Looking for a quality women’s-specific road bike? We’ve thoroughly tested 22 bikes across various price points – and for our final roundup we’re looking at those representing the best performance and value for money between £1,500 and £2,000. At this level, we found that the Specialized Ruby Comp came out on top.
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.
Looking for the most recent Bike of the Year results? Check out our Best women’s road bikes of 2018.
At this price point you’ll be looking at Shimano 105 gearing for the most part, with a few exceptions higher up the bracket. Expect quality carbon frames and forks, additional features to help improve stiffness or comfort, and exceptional performance. While our testers were impressed with the performance of the sub-£1000 bikes we tested, all agreed that you really can feel the benefit of the spec, geometry and materials used in these higher-end bikes, if you have the money to spend.
Our category winner, the Specialized Ruby Comp, excels in the comfort and performance stakes, and has a few additional surprises in the spec that elevate it above the others. That said, the battle was closely fought and we’d be happy to ride any of the bikes in this category, with Fuji Supreme 2.3 in particular running the Ruby very close before finishing second.
Most 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.
Top 5 women’s road bikes under £2,000
Winner: Specialized Ruby Comp
Verdict: Exceptional performance, supreme comfort – a fast, responsive and encouraging ride
- Price: £1,800 / $2,500 / AU$ pending
- Weight: 8.23kg
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: FACT Carbon
- Gearing: Shimano Ultegra with TURN Zayante by Praxis Works crankset
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
Our testers described this bike as begging to go faster. It gave a responsive ride that was stable at speed and on the descents, agile in the corners, wonderfully comfortable and encouraging.
Because of that exceptional performance, supreme comfort and pretty much bulletproof spec, we’ve also awarded the Specialized Ruby Comp the overall BikeRadar Women’s Bike of the Year title.
- Review: Specialized Ruby Comp – coming soon!
Runner up: Fuji Supreme 2.3
Verdict: Striking looks matched by striking performance
- Price: £1,549 / $1,900 / AU$3,199
- Weight: 8.36kg (size S/M)
- Frame: C5 high modulus carbon
- Fork: Carbon monocoque
- Gearing: Shimano 105 with Oval Concepts 520 by Praxis Works crankset
- Brakes: Shimano 105
The Fuji Supreme 2.3 is a bike with race geometry, and while it’s at the lower end of this price bracket, its performance more than justified its position near the top of the tree.
The Supreme is fitted with Shimano 105 gears with a Praxis Works crankset and reassuringly effective Shimano 105 brakes. Finishing kit is provided by house-brand Oval, including alloy bars and the Oval Concepts R500 women’s specific saddle, which we found notably comfortable and supportive. Wheels are Oval 327 aero alloy clincher fitted with Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres.
One interesting feature is the carbon-wrapped alloy Oval seatpost, designed to damping road buzz, which was effective in practice. Combined with the overall damping effect of the carbon frame and fork, this gave the Supreme one of the smoothest rides of the race-focused bikes we tested, though it’s understandably not as all-day-comfy as the endurance-oriented frames. It’s a reasonable price to pay for the speed you get, we feel.
The Supreme was an absolute demon on the descents, and several testers commented that the geometry and set up put them in a great, aggressive position on the bike for efficient pedalling and confident handling. Acceleration is rapid and joy-inducing, with the stiff frame positively egging you on to give it more welly to see what it can do.
Fuji has also incorporated what it calls RIB (Re-Inforced Beam) Tech into the design, which is essentially a band of reinforcing carbon that runs the length of the fork, increasing stiffness. Whether as a direct result of this or not, our test team were all impressed by the bike’s responsive handling at speed.
The Supreme also climbed well, with the 11-28t cassette providing more than enough gearing to get up long ascents due to the light weight of the bike and the efficient power transference.
We also have to mention the much-commented upon paintwork. At a distance the Fuji looks grey. Up close, you’ll spot that it actually has a pearlescent finish that has hints of grey and pink in it. It’s a subtle effect, but we liked it.
This is a bike that wills you to put your all into it, and will reward your commitment to that effort.
Scott Contessa Solace 25
Verdict: Comfortable, with good acceleration and climbing ability for a bike that’s focused on endurance
- Price: £1,799 / $2,399.99 / AU$TBC
- Weight: 8.45kg
- Frame: Solace HMF / IMP Carbon
- Fork: Carbon/alloy
- Gearing: Shimano 105 with Shimano FC-RS500 crankset
- Brakes: Shimano 105 front, Tektro 741 rear
Designed for comfort over endurance distances, the Scott Contessa Solace 25 was a comfortable ride that climbed and accelerated well.
Contessa is the branding that distinguishes the women’s-specific offerings in Scott’s bike range. In the case of the Solace 25, some of our testers found that the upright endurance geometry was a little too upright. This can be tweaked to a degree with a bike fit, which might recommend dropping the bars – other testers found the fit fine, but it’s something to be aware of.
Take a look at the Solace and you’ll notice a few interesting features. First, the narrowness of the seatstays; second the fact that the rear brake isn’t in the usual position, and is instead located low down near the bottom bracket; and third the wide bottom bracket area, which the seat tube tapers up from. Scott has designed the Solace to have two zones – a top section that flexes to provide comfort and dampen vibrations, and a lower one that provides stiffness for power transfer when pedalling.
In practice, we felt that this resulted in a bike that was responsive without being twitchy, with good acceleration and great climbing ability. The narrow seatstays flexed to cushion the ride over uneven surfaces, and the broad bottom bracket area made every pedal stroke count. The downside was the Tektro rear brake, which we felt didn’t provide the same braking power as other bikes in this category, leaving us feeling nervy and concerned about control during fast corners on descents.
The Shimano 105 gearing provided smooth, reliable shifting, with the 11-32t cassette providing plenty of range to get the slightly heavier bike up the climbs we encountered. Considering this is the second-heaviest bike on our shortlist at 8.45kg, our testers were impressed with its climbing ability.
Bianchi Intenso 105
Verdict: Beautiful looks with surprisingly smooth, responsive and sturdy performance.
- Price: £1,850 / $2,199.99 / AU$ pending
- Weight: 8.33kg
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon with Kevlar
- Gearing: Shimano 105 with Shimano FC-RS500-L crankset
- Brakes: Reparto Corse dual pivot
The Bianchi Intenso held a few surprises for some of our testers. While they were aware of it as a well-regarded Italian brand with striking looks, the smoothness, comfort, and sturdiness of it was a revelation.
Part of the Dama Bianca range of women’s-specific models within Bianchi’s range, it features a women’s-specific saddle and shorter 170mm cranks – comparable to the other bikes we’ve tested here. One tester commented that the reach to the brakes while on the drops was particularly confidence inspiring. While this can be tweaked easily enough on new bikes, it’s a definite positive to have it set up and ready to go out of the box, as it were.
The carbon frame is paired with a carbon fork with Kevlar sections at the ends. Kevlar has excellent vibration damping properties, and the result is a ride that is compliant and big on traction. It made short and smooth work of the cattle grids we encountered on the test route. The Intenso gives a calm and easy-feeling ride, while at the same time accelerates well and feels snappy when you put the power down.
While the Shimano 105 gearing is smooth and reliable, and the Reparto Corse brakes provided ample control, its spec levels couldn’t compete with the Ruby. Had they done so, the Bianchi might have been tussling for top spot too.
Bianchi without a doubt produces beautiful bikes, and this is no exception. As one of our reader test panel put it, the Bianchi is “much sturdier than her delicate looks would have you think – she means business”.
Norco Valence C Disc 105 Forma
Verdict: An endurance bike that begs to go faster, but oversized uncomfortable brake hoods went down badly with our testers
- Price: £1,899 / $2,325 / Not available in Australia
- Weight: 9.09kg
- Frame: Mid-Modulus Carbon Disc
- Fork: Mid-Modulus Full Carbon Disc
- Gearing: Shimano 105 with Shimano 105 SL-RS505 11spd hydraulic disc brake shifters
- Brakes: Shimano BR-RS505 Hydraulic Disc
While it might be designed for endurance, the Norco Valence C Disc 105 is clearly a fan of speed – it just takes it a little while to get there.
The ‘Forma’ in the name refers to the fact that this is a women’s specific version of the Valence C Disc, and in this case means the bike finish kit and contact points have been adapted for the female form, rather than the frame geometry of the bike itself. A women’s-specific saddle and narrower handlebars make up the bulk of this, along with a different stem and offset seatpost. Our testers did find the reach on this bike too long, exacerbated by the size of the brake hoods – more on which below.
While our riders appreciated the stopping power provided by the hydraulic disc brakes, we were not a fan of the Shimano RS505 shifters and hoods. It was less about the action, which was smooth, controlled and effective, and more to do with the size – which has also divided opinion among plenty of other testers.
The hoods are noticeably large, and apart from looking clunky on the bike aesthetically, they also increased the reach and were uncomfortably bulky for those of us with smaller hands, affecting our grip and control. This was particularly evident on the downhills – while the Valence might be a fan of rapid descents, we felt less able to completely let loose as we weren’t confident of having sufficient control on the brakes, and riding on the hoods became uncomfortable after a short while.
Heading back uphill, the Valence climbed well enough, but didn’t really shine in comparison with other bikes in this category. The additional weight of the disc brakes combined and the narrow 11-28t cassette meant that some of our testers found it harder to get up the hills than the other bikes in the list of finalists.
On the flats, however, once you’ve got it up to speed, it’s easy to keep it flying along with power transferring efficiently via the wide chainstays and bottom bracket area.
Look closely at the frame and you’ll also spot that the Valence has unusual bowed seatstays, chainstays and seat tube. This is designed to provide vertical compliance to absorb vibrations from the uneven road surface, without compromising the lateral stiffness needed for good power transfer from pedal strokes. In practice, we found it a smooth, stable and forgiving ride, though not as silky as the Specialized Ruby Comp. That refined nature masked the fact that it was possible to get a good lick of speed out of the Valence, though it isn’t quite as responsive, reactive and racy as the Fuji Supreme 2.3.
Overall, while we enjoyed the speed and smoothness of the ride on the Norco Valence, we did feel that the reach was too long and that the oversized hoods made it uncomfortable for long rides or technical descents.