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What is the best second bike for road cyclists?

What would you have? Would you go for gravel, choose ‘cross or maybe a mountain bike? The team pick their ideal second steed

The dream for many cyclists is to have the right bike for every niche of cycling, with the 'n+1' rule being the only thing most of us need when debating whether or not to buy another bike... but the cost of your own fleet can be eye-watering, and for many riders a second bike is a luxury.

> 6 of the best winter bikes

We started thinking about what would be the best second bike to have for a roadie, and the discussion quickly showed us two things. Firstly, we were never going to agree on what is the best second bike for a road rider; we’re all different and we each have our own ideas. Secondly, there are a huge number of options if you are indeed looking for a second bike, and they don’t all need to be an off-road bike.

So, instead of starting an argument that would never stand a chance of ending, we’ve asked everyone on the tech team and a select few other staffers to tell you what their second bike would be, why they’ve chosen it and what, if anything, they’d miss out on by being limited to two bikes.

Mat Brett - Tech Editor

First bike - Bianchi Oltre XR4 road bike

Second bike - All-road gravel bike

2020 3T Exploro Pro GRX - riding 1.jpg

My ideal second bike would be a gravel bike that's capable on tracks and trails, and still pretty quick on the road. 

I need to ride three or four miles on Tarmac to get to gravel, then it's a mix of well-drained tracks, potholed stretches and muddy bridleways, with the occasional stretch of road in between. I want something that's versatile enough to feel lively on each of those surfaces.

> Review: 3T Exploro Pro GRX

I usually like something with a sporty geometry, so maybe one of the 3T Exploros would be the one for me. On the other hand, I’ve got more into exploring unsurfaced byways lately, and they’re often more technical, so maybe I’d opt for something with a more relaxed geometry, like a Giant Revolt or an Orro Terra C – the new version with a semi-integrated cabling at the front looks gorgeous.

Jack Sexty - Editor

First bike - Specialized Tarmac SL6

Second bike - Aluminium endurance road bike

Van Rysel edr af 105

While I’d love to tell you about all the bespoke custom loveliness I’d ride if the gloves were off, the rules of the game are that I’m allowed one second bike… so for various reasons personal to me, it would have to be an almost completely blacked out aluminium road bike. Something like Decathlon’s Van Rysel EDR AF is a prime example, but any other inconspicuous road bikes offering a similar ride/geometry to my Specialized Tarmac would suffice.

> Review: Decathlon Van Rysel RR 900 AF

When there isn’t a pandemic on, my second bike is utilised for everything from shopping to commuting a 35-mile round trip each day. I use the commute to train and rarely do extra bike miles if I do this 3-4 times a week, so I prefer speed over comfort.

Although the commute is suitable for road tyres it can get extremely muddy, so much so that I would opt for clip-on mudguards to make it easier to take them off and clean nooks and crannies occasionally. All the other add-ons need to be quickly removable for easy charging and simplicity day-to-day, so for lighting, I can’t really look past the Lezyne 1000XL front and BlackBurn Dayblazer rear lights I already have. The Lezyne is bright enough for unlit sections of my commute in winter and can be taken on and off in a flash.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus.jpg

While tubeless is great, something like Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus 28mm clinchers would be my tyres of choice, just because I can change the tube quickly and mess-free. A decent-sized saddle bag with room for two tubes, levers, patches and a multi-tool is a must, and I’d attach a mini pump to the seat tube bottle cage mount. One cage will do, as I rarely use my second bike for rides longer than an hour in duration.

After much experimentation I’ve found that I prefer to carry luggage in a cycling-specific backpack, so for times when I need to take a change of clothes to the office and back or do my shopping, I don’t really need more storage options on the bike.
Why all black? Because I live in a big city with a big reputation for bike theft, so I’m steering clear of anything with attractive colours and lots of branding! I’ll always lock this bike up with my trusty Pragmasis DIB D-lock when I park it anywhere which should deter most amateur thieves, but the nondescript appearance would hopefully encourage them to look elsewhere too.

> 6 of the best bike locks — stop your bike from getting stolen with our selection

In terms of gearing, mechanical Shimano 105 in its rim brake guise is all I’d need. I’d go for a compact chainset and 11-32t cassette to deal with Bristol’s brutal urban hills, and to the bars, I’d attach my Quad Lock out-front mount for navigation. My choice means I can’t really go off-road riding, but I’m not a mountain biker and I could take this bike on brief towpath journeys without worrying too much.  

Anna Marie Hughes - Tech Writer

First bike -  Carbon race bike

Second bike - Custom aluminium endurance bike

Sonder Colibri AL

With a carbon race bike as my go-to ride, my second bike needs to be something that’s super reliable for all occasions so I can trust it is there ready to go whatever the weather conditions, time of day and that it can also survive some of my poor route planning…

I’d go for a frame like the Sonder Colibri aluminium endurance disc brake frameset, built up with these features:

As I’m really forgetful when it comes to charging up lights a SON dynamo setup would be ideal so even if the night creeps up on me and I still get out and pack a session in.

> Review Pirelli Cinturato Velo tyre

With so many little lanes with a light dusting of gravel near me, I’d run 32mm tyres tubeless, probably Pirelli’s Cinturato Velo tyres as they have decent grip for all conditions as well as loads of puncture proofing. With the wider volume, I can run lower pressures and be more confident that the sealant will plug the holes.

Full-length mudguards are a must and I’d also opt for a Tailfin AeroPack rack so that the weight is kept low, but I have luggage storage options when needed. With downtube bottle bosses I’d use this to have a tool keg attached down low.

> Your complete guide to Shimano's GRX groupsets

For gearing, I’d go for a Shimano GRX groupset, 2x11. With a 46/30 crankset and an 11-32 cassette, I can stay in the big ring for a lot longer when on the road, which simplifies shifting. But the smaller than 1:1 bottom ratio means that no matter the hill or the load I’ll always be able to sit at the right cadence. There’s also tight enough spacing that the jumps between gears aren’t so big as to be annoying. Plus, the clutch mech stops the chain bouncing around so much and hitting the chainstay.

Liam Cahill - Tech Writer

First bike - Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

Second bike - Cyclocross bike

Ridley X-Night SL

While I’ve been spending a lot of time this winter on a mountain bike, I can’t bring myself to not race cyclocross in the winter, so it’d be a full CX race setup for me. I'd have something like the Ridley X-Night SL.

A cyclocross bike is the original versatile off-road option and, with the correct tyre selection, I believe that this is still the case. In fact, for my local area, I think it’s a better choice as stringing together sections of singletrack means quite a bit of road riding and around us, it is very hilly.

We also have a lack of proper mountain bike trails, so a ‘cross bike is all I really need. In fact, I’d say that this choice is actually better for my technical riding skills as I’m forced, because of a small tyre and lack of suspension, to choose my lines perfectly. I’ll just have to accept that on rougher terrain, my wrists, knees and ankles are going to take a beating.

> Video: How to choose the right mudguards for your bike

For winter road duties, a CX bike also has plenty of space for mudguards if I want to stay dry on a longer ride or on the spin to the office.

Disc brakes are a must for me now. Being able to stop in any weather is rather nice and discs have the added benefit of not staining my lovely cotton sidewalls on my tubulars when it is wet. While I’m here, Di2 is a lovely thing to have, and not just for the cool noise the front mech makes. The motorised mechs shift more consistently in heavy mud. I’ll have the Ultegra clutch mech too, just to stop the chain bouncing around so much.

At the front, a 2x chainring setup is what I’ll have. I simply find it more useful on the road and unless the mud is really heavy, there is no issue for CX racing. Also, you’re allowing me an identical bike for the pits and supplying a pit crew to wash my bikes, right?

> 6 reasons to try cyclocross this winter — have crazy fun, build skills & maintain fitness in the mud

Seeing as I’m already cheating, I’m going to grant myself two wheelsets for my CX bike. The first, for general off-road riding, will be a wider 36mm semi-slick handmade tubeless tyre like the Challenge Gravel Grinder. It’s great for a mix of road speed and cornering grip and the supple casing is excellent.

My second set of wheels will be reserved for racing. Carbon 40mm tubular rims with 33mm FMB Slalom tyres would see me through most of the cyclocross season.

Stu Kerton - Reviewer

First bike - Road racer

Second bike - Gravel Adventure bike

Ragley Trig Gravel complete bike -16

If I had to choose just one other bike to sit alongside my road machine it’d definitely be of the gravel/adventure variety, purely down to their versatility for off-road adventures while still having a bit of zing on the tarmac.

Before the first lockdown of 2020, my riding was split about 85% road to 15% gravel, and that was purely down to the fact that that was how the ratio of test bikes I had coming through balanced out.

Since then though I’d say the split is more 60/40 favouring the road but the gravel bike has become a real release, allowing me to escape into unknown places and travel new, yet quiet routes in and around quite highly populated areas.

The reason being is that they are so damn versatile, a selection of different tyres can allow you to do so much.

Equipped with a set of fat slicks you can fly along on the road whether that be smooth trunk roads or taking to the broken country lanes, while the handling remains similar to that of an endurance road bike, meaning you still get some fun handling in the bends.

Stick some semi-slicks on and you’re all set for darting between the road and hardpacked gravel as you criss-cross the countryside, and even if you go for something knobblier for wet winter trails a gravel bike isn’t as much of a slog on the tarmac to get to the fun stuff.

The majority of gravel bikes come with mounts for guards and racks too which means they can make capable commuters, winter trainers and even lightweight tourers.

There is so much choice as well, right across the price ranges.

> Review: Ragley Trig Gravel Bike

Something like the Ragley Trig Gravel are both great for fencing about off-road without breaking the bank, coming in at just over a grand apiece. 

The world of bikepacking is well within reach with a gravel bike too thanks to the huge amount of frame, seatpost and bar bags available although if you want to basically carry everything including the kitchen sink then you could treat yourself to something like the Kona Rove LTD with its fork mounts to get even more kit on-board. It also has one of the best ride qualities I’ve found on a gravel bike.

> Review: Kona Rove LTD Gravel Bike

All you need to do is choose the right gearing set up to suit your riding.

Dave Atkinson - Founding Father

First bike - Kinesis Tripster ATR V3

Second bike - Custom fixed/Single speed

DWARD Design

My first bike - a Kinesis Tripster ATR V3 - is a real do-it-all machine. It’s quick enough for fast road rides and it’s got enough clearance to fit some big tyres and head off-road. And it’s comfortable enough for really big rides, too. So a lot of the time When I’m riding outside I’ll be on board the Tripster. I do have a carbon race bike, but mostly it’s actually for racing, or the club paceline, or anything else where out-and-out speed is important. Due to lack of any racing, it’s mostly sat on the turbo for the past year, and it’s done a lot more miles indoors than it has out.

> What is a fixed gear bike good for? 

If I’m not riding the Tripster outdoors then most likely I’ll be aboard my DWARD Design custom fixed/single speed. This was made for me to mirror the geometry of the Tripster, so swapping between them feels really natural. It’s a practical winter bike, with clearance for 30mm tyres with mudguards, full hydraulic disc brakes and a dynamo setup from SON; most of the time I run it as a single speed but if I’m planning a flatter ride I’ll stick a fixed cog on instead.

> What is Audax? A simple guide to the world of long-distance riding

I love the way that riding on a single ratio moves you in and out of your comfort zone; it’s always a bit like an interval session and there’s never an option to take it easy on the climbs! When we’re allowed to meet up again and ride together I hope to complete some flatland audax rides on it, it’s a super-comfy bike and great for long distances. So far my biggest fixed gear ride is 150km but there’s a couple of 400km loops I have my eye on...

We really want to know what you’d choose as a second bike. Would this restrict your riding? Do you agree with any of us, or have we all got it horribly wrong? Let us know down in the comments section below! 

Add new comment


IanGlasgow | 2 years ago
1 like

My 2nd bike is a 25 year old steel framed mountain bike.
It's a pub bike - if it gets stolen, so what? It cost me £40, a new set of brake blocks, and a couple of hours of my time to unsieze a few parts and get it working properly again.
It's good enough for my short commute (I did have to change the saddle); I put a pair of spiked ice tyres on it to keep me going on icy and snowy days through the winter.
It's great on canal towpaths and a few slightly rougher tracks; I can't remember the last time I had this much fun for so little money!
This week I'm at an outdoor activities centre with 40 12 year olds; I threw it in the luggage compartment of the coach to get here and have used it all week as transport around the centre grounds and to the local cafe and pub.

Owd Big 'Ead | 2 years ago

Gotta be a cargobike, probably a Larry vs Harry Bullitt, the SUV of the cycling world, in fire engine red with go faster stripes.

Load lugger, chariot to ferry the missus to the pub and back, urban cruiser, an absolute jack of all trades,


Woldsman | 2 years ago

Road bike: Giant TCR Composite (Ultegra groupset)

A while ago in this thread I posted that a tourer should be the second bike to a road bike.  A year on I might prefer something like the (second hand) "Audax"/four seasons bike I bought last year and modified:

Reynolds 853 frameset (531 forks)
Road triple chainset and MTB cassette & rear mech
LIvely wheelset and 25mm Continental 4 Seasons tyres
Rim brakes
SKS Longboard (trimmed) mudguards

A plush mile-muncher.  I chose it over the Giant on a sunny ride last weekend. 

Very nice it was too...


IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
1 like

Very happy with a gravel bike as a winter bike in winter and a gravel bike in better weather. 32mm tyres for grotty country lanes and potholes with big mudguards (Flingers which haven't snapped in 2 like many recent SKS ones I and mates have had).

I have now got 3 sets of wheels and two bikes which cover all my interests. I did have a mountain bike but I really hated the effort of lumbering it around, and only slightly regret it when contemplating the bone-shaking of riding gravel even on soft tyres.

lesterama | 2 years ago
1 like

2nd bike: a hack bike. I have an '89 Raleigh 531 frame with 7-speed ultegra and some heavy wheels. Takes 28c and mudguards, goes on road and gravel, no one wants to nick it. Perfect. Oh, and it won a couple of races in its youth.

IanGlasgow replied to lesterama | 2 years ago
1 like

Everybody needs a bike they're willing to leave locked outside the pub without worrying about losing it.


Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago

I'm cheating with my Reilly Gradient, with GRX800 DI2 and 2 wheelsets

1 Hunt 44/54 700c aerodynamicist on 30c S-One Evo's for summer and road

1x Hunt 650b Adventure Sport with SON hub & 38c G-Ones for Winter, Gravel and super long endurance.

The Ribble Carbon Endurance Machine is gathering dust in the shed.

The Fairlight Strael, the custom DeKerf MTB and the Birdy Touring folder were ebay'ed to pay for the Gradient.

(Does a Smart bike count as N+1)?

vthejk | 2 years ago

I think I may have killed N+1 (hah! I wish!) with my bike. It's a Groadinger UG steel frame made by Stayer Cycles in London - bought on a theft insurance payout as they are gorgeous but Pricey - and built up with a mix of Shimano Tiagra hydraulic and GRX400 parts on the cheap. I run 650B wheels on it and have semi slick tires (WTB Byways) for anything remotely road-tending and knobblies (Teravail Rutlands) for anything trail-tending. I don't ever feel lacking on either road or off-road and it's a magnificent looking bicycle to boot.

MaxBulla | 2 years ago

i got an amazingly fast Argon Gallium Pro from a friend on the very cheap, which is my shiny outside bike. My old Specialized which got me started on the road a decade ago is now just used indoors as my Zwift bike. I also got a cheap and cheerful MTB which is my all purpose ride.

So while 2nd bike is a bridge I long crossed, I would love to add a gravel bike to the stable, one with a relaxed geometry and plenty of gears to carry me up and over everything, because as amazing the Argon is, it's built for far better (ligther) cyclists so uphill it's not always my friend and I do miss the triple from my Specialized.

CarwynJames272 | 3 years ago

I have a Specialized Combo double suspension enduro bike, only the last few years I've started road cycling too. I had a 2008 Specialized Allez cheap off someone I know. Ended up my wife went & bought me the 2021 Specialized Allez as a thank you for doing some work to our garden bless her. Lovely bike to ride & over moon with it.

Sheen wheels | 3 years ago

I'm mildly worried to find I'm mirroring Dave Atkinson here: Kinesis for first (though mine's a Racelight) and steel fixed for second (a converted Bob Jackson track frame with a garish colour scheme).

Nick T | 3 years ago

Judging by my Strava acquaintance's feeds all this talk of "second bike" or even "best bike" is pointless when no one seems to go outside any more anyway

Chris Hayes replied to Nick T | 3 years ago

You're very welcome to follow me, Nick  1  I only ride outdoors.  Gios or Litespeed in shitty conditions.  Factor when its dry (as the brakes don't work otherwise!)  Need some inspiration at the moment though. I'm four weeks into a 16 week training programme that involves less cycling than I usually do.... and I paid for it.... 

Grahamd | 3 years ago
1 like

I only purchased my new bike late last year, a newer version of what I already had, so the old bike becomes the winter bike. 

a1white | 3 years ago

My current 2nd is a slightly nerdy looking Hybrid with full mudguards rack etc.  Got it at a much knocked down price a couple of years ago. It's been invaluable during lockdown and various tiers over the last year as a means of visiting friends in the park etc and carrying my weekly shopping home. I feel much better leaving that bike locked up outside, than my roadbike (which I still use for exercise).

zero_trooper replied to a1white | 3 years ago

Come on, do tell; what make & model hybrid is 'nerdy'?!?

Zigster | 3 years ago

Best bike: something light and sporty for those lovely summer days out.

Second bike: aluminium or steel, lower level groupset (105 rather than Ultegra), bombproof wheels rather than carbon aero wheels, mounts for mudguards and rack, clearance for wider tyres. Mine's an old Condor Fratello with 105 R7000 - perfect except ideally would have disc brakes rather than rim.

I can see that a gravel bike might meet these requirements but a few of my riding buddies now have gravel bikes as their winter bikes and they all moan about what pigs they are for long road rides.

I do want a gravel bike, but as a third (well, 6th, but you get my point) bike not a second.

Secret_squirrel replied to Zigster | 3 years ago

What makes them pig-like?  My second bike (a graveller) is currently my first in terms of newness and cost.  In fact its my second in a row if you expand gravel to "all-road", my "first" bike is a 4.5yr old Carbon bike that mostly comes out on summer days or is attached to the turbo, for everything else the Graveller gets the shout, offroader in the summer without mudguards and all-roader in Spring/Winter/Autumn.

Btw if we're allowed, a Third - probably a Smart turbo or even smart bike.  This last year has been a gamechanger for my fitness thanks to my Turbo.

kamoshika | 3 years ago

The riding I've done has gradually changed from sportives to longer distance, audax, up to and including PBP, and I'm aiming to go further into bike-packing. My "first bike" at the moment is an aging, fairly budget carbon road bike, that's done several years' good service. I'm looking to replace that with a versatile all-rounder / gravel / adventure bike that I can run on the road with 700c and off-road with 650b wheels, and that'll be the new "first bike". If I could only keep one other it would have to be the Bullitt cargo bike - that makes it much easier to carry on living car-free.

Secret_squirrel replied to kamoshika | 3 years ago
1 like

This.  My Strael did double duty with 2 sets of wheels.  Fast enough to scare the buddies on the road with 700c, supple enough to ride bridleways with fatter tires on 650b.  The only reason its been retired is I found a Ti Graveller with the same geo and fatter tyre room.  (And the Ti bike looks like sex on a stick).

kamoshika replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
1 like

I talked to someone a couple of years ago who was riding a Mason Bokeh Ti (which is the bike if really like, but edging towards the alu version for budgetary reasons) and he said the only problem he'd found with it was that he didn't need to own any other bikes any more as it did everything he wanted it to really well.

RoubaixCube | 3 years ago

my second bike (or third i should say as my first was hybrid for commuting that got replaced by a Triban 540 10sp...) was an Endurance/Carbon road bike for weekend rides and long rides like the Dynamo.

if i was to purchase another bike it would definitely be CX for some off road action.


JuJu | 3 years ago

Consensus seems to be "the 2nd bike is whatever the 1st one cannot do. And the more versatility, the better".

I'm in this too: '14 CAADX 105 with full mudguards, rack, lights and panniers for rides to work, to shops, around town with small cargo, pub (pre-covid though...), winter rides, salty roads and I don't mind if it spends the day in the rain attached with 2 U-locks. I love it! 

JoanneH | 3 years ago

My first bike is an entry-level carbon road bike bought back in 2013 and since improved with better wheels and an Ultegra groupset; for about four years my second bike has been a single speed for trips about town; and my third bike, which is rapidly leapfrogging the single speed because it's more versatile, is a gravel bike with mudguards and a pannier rack on which I plan to do some touring but have also been using over the winter. Saves taking the road bike off the turbo ...

HoarseMann | 3 years ago

An old 90's MTB that has slowly morphed into an upright Dutch town bike over the years. With flat pedals, north road bars, big panniers, crate, lights, mudguards, frame lock and is so undesirable looking and old I can leave it chained up anywhere.

zero_trooper replied to HoarseMann | 3 years ago

+1 for 'morphed'

Woldsman | 3 years ago

Proper touring bike:

Reynolds 531ST frameset

Brooks B17 saddle

Hand-built 36-spoked wheels

Separate pannier rack and mudguard eyelets

Cantilever brakes

Downtube shifters

Triple clanger

Jumpers for goalposts etc...

jasecd | 3 years ago

My most recent bike is a GoCycle GX fodling e-bike - I bought it to cut down on my car use and in less than two weeks I've only used the car once.

I have two road bikes - a best bike and a winter bike - but I only ever use them for training and leisure rides. The GoCycle means I can take it with me on jobs (I work abroad a lot) and the electric assistance means I can keep my HR down along with wearing normal clothes and shoes. Also it ws bloody expensive so I intend to use it and get maximum value!

zero_trooper | 3 years ago

Depends how much of a roadie you are. 
If you have a 'best bike', then your second should be an alu or steel road bike, a bit more endurance-ish + mudguards and possibly a rack.

Me? Well I'm further down the food chain. My second bike is a steel hybrid, full guards, rear rack and voluminous panniers.

foghorn replied to zero_trooper | 3 years ago

Steel always is more "endurance-ish" since even the stiffest has more "give" and thus dampens road vibrations way better, so you can just ride on, and has a great advantage: it doesn't suddently break on you after 4 or 5 years...

I never quite understood alu bikes: came about in the 70s as "lighter" than steel bikes, were replaced with carbon (which has its own durability issues, but racers don't care since they switch bikes as often as I eat ice cream)...

1st bike: ligth steel 650B "randonneuse" (remember a Nice Paris racer who tried it and couldn't believe bikes could be so comfortable) - most used for long distance multi-day rides; 2nd: 26inch steel custom frame-fork urban do it all, also Son dynamo; 3rd: heavier steel wide tire Jones-type handlebars any winter any ground-surface, trailer hauler, etc ... You get the picture. All with bosses for mudgards, racks front and back..

In their own way they're all "road" bikes, but (apart for the randonneuse) can multi-ride mostly anywhere a bike can go.. But I'm not a racer.

Get to learn how to build wheels - not difficult and extremely useful.

Oh, leather saddles but no "Brooks": too hammocky and now so thin I get no more than 1.000 km before having to change orientation (and I'm very light)...  - so on the bikes above 2 Berthoud and one Selle Italia - but to each one his/her b..t).

And NO car for the last 30 years ...


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