Every year, BikeRadar gets the opportunity to ride the latest and greatest bikes at some of the coolest sportives or riding events around the world.
The often challenging courses, such as the 200-mile Dirty Kanza gravel event or the infamous cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders, give us the chance to put these bikes through their paces and in some of the most extreme riding environments.
Often the bikes are handed to us on the morning of the ride, but for some events the bikes can be built from the ground up to specifically cope with the riding conditions or challenging parcours.
Occasionally, the events are also focused on specific components, such as new wheels or tyres, and so frame and groupset choice is perhaps less important.
Below, we have rounded up all of our Horse for the Course articles from 2018, including events from California to Belgium, as well as gravel races, this year’s UK hill climb series, open sportives/Gran Fondos and national and world championships.
Horse for the Course 2018
Trek Madone for Flanders sportive
Ben Delaney has returned each year to ride the same slippery cobbles the pros ride in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen — a day after the pros, of course. Some 16,000 riders tackle the Belgian Gran Fondo annually on the tiny paved roads that crisscross the Flemish Ardennes.
This year, Ben rode the event on a borrowed Trek Madone and with the then-unreleased Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 carbon clinchers.
Running down a dream at the Land Run 100
This Horse for the Course double-header saw Ben Delaney and Josh Patterson ride the gravel-come-clay 100 miles Land Run in Oklahoma, USA.
The duo used the event as preparations for the Dirty Kanza (more on that below) with both riders on Vittoria Terreno-equipped Opus Spark gravel bikes.
5 things we learned riding the Paris-Roubaix Challenge
Back in Europe, Jack Luke and Reuben Bakker-Dyos took on the brutal cobbles of northern France in the Paris-Roubaix sportive. Like its Flandrian counterpart the week before, the event is held the day before the professional race, and the duo stayed around to watch Peter Sagan win the event in the famous Roubaix velodrome.
The difficulty of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles is well documented, so Jack and Reuben opted for wider rubber and gravel bikes for the event.
Delaney’s rookie Dirty Kanza 200 bike
Ben was back on the gravel for the epic 200-mile Dirty Kanza gravel event, riding on a Trek Checkpoint gravel bike.
The Trek Checkpoint was equipped with ENVE G23 gravel-specific wheels and Schwalbe G-One tyres, which unfortunately let Ben down with a puncture early on in the race.
Testing prototype tires over 12,000 vertical feet on asphalt and dirt
Ben joined stage 2 of the Haute Route Rockies, which began near his hometown in Boulder, Colorado and traversed a 143-kilometre/89-mile, 3,660m/12,000ft elevation road route up to the Winter Park ski resort.
Ben used the event to test a set of prototype 28mm S-Works Turbo Cotton clinchers, choosing to ride his personal but familiar 2012 Specialized S-Works Tarmac.
Respect your elders: turning back the clock at Eroica Britannia
Oli Woodman rode the Eroica Britannia back in July on a bike older than he is.
Born in 1991, Oli has never had the experience of quill stems and down tube shifters, and is from the generation of cyclists that don’t know how good they’ve got it!
Curve Belgie Disc for the Garmin Ride Out
Josh Evans built a dream-spec titanium road bike as a long-term test bike in the summer, choosing to ride the new build at the Garmin Ride Out for its first proper shakedown ride.
The Campagnolo-equipped machine with 28mm Veloflex tyres floated around the rolling roads of the New Forest in Hampshire, UK with ease and Josh’s love for the bike was born!
Fixies are dumb, but I love them — Jack’s hill climb fixie
As the northern hemisphere summer drew to a close, the UK phenomenon of Hill Climb season got underway.
Seasoned hill climbing extraordinaires Reuben Bakker-Dyos and Joe Norledge were joined this year by Jack Luke, who opted to race the season on his “fixed-gear shred wagon”.
Bullhorn handlebars, lightweight wheels and brakes complemented Jack’s questionable race ethics, resulting in often entertaining results.
Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 Di2 for this year’s 12hr World TT Champs
Regular BikeRadar contributor Nick Legan took part in this year’s 12-hour world time trial championships aboard a heavily modified Canyon Speedmax.
Aerodynamics play a crucial part in a 12-hour time trial, with even the helmet and front brake caliper choice likely to contribute to a fair chunk of distance over the time period.
Nick finished the event covering 415 kilometres/258 miles and averaged 35kph / 21.8mph!
Specialized S-Works Venge for the Sagan Fondo in California
Rounding out the year, Josh Evans was invited to California to take part in the Sagan Fondo and opted to ride Specialized’s latest range-topping aero machine, the S-Works Venge.
Riding the event with Italian clothing brand Sportful, Josh had the opportunity to ride alongside the three-time world champion through rolling autumn vineyards in northern California.
Alongside our regular Horse for the Course articles, our video team enjoyed plenty of riding on an array of different bikes this year.
The team also documented their training, riding and more in the Hill Climb Diaries, which covered Joe, Reuben and Jack’s season, culminating at the national hill climb championships.
Jack, Joe and Reuben headed north to take on one of the best gravel events of the year… Grinduro Scotland. They didn’t just go to ride, they went to answer a burning question for the BikerRadar team: what is the best gravel bike?
With that in mind, the trio took three different bikes: a “traditional” gravel bike, a hardtail mountain bike and a monster-‘cross bike to find out which comes out on top.
We set Reuben and Jack the challenge of riding the brutal cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, they then watched the pro race unfold on the following day.
Jack, Joe, Reuben and Benedict headed for one of the steepest hills in south-west England, the fearsome Prospect Place, which hits a supposed 37 percent! However, being gluttons for punishment, they also decided to try conquering the short and brutal climb on fixed geared bikes. Did Jack’s knees snap in half? Did Joe make it to the top? Or did Reuben tear his bike in two? Watch the video to find out.