take 700C x 32mm (whereas the rim brake TCRs will only take 700C x 28mm because of the size of the callipers).
You might be surprised that Giant has left the brake cables exposed between the handlebar and the frame/fork when many other brands have opted to run them through the stem. Giant’s rationale is that it makes maintenance a little easier.
Giant’s 2021 TCR Advanced range starts at £1,799 but if you want the top-end TCR Advanced SL frame that’s featured here, a complete bike will set you back at least £6,999. If you can’t stretch that far, the next-level-down frameset is the TCR Advanced Pro which we’ve also reviewed.
The road.cc Superbike of the Year 2020/21 is the S-Works Tarmac SL7 Dura-Ace Di2. Yes, it's expensive, but the performance is amazing.
This is one of the latest top-end offerings from Specialized that focuses as much on aerodynamics as it does on weight – or the lack of it. The frameset has seen various tweaks over its predecessor, and when paired with aero components like the handlebar and wheels makes the SL7 a very fast bike indeed.
The Tarmac has always been the lightweight road bike in Specialized’s range, with the Venge the aero model. However, the US brand says that the Tarmac SL7 is so aerodynamically efficient that there’s no longer a need for the Venge (which is available only as a frameset now).
As a complete package this S-Works is phenomenally efficient and fast. Coming in a smidge over the UCI's minimum weight limit of 6.8kg (15lb), the 56cm S-Works we reviewed was no slouch off the line, so acceleration was very brisk.
Once you get the bike up to speed it just rolls along, like you are always on top of the gear. As the aero benefits start to diminish on the climbs, the low weight helps you power uphill.
Alongside the low weight and wind-cheating design, the Tarmac SL7 delivers on the stiffness front. Compared with a lot of the tightest frames out there, Specialized hasn't exactly gone for massive tube profiles to create the stiffness and nor has it gone for a wider bottom bracket shell that would use press-fit bearing cups located inside the frame. It has instead plumped for a threaded option, with the cups mounted externally.
Even with all of this stiffness, the SL7 hasn't sacrificed comfort. It's a peloton-ready race machine, so don't go expecting a cosseting ride, but it's firm without any irritating levels of harshness. If you want to bring in a little bit more cushioning then you can exploit the Tarmac's 32mm maximum tyre width.
The steering is quick, which makes the S-Works an absolute blast when descending. Very light, stiff bikes can sometimes feel a little flighty over rough road surfaces at high speed, but the Tarmac never does. The whole bike feels balanced and thanks to the handling being precise, you can carry a lot of speed into the corners.
This bike really does deliver on all the attributes you'd want of a top-flight race machine: speed, stiffness, handling and comfort. Yes, this model is very expensive, but SL7s are available at half the price.
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.