The ultimate thought experiment for the tech-obsessed cyclist – if you could have just one bike, what would it be?
After this very question led to a heated discussion among the BikeRadar staff, we decided to have the team commit and defend their choices to you, our readers.
No matter what discipline you align yourself with, choosing just one bike to last the rest of your days is always a question of compromise, and obsessing over every tiny detail is in equal measure great fun, yet also deeply frustrating.
What do you think of the bikes we’ve chosen and what would you have for yourself? Let us know in the comments.
Sebastian Stott – Privateer 161
When thinking about a do-it-all mountain bike – the so-called ‘quiver killer’ – most people think of a short-travel trail bike.
But you don’t have to suffer on the climbs for a little more suspension – modern steep seat-angles, high anti-squat suspension and shock lockouts see to that.
The main reason your enduro bike climbs slower than your down-country bike is the tyres – a spare set of cross-country rubber can make a long-travel bike into a comfortable mile-muncher.
Coming back down, there really is no replacement for displacement. A long-travel enduro bike allows me to ride harder, faster and with more confidence than a short-travel trail bike. And for me, more confidence equals more fun. Always.
So, which one in particular? I’ve been loving my Privateer 161 long-term bike this year. My early production sample is a little rough around the edges, but the geometry and suspension are sorted. Its 80-degree seat-angle makes most shorter-travel bikes with more traditional angles feel like I’m hanging off the back.
For my money, there isn’t a bike I’ve ridden so far that rides better. The fact it’s relatively affordable is just a bonus.
Matthew Loveridge – a road-adjacent gravel bike, or a gravel-adjacent road bike
A significant proportion of my riding takes in a combination of roads and gravel or light trails, so a gravel bike, or a road bike capable of mixing it up on gravel, is my go-to. It’s the one bike I’d have to have if all the others were taken from me.
I get frustrated with gravel bikes that are trying too hard to be mountain bikes and I don’t buy into the fat-650b hype, particularly when the tyres offered are so often semi-slicks, which offer no meaningful advantage on anything that isn’t mostly smooth and dry, but still feel draggy on the road.
I’d rather ride a bike with tyres narrow enough not to feel too compromised on tarmac (sub-40mm wide, let’s say), and geometry somewhere in the realm of endurance road rather than fully upright touring.
Add in mudguard mounts for year-round riding, and I’d want for little else.
The segment of the market has never looked healthier, with more and more road bikes sporting fender mounts and healthy clearances.
Simon Bromley – 3T Exploro RaceMax
Like many here, no doubt, I’m going to choose a gravel bike. I’m a roadie at heart, but the versatility of a gravel bike would be hard to overlook.
Just to stand out though, I’m going to choose an aero gravel bike. Specifically, the 3T Exploro RaceMax, in the grey/orange paint job.
This bike would do double duty as a fast road bike and a bike for everything else – gravel riding, commuting, winter training, etc.
I’d customise it to my own peculiar tastes, of course, and hope that, in this cruel hypothetical world, I would at least be allowed to occasionally swap out the tyres, depending on what type of riding I was doing.
Narrow handlebars, deep-section carbon wheels (maybe 700C HED Vanquish 4, or something similarly aero and wide – I can be flexible), and a wide-ranging 2x Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain will do nicely to start with, though I’d swap in an Ultegra R8070 Di2 GS rear mech so I can use a wide range, 11-34t cassette as required.
I can’t wait to get started on this build, to be honest (I don’t have to personally pay for this bike, right?).
Alex Evans – oh heavens, I don’t know…
As a mountain biker, finding a ‘quiver killer’ is more than tricky. It needs to be adept at so many different things; light enough to pedal uphill, comfortable enough to tackle all-day epics, capable on the descents and sturdy and reliable (so you’re not constantly wasting time fettling in the garage). Oh, and it needs to be reasonably priced, too.
Arguably, the all-mountain category – bikes with between 130 and 150mm of rear-wheel travel – manages to hit this sweet spot.
And if this were simply a choice of picking a bike and ignoring cost, I’d go for Specialized’s Stumpjumper Evo S-Works, as it seems to strike an almost perfect balance between weight and reliability and climbing and descending performance with great comfort and tuneability. It costs £9250, though, so let’s quickly forget that idea.
That’s because on a personal level, a brazen disregard for my – or anyone else’s – bank balance goes against almost everything I stand for. How much would, or even should, I need to spend?
I could go for the £1500 Calibre Triple B, and while it represents fantastic value for money and had a perfect five-star score in our review, on the types of trails I frequent I don’t imagine it’ll be quite burly enough. So the lower budget bikes, while suitable for some, just won’t stand up to the level of strain I frequently put my bikes under.
Maybe I should consider going hand-made, like the Swarf Cycles 155, or even bespoke like a GeoMetron G13 (our Seb reviewed the first iteration of GeoMetron here) to really meet my weight, reliability, backup and performance criteria. But doing this, like the Stumpjumper, isn’t going to be cheap and I’d be breaking my price promise.
The closest I can find at the moment is Marin’s 2021 Alpine Trail XR, ticking almost every box on my list for the very respectable price of £3395. I’m biased though, because my BikeRadar Builds bike is a slightly older iteration of the same frame. Even still, that’s a lot of money.
I could crawl eBay’s classifieds looking for my unicorn… Second-hand bikes often represent great value for money and if you’re an astute penny pincher like myself, plenty of bargains can be found.
Warren Rossiter – pre-2020 Cannondale SuperSix Evo
This is such a tough question as I can’t just have one bike – at the last count, I owned seventeen with a few more in various states of build/repair. It’s clear I have a bike ‘problem’.
Putting this issue aside, there is still a bike I lusted after, but for some (mad) reason never got my hands on, and that’s the Cannondale SuperSix Evo.
No, not the reigning 2020 Bike of the Year model with its Kammtail-formed tubing, dropped stays and smart integration (though I wouldn’t say no to that beauty and it’s still on my shopping list).
No, in fact, I’m talking the classic round-tubed lightweight with its classic horizontal top tube and skinny stays that went all the way to the seat clamp. I’m not picky if it’s the original rim brake bike or the last-hurrah disc version.
I still dream of just how good that bike rode and how wonderfully it handled. Maybe there’s a bit of romance to it because, over the years, I have ridden various incarnations of it in the Austrian Alps and Northern Italy, and remembering glorious rides on glorious roads with good friends seems so remote right now.
The original round-tubed lightweight bike with its laser-guided handling is still a bike that I reference when I test any new road bike.
If Cannondale follows Specialized’s tact with the new Aethos – an ultra-high-end bike made for the joy of riding – and releases a SuperSix Evo classic, I know at least one customer prepared to sign up straightaway.
Tom Marvin – Marin El Roy
It’s impossible to pick a bike that won’t be terribly compromised at some point, so I might as well go to one extreme – the Marin El Roy.
It’s one of the raddest hardtails on the market, with a 63.5-degree head-angle, and a bonkers 510mm reach figure in its ‘Grande’ size. During testing earlier this year, there was nothing it couldn’t handle, and it was barely any slower (for me) than a proper full-squish bike down the steep, nadgery tech I like to ride.
On the flat, and certainly up hills, it’s an absolute handful, with large-volume, sticky, thick-casing tyres – but that, at least, gives me an excuse when my buddies disappear up the hills.
Though, if I could only have one bike, I’d be cheeky and find a second set of wheels onto which I’d fit faster-rolling rubber, to make longer jaunts into the hills that little more achievable.
As luck would have it, the El Roy is going to be my MBUK (and BikeRadar) longterm bike for 2021, so maybe come back in a year and ask me how I’ve gotten on with it.
Jack Luke – a go-fast steel road-ish bike with discs and generous tyre clearance
My dream bike would look almost exactly like my beloved All-City Mr Pink, but would have larger tyre clearances and disc brakes.
Like Matthew, the majority of my riding is on the road but I indulge in the occasional tame gravel diversion. The Mr Pink handles this nearly perfectly, but there are a few things I would improve on.
To start, while the rim brakes on the bike are fine (and look great), disc brakes are simply better. They would make muddy gravel diversions less unpleasant for both me and my rims.
The bike can comfortably accommodate 30mm tyres with mudguards (something my do-it-all bike could never be without), but boosting that clearance to around 35mm with guards would mean all but the gnarliest gravel could be tackled.
There are plenty of stock framesets on the market that could accomplish this but, in my experience, steel disc forks tend to be overbuilt, giving them a dull and firm ride.
As this is my do-it-all bike, I will indulge in the fantasy of commissioning a custom frame builder to make me something out of lightweight tubing.
The exact placement of braze-ons, the spec of the bike and other minor details would be sweated over obsessively but, as this is just a fantasy for now, I would get myself into too much of a panic.