What’s the best road bike of 2021? In which direction is development going and what matters most? In our group test, 15 of the most relevant and promising road bikes of the season faced back-to-back testing against one another on the legendary Strade Bianche in Tuscany. We reveal everything you need to know for the coming season!

Content

  1. The testfield
  2. Where did we test?
  3. Our test team
  4. The most important characteristics of a road bike
  5. The best road bike 2021

What’s the best road bike of 2021? Is there even a best bike? With 15 road bikes and these questions in tow, we made our way to Tuscany. More than 300,000(!) enthusiastic road bikers around the world read last year’s group test, making us keenly aware of our responsibility to you and giving us a clear mission: we wanted to find the answers to these questions and leave you with the requisite knowledge to be able to make the best buying decision for yourselves. On top of that, we wanted to redefine what road bikes are about and while doing so, set the foundation for a new understanding of road riding even while following in the footsteps of the modern classic Strade Bianche race. We envisage a new road bike horizon that can make do without skin-tight Lycra and, on occasion, lets the wind blow through a loose shirt. Will this be the moment of glory for all those who don’t want to commit or the moment for those who know exactly what they want – that being maximum versatility. Yes and yes. We laid the foundations in Tuscany and what follows is a heady mix of true crit and dolce vita. Saddle up and shift into the big ring, because we’re proud to present the last road bike group test you’ll ever need to read.

Less “race” more “bike”

A quick look back: it was the middle of the 2020 season and the central question of our road bike group test was whether, technologically, we’re moving towards the ONE ultimate road bike. We found that it was still too soon, yet, at the same time, manufacturers were finding it harder and harder to differentiate their models and justify marginal differences to their customers. Fast forward to today and we find that the bike boom has turned the bike cosmos on its head. For established multi-national companies that means disruption to supply chains, delivery issues, development and production delays. For small bike builders and indie bike brands, it’s often resulted in the total collapse of any options. For us bikers, that’s resulted in almost endless waiting times for the hotly anticipated dream bike we want to get our hands on amidst ever-rising prices. At the same time, our family of bike fans is growing faster than ever before. The fascination for drop bars is casting a spell over everyone from acrobatic athletes to laid-back laggards and is causing demand for bikes to soar.

If you already have a bike during these competitive times you should count yourself lucky. The masses searching for a bike are still trying to answer the fundamental questions. “Which bike fits me and my requirements?” “Where can I get the best package for me?” “What is the best bike?” That’s the common refrain sung by many enthusiastic newbies and bike fans looking for a new bike, to whom you most likely belong – after all, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading these words. As such, this group test is aimed at you. At all road bike individualists and at Anna and Thomas, who, according to our GRAN FONDO reader survey 2020 (you can find the most important results here) with over 8,000 participants, ride 5,336 km per year and are the most frequently occurring names amongst our readers.

Presumably, both Anna and Thomas marvel like we do at the performance of the pros in the peloton and the watts produced by Mathieu van der Poel during his brilliant win in this year’s Strade Bianche. The pros and their bikes are, without doubt, outliers and in turn, they don’t represent a sensible guide or inspiration for impending buying decisions for most of us. Do you earn your rent by riding a bike, are you looking for maximum performance or do you simply love what the pros ride? Then you’ve chosen the perfect hobby because you can buy or build 99% of a pro bike. For everyone else, and of course the open-minded lactate disciples who want to do more than just hunt down KOMs on Strava, we want to open up new horizons with this group test and to celebrate freedom and spontaneity on the bike. Because for us it’s much less about “race” than it is “bike”.

Road bikes between rebirth, friends with benefits and plenty of gravel

Gravel bike sales are soaring and there are a multitude of possible reasons. Is it because of the inspiring videos coming from the core of the scene proclaiming freedom on two wheels? Is it due to the breathtaking accounts of events in distant lands? Or is it due to increased traffic on the roads? Undoubtedly, all these factors have contributed to the gravel boom, but it’s especially the versatility inherent to these bikes that makes them the best option for many riders. But what exactly does that have to do with the best road bikes in this group test?

In the times of “friends with benefits” where it’s increasingly difficult to commit to something or someone, isn’t it the most obvious and economically sensible choice to invest in a bike that can fulfil as many dreams as possible in one go? To invest in a trustworthy two-wheeled companion for which regardless of the situation, everything is possible, but nothing is necessary? It’s exactly this mindset that is rubbing off on the road bike sector and making the most modern bikes genuine all-rounders. They are forcing the specialists into a niche and show that bike characteristics that have been completely contradictory in the past no longer have to be. Where previously you went searching for the best spots of asphalt, in 2021, cobbles, poor road surfaces and occasional gravel detours can also be part of a road bike ride. This change in approach engenders a freeing versatility and the two-wheeled self-realisation and emancipation of the road bike from the need for ultimate performance!

Back to the roots! If you take a look at where the boys from the Tour de France rode a hundred years ago… they would have needed exactly the bikes that we’re looking for now!

“Why only now?!” you might be asking. We need to acknowledge that the detour manufactures have made into sub-categorisations of endurance, aero or climbing bikes were important in order to arrive at this point. Only this way could manufacturers learn exactly what is most important in each of these specialisations, to then be able to apply this knowledge to the larger context. However, now it’s no longer just about all-out performance but also the experience of riding. With this mindset, a new generation of bikes is being created that can do (almost) everything and has (almost) all options open to it. The rebirth of the road bike!

What bikes did we test? The best road bikes of 2021 in the test

If you want to redefine road riding, you need to go new ways. For this reason, we gave the bike brands in our test the chance to tune their bikes especially for the demands of this group test. The most relevant brands in the industry responded to our request and presented a huge range of concepts from gravel bikes with aero wheels, to super-light E-road bikes, all the way to pro-peloton race machines tuned towards versatility and comfort. While several manufacturers stuck with their standard models, others freed themselves of their product range and created completely new concepts based on an existing frameset.

If you want to redefine road riding, you need to go new ways. For this reason, we asked the manufacturers to tune their road bikes, especially for this group test.

It might seem unfair to include such a diverse range of bikes in one test but we call it realistic. If you’re on the search for the perfect ride for the road and everything bordering the asphalt, you’ll find yourself confronted with an overwhelming amount of choice. After proving that modern bikes can combine many apparently contradictory applications during our big group test of the best gravel bike of 2021, we want to demonstrate the same thing for the road bike sector and contribute to a liberalisation of enjoyment on two wheels. Surveying our exceptional test field, attempts at categorisation reach their limits – and that can only be a good thing. You can find an overview of the bikes tested below:

Model Drivetrain Wheelset Tire dimensions Size weight in kg Price in €
BMC Roadmachine 01 ONE SRAM RED eTap AXS GS-RED-E-B1 ENVE SES 3.4 AR Disc 700x29C 56 7.15 10,499
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD Disc Ultegra Mixed Shimano ULTEGRA R8000/GRX RX800 Cannondale HollowGram 35 700x32C 56 7.89 5,599
Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap SRAM Force eTap AXS GS-FRC-E-A1 DT Swiss ARC 1400 DICUT 700x30C M 7.77 4,899*
Cervelo Caledonia-5 Dura Ace Di2 Disc Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 ENVE SES 3.4 AR Disc 700x28C 56 7.42 10,999
MASON Resolution EKAR Campagnolo EKAR HUNT 30 Carbon Aero Disc 700x32C 56 8.72 4,300
MERIDA SCULTURA ENDURANCE CUSTOM Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 Reynolds BLACKLABEL ATR 700x36C M 7.57 9,499
MERIDA REACTO TEAM-E CUSTOM Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 Vision Metron 55 SL TL 700x32C M 7.69 10,299
OPEN MIN.D. SRAM RED eTap AXS GS-RED-E-B1 DT Swiss CRC 1400 SPLINE 700x32C L 7.07 8,700
Orbea Gain M20i Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 R8050 OC2 Carbon 42 700x30C M 12.22 6,299
ROSE REVEAL FOUR DISC Ultegra Di2 Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 R8050 ROSE R-Thirty Disc LIGHT 700x32C 57 8.26 3,899
SCOTT Addict eRIDE Premium Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 Syncros Capital 1.0 40e Disc 700x30C L 10.9 9,499
Specialized S-Works Aethos Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 Roval C38 700x30C 56 6.49 12,999
Storck Fascenario.3 Comp Disc Ultegra Shimano ULTEGRA R8020 DT Swiss P1800 SPLINE 700x28C M 7.82 2,999
Trek Domane+ LT 9 Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V 700x32C 56 13.42 10,999
Wilier Filante SLR Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 R9150 DT Swiss PRC 1100 DICUT Mon Chasseral 700x30C L 6.82 11,500
Ø 8.48 8,199

* Without DT Swiss ARC 1400 DICUT and fender

BMC Roadmachine 01 ONE | 7.15 kg (size 56) | € 10,499 | Click for review
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD Disc Ultegra | 7.89 kg (size 56) | € 5,599 | Click for review
Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap | 7.77 kg (size M) | € 4,899 | Click for review
Cervélo Caledonia-5 Dura Ace Di2 Disc | 7.42 kg (size 56) | € 10,999 | Click for review
Mason Resolution Ekar | 8.72 kg (size 56) | € 4,300 | Click for review
MERIDA SCULTURA ENDURANCE CUSTOM | 7.57 kg (size M) | € 9,499 | Click for review
MERIDA REACTO TEAM-E CUSTOM | 7.69 kg (size M) |€ 10,299 | Click for review
OPEN MIN.D. | 7.07 kg (size L) | € 8,700 | Click for review
Orbea Gain M20i | MAHLE Ebikemotion X35+/252 Wh | 12.22 kg (size M) | € 6,299 | Click for review
ROSE REVEAL FOUR DISC Ultegra Di2 | 8.26 kg (size 57) | € 3,899 | Click for review
SCOTT Addict eRIDE Premium | MAHLE Ebikemotion X35+/252 Wh | 10.9 kg (size L) | € 9,499 | Click for review
Specialized S-Works Aethos | 6.49 kg (size 56) | € 12,999 | Click for review
Storck Fascenario.3 Comp Disc Ultegra | 7.82 kg (size M) | € 2,999 | Click for review
Trek Domane+ LT 9 | FAZUA Evation Drivepack/250 Wh | 13.42 kg (size 56) | € 10,999 | Click for review
Wilier Filante SLR | 6.82 kg (size L) | € 11,500 | Click for review

In our 2020 road bike group test, the average weight of the bikes was 7.57 kg, putting it 900 g under this year’s average weight of 8.48 kg. Does that mean that bikes are getting ever heavier? Does weight ultimately not play that big a role? Between the lightweight, size 56, 6.49 kg Specialized S-Works Aethos and the over twice the weight, 13.42 kg (size 56) Trek Domane+ LT 9, we found the answers. Of course, we recognise that the three E-road bikes in the test increase the average weight significantly. Indeed, leave them out of the calculation and the average this year lies at 7.56 kg, a whopping 10 g below the 2020 road bike group test.

This year, Shimano leads in the test field once again – at least as far as manufacturer preference is concerned. Eleven road bikes are fitted with Shimano groupsets, three bikes with SRAM and just one bike comes with Campagnolo. As different as the bikes might be, all brands rely on hydraulic disc brakes. Additionally, apart from the road bikes from Orbea and Wilier, all models come tubeless. The average price of our test field sits at € 8,199.

Between all the bikes, a Jaguar F-Pace P400 also put itself into the mix. Regardless of whether it was for transporting spare bikes, countless boxes of wine or for a quick transfer: the bella macchina, as the Italians lovingly called it, delivers 400 hp of reliable performance even on rough terrain. Spec highlights like the massage seats or the first-class audio system didn’t harm the quality of our workdays either. If this elegant Brit were a road bike, it would be a hot contender for the win in our group test. At the very least, it passed the support vehicle test with flying colours! Click here for more information on our support car.

On top of the terrain
Adaptive suspension and intelligent four-wheel drive ensure that the P400 delivers comfort and traction on all terrain. We were always on our way safely and fast, even on the rough roads of Tuscany.
Six Hail Marys
Under the hood, the Jaguar hides a 3-litre six-cylinder engine, which sends its 400 hp to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. That catapults you from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds.
Sit as you intend to drive
The first-class seats offer 20 optional adjustments and alongside heating, also have massage and ventilation functions. That will get you to your destination relaxed and with a cool head, regardless of how heated it gets on the roads.
Command centre
The large touchscreen is the control point for navigation, entertainment, massages, connectivity and more.

Where did we test?

Where can you travel in the middle of February for a mild climate, quiet roads with varied surfaces, steep ramps and tricky descents to find the perfect testing grounds? For our choice of testing location, in this case, we took the pros as our inspiration and travelled around Tuscany on the tracks of the Strade Bianche. An almost endless marathon of permits, negative corona tests and one snowball fight in a lonely car park just after the Italian border later we reached our destination: Tenuta Il Cicalino in Massa Marittima.

The Italian Tricolore: lush green meadows, white roads and red wine. If you can visualise the simultaneously beautiful and brutal images of the Strade Bianche, you’ll know the demands of our testing grounds very well.

The Tenuta Il Cicalino property consists of six farm buildings with a total of 24 apartments and 7 double rooms. During our testing period, we were able to take over one of these farmlets as our temporary GRAN FONDO HQ. Alongside producing high-quality cold-pressed olive oil, wine cultivation is also an important part of the Tenuta, and the rewards of the vineyards of the Monteregio Di Massa Marittima in sight of the restaurant were offered in generous quantities with the local food and delicacies. With the house-chef spoiling us in the mornings and evenings, for lunch we stopped in with mummy Schmitt, the mother of GRAN FONDO founder Robin. The GRAN FONDO test crew was left spoilt between world-class bikes from international brands and the delicious everyday of the family business.

We used the roads around Massa Marittima as our test track. Wide, sweeping corners, steep and winding climbs and high-speed sections on perfect asphalt stood alongside the gravel passages typical of Tuscany. Massa Marittima sits between the impressive peninsula of Monte Argentario in the south and the legendary Siena in the north-west. Between these two poles we conducted our longest rides, pushing us and our gear to the limits – and sometimes beyond…

Damage report

  • 2 completely defective DURA-ACE Di2 groupsets
  • 1 broken carbon frame
  • 1 whole-body pizza
  • 2 open knees and shins
  • 2 broken chains
  • 1 bent disc rotor

The demanding terrain and changeable weather conditions ranging from 19°C, blue skies and sunshine on one day, to 3°C, storm clouds and hail the next were just as demanding as the terrain itself. Nonetheless, from our point of view, it formed the perfect testing conditions, because almost any bike can shine at 24°C on fresh asphalt with a tailwind, rolling down a slight slope. But as lovely as the varied landscape might be, it was just as demanding for the equipment, acting as a catalyst for wear and tear – the perfect helper for uncovering weaknesses and issues.

Who tested the bikes?

On the search for the best road bike of the 2021 season, our six testers brought completely different expectations and preferences to the table. You can find out here what they prioritise and how they define riding fun:

Ben, GRAN FONDO Editor-in-chief, gravel aficionado and sprinter
“For me, road bikes are all about discovering new things. My perfect road bike doesn’t get overwhelmed by excursions off the beaten track. I also can’t resist the occasional sprint on my exploratory rides.”
Phil, GRAN FONDO Editor, gravel instead of toothpaste, proud dad
“Two wheels and a drop bar – that’s how I explore the world. For me, it’s all about the perfect balance of comfort and sportiness. While my family are having an afternoon nap, I want to get my quick fix on the bike. My perfect road bike happily takes on every off-road shortcut.”
Tobi, GRAN FONDO Editor, 2% body fat, yogi and bike racer
“I’ve been doing structured and targeted training for several years. This year, I want to be at the front of the pack in German amateur races. For me, riding bikes has to hurt from time to time. There’s nothing better than that satisfying exhaustion after five hours in the saddle. Of course, I want speed, but much more important is having a damn good time with great people!”
Lisa, Wine princess, van lifer, outdoor enthusiast
“I’m modest in my ambitions and just like to be active in fresh air. My perfect road bike offers me the opportunity to travel quickly, safely and reliably from A to B. A nicely designed bike provides me with additional motivation to get out and ride it more often. Looks are important too!”
Robin, GRAN FONDO Founder, mobility connoisseur
“For me, being on the bike means being free. I want to feel the wind on my face and have time for chance encounters. My perfect road bike has to handle intuitively, be capable of high-speed spurts now and then and deliver barrels of fun. Here’s to the good times!“
Manne, “The Stache”, 41 Publishing Authorised signatory, will never retire
“For me, it’s always been about fully focussing on the things that I tackle and put my mind to. Retirement or not, I still have that drive. When the younger guys want to open the throttle, I put up a fight with my legs and a little E-power. I want to enjoy myself on every surface!”

What’s important? The most important characteristics of a road bike

If you’ve ever taken part in an open race, you’ll likely have noticed that you can find the best bikes both at the front and back of the peloton. And that’s exactly what makes road bikes so fascinating. Regardless of whether you buy your bike because of an emotional connection or the search for ultimate performance, everyone has the opportunity to own and access the newest high-tech 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 to celebrate the joy of a Sunday ride with friends. Unfortunately, many bikes are still designed primarily for the pros with real-world customers seemingly a second thought. Regulations such as 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, much less earn money with cycling. For this reason, it’s not about riding the best time, but experiencing the best time!

For us, it’s about experiencing the best time, not riding it!

To appeal to the widest possible target audience and offer a diverse range of uses, for us, the best road bike in this group test should be an all-rounder: it will be suited to experienced and ambitious riders as much as it is to aficionados, tourers, beginners and adventurers. That means that the best bike makes the most types of riders happy and, hopefully, doesn’t represent a compromise for any of them. Our dream bike offers balanced handling, generates a lot of speed when required and shines with a pleasant level of damping and comfort, resulting in a high degree of trust and security. And it can do all this both on perfect asphalt and poor road surfaces, as well as gravel tracks and hardpack. During the search for the best road bike, our testers gathered their impressions, riding the bikes and discussing them in short succession – it wasn’t uncommon for the debates to be dynamic, heated and animated! Tabulated test result, point scores and percentage results for simulated lab tests? Wrong! This is a test forged by people with dusty faces and veins popping from lactate or coffee. These are our test criteria:

Handling

Handling is by far the most important factor in our decisions. We can’t say it better than ex-pro David Millar who told us in 2019 during our group test at the time in Girona: “A good bike has to be easy to manoeuvre […] In my opinion, it’s the handling that can decide whether you win or lose a race. If a bike handles like shit, it’s a shit bike for me.” We have nothing more to add. In terms of handling, we always look at 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 harmonise well? How quickly does it respond to steering input? All questions that we looked at this year too. 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. That makes them suited to ambitious cyclists as well as those who just want to enjoy themselves.

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 substantial advantage in decisive situations. Nimble bikes benefit from clever weight distribution, 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. So the question is also about how easy the bike is to keep at speed. 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 also makes quick acceleration more difficult. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the rider constitutes around 75% of the overall drag. If the rider can maintain an aerodynamic position on the bike for a long time, the complete system will stay faster for longer. As such, the comfort of the bike has a big impact on its speed. A perfect road bike offers balanced performance across both scenarios.

Control and trust

… are all too often undervalued. A bike can be as light, stiff and aerodynamic as you want – if it isn’t easy to control and you feel unsafe aboard it, then any and all technical brilliance is meaningless. In addition, an unsafe or insecure ride costs a lot of energy and concentration, because as a rider you end up focussed more on compensating for the handling of the bike than moving forwards 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 or on demanding surfaces 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 families and friends after our ride. The best bikes in our test are predictable companions that are easy to control when things get tricky, even without multiple years of training or experience. They are a performance understatement that don’t demand to be ridden hard but offer enough reserves when it does get down to it.

Comfort

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 exhibits a balanced level of system compliance. The overall comfort doesn’t just stem from one source but is the sum of many parts delivering compliance and damping. Both high-frequency vibrations and bigger hits need to be handled. That said, contact points like the bar tape and saddle are subject to personal preference so don’t form part of our considerations.

Riding fun

We’re pretty sure this doesn’t require further explanation. 😉

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 orientation and buying advice for you? Can these questions really be answered with a rigid rating system that assesses individual parameters such as components, weights and individual laboratory measurements to sum up to one defining score?

This question is particularly relevant for road bikes where it’s all about efficiency, speed, aerodynamics and weight – in part at least! We’ve spent many hours thinking about this topic, sought advice from experts and enquired about testing techniques with various laboratories. The sobering realisation: most “easily” measured 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 impressively in a table 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 be used out on the road.

Using just lab measurements is like playing car Top Trumps: you might win based on just the power and top speed of the car, but in the end that doesn’t actually correspond to how it handles on the road. And 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 at the limit and how well it brakes.

Not everything that can be measured is important! And not everything important can be measured.

Lab measurements are also highly dependent on the test protocol used. Is the measurement dynamic or static? What loads are chosen and what do they relate to? In the end, what’s the point of the bottom bracket being super stiff if the parts fitted don’t harmonise with this level of stiffness? That’s why it’s also difficult to look at the fitted components in isolation and score some with more points than others. 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 been harmonised much better with the carbon fork – and this kind of thing (and the other way round) 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 wind tunnel under controlled conditions but the rider-bike unit outside in the real-world. Every factor influences the other!

This is a hand-forged practical test conducted by people with dust on their faces and popping veins fuelled by espresso – you won’t find an excel table with simulated and calculated lab measurements here!

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 where often the only thing that counts is what fits into the defined testing protocol. Yet it’s exactly these unique features that make these bikes so attractive to many riders. So, for us, what’s important is what you notice out in the real world. In the end, the deciding factor is riders, 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 important can be measured. That’s why for all of our tests, we rely on the feedback from our versatile and experienced testers. It’s not really about making absolute verdicts, but about evaluating the area of use and target groups for concepts to be able to determine which bike offers the best performance for which application.

The tops and flops of our group test

Often it’s the details that make the difference. Successful integration, first-class ergonomics and carefully chosen components. Here you can find all the tops and flops of the bikes in our big 2021 road bike group test.

Tops

Completely in its element
The drivetrain mix on this special Cannondale build consisting of ULTEGRA and GRX components proves what it’s capable of in the most demanding testing conditions.
Good to see
The bike has daylight running lights that are unobtrusively integrated and connected directly to the battery, meaning they don’t have to be charged. They add a little extra safety on every ride. For the front, an optional headlight is available to let you find your way home at night too.
Has flair
The drops of the 440 mm wide Deda GRAVEL 100 bars flare out slightly. Typical for gravel bike drop bars, this increases control and stability with the rider’s elbows pushed slightly outwards in the drops. The concept works perfectly on the Resolution!
Quick out, quick in
Thanks to the Mavic Speed Release thru-axle, swapping wheels on the Wilier Filante SLR is very quick. A torque limiter integrated into the axles ensures that the wheels are always tightened the correct amount.
Evening dress and trainers
You’d think the classic and elegant lines of the OPEN and the high-end finish wouldn’t know what to do with dirt. The DT Swiss CRC 1400 cyclocross form the unlikely counterpart to the program. Nonetheless, for the test’s intended application, they’re a sensible choice.
Great feature with rarity value
The top tube bag is a great feature! Strange that the BMC is one of the few bikes in the test that offers the mounts for it.

Flops

Mixed feelings
We’re big fans of the braking performance, the 1-tooth jumps in the “hard” top third of the cassette and the high-end finish and design of the Campagnolo EKAR groupset. However, the limited gear range and vague and clunky shifting performance didn’t impress us.
Integration with an aftertaste The stack height of the Canyon CP07 cockpit can be
adjusted to some degree. However, seamless integration is only possible in the standard position.
Significant limitations The maximum steering angle on the Cannondale is more limited than any other bike in the test. The shifting cables enter the down tube while the brake hoses run through the stem into the bike, leaving lots of cabling visible. Bikes in the test with significantly tidier cockpits manage much greater steering angles.
The big imbalance The combination of hefty stem and aluminium bars makes the cockpit very stiff. That means the bike is significantly less comfortable at the front than the well-damped rear.
Comfort comes at a cost
At the rear, the Trek Domane+ LT 9 incorporates the IsoSpeed system that is featured on its non-motorised siblings. Thanks to the IsoSpeed decoupler, the seat tube can flex independently of the top tube, meaning it can “swing away” vibrations and bumps from the ground. It works! #flyingcarpet. Unfortunately, as a result, the range of adjustment of the seat mast cap is very limited.
A tight fit
The 700 x 28C Continental GP5000 TL tires only measure 27 mm wide on the DT Swiss P1800 SPLINE wheels. That’s the narrowest wheelset-tire system in the whole test field but there’s hardly any more space between the seat stays of the Storck anyway.

The best road bike of 2021: Specialized S-Works Aethos

Boom! With the S-Work Aethos Specialized have developed a bike that may shatter dreams and/or turn them into reality. It’s the first super-light road bike that provides full confidence on the way downhill, imbuing the stability and security of a much heavier and hefty bike. The Aethos might not quite keep up with the most efficient bikes in the test on the flats, but leaves all others behind it when accelerating and carving through corners. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner, road bike veteran, connoisseur or racer: everyone will like this bike, without exception. Even die-hard steel freaks who would never previously have considered a carbon bike should take a close look at the bike with its high level of comfort.

Specialized S-Works Aethos | / Wh | 11–30/172,5 mm (f/r)
6.49 kg in size 56 | € 12,999 | Click for review

Tops

  • balanced and intuitive handling
  • most light-footed and willing acceleration in the test
  • minimal weight without the usual disadvantages
  • high level of comfort

Flops

  • average efficiency on the flats
  • limited mounting point

None of the bikes came out so well in as many diverse scenarios and are as capable of making so many different types of riders happy. That’s why the win is so well deserved: the Specialized S-Works Aethos is the best road bike of 2021!

Click here for the full review of the Specialized S-Works Aethos


Our road bike Best Buy 2021: Mason Resolution Ekar

Is there a 24-hour Strade Bianche? Even if not, it doesn’t matter – this is the perfect bike for it! With its balanced handling, high-level of long-distance comfort and an extra helping of trust and security, the Mason takes away the Best Buy!

Mason Resolution Ekar | 9–36/172,5 mm (f/r)
8.72 kg in size 56 | € 4,300 | Click for review

Tops

  • balanced handling
  • high long-distance comfort
  • great braking performance of Campy stoppers
  • high-level of trust and security on demanding surfaces
  • very good efficiency on the flats

Flops

  • vague and clunky shifting
  • limited sprightliness

As previously mentioned, it’s not just about the lowest possible weight but much more about how it’s distributed. While the Mason might not exhibit above-average spritely acceleration compared to the rest of the test field, it’s decidedly efficient on the flats. No other bike in the test let us venture away from the asphalt as carelessly to explore new things. The Mason delivers immense enjoyment for all abilities and it doesn’t matter whether the ride is 30 minutes or 300 km long. If you can ignore smaller flaws in the finishing and the indirect and notchy shifting of the Campagnolo EKAR groupset, you’ll get a coherent all-rounder with a fitting portion of flair. Steel is real and, in 2021, remains everything but a bad choice!

Click here for the full review of the Mason Resolution Ekar


Further exciting bikes from the test

The biggest strength of the Specialized S-Works Aethos is its enormous versatility but you could also claim that as its greatest weakness. While it doesn’t allow itself any mistakes, in some situations and applications it can feel like it is missing a distinctive character. However, in our group test, there are three further stand-out bikes that deserve to be mentioned. Each of these three road bikes demonstrates how starkly a bike category can be broken up with targeted tuning and how road bike models can be configured “out” of their originally intended application. A race, endurance and gravel bike: they all approach things from different directions and through careful optimisation, turn into models that are significantly more versatile than standard configurations would have you assume.

Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD Disc Ultegra – The all-rounder amongst the pro-peloton bikes

Even before you’ve read out the Cannondale’s model name, you’ll have covered the first 4 km. Its high efficiency and sprinting prowess make it a speedy all-rounder on all surfaces. Despite good off-road compatibility, it maintains its sporty and direct character on asphalt and turns out to be a pro bike that also shines off the race track. If you can get on with the comparatively low level of comfort, the athletic riding position and the sporty and direct handling, you’ll find a guarantee for fun with ambitions to podium.

Click here for the detailled review of the Cannondale SuperSix EVO.


MERIDA SCULTURA ENDURANCE CUSTOM – The adventure road bike

Long tours on bad roads? Family outing cruising on forest paths and grassy tracks? Or a bikepacking experience in Romania? The genes of the MERIDA SCULTURA ENDURANCE might come from the road world but thanks to its enormous tire clearances, numerous mounting points and first-class handling, the versatile frameset blooms into an adventure road bike with the parts it’s been fitted with. If you can live without the ultimate steering precision, sporty sprightliness and athletic efficiency, you’ll get a jack of all trades in this spec. The decidedly well-judged geometry of the frameset results in a very comfortable riding position and is an excellent foundation for exciting and multi-faceted adventures.

Find the full review of the MERIDA SCULTURA ENDURANCE CUSTOM here.


Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap – The gravel bike with two faces

What held back the Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap during our gravel bike group test lets it shine here: its limited off-road performance. We’ve assumed as much for a while and now it’s been confirmed: the combination of the aerodynamic DT Swiss ARC 1400 DICUT wheelset and the Grail CF frameset results in a comfort-oriented bike that lets you cover distances efficiently on the road, yet is also happy to iron out the occasional gravel track. In the frame of this test, the concept works perfectly and demonstrates that with a second set of wheels and mudguards, this bike can be a sensible choice for sporty everyday commuters, gran fondo and audax fans, road bike tours and bikepackers.

Click here for the full review of the Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap.


The unlucky loser in the group test: Storck Fascenario.3 Comp Disc

Storck’s black stealth bomber wasn’t able to convince us in the context of the test’s criteria and comparison to the rest of the test field. A too narrow area of application, almost non-existent level of comfort and a limited level of security on bumpy ground leave the Fascenario.3 Comp as the loser of the test. However, by no means does this mean that the Storck is a bad bike. If you ride exclusively on perfectly asphalted roads, you’ll appreciate the good-natured handling it can offer here. Moreover, the Fascenario.3 is decidedly efficient on the flats and in headwinds. However, for this test, due to its limited tire clearances, the concept offers too little tuning flexibility and is too stiff overall to be versatile.

That’s it then: the last road bike group test you’ll ever need to read. Until next year at least! Have fun with the following 15 bike reviews of the most important and promising models of the year. We’re sure that every one of you will be able to find your match, regardless of what kind of rider you are. So, zip up your jersey or throw a shirt on, and together we’ll ride off into the new horizon!

All bikes in test: BMC Roadmachine 01 ONE | Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD Disc Ultegra (Click for review) | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap (Click for review) | Cervélo Caledonia-5 Dura Ace Di2 Disc (Click for review) | Mason Resolution Ekar (Click for review) | MERIDA REACTO TEAM-E CUSTOM (Click for review) | MERIDA SCULTURA ENDURANCE CUSTOM (Click for review) | OPEN MIN.D. (Click for review) | Orbea Gain M20i (Click for review) | ROSE REVEAL FOUR DISC Ultegra Di2 (Click for review) | SCOTT Addict eRIDE Premium (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Aethos (Click for review) | Storck Fascenario.3 Comp Disc Ultegra (Click for review) | Trek Domane+ LT 9 (Click for review) | Wilier Filante SLR (Click for review)


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Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Valentin Rühl, Philipp Schwab, Tobias Hörsch