Performance bikes are not just defined by their weight, ride-feel or extensive levels of technology and refinement, but the level of prestige they bring.
FACTOR O2 VAM
Chris Froome can say all he wants about the disc brakes on his new bike, but we have to remember, he lives in a pro rider bubble where his tubulars are glued on by someone other than himself, where another person swaps his wheels, and yet another person preps or replaces his brake pads every evening. In the real world, discs are worth every (minor) gripe and then some. Froome has little to complain about the rest of the bike. The niche brand’s composite knowledge is anything but small, with the owner having made frames for the biggest marques in the industry. VAM is a play on the sports science performance term ‘vertical ascent in metres’ (or ‘velocita ascensionale media’, depending on your coach’s preferred vernacular), nodding to the carbon layup’s optimisation and exotic materials for a high weight to stiffness ratio and pitching it as a ‘climbing bike’ — even if it features semi-aero tube shapes and hidden cables. The stealth black look is not for everyone, but, paint is heavy! CeramicSpeed BB bearings are standard, giving us mortals even fewer excuses as to what’s holding us back from Strava glory. | *Attaquer Limited Edition shown.
CANNONDALE SuperSix EVO Disc
Performance and value
In 2019 Cannondale took a bold new direction with their road range. It would’ve been difficult to follow on from the success of their previous Super Six Evo — engineered by Peter Denk, remember him? In terms of styling points, the shapes got boxier, the seatstays dropped and the cables disappeared, to mention just a few (we love the new aversion to overt downtube branding). Weight-wise, the range-topper still dips under the 800g mark, and arguably the most important selling point of all – some neat aero features. There are two layup versions of the same shape – the HiMOD and a standard edition. This version features that latter, and with Shimano Ultegra disc (mechanical shifting) plus some aero carbon hoops, this is the optimal balance of performance and value.
TREK Émonda SL 7
Ultra-light aero climber
Trek’s road range has pioneered some leading edge tech, including the now ubiquitous internal cabling and, unique to Trek, the IsoSpeed decoupling system that insulates the rider from roadbuzz. Pitched as their climber’s bike, the Emonda is lighter on tech, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s more classic, pared-down, simpler, and, well, lighter. But it still features the cutting edge trappings, like Shimano Ultegra electronic shifting, hydraulic braking, carbon-rimmed wheels and at the risk of repetition, all-internal cabling. Everything is well thought through, especially the H1.5 fit, and backed by a lifetime warranty, it’s one of the most compelling options on the market. Forget the tiresome echos of ‘struggling with an identity crisis after the Lance era’ gossip, Trek has long since transcended the hero-worship of the 2000s and now leads the way, in their ideology and technology. It is decidedly a top three brand, and not for nothing.
The champ of Le Tour
When the Pinarello pilots faltered at the 2020 Tour de France, another Italian bike company stepped in to take the place of the winningist bike brand in Tour history — even when it looked likely that yet another was about to take victory, prior that historic final TT. Talking of which, the V3RS is the frame model Tadej Pogačar rode, throughout the Tour switching between rim brake and disc versions, depending on the stage — he rode the rim version in the TT. So yes, it’s fast. Many said this was Colnago’s first Tour victory and technically they’re right, but it bears remembering that Eddy Merckx took yellow on bikes hand-built by Ernesto Colnago himself, with the distinctive ‘fiore’ logo replaced by Merckx’s name. So yes, Colnago has some heritage too. More on Ernesto, because he deserves his legendary status – the Milanese man ushered in the modern bike geometry we know today, was a master craftsman with steel and a pioneer with carbon fibre. Colnago is synonymous with the past and present of cycling, and don’t bet against it being the future.
CANYON Ultimate CF SLX 8 Disc eTap
In the past two decades, Canyon has almost singlehanded shrugged off the budget image of online bikes, thanks to several world championships, Grand Tour victories and monument wins, adding to that spectacularly slick purchasing experience, leaving competitors scrambling for scraps. Sure, people still like hanging out in bike shops, but the argument for buying a bike in one gets thinner by the year looking at the uber rigs coming from the Koblenz stable. The Ultimate is the road race model that’s taken the finest athletes to the top steps of podiums – one of the most balanced and capable bikes in the world right now. SLX denotes their superior carbon frame, DT Swiss wheels are equally lustworthy and the groupset is SRAM’s Force AXS. But the highlight is the addition of a powermeter, integrated into the Force crank. This is the very definition of premium value – Oxford Dictionary take note.
TITAN RACING Vanquish Team Edition
All-new aero bike
Now in its 16th year, Titan Racing can certainly stake a claim as an established marque in the South African market, with an impressively wide range. Aiming at the road pundits, the product team is entering shark-infested waters, but they’ve stayed focused on fulfilling the need for a high-value offering with decent tech and a good-looking design. Speccing and sourcing with a value agenda is art and maths mixed together and they’ve done a great job. The all-new Vanquish aero frame is light and stiff, the SRAM Red AXS groupset offers slick shifting and powerful stopping, and the Reynolds Carbon deep-section wheels are fast. An added bonus when buying a Titan Racing bike is the 5-year multi-user warranty, reassuring on quality and going some way into preserving resale value. The Vanquish stacks up credibly against the world players, and as a notion kicks off a highly relevant debate in today’s times, ‘how much more do we really need?’
GIANT TCR Advanced SL 0
Highly refined race platform
Giant’s TCR model is a highly evolved and refined platform. It may be a case of evolution over revolution, but there’s little reason to reinvent the wheel. Giant have already done that – they were among the very first to produce carbon frames on a large scale, and before that, aluminium bikes. It’s well-known that along with housing the Giant brand, the company also owns key manufacturing facilities – an advantage over third-party sourcing, with proprietary tech and production priority. The reassurance of buying from a highly mature company is echoed in the quality finish of the TCR and in the reliability of the engineering on the full carbon frame. Spec highlights include SRAM’s Red AXS group and Giant’s in-house carbon wheels Cadex — the name will be familiar to those who remember their early carbon frames. One particular feature lets the TCR stand out from the crowd – the Variant integrated Seatpost, contributing to the exceptional ride quality. It’s certainly a race bike — as evidenced by its UCI World Tour wins, — but it’s one you can ride all day.
SPECIALIZED Aethos Pro – Ultegra Di2
Even if the name Peter Denk doesn’t mean anything to you, the names Muddy Fox, Alpine Stars, GT, Scott and Cannondale might. Highlights of his long engineering career include the Scott Strike – the first full-suspension bike with a frame & shock weight of under 2kg, 20 years ago. It was inevitable that Denk would get a call-up from Specialized, in this case to lead the Aethos project. As soon as he did he decreed to the team that light frames are less about expensive and rare materials and more about the shapes. In a market of boxy silhouettes and profiled Kamm-tails the Aethos stands out with its rounded tubes giving it a more traditional and well, relatively boring look. That’s until you see the scale, and till you ride it – by all accounts its responsiveness and balance are its most remarkable traits, which is saying a lot considering that the frame weighs under 600g. It doesn’t have the now-mandatory all-internal cabling nor is it UCI-legal — falling below the 6.8kg limit — and it won’t be raced by the teams. But it is something highly unique. The model to get is clearly the Pro version – it includes all the carbon tech, minus the cost of a small used hatchback.
SWIFT CARBON Racevox Ultegra Di2
Best enjoyed with high ascents & fast corners
Founded by a South African, acquired by a Brazilian group, headquartered in Portugal, R&Ded in the UK, the brand still has roots in the Mother City, with the company’s design and engineering offices situated in Cape Town and testing conducted on its superb surrounding trails and roads. This was where the Racevox was born. The brand announced its latest road bike at Eurobike in 2018 as their ‘all-rounder’ – a road race machine with aero features (hidden cables, profiled tubeshapes and a rececced front bottle cage) and compliance know-how borrowed from their endurance bike, all without compromising the balanced handling and ride quality that the bikes have become well-known for (language that’s become almost universal since). The Ultegra Di2 version is the one to opt for and then spend to spend the extra cash on a bike holiday that includes roads with lots of sharp ascents and high speed corners – the best way to enjoy the Racevox.
SCOTT Addict RC Ultimate
Scott is Swiss. That should go 83.6% of the way to convince you that under the decal lies some of the most advanced composite technology and engineering in the industry. The other 12.1% can be assigned to victories in Grand Tours, monuments and ITU triathlons. Science, and the proof thereof. Oh and the last 4.3% is the cool Bike Exchange team videos. The Addict is their all-purpose race bike, and a look at the scales tells us it can be classed with the lightest climbing bikes. The RC part refers to its purpose – pure racing. The Ultimate moniker explains itself – this is the range topper, and a look at the spec list leads that narrative. SRAM Red AXS, Zipp 303 Firecrest and particular to Scott, their top-tiered HMX carbon — the highest grades of material and optimised layups. Features wise, all the boxes are ticked — yes – hidden cables — and then some. Most of us will never drive an F1 car, so this is the closest we can get to the experience. Putting it like that, the price actually seems pretty reasonable.
Our Road Bike ‘Top 10’ is what we feel are the 10 hottest options you should check out before buying your new bike. Happy shopping.