What’s the best road bike in 2020? During our search for the ultimate all-rounder, we tested 13 exclusive road bikes on Mallorca with the help of Miguel Indurain. Are you ready for some high-speed fun? Then you’re in the right place.
Table of content
- The test fleet
- Where did we test?
- What’s it all about?
- Why no lab testing?
- The best road bike
- The competition
In the “good old days”, a bike with drop bars was something reserved for athletes and ambitious riders. The idea of road bikes and cycling was firmly established as a performance-oriented pursuit and clearly demarcated as such. Over time, like many things, that culture has changed, adapted and become more liberal. Today it’s just as acceptable to follow the hardcore, traditional etiquette of the Velominati as it is to define your own idea of what cycling should be about. Look at the road bikes in this group test and you’ll quickly realise that our test field is just as diverse as the current cycling scene. Using the Balearic road bike Mecca of Mallorca as our base, we tasked ourselves with finding the best all-round road bike for 2020. We can tell you about the strengths and weaknesses of every bike in our test, which bike fits which rider and what it’s really all about when it comes to your road bike.
The best time is now
It’s become increasingly difficult to dismiss the gravel trend as just another passing fad. With the fascination for riding off road drawing more and more riders, you can’t help but wonder whether the traditional dominance of the classic road bike has finally faltered. But modern road bikes aren’t just the narrow-tired forebears of the gravel track bruiser – quite the opposite! Constant developments in materials, geometry, handling and performance have made modern road bikes more versatile than ever. More speed, more security and more comfort make today’s road bike experience fun, accessible and inviting as it has never been before. The excessive segmentation of the road bike market is coming to an end and making room for a new guard of all-rounders that can turn their hand to multiple things and blur traditional boundaries between different types of bike.
No worries though: a thoroughbred race bike will retain its knife-edge handling and uncompromising performance focus for the foreseeable future. But we are seeing that increasingly, design features that were previously reserved to just a single category are becoming more widespread. What exactly does that mean? The most up-to-date endurance bikes are now almost the equal of a purely racing-oriented bike in terms of aerodynamics. At the same time, they offer more comfort and usually a higher feeling of security too. Allroad bikes shine thanks to their versatility but aerodynamics and speed are a part of the design without compromising performance. Indeed many professional teams are putting a greater emphasis on comfort, using wider tires or additional suspension and damping, as well as less extreme geometries. At the same time, the design of high-performance road bikes is also converging: the best aero bikes can now do much more than just ride on the flats and also perform well on both the ascents and descents. At the other end of the spectrum, super light climbers are becoming increasingly aerodynamic thanks to meticulously designed frames that can eke out every advantage.
Are we moving towards the ONE ultimate road bike? It might be a little too early to make that claim, but one thing is for sure: the industry is finding it ever harder to create clear categorisations of their product lines and justify the alleged differences to their customers. But that’s something that we as riders can benefit from! Increasing competition amongst manufacturers results in road bikes that are more versatile – the options available to consumers have never been as attractive. Ready to get on your bike? The best time is now!
What bikes did we test?
For this group test, we sifted through some of the most exciting brands and put together a diverse range of bikes for you. It might seem unfair to have such a variety of bikes in one test, but we just call it realistic. Let’s face it, who doesn’t find themselves confronted with an overwhelming amount of choice when just looking for their perfect ride. From aero to endurance bikes, Tour de France winner to steel beauty, you’ll find anything worth its salt in this group test. You can find an overview of the bikes we tested below:
|Argon 18 Krypton Pro|
(Click for review)
|Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 R8050||HED Vanquish GP V4 tubeless||7.55 kg in size M||€ 8,340|
|Bianchi Infinito CV Disc|
(Click for review)
|Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9170||Fulcrum Racing 418 Disc Brake||7.52 kg in size 57||€ 8,490|
|BMC Roadmachine 01 ONE|
(Click for review)
|SRAM RED eTap AXS||ENVE SES 4.5C AR Disc Carbon||7.71 kg in size 56||€ 10,499|
|Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD Disc Dura Ace|
(Click for review)
|Shimano DURA-ACE mechanisch, Power2max NGeco Powermeter (nicht aktiviert)||Hollowgram 45 SL KNØT||7.73 kg in size 54||€ 6,499|
|Cicli Bonanno Futomaki Disc|
(Click for review)
|Campagnolo Record Disc 12-Speed||Lightwolf-Laufräder: Pacenti Forza-Felge, Carbon TI X-Hub SP-Nabe||8.07 kg in size 57||€ 7,000|
|FOCUS IZALCO MAX DISC 9.9|
(Click for review)
|Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9170||DT Swiss ARC 1450 DICUT DB, 48 mm||7.44 kg in size L||€ 8,999|
|LOOK 795 BLADE RS DISC|
(Click for review)
|SRAM RED eTap AXS||Corima WS Black||7.95 kg in size L||€ 9,500|
(Click for review)
|SRAM RED eTap AXS mit THM Clavicula SE-Kurbel und Carbon-TI-Kettenblättern||Mcfk Gravel 28″||6.41 kg in size L||€ 12,000|
|Pinarello Dogma F12 Team INEOS Edition|
(Click for review)
|Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9100||Shimano DURA-ACE C40 Tubular||7.11 kg in size 56||€ 11,500|
|ROSE REVEAL SIX Dura Ace Di2 Custom|
(Click for review)
|Shimano DURA-ACE Di2||ROSE RC-Fifty Disc||7.22 kg in size 57||€ 6,249|
|Specialized S-Works Roubaix|
(Click for review)
|SRAM RED eTap AXS||Roval CLX 32 Disc||7.57 kg in size 56||€ 11,199|
|Trek Domane SLR 9 eTap|
(Click for review)
|SRAM RED eTap AXS||Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V||8.08 kg in size 56||11,299 €|
|VOTEC VRC PRO|
(Click for review)
|Shimano ULTEGRA mechanisch||Mavic Ksyrium i19 UST mit Speed Release||8.27 kg in size XL||€ 2,999|
|Ø 7.59 kg||Ø 8,813 €|
With an average weight of 7.57 kg, our test bikes are roughly a bidon’s worth of water heavier than the UCI minimum 6.8 kg. Looking at the numbers, five SRAM-equipped lag just behind seven Shimano-equipped bikes. Campagnolo remains an exotic choice and the Italian groupset is found on only one bike. Apart from that, disc brakes have clearly gained the upper hand. Only the Pinarello Dogma F12 still relies on rim brakes. In addition to the existing test field, we also ordered the SCOTT Addict RC Ultimate for this group test. Due to logistical complications, it, unfortunately, reached us too late and was therefore unable to participate. Here you can find our first ride review of the SCOTT Addict RC Ultimate.
You didn’t find the road bike that interests you? Here are all the road bikes we’ve tested in the last time that haven’t found their way into our current comparison test: Argonaut Road Bike | Basso Diamante SV 2019 | Bianchi Oltre XR4 Disc | BMC Timemachine Road 01 TWO | Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 | Cervélo S5 | EXEPT Allroad Classic | FOCUS IZALCO MAX 9.8 | MERIDA REACTO DISC TEAM-E | Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 Disc | Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc
Where did we test?
Where can you go at the beginning of January to find a mild climate, empty roads, steep ramps, challenging descents and the best testing grounds for a road bike? You might have guessed already: once again we chose to visit Mallorca. Before the roads of the Balearic island became flooded by the training jet set, we settled in at the base of the Tramuntana range in the sleepy town of Alaró. During our stay, we were lucky to be guests for the second time at Finca BAIX DE S’ERA.
For our test circuit, we picked out the road between Alaró and the Coll d’Honor. The route involves climbing the Coll d’Orient, before crossing the flats to descend into the Serra de Tramuntana and surmounting the hairpins up to the Coll d’Honor. In this part of the island you can find everything you might expect to encounter on a typical ride. That includes both steep and gradual climbs, flat sections, wide and tight corners, perfect asphalt, braking bumps and even short gravel sections. Riding from dawn to dusk, our testers collectively rode over 2,500 km and climbed 48,000 vertical metres and by so doing, checked off their first training camp of 2020. You’re wondering how much pasta each of our testers ate? Approximately 6.27 kg! 😉
Who tested the bikes?
On the search for the best all-round bike for 2020, our four testers brought different expectations, experiences and preferences to the table. You can find out more about what was important to them here:
What’s it all about? The most important characteristics of a road bike
If you’ve ever taken part in a race, you’ll already have noticed that the best bikes are seen both at the front and the back of the peloton. And that’s exactly what makes road bikes so exciting. It doesn’t matter why you buy your bike, whether it’s because of an emotional connection or in search of ultimate performance: everyone has the opportunity to access the latest high-end road technologies. It doesn’t matter if you actually ride it to a victory, take a place at the start line of a race, or simply want the joy of riding with friends. Unfortunately, many bikes are still designed for the pros in the first instance, with real-world customers seemingly a second thought. UCI rules might be binding at pretty much any official (and even amateur) race but the vast majority of riders are unlikely to ever pin on a race number. Thankfully, we can benefit from the newest developments in terms of ergonomics, comfort and handling.
To cater to a wide audience with a wide range of application, we feel that the best road bike has to be an all-rounder that is just as suitable for a practiced rider as it is for leisure riders who enjoy the occasional spurt of speed. Our dream bike offers balanced handling, generates a lot of speed when needed and stands out with a pleasant level of damping and comfort, resulting in a high degree of trust and security. During the search for the best road bike of 2020, our experienced test riders put an emphasis on the following criteria:
Handling is by far the most important factor in our decisions. We couldn’t have put it better than David Millar, who said, “To me, a bike has to handle well […] because it’s in the handling where you can lose races. If a bike handles like shit, it is a shit bike to me.” We have nothing more to add. We consider where the bike sits on a scale from playful/lively to stable/sluggish. How precise is the bike in the corners? Do the front and rear work well together? How quickly does the bike respond to steering inputs? We take a look at all these questions together. The best bikes in the test find the sweet spot between agility and stability, offering direct and precise steering through the corners without being unstable or vague.
Acceleration and speed
Whether it’s setting off from the cafe, accelerating out of corners, or sprinting to the finish line, a light footed bike that accelerates quickly can offer a decided advantage in the right situation. Such nimble bikes benefit from clever weight distribution, a low total weight and a low moment of inertia in rotating components such as the wheels. But the efficiency of the bike on the flats is just as important. It’s important to consider how easy the bike is to keep at speed once it’s there. Here, aerodynamically optimised bikes are at an advantage despite their often minimally higher weight. The combination of reduced air resistance and the increased inertia of slightly deeper and hence heavier rims helps maintain speed, but conversely makes quick acceleration more difficult. A perfect road bike offers balanced handling for both scenarios.
Control and trust…
… are all too often undervalued. A bike can be as light, stiff and aerodynamic as it wants – if it isn’t easy to control and you feel unsafe then all technical features are meaningless. In addition, an unsafe or insecure ride costs a lot of energy and concentration, because as a rider you’re focussed more on balancing out the handling of the bike than riding efficiently. It’s only if you can build trust with your bike that you can safely calculate the risks and ride at your limit and beyond. Riding on the road is already risky enough – we don’t need even more uncertainty added to the mix! After all, we all want to get back home safe and sound to our family and friends. The best bikes in our test are predictable companions that are easy to control when things get tricky, even without years of training. They are a performance understatement that don’t need to be ridden hard, but offer enough reserves when you do get down to it.
As most of us probably don’t have access to our own private physiotherapist who can restore our tired bodies, comfort is an increasingly important topic and a consideration for the pros as well. If you sit on your bike in comfort, you’ll stay quicker for longer and be less worn out at the end. A modern and ergonomic riding position is defined by both the level of comfort it provides as well as how aerodynamic it is. It allows the rider to stay in the drops over longer distances and not to use them just for sprinting. A comfortable bike offers a balanced degree of compliance. Comfort becomes a sum of the parts rather than stemming only from individual components. Both high-frequency vibrations and bigger hits need to be handled. However, contact points like the bar tape and saddle are subject to personal preference so haven’t been part of our considerations.
We’re pretty sure we don’t need to provide any further explanation here. 😉
The tops and flops of our group test
Often it’s the details that make a difference: successful integration, first-class ergonomics and thoughtfully chosen components. Here you can find all the tops and flops of the bikes in our big 2020 road bike group test.
Why we don’t test road bikes in the lab
How can we test bikes in the fairest and most realistic way possible? How can we provide the best buying advice and tips for you? Can we really accomplish our goals with a rigid rating system that assesses individual parameters such as components and weights in isolation. Surely individual laboratory measurements can’t add up to one defining score?
For road bikes in particular, this question is very relevant as it’s all about efficiency, speed, aerodynamics and weight. We’ve spent many hours thinking about this topic, sought advice from experts and enquired with various testing laboratories. The sobering realisation: most “easily” measurable characteristics, such as bottom bracket, head tube or fork stiffness are measured in isolation. At first glance, that might seem useful and can be displayed easily in tables and diagrams. However, these results often present a skewed vision of reality. What’s important aren’t the individual measurable parameters of a bike, but the ride-ready package that will actually be out on the road.
Using just lab measurements is like playing Top Trumps. You might win based on the power and top speed of your car, but you don’t actually have any idea of how it handles on the road. For the card game, that’s ok, but when it comes to real life it’s much more important how the car transfers its power to the road, how it handles corners and how well it brakes.
Not everything you can measure is important, and not everything that’s important can be measured.
Lab measurements are also highly dependent on the test protocol. Is the measurement dynamic or static? What loads are chosen and what do they relate to? In the end, what’s the point if the bottom bracket is super stiff but the parts fitted don’t harmonise with this level of stiffness? That’s exactly the reason why it’s also difficult to look at components in isolation and score them individually. Indeed, we have often encountered situations where the handling of an otherwise balanced bike was ruined by a high-end and lightweight but also more flexible carbon bar. A cheaper aluminium bar would have harmonised much better with the carbon fork in this example – and this kind of thing is something that comes up again and again! It’s the complete package that is important. Not the stiffness of an individual component, but the compliance of the whole system. Not the weight, but how it is distributed. Not the aerodynamics of the frame in the controlled conditions of a wind tunnel, but the rider and bike as one unit outdoors. All the factors influence each other! That means that a less aerodynamic bike which offers an excellent and comfortable riding position might be quicker in the real world because you can maintain an aerodynamic position for longer and with less effort. After all, about 75% of the total air resistance is produced by the rider themselves.
Special solutions from manufacturers, such as Trek’s IsoSpeed damping or Specialized’s Future Shock 2.0 system can rarely be tested in the lab and don’t fit into rigid assessment criteria. But it’s exactly these unique features that make these bikes so attractive for many riders. So for us, what’s important is what you also notice out in the real world. In the end, the deciding factor is people, with all their strengths and weaknesses, individual riding styles and personal wants and needs, who determine whether a bike is actually good or not.
It should be obvious. “Not everything you can measure is important, and not everything that’s important can be measured.” That’s why during our testing, we rely on the feedback from our versatile and experienced testers. It’s not really about making absolute verdicts or statements, but to evaluate the area of use and target groups of concepts and in turn to determine which bikes offer the best performance for different applications.
The best road bike of 2020: Argon 18 Krypton Pro
From the underdog to the frontrunner: the Argon 18 Krypton proved itself in our group test and can enjoy the champagne shower at the finish line. What does this bike have that all the other dream bikes in our group test didn’t?
In the end, the Argon 18 stood out thanks to a perfectly balanced and considered package. It doesn’t show any weaknesses worth mentioning and revealed itself to be a highly specialist all-rounder. The modern geometry offers a compact riding position which, combined with the balanced level of comfort between the front and rear is perfect for long rides. The road bike from the Canadian brand efficiently maintains its speed, handles predictably and provides endless amounts of fun on the descents. Last but not least, the 3D Plus system impressed us in many ways. It’s a technically sound solution that allows you to fine tune the fit of the bike and also cleans up its look. Our testers unanimously decided that this bike can be recommended to anyone and everyone without exception, whether it’s beginners, advanced or even pro riders – and that’s exactly what we were looking for.
The big surprise: ROSE REVEAL SIX
The fresh ROSE REVEAL SIX is another newcomer to the road bike stage. How did this brand new road bike from the German direct-to-consumer brand win our Best Buy award, right off the bat?
“It’s a rocket this thing!” and “My god, that was unexpected!” were just two of many surprised utterances from our testers after taking the ROSE REVEAL out for a spin. Having already received many nods of approval with its looks, it also proved very convincing on the roads of Mallorca. The playful character of the ROSE guarantees good times on the descents. While climbing, it also scores highly thanks to its light-footedness and efficiency. With a high level of comfort, a fantastic ride and a price-performance ratio that is hard to beat, the youngest bike in the stable of direct-consumer-brand ROSE is the Best Buy in our group test.
Other exciting bikes
The biggest strength of the Argon 18 Krypton is its versatility. On the other hand, you might also claim that that is its greatest weakness. While it doesn’t allow itself any flaws or problems, in some situations, it can feel like it is missing some character. In our group test, there are three further stand out bikes that absolutely deserve to be mentioned here. Depending on your own preferences and where you like to ride, one of these bikes might be the better choice.
Specialized S-Works Roubaix – the specialist amongst the all-rounders
True to its name. The S-Works Roubaix only knows one thing on broken-up roads and cobbles: full speed ahead. But if you spend most of your time here, like to take a cheeky farm track shortcut from time-to-time and don’t want to push it to the absolute limit on the descents, this is exactly the right bike for you! The next spring classic is on its way.
Pinarello Dogma F12 – brutal speed without compromise
Yellow jerseys and the ticket to the podium on the Pro Tour – together with the riders from team Ineos, the Pinarello Dogma F12 is the bike to beat on the race circuit. Allowing for some mythology, the numbers still don’t lie. Numerous personal bests amongst our testers reflect the fact that no other bike let us ride us fast or push the lactate levels in our legs as high. The F12 is a racing machine without compromise that is totally focussed on speed. As a result, it also punishes every mistake the rider makes. Are you a black belt and like to ride right at the limit? This is your bike.
OPEN U.P.P.E.R. – the most versatile frameset on the market
As previously mentioned, it’s not just about low weight, but also about how it’s distributed. That said, we do want to mention that the lightest and most exclusive bike in our test is a gravel bike. While it may be an extremely rarefied build, it does impressively demonstrate what’s possible with the U.P.P.E.R. frameset. Do you just want a bike with drop bars, enjoy long rides on all surfaces, still want to take part in local races and are also a gravel and bikepacking fan? With this frame and two wheelsets, you can do all that and more.
Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Valentin Rühl, Stefan Trocha