We’ve been testing 22 women’s road bikes across various price points, on which we’ve racked up hundreds of miles – and we’ve come to some decisions. If you’re in the market for a mid-range women’s-specific road bike then check out these five, which for our money represent the best performance and value available between £1,000 and £1,500. In this category, Canyon’s Endurace CF 8.0 WMN ended up top of the heap.
Looking for our most up-to-date and recent bike tests? Check out our best women’s road bikes of 2018 guide.
The BikeRadar Women’s Road Bike of the Year Awards set out to find the best bikes in the different price categories, and the best overall bike. Each bike was put through its paces by BikeRadar‘s test team, and also by a panel of our readers.
- Presenting the BikeRadar Women’s Road Bike of the Year Awards
- Do I need a women’s bike?
- A buyer’s guide to women’s road bikes
Between £1000 to £1500, you’re looking at carbon frames and forks, with most bikes featuring quality Shimano 105 gearing. You’re also beginning to see more frame design features and technologies appearing to make bikes more comfortable for distances or aerodynamic for speed.
Our overall winner, the Canyon Endurace CF 8.0 WMN, gave the best overall blend of performance and value for money, but the competition was very close in this category.
Looking for something a little cheaper? Have a look at our ‘Best bikes under £1,000‘ test results.
All of the bikes in this shortlist feature women’s-specific design. While individual companies will have slightly different approaches to developing bike geometry to suit female riders, overall this means that the bikes tend to be slightly shorter and with a more upright position than unisex alternatives. In practice, our testers appreciated the women’s specific geometry, and in particular shallower drop handlebars and a shorter reach to the brakes came up several times. However, we want to emphasise that some women will find unisex bikes fit them better, and it’s always a good idea to get a bike fit to ensure your bike is set up perfectly. Elements like brake reach can be adjusted on unisex bikes, and other parts can be swapped out to ensure the best fit possible.
If you’re interested in any of the bikes on this shortlist, it’s worth shopping around as a number of them are, at time of publishing, on sale, We’ve used list prices in the article, but you may well find yourself a bargain.
It’s also worth noting that none of these bikes features lugs for attaching pannier racks or full mudguards (fenders), if you’re looking for a bike that can take panniers. However, there are alternative products on the market that get around this issue.
Top 5 women’s road bikes under £1,500
Winner: Canyon Endurace CF 8.0 WMN
Verdict: Fantastic value for money, lightweight, and fun to ride
- Price: £1,299 / AU$2,449 for the CF 7.0 / Not available for the USA
- Weight: 7.83kg (size small)
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon
- Gearing: Full Shimano 105
- Brakes: Shimano 105
It’s one of the cheapest bikes in this category, and it’s also our category winner. While value for money has played a part in this decision, it’s certainly not the only reason the Canyon Endurace CF 8.0 WMN has won.
The Endurace is a blend of quality parts and a lightweight frame that performs consistently well. In action, it managed to combine a nimble liveliness with a smooth feel, with the vibration-damping qualities of the carbon frame and fork reducing road buzz. The unusual S14 VCLS 2.0 CF seatpost, consisting of a split design developed in-house at Canyon, looks strange but did the job, further damping road vibrations and making for a comfortable ride. The bike accelerates quickly, and climbs brilliantly partly due to its low weight and quality Shimano 105 gearing, with the 11-32t cassette providing ample range for long or steep ascents.
Descending, it feels stable even at speed and while cornering, and we appreciated the confidence-inspiring, effective stopping power the Shimano 105 brakes provided – not least because the way this bike feels makes you want to let loose. Grip and traction in the corners was also aided by the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II tyres, on some good DT Swiss R 24 Spline wheels.
One thing to be aware of if you aren’t already is the fact that Canyon is a direct-sell brand. Order your bike online, and it’ll be delivered to your door boxed and mostly built; you’ll need to pop on the wheels and handlebars yourself, and the company provide the tools you’ll need for that in the box with the bike. There are pros and cons to this approach. One very big pro is the cost; this business model is one of the reasons Canyon can produce such highly specced bikes for the prices it charges. On the downside, while Canyon does have an online sizing guide that will help you determine what size to go for, you don’t get that personal service you find in your local bike shop.
Also worth noting was the Selle Italia Lady Flow saddle, which is a good mid-range saddle in its own right. While it looked a little chunky, it was a popular perch, though saddles are a personal choice and just because we got on with this one is, I’m afraid, no guarantee everyone will. However, it’s a good place to start and as saddles are one of the key contact points and critical to comfort, it’s good to see Canyon haven’t skimped in this department.
While some riders found the aesthetics of the bike a little nondescript, others appreciated the simple, clean blue-on-blue paint work, as it made a nice change from the fussy graphics you can get on some women’s bikes. This is again a question of personal taste, and the bike is also available in silk/pearl; shades of grey and white.
Because Canyon is direct-sell, you can check stock levels online, which will give you an indication of how quickly you can get your mitts on the bike. At the time of publishing, the version we tested had good availability in all sizes, though if you prefer the other paint job, you’re looking at a wait of a few months for the XS, S and M frames.
This model isn’t available in Australia; if you fancy this bike in the Southern hemisphere, you’ll either need to opt for the pricier 9.0 WMN model at AU$3,199 with Shimano Ultegra and DT Swiss wheels, or the 8.0 WMN model, which has similar parts and spec but has Mavic Aksium wheels and a more traditional carbon seatpost. The 7.0 WMN is also available in the UK for £1,199.
As a complete bike, the Endurace CF 8.0 WMN is spot on. In terms of spec, there isn’t anything lacking, and nothing we’d want to upgrade or change at this price. It’s a confidence inspiring ride, stable on the descents, climbs excellently and accelerates quickly.
Runner up: Liv Envie Advanced 2
Verdict: An aerodynamic speed machine that’s surprisingly comfortable – great for racing, but a few practical niggles
- Price: £1,299 / $2,100 / AU$2,599
- Weight: 8.05kg (Medium)
- Frame: Carbon composite
- Fork: Carbon composite
- Gearing: Shimano 105 with Shimano RS500 crankset
- Brakes: Giant SpeedControl
An aero bike in the runner up position? Yes, because the Liv Envie Advanced 2 makes high-end aerodynamic engineering available to women with a lower spending budget, and is still a very comfortable ride to boot.
While not quite made with the same materials, spec or finishing kit as the version used by multiple world champion Marianne Vos – which to be fair isn’t surprising as this price – the frame geometry and design is similar. Aerodynamic forks, tubing and seat post reduce drag, and the geometry of the bike places the rider in an aggressive aerodynamic position with high saddle and low bars, which was, nonetheless, comfortable and facilitated a powerful pedal stroke for rapid acceleration.
Other aerodynamic features include the shaped seat tube, which has a notched section which allows the rear wheel to tuck in close underneath, and the Giant SpeedControl brakes are fitted behind the fork and close to the seatstays. In action, our riders found these worked perfectly well but perhaps not quite up to the standard of the Shimano 105 brakes used on the other bikes.
The Envie is fitted with Shimano 105 gearing with a cheaper Shimano RS500 crankset to save money. The 11-28t cassette, while not providing the range of gears on some of the other bikes, was still plenty enough to make climbing easy due in part to the Envie’s extremely light overall weight.
There were a few niggles, some more important that others. On the practical side of things, the aerodynamic shape of the seatpost makes it very difficult to attach lights to, something to consider if you’re planning on riding after dark.
More importantly, while you’d expect a long seatpost for a bike focused on racing, it was actually too high for a number of the testers, who were all of a similar height. The length made it hard for several testers to reach the pedals, despite being within the recommend height range for the size medium bike we were testing. It may be that they would have been suited to a smaller frame, and a bike shop will help you work out sizing should you be interested in purchasing this bike.
Getting the fit was further complicated by the beautiful aero seat tube, which features a cut-out section that allows the rear wheel to tuck right into the frame. While great for aerodynamics, this also means that the seat post can only be dropped a certain distance, so to get the right fit on this bike we would have had to cut down the seat post. While not a big issue, you’d ideally want the help of a bike shop to firstly ensure you have the right fit, then to cut the seat post precisely.
Gripes aside, so good was the responsive, stable handling that one reviewer commented that the bike felt like an extension of her body. Praise indeed!
Overall, we weren’t expecting to see a beautifully engineered aero frame at this price, and were also surprised at just how comfortable it was to ride. We’d happily put in numerous hours in the Envie’s saddle, so it’s not just for short, sharp efforts – though it is of course ideal for road racing and time trialling. It gets a thumbs up from our testers.
Cannondale Synapse Carbon Tiagra 6
Verdict: Supremely comfortable and confidence inspiring, but can feel a little slow to get up to speed
- Price: £1,349.99 / $1,840 / Australian pricing TBC
- Weight: 8.97kg (54cm)
- Frame: BallisTec Carbon
- Fork: Carbon/alloy
- Gearing: Shimano Tiagra with FSA Omega crankset
- Brakes: Tektro R741 dual pivot
If comfort is key for you, then it’s seriously worth considering the Cannondale Synapse Carbon Tiagra 6. Built for endurance, the combination of carbon frame and fork and various frame technology features provide a soft, cushioned ride, to the extent that it feels like you’re floating over the road surface. The base of the seat tube is forked where it meets the bottom bracket area and the chain- and seatstays are both curved to produce, as Cannondale calls it, a ‘micro suspension zone’. Both of these features increase the compliance of the frame, allowing it to absorb the lumps and bumps in the road without translating them to the rider.
We did feel this smooth ride came at a price, as the Synapse seemed sluggish on the accelerations. This is partly a question of perception – pitted against other riders, acceleration isn’t as slow as it seems, and this sensation is probably due to the silky ride masking the speed increases. However, it still had a less urgent, responsive, lively feel than the Canyon, so if you do like a super snappy bike that gives more feedback from the road, you may want to look elsewhere.
Part of the sluggishness may also be due to the heavier wheelset, which combines Maddux RD 2.0 rims with Formula hubs. We swapped over to a lighter set as an experiment, which did improve things, so if you are considering this bike and would like more responsive handling, a wheel upgrade should be high on your post-purchase shopping list. Once up to speed, the Synapse holds momentum well though and was never far from the front when testers were putting the power down.
We scored the Ultegra Di2 model of this bike very highly in 2015 for comfort and performance, with reviewer and keen racer Kristen Legan commenting that it felt racy enough to tackle the Rouge Roubaix 100 mile race in Louisiana, and that she felt it offered excellent all-round performance. While we agree that this entry-level model is supremely comfortable and a good all-rounder, it’s pipped to the post by the value offered by the Canyon.
One area where money has been saved on this bike is the groupset, which is the lower Shimano Tiagra system, with Tektro dual pivot brakes. While performing adequately, it didn’t give quite the smooth shifting or braking power that the full Shimano 105 groupsets. As one of the cheaper bikes in this category you’d expect there to be some compromise, but if you want to up the performance of this bike, add an upgraded groupset to your shopping list.
The Cannondale Synapse Carbon Tiagra was by far the most comfortable bike in this category. It was a little like riding a comfy armchair up the road, and if comfort is your top priority, you’d be hard pressed to find a bike that’s more compliant than the Synapse. However, if you like a little more feedback from the road surface, or like your bike to feel urgent and speedy, you’ll have to look to the Liv or the Canyon Endurace.
Specialized Amira SL4 Sport
Verdict: Smooth, snappy, all-round performance with side order of comfort
- Price: £1,500
- Weight: 8.35kg
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon
- Gearing: Shimano 105 withFSA Gossamer Pro crankset
- Brakes: Axis 2 dual-pivot
The Amira SL4 Sport is a bike designed for racing, and features a racy geometry that puts you in an an aggressive position.
As you’d expect from a bike at the top of our price range, it features Shimano 105 with a good FSA Gossamer Pro crankset with an 11-28t cassette, with Axis 2 dual-pivot brakes, which felt similarly controlled to the Shimano 105 brakes found on other bikes at this price point. The Amira climbed well, aided by the lightness of the frame, but it liked powering along the flat best of all.
The key words here are smooth and controlled. Acceleration is smooth and quick, comparable to the Liv Envie but with a slightly less urgent feel, due to a frame design that emphasises stiffness and power transfer. Handling is controlled and precise, stable in corners, and steady on descents. Once you’ve put the power in, it maintains speed efficiently, and feels as stable standing up hammering it as it does sitting and spinning – it’s a beautifully balanced bike.
With some race-focused bikes, stiffness and acceleration comes at a compromise to comfort. While we wouldn’t necessarily want to ride for days and days on the Amira, it’s actually plenty comfortable.
As with other Specialized bikes we’ve tested over the course of the BikeRadar Women’s Road Bike of the Year Awards, the testers raved about the saddle – the Specialized BG Oura Comp. Saddles are, as we’ve stated many times, a highly subjective component but Specialized seems to be delivering the goods in this department.
Quality Specialized S-Works Turbo tyres and Axis 2.0 wheels make up the wheelset. The tyres have what Specialized term ‘black belt protection’, additional puncture resistance for greater peace of mind.
Our testers felt that the fit was comfortable, commenting on the reach and the compact handlebars as plus points, but did feel that positioning felt marginally less racy than the Envie (though of course this can be tweaked to some extent).
Overall, while this is another excellent bike, it’s pipped to the post in terms of racing by the Liv Envie, the Cannondale Synapse trumps it on comfort, and the Canyon Endurace takes the win due to the combination of comfort, handling and value for money. However, we’d certainly not be disappointed to own one, and enjoyed riding it greatly.
Merida Scultura 4000 Juliet
Verdict: An efficient road machine with good performance for the price, let down by low quality brakes
- Price: £1,350 / Not available in the US or Australia
- Weight: 8.46kg (52cm)
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon
- Gearing: Shimano 105 with Shimano RS500 crankset
- Brakes: Merida Road Pro
Last on our shortlist is the Scultura 4000 Juliet, by Taiwanese brand Merida. The women’s-specific version of the Scultura 4000, this has the same reach and standover as the unisex version, but with female-friendly finishing kit and a different paint job.
The Merida Scultura Juliet only goes up to a size 52cm, which made it short for the majority of our test riders who would normally ride a 53cm to 54cm frame. As you’d expect, they felt the reach was too short. However, on the plus side this bike does go down to 44cm so may be better suited to shorter riders, and if you are keen on this bike the unisex version goes up to 59cm.
Over rough terrain, the Scultura Juliet felt smooth and comfortable, almost springy. The Shimano 105 gearing with Shimano RS500 crankset is a quality, value-for-money choice and what you’d expect to see at this price point. (The Merida is also compatible with Shimano’s electronic Di2 systems should you wish to upgrade in the future.) The 11-28t cassette provided a good range of gearing, and while not excelling in the climbing department, we had no real complaints either.
One noticeable deficit in the performance of this bike are the brakes. The Scultura 4000 Juliet has Merida’s own brakes, rather than completing the Shimano 105 groupset and, unfortunately, it was noticeable. Our testers commented on the fact that braking power wasn’t what they hoped for, with a twitchy feeling leaving them feeling nervy on long descents.
On the plus side, our testers found the bike felt very planted and secure in corners, and the stiffness of the frame resulted in excellent power transfer when putting some muscle in, giving it good acceleration, but not quite as rapid as the Liv Envie.
And while it’s not about the colour, the purple and blue sparkly paint job certainly did draw a few comments.
Overall, there are some great plus points to this bike, such as the power transfer and handling, but it is let down by the brakes.