Top 5 road bike trends for 2021

All-round race bikes, more electric bikes and could we see a new Dura-Ace groupset in 2021?

Road bike trends

Road bike technology refuses to stand still – bike brands won’t have that – but what’s in store for the year ahead?

Advertisement MPU article

Earlier this month we gave you our top 5 mountain bike trends, now it’s time for all things skinny tyres.

From all-round race bikes to what could be the most exciting groupset launch in a decade, via the debate that refuses to go away, here are our top 5 road bike trends for 2021.

Read on for more or check out the video below – and, as ever, don’t forget to subscribe to the BikeRadar YouTube channel.

1. All-round race bikes are back

Road bike trends
Last year saw the arrival of the Venge-killing Specialized Tarmac SL7. Will we see more all-round race bikes in 2021?

For the last decade or so, if you wanted a race bike, the choice was usually between an aero bike and a climbing bike.

The aero bikes were fast, but weighed more, and weren’t quite as comfortable as their climbing counterparts.

The climbing bikes offered extra comfort and a much lighter design, but lacked that all-important aero speed for pro riders.

Now things look set to change in 2021, with the return of the all-round race bike, hopefully providing riders with equal parts aero, lightweight and comfort in one complete package.

Take Specialized’s new Tarmac SL7, a bike it claims has killed off the company’s out-and-out aero bike, the Venge, because it’s so fast.

While there’s no doubt some clever marketing behind this, it’s still impressive to think the Tarmac, a bike traditionally thought of as a climbing bike, can compete with the Venge when it comes to all things aero.

Trek and Bianchi are also in on the action, updating the Emonda and Specialissima climbing bikes to more modern and aero-influenced designs.

Interestingly, it works the other way as well. Merida’s new Reacto definitely looks like an aero bike, but Merida claims to have dropped the weight and increased the comfort, morphing it into more of an all-round general classification bike.

Canyon’s updated Aeroad throws a slight spanner in the works because it’s a thoroughbred aero bike. But on the whole, 2021 looks to be the year we once again have one race bike to rule them all.

2. The Tour de France will be won on a disc brake bike

Tadej Pogačar at the 2020 Tour de France
Tadej Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France on a Colnago V3Rs with rim brakes.
Marco Bertorello/Getty Images

Despite disc brakes becoming more mainstream every year, the world’s biggest bike race, the Tour de France, was still won on a rim brake bike in 2020.

This leads to the inevitable comments of, “If discs are so good, how come x, y or z are still riding rim brake bikes?”

Well, while we can never be sure, two of the main reasons a team might stick to disc brakes for its Tour de France bikes are weight and sponsor commitments (equally, sponsor commitments could encourage a move to disc brakes, too).

The Pinarello Dogma F12 of Team Ineos Grenadiers sure looks nice, but the disc brake frames aren’t the lightest on the WorldTour.

So, sticking with rim brakes and adding the extremely svelte Lightweight wheels, enables the team to keep their bikes around the UCI’s weight limit of 6.8kg.

Same goes for the Bianchi Oltre XR4 bikes Jumbo-Visma were riding in 2020. A relatively heavy (but aero) frame, so sticking with rim brakes helps to keep the overall weight down.

However, with more teams than ever having access to competitively light disc-brake road bikes, and with many teams switching to new brands, we think 2021 could be the year the Tour is finally won on discs.

Whether it’s a Trek, Scott, Cervélo, Bianchi, Specialized or Cannondale, who knows? Just remember, you heard it here first…

3. More things will live on your bike

Aiguille Alpine Framewedge bikepacking setup
Bikepacking is about to have its moment.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

While the last few years have seen a huge uptake in gravel riding, we think it’s about time for bikepacking, and the endless accessories that come with it, to finally hit the mainstream.

If you are unfamiliar with the discipline, bikepacking involves strapping lots of trendy bags to your bike and heading off into pastures unknown.

It’s an incredibly fun way to spend a weekend, and we’ve even dabbled in it ourselves. (You can watch our sub-24hr bikepacking adventure video here).

The knock-on effect of bikepacking’s surge in popularity is that more people have realised putting all your tools and accessories in a bag, then attaching it to your bike, is actually a pretty good idea. Even if you’re just on a two-hour weekend ride.

Yes, you may not be quite as aero, but there’s nothing in your pockets, which makes longer rides far more comfortable and easier on your upper body.

BikeRadar staffers Felix Smith and Jack Luke are huge fans of the handlebar bag, and it seems many other people are too, with bike bag sales currently on the up.

So, expect to see your Instagram account invaded by people with an assortment of bags attached to their bikes in 2021.

Although this does remind us of a famous scientific thought experiment: if a bikepacker rides into the wilderness but doesn’t let you know about it on Instagram, did that ride even happen?

4. Ebikes will continue to grow in popularity

Road bike trends
Make no mistake, electric road bikes are a lot of fun to ride.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Probably the surest trend of 2021 is the continuing growth in electric bike sales.

In fact, a recent article by Cycling Industry News suggests ebike sales could double by 2025.

Like any emerging technology, it’s taken time for the bike industry to get the best electric road bikes right and for the bike buying public to catch on to their benefits.

However, most people now understand they’re an excellent way to get around, while also being great fun.

Being such a new technology, there are also endless improvements still to be made. Areas such a battery tech, ride feel, motor power, weight, app features and price will continue to get better over the coming years.

Could 2021 be the year you give an ebike a go? Let us know in the comments.

5. Most exciting groupset release in a decade

Road bike trends
We’re pinning our hopes on a new Dura-Ace groupset in 2021.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media

We’ve all been patiently waiting, but could we finally see the most exciting groupset release of recent times in 2021?

When Shimano first unveiled the electronic Dura-Ace Di2 groupset in 2009, it changed the game forever. Electronic gears had been done before, but this time they worked brilliantly, and soon won the hearts and minds of many.

While Shimano has made a couple of excellent updates to that original Di2 groupset, the fundamentals haven’t changed too much – the groupset is electronic, it uses wires and the battery lives somewhere in, or on, your frame.

We’re hoping to see an all-new Dura-Ace Di2 in 2021.

Will it be wireless? Have more cogs? Have fewer cogs? Be lighter? Or have something totally new we haven’t seen before?

Who knows, but we have made our predictions/wish list in a speculation article on the new Dura-Ace and, either way, we’re very excited about it.

Advertisement MPU article

What do you think about our list of trends for 2021? Did we get it right? Or is there something else around the corner that we’ve missed? As always, let us know in the comments.