Next year’s bikes are going to be stiffer, lighter, and more perfect than ever before. Or are they? Here are your top trends for road bikes in 2018.
For the full experience, watch our Top 5 video above. If you'd prefer the text version, read on.
1. 1x drivetrains
Single-ring cranks have all but taken over in mountain biking, with only the more old-school Euro XC crowd using double chainsets.
1x is also the go-to for ’cross and gravel because simplicity and ease-of use trumps sheer number of gears.
Roadies care rather more about their cadence however, and discarding an entire chainring means bigger steps between gears if you want to maintain a useful total range.
Nevertheless, 1x road bikes look set to become a common sight as designers look for new ways to shed weight, improve aerodynamics, and appeal to a broader range of riders.
Although it’s not the first bike maker to join the party, 3T is perhaps 1x's loudest cheerleader.
Its Strada road bike cannot run a front derailleur and 3T has also launched two 1x-specific cassettes which group your most-used gears closer together for a less gappy experience.
Next race season the pros from team Aqua Blue Sport will be racing on the Strada and only time will tell if they’re the first of many.
2. Disc brakes on aero bikes
Bike brands started putting discs on everything a few years ago, but most started with their endurance or all-rounder bikes, rather than jumping straight in on the racers.
2018 is the year full-on aero bikes finally get spinning knives of death that offer superior braking performance in all conditions.
We’ve long been told that discs just aren’t aero, but bike makers know which way the wind is blowing and they’re determined to make this work.
Canyon, for example, claims a mere 0.8W penalty at some unspecified speed for the disc Aeroad.
Meanwhile, Scott added little shroudy bits to the fork legs of its Foil and made the thru-axle lever removable, which the engineers reckon saves enough drag to match the rim brake version.
3. Integrated cockpits
You know how your bar and stem are usually separate components that can be swapped out and adjusted independently of one another? Integrated cockpits do away with all that convenience in favour of a clean, aerodynamic front end that’s tailored to your frame.
It opens up possibilities for tidier cable routing, and done right it can save weight without compromising on stiffness.
On the other hand, integrated cockpits are a huge pain if you want to, say, change the length of your stem, or make a small adjustment to bar angle.
You can’t do any of that without swapping out the entire assembly which is invariably a complicated and costly affair.
But yeah: ‘progress’.
4. Squishier, friendlier road bikes
The phrase “road bike” used to conjure up quite a specific image: super skinny tyres, tight clearances, and arse-up, head-down riding position.
If you enjoyed your riding too much then you were doing it wrong and needed to try harder.
It feels like we’ve all grown up a bit and realised that there’s more to life than just going fast, and that sometimes you go faster when you’re more comfortable anyway.
2018 bikes are continuing with the trend for more comfort and bigger tyres.
Disc brakes impose no limits on tyre size, and comfort-giving features such as dropped seatstays have gone from niche to mainstream.
If there’s one trend we can get behind, it’s this one. Road bikes have come full circle to be better suited to real-world riding, and the choice for different riding styles has never been better.
5. E-road bikes
You knew it was coming, so don’t shoot the messenger.
Some of you will insist that a bike with a motor is automatically a motorbike. Literally speaking that is of course true, but the law tends to think differently. In most countries a pedal-assist bike counts as a bicycle, but anyway, we digress…
It remains to be seen if e-bikes with drop bars will ever go mainstream, but we’re certainly seeing a whole lot more of them.
Some are little more than regular road frames with some extras grafted on, but others such as the Focus Project Y hide their dirty secret incredibly well, and also manage not to weigh as much as a small car.
We don’t think e-bikes will ever replace the leg-powered variety, but we’re delighted about anything that gets more people on two wheels and lets them stay there for longer.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what’s got you excited for 2018 in the comments.