We may be on the rebound, folks.
After a few years of road bike categories splintering into finer and finer subdivisions — aero bikes, climbing bikes, gravel bikes, etc. — the important bikes for next season are the ones that aren’t pigeonholed.
Here are the most interesting road bikes of 2018.
Evidently, there is a shortage of letters in Trek’s home state of Wisconsin, as all its road bikes use the same six. Madone is the aero bike. Domane is the classics bike. And Emonda is the climbing bike.
But what the Emonda lacks in alphabetic variety it more than makes up for in all-around performance. ‘Climbing bike’ is selling it far, far short.
The frame weighs a ludicrous 640g for rim brakes and an outrageous 665g for disc brakes. But… the bike rides like a great bike – not a novelty one-trick pony.
A lower chassis as stiff as any competitor's race bike is topped with engineered plushness. I’ve been riding the Emonda Disc on all manner of back roads with Bontrager 28mm tires. So is the Emonda a great climbing bike? Nope – it’s a great road bike that just happens to be absurdly light.
As Canyon bikes have finally become available in the US, BikeRadar’s Colorado staff is only now getting a full taste of what makes the German brand special.
Race-proven engineering plus a consumer-direct model equals a pretty compelling package.
Mixing the best of endurance comfort and handling with race-like efficiency, the Endurace occupies the same space as BMC’s Roadmachine and Cannondale’s Synapse.
But at a price well under both of those yet at the same performance level — yeah, we’re interested.
Okay, so this is a weird one. A 1x aero road disc bike.
While other companies can claim three of those four adjectives, only 3T employed all four in a single machine.
The big story for 2018 is that a pro team will race them. Aqua Blue Sport, an Irish outfit at the second-tier Pro Conti level, will race on these exclusively.
We’re sold on 1x for certain applications, namely mountain biking, cyclocross and certain flat but gnarly road ventures like Paris-Roubaix or Dirty Kanza.
But professional road racing? Um…. interesting.
Nowhere near as weird as the Strada, the new Specialized Tarmac is more akin to the Trek Emonda. It’s an excellent all-around race bike that happens to be very light and quite comfortable.
So why are two mainstream bikes from two mainstream brands on the Most Interesting list? In a word: engineering. Sure, there are plenty of boutique bikes out there, and quite a few frankenbikes in the ever-mutating adventure sector. But the fact of the matter is that Trek and Specialized have big teams of engineers that have been refining high-tech designs for years, and the results are often far ahead of what the smaller players can produce.
Specialized regularly does go over the top on its marketing – any cycling cynic can tell you that. But the California company puts out some fine product, and the 2018 Tarmac is a perfect example.
Scott Foil Disc
While the Swiss company’s latest aero iteration isn’t the most far-out thing on the planet, it does represent a cultural shift. A few short years ago, the Scott Foil came out of the gate with cutting-edge aerodynamics — and bone-rattling ergonomics. (For the record, I still love doing amateur races on the original Foil.)
Fast forward to the 2018 edition, and the Scott Foil Disc still boasts the same low CdA – but now with hydraulic discs, a softer ride and bulbous, 28mm Continental Grand Prix clinchers.
As with the Trek Emonda so-called climbing bike, Scott’s so-called aero bike is a sign of the good times ahead.