Last month, we revealed our 2021 Trail and Enduro Bike of the Year winners. Now it’s time to swap trails for tarmac, and celebrate all things road (with some multi-terrain gravel riding thrown in the mix, of course).
That’s right, it’s time to announce our Road Bike of the Year… the Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS.
More than 30 bikes (scroll down for the full list of contenders) were put through their paces as part of our 2021 Bike of the Year test, against the backdrop of winter testing conditions, Covid-19 restrictions and unprecedented bike shortages.
And it was Boardman’s £2,700 SLR 9.4 that came out on top, blowing away our chief tester, Warren Rossiter, thanks to its blend of race bike excitement and endurance bike comfort.
Throw in a value-for-money spec, with SRAM’s new Rival eTap AXS groupset taking centre stage to provide wireless shifting at the kind of price we’ve never seen before, and the Boardman is the standout road bike of 2021.
“The Boardman hits the mark on every front,” says Warren. “Its ride is smooth and comfortable, yet it handles with the swiftness of a pro bike.
“Combine that with a class-leading low weight from the frameset and a spec list unmatched at this price, and you’ve got a worthy winner of the 2021 Bike of the Year title.”
We’ll be announcing our sub-category winners over the coming days – with awards for performance, endurance and gravel bikes, along with superbikes and the best £1,000 road bike – so watch out for plenty more from our 2021 Bike of the Year test.
For now, read on for the inside story on how we put together this year’s test.
Bike of the Year | The honours board
This is the 13th edition of our annual Bike of the Year test. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of bikes to find out what’s really worth your money. Here’s how the honours board looks.
The inside story on Bike of the Year 2021
Words: Warren Rossiter, chief Bike of the Year tester
Every year I say that Bike of the Year gets tougher for us to come up with a shortlist and a winner because the standard of bikes keeps on rising. And in 2021 we’ve seen an outstanding display of machines across the road and gravel genres.
It’s a nice problem to have, admittedly, but compiling this shortlist and picking an overall winner has never been so hard.
The 2021 edition has, unsurprisingly, been far from normal with the backdrop of a global pandemic, unprecedented shortages, and pricing pressures from a mix of global factors and political decisions.
We’re lucky that our unrivalled industry contacts and the historic legacy of Bike of the Year has ensured that we’ve had a steady influx of bikes reaching our south-west testing grounds at a time when bikes are in short supply (or stuck in the Suez Canal).
Although I’ll admit that I’ve missed the group-riding ventures, cake stops and post-ride chats over a cold drink (and, yes, continental sunshine and roads) that often provide the greatest memories of previous Bike of the Year tests, restrictions were beginning to ease as testing came to a close, ensuring that we were able to ride our final four bikes together.
What we’ve tested
The prices of this year’s bikes range from £1,775 to £11,750, with categories for endurance, performance, gravel and superbike. We’ll be announcing winners for each category in the coming days, alongside the Boardman as our overall winner.
On top of that, we’re also running a £1,000 Bike of the Year test to show you don’t have to spend superbike money to get a great ride. If you’re wondering about aero bikes, this year’s shortages mean we’re running a four-bike aero shoot-out as a separate test, with contenders from Cannnodale, Felt, Merida and Scott.
Anyway, back to Bike of the Year. Some of the bikes in this year’s main test are already bonafide classics or refined versions of previous winners, with the latest BMC Teammachine, Specialized Tarmac and Roubaix, and Cannondale SuperSix all present.
Innovation is also here in spades, notably in the striking Cannondale Topstone and the Rondo HVRT, but also in the app-based tech of the Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS.
Gravel has captured the imagination of riders and the industry alike and that’s reflected in this year’s Bike of the Year, with do-it-all machines from Boardman, Cannondale, Cinelli and Pearson especially hungry for multi-terrain adventures in 2021.
You should find something to inspire your next bike purchase, whether that’s one of the exact models we’ve tested or lower-priced models with trickle-down tech from the classy contenders on display.
I hope you enjoy Bike of the Year 2021 as much as I’ve relished creating it.
Bike of the Year 2020 | The contenders
- Basso Venta 105 Disc
- BMC Teammachine SLR Two
- Cannondale SuperSix Evo Carbon Disc Ultegra
- Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1
- Lapierre Xelius SL 5.0 Disc
- Orbea Orca M20
- Rondo HVRT CF1
- BMC Roadmachine Two
- Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS Disc Carbon
- Cervélo Caledonia-5 Ultegra Di2
- Ribble Endurance Ti Disc
- Sensa Guilia GF Ultegra Di2
- Specialized Roubaix Sport
- Trek Domane AL5
- Boardman ADV 9.0
- Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1
- Cinelli King Zydeco GRX
- Pearson Off Grid
- Ribble CGR Ti Pro
- ARC8 Escapee DB
- Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc
- Specialized S-Works Aethos Dura-Ace Di2
- Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Red eTap
- Boardman ADV 8.9
- Boardman SLR 8.9 105
- Genesis CDA 30
- Giant Contend AR 3
- Orbea Avant H60-D
- Planet X London Road SRAM Apex 1 Disc
- Ribble Endurance 725 Base
- Van Rysel EDR AF
- Vitus Zenium Tiagra
And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.