The best endurance road bikes will help you cover long distances and ride in comfort across a variety of terrain.
As a result, an endurance road bike is a great choice for riders who prefer a slightly more relaxed riding position than an out-and-out race bike.
Choosing the best road bike for your needs needn’t be a compromise, however, and the latest endurance bikes are faster and more versatile than ever.
Many of the newest models feature aerodynamic frame details, clearance for wide tyres (often up to 35mm), road disc brakes and generous gearing for climbing, making endurance road bikes suitable for a wide range of riding.
Thanks to their focus on comfort and ability to cover great distances with relative ease, endurance road bikes are also referred to as sportive bikes.
If you’re new to cycling, a sportive is an ideal way to challenge yourself, ride new terrain and meet other riders. In exchange for your entry fee, you’ll get signposted routes, feed stations and facilities at the start and end of the ride.
These are the best endurance road bikes reviewed by BikeRadar. Keep reading until the end for our full buyer’s guide and tips on what to look out for in an endurance bike.
Best endurance road bikes, as rated by our expert testers
Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2
- £3,499 / $3,900 / €3,499 as tested
- Bags of comfort from D-Fuse seatpost and bars
- Plenty of low-gear range, down to 1:1
- Quality spec with Shimano Ultegra and hydraulic disc brakes
- Carbon wheels and 32mm tubeless tyres
The winner of the endurance road bike category in Bike of the Year 2020, the Defy Advanced Pro 2 offers a great ride, handling and comfort, with the latest model including vibration-damping D-Fuse D-shaped bars and seatpost, along with carbon wheels and 32mm tubeless tyres.
The Defy’s ride position is on the sporty side and there’s the resilience to take on gravel roads. Gearing gives you ratios down to 1:1 to tackle the steepest gradients and the Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors up the stopping power.
You even get the option to fit mudguards, with hidden mounts that don’t spoil the bike’s aesthetics.
Simplon Kiaro Disc
- £4,406 / €4,529 as tested
- Neat cable integration
- Aero features
- Quality wheels and tyres
- Limited UK dealer network
The Kiaro Disc from Austrian brand Simplon has a frame designed to absorb bumpy surfaces and aero features such as full internal cable routing through the one-piece bar and stem.
The spec includes a mechanical Ultegra groupset and quality alloy DT Swiss ER1400 wheels.They’re tubeless-ready, as are the Schwalbe Pro One 28mm tyres.
The Kiaro Disc is light at 8kg for a size large, although a bit difficult to find in the UK, with a limited dealer network.
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 RL
- £4,000 / €4,499 as tested
- Supple smoothness and exciting handling
- 35mm tyre clearance
- Integrated lights
The new Cannondale Synapse has undergone a number of changes that retain the bike’s characteristic smoothness and exciting handling but place an increased focus on road safety.
Cannondale has upped tyre clearance from 30mm to 35mm on the bike and switched out the press-fit BB30 bottom bracket for a threaded bottom bracket, which many people prefer.
One notable addition to the new Synapse is integrated bike lights. We found the lights to be excellent in testing, but the output is limited to 350 lumens, which might not be suitable for riding in full darkness on unlit roads.
With a Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical groupset and alloy wheels, it might not be the most competitively priced bike, but it’s highly practical and easy to live with.
Cervélo Caledonia 5 Ultegra Di2
- £5,799 as tested
- Cervélo’s aero heritage coupled with endurance comfort
- 30mm tyres smooth the road
- Mounts for mudguards and a rear light
The Caledonia 5 is Cervélo’s take on the endurance road bike: a machine that combines the brand’s performance focus with the versatility we’ve come to expect from this category.
That means you get a frame with aero features and a cable-free cockpit, alongside clearance for 35mm tyres (30mm specced as standard) and stealthy mudguard mounts.
As for the geometry, the Caledonia 5’s angles are more relaxed than the company’s R-series bikes, but still on the racy side for an endurance bike.
We tested this model when the Caledonia 5 was launched in July 2021 but, while the frame remains unchanged, the latest bike with have the new, 12-speed Ultegra Di2 groupset.
Felt VR Advanced Ultegra Di2
- £4,819 / $6,499 / €5,599 as tested
- Smooth ride and comfortable position
- Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8000
- Carbon fibre wheels
The Felt VR range is designed around comfort and distance, with the VR (Variable Road) acronym denoting an ability to go up and down, and conquer bad road surfaces.
It’s clear this bike is geared towards comfort from its silhouette alone, with a long stack and short reach. What you can’t see is that frame is also geared towards a smooth ride. Different carbon fibres ensure the frame is compliant in the seatstays to absorb road buzz, and stiff in the bottom bracket to aid power transfer.
Pair this frame with the Ultegra Di2 groupset and carbon wheels, and you’ve got a bike that will float over the road and has been specced wisely.
The only niggle we had is the internal cabling isn’t quite as optimised as we’d like. But this isn’t detrimental to the ride.
Ribble Endurance SL
- £2,419 as tested
- Aero tube profiles and cockpit option
- Rim brake Ultegra groupset
- Bike builder lets you choose your preferred upgrades
Ribble says it has decreased drag by 28 per cent from the previous version of the Endurance SL, with truncated aerofoil profiles, while the optional one-piece carbon aero cockpit routes the cables internally for extra slipperiness.
Our up-spec added £420 to the Ribble’s £2,000 price tag. But even without, it’s an impressive package. You get an Ultegra groupset, although it’s rim brake rather than using discs, and the 11-28 cassette we chose reduced low-end options over a wider-range cassette.
Trek Domane SL6
- £3,200 / $3,800 / AU$5,000 / €3,599 as tested
- Front and rear IsoSpeed decouplers to improve comfort
- Super-wide clearance for 38mm tyres
- Tool compartment in the down tube
The 2020 version of the Trek Domane endurance bike adds aero features and massive tyre clearance: you can fit 38mm rubber in the disc brake-only frame. It’s a bit lighter than its predecessor too.
You still get Trek’s front and rear IsoSpeed decouplers in the frame, for increased ride compliance on bumpy surfaces, while Trek has hidden the cables away neatly, entering the frame behind the steerer tube.
The Ultegra hydraulic groupset goes down to 1:1 and there’s even a compartment in the down tube with a tool wrap to store your tools and a tube. We reckon it’s a great bike for longer rides on less-than-perfect roads.
We’ve also reviewed the next-spec-up Domane SL7, which comes with Ultegra Di2 and Aeolus Pro aero carbon wheels for £4,900 (as tested) and the next down £2,450 (as tested), 105-equipped Domane SL5, for a comprehensive spread of Domane specs.
Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2
- £3,499 / $3,900 as tested
- Fast feel
- Sizing suits smaller riders
- Unsettled on rough surfaces
The Liv Avail is designed to be fast and comfortable, and it had a major upgrade in 2020. The frame’s steeply sloping top tube makes for a low standover, suiting shorter riders, and the bike responds quickly with precise handling and a race-focused feel.
Although the frame design does make for a less compliant ride than some other endurance machines, that’s alleviated somewhat by the dropped seatstays and carbon seatpost, isolating the saddle. There’s just enough clearance for the 32mm tyres, which also help.
These bikes scored fewer than four out of five stars in testing, so we haven’t included them in our main list, but they are still worth considering and might tick the right boxes for you.
Vitus Zenium CRS Ultegra Di2
- £3,000 / $3,700 / AU$4,680 / €4,200 as tested
- Huge value
- Impressive ride quality
- Shimano Ultegra Di2
The Vitus Zenium is aimed at sportive and endurance riders, but is on the sportier side of things with a low stack height and long reach.
The bike is very well balanced, with a compliant frame and ride position that builds on its smooth feel. It’s fast on flat, smooth roads and its low weight makes it a great climbing companion.
It also has a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, which is impressive value considering the £3,000 price tag.
This bike is held back by the fact we experienced problems with the bottom bracket creaking in testing – although we haven’t heard anyone reporting similar issues.
Wilier Triestina Garda Rival AXS
- £4,680 / €4,500 as tested
- Composed ride
- Pricey for the spec
The Wilier Triestina Garda is a superbike-inspired endurance road bike.
The geometry is pretty aggressive for this category, with a steep seat tube angle and racy head tube angle.
This might not be appealing for some riders, but if you want a rapid Wilier with greater tyre clearance than the brand’s dedicated race bikes, it might just work for you.
Wilier has specced the bike with SRAM’s third-tier Rival eTap AXs groupset and an alloy seatpost. This means it does struggle against the competition when it comes to value.
Buyer’s guide to endurance road bikes: what to look for
What is the difference between an endurance road bike and a race bike?
An endurance road bike will be designed to enable you to cover the distance in comfort.
That means the ride position will be a bit more upright than a typical race bike, favouring ride comfort over ultimate aerodynamics.
The frame may also be designed with additional focus on compliance – or even micro-suspension. They’re designed to take away some of the fatigue induced by road imperfections on an all-day ride.
Endurance road bikes tend to have wider tyres than race bikes, to aid comfort and help create a smoother ride.
While the latest race bikes are generally limited to a maximum tyre size of 28-32mm (though this is much wider than just a few years ago, thanks to the ride of disc brakes), some of the latest endurance road bikes have room for 35mm tyres – which is wider than the tyres on cyclocross bikes and not far off some of the best gravel bikes.
Endurance road bikes also tend to have a lower gear range than race bikes. Compact 50/34t chainsets and cassettes with 32-teeth sprockets are not uncommon, and these will help you crest steep ascents at the end of a long day.
Greater versatility is built into endurance road bikes, too. Race bikes might forgo features such as mudguard mounts, but endurance road bikes tend to have these and are consequently better for riding all-year-round.
Endurance road bikes are made with a range of different frame materials. Most of the bikes in this list have an all-carbon frame, which helps create a lightweight and compliant ride. Having said this, alloy frames can be designed to be very compliant and tend to offer a price saving.
Many of the best steel road bikes and best titanium road bikes fall into the endurance road bike category, too. These materials tend to be favoured for comfort-orientated, long-distance bikes because they both do a great job of absorbing any road buzz.
You might want to look for an endurance road bike with mudguard mounts. They used to be a rarity, but you’ll increasingly find them even on top-end endurance machines and they’re often hidden so they don’t spoil the bike’s aesthetics if you decide not to fit guards.
If you’re lucky to go out on dry roads, you may not need them. But if the heavens open on the day of your ride, you’ll enjoy it much more if your bike is fitted with mudguards and protected from wheel spray. And if you’re riding in a group, those following you will definitely thank you.
Mudguards are also a good bet through winter if you live somewhere with a wet climate, making an endurance road bike a good bet as a four-seasons machine.
The best mudguards normally require mounts on the frame to provide full coverage, so look out for a frame with the appropriate mounting points if that’s important to you.
What is endurance road bike geometry?
Many bike brands will label their bikes as having either racing or endurance geometry.
Racing geometry will typically give you faster handling, a lower position and the ride may be firmer, whereas endurance geometry gives a more upright riding position and more stable handling.
All our picks above are from the brands’ endurance road bike ranges. You can also read our explainer on road bike geometry to better understand the angles and measurements involved.
Are endurance road bikes slow?
Firstly, this is because the more upright position of endurance road bikes means you are less aerodynamic than on more aggressive road bikes, and consequently it takes more effort to travel at the same speeds.
And while wider tyres can often be faster than old-school narrow tyres, there may be an aero, rolling resistance or weight penalty here, too, if your endurance road bike is using all of its generous frame clearance.
Having said this, endurance road bikes, like all bikes, exist on a spectrum and there are some that have racier geometries than others. On top of that, the latest endurance road bikes occupy a finely-balanced sweetspot between speed and comfort.
And remember, endurance bikes place a greater focus on comfort. So whether that allows you to ride further, or gives you the option for light off-road detours, you’ll ultimately end up at your destination quicker than a race bike with an uncomfortable position and limited versatility.
Endurance road bike gearing
Sportives are designed to give you a bit of a challenge and much of the ride is often on rolling terrain. Most will throw in a few steeper hills, while some routes take you up and down as much elevation as possible. That means having a good gear range is paramount.
The same applies for endurance bikes, which are designed to meet that challenge and allow riders to tackle a wide variety of terrain in relative comfort, rather than being forced to turn a massive gear.
A compact chainset with 50- and 34-tooth chainrings is a good starting point for any endurance bike.
At the back, you’ll normally get a cassette that goes from 11 teeth for its smallest sprocket (or 10 teeth for SRAM’s latest eTap AXS 12-speed groupsets) up to 30, 32 or 34 teeth in its largest.
That should give you plenty of low range to tackle steeper uphills, with lowest ratios at or close to 1:1. You’ll also have enough top-end gears to ride comfortably on faster, flatter sections of the course.
Some brands may spec a semi-compact 52/36t chainset on their endurance bikes. These give you a bit more top-end gearing, but paired with a wide-range cassette you still have the lower gears for easier climbing.
However, if you’re relatively new to cycling, live in a hilly area or are planning on taking your bike to the mountains, a compact will give you more gearing options for climbing.
A quality road bike groupset will give you light, precise shifting, with a broad range of gears for a wide variety of terrain.
Most endurance bikes come with 11-speed or 12-speed groupsets. Shimano groupsets are most common, with Ultegra or 105 seen on mid-range bikes, though don’t discount Shimano Tiagra on bikes around £1,000 – the 10-speed groupset still provides excellent shifting and braking.
Higher-end machines are increasingly coming with electronic shifting: Ultegra Di2 is the starting point for Shimano, but on a top-end machine look for Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.
Campagnolo and SRAM also have 12-speed electronic options, with SRAM Red eTap AXS, SRAM Force eTap AXS and SRAM Rival eTap AXS offering wireless shifting, alongside more affordable mechanical groupsets from both brands.
Modern bikes are almost entirely equipped with disc brakes.
Disc brakes will give you more consistent braking performance, in the wet or dry, than rim brakes and usually more outright stopping power or modulation.
They’re a pricier option than the traditional rim brakes, although you can now find discs even on entry-level road bikes.
Disc brakes can be either hydraulic or mechanical. Hydraulic disc brakes are more effective, but they’re also pricier, so you’ll find them on higher-spec machines.
Rim brakes are fine in drier weather, but you need to be more careful how you ride if it’s wet (and especially if your bike has carbon rims), allowing for more stopping distance.
You’ll want to be comfortable as you ride and a good-quality saddle that suits your anatomy is important. There’s a huge range of options. Many sportive-oriented bikes will come fitted with a quality saddle, which you might find perfectly serviceable.
But if you find that you don’t get on with your saddle, it’s worth swapping out for another model. Aftermarket saddles come at a range of price points and most saddle ranges will have a budget option. It will be heavier than a pricier saddle further up the range, but should have similar ride characteristics. More expensive saddles typically come with carbon rails to drop the weight.
Saddle brands usually have a fitting system to narrow down your choice, so it’s worth trying these. For some, you’ll need to find a dealer, while for others you can input your details online and get a selection of models to choose from.
And some brands will offer the option to try before you buy or return a saddle after you’ve used it a little, if you don’t get on with it. It’s worth trying some options rather than suffering in silence.
It used to be that most bikes came with 23mm-wide tyres, but most newer road bikes will come with at least 25mm – and even this is now considered narrow by today’s standards.
The trend now is for even wider tyres of 28mm or more, and our endurance road bike picks come with rubber up to 32mm wide, and even wider in some cases.
The extra width means that you can drop the tyre pressure on your road bike without sacrificing speed and add a lot more comfort to your ride. Many of the best road wheelsets also offer the option to run tubeless tyres.