Given that sportives tend to be long, all day stints in the saddle undertaken by folk finding their feet in the sport, the bikes they ride need to be fit for purpose.
In short, they need to be comfortable. To achieve this, manufacturers tend to relax the frame geometry by slackening the head and seat tube angles, and lengthen the head tube for a more upright position. Frames also tend to be less stiff for a more forgiving ride, while components (compact chainsets, larger cassettes) are chosen to help riders conquer any hill or mountain in the land without destroying themselves doing so. Below is a compilation of our favourites from the last year.
Trek Madone 3.5
£1,800 / $2,799
We found the Madone 3.5 hard to fault, it surprised and impressed us in equal measure. With an incredibly smooth ride, impressive spec, and handling that’s the ideal blend of stability and sharpness this truly is a capable all-rounder. Better still is the fact the 3.5 is fitted with mudguard mounts for a superb ride whatever the weather.
Focus Izalco Pro 3.0
£2,099.99 / $3,700
Cycling Plus's Bike of the Year 2012, the Focus Izalco, has been around for a couple of seasons and has seen action at the highest levels of road racing, with the top-end Team model being ridden by Katusha and now Acqua & Sapone. On paper the Izalco certainly looks impressive, as it does on the scales too, at 7.78kg (17.2lb) for a 58cm size. But it’s the performance out on the road that counts and thankfully the Pro 3.0 doesn’t disappoint, the Izalco is truly exceptional for long hilly rides yet is at its best when you’re going as hard as you can. Overall it's a hugely impressive all-rounder that combines great kit, light weight and superlative ride quality
Specialized Roubaix Comp
£1,999 / $2,499
The Specialized Roubaix Comp strikes a great balance between comfort and performance and as a result is an ideal all-day bike. The Roubaix’s super-plush ride is achieved by using Zertz shock absorbing inserts combined well thought out geometry in its chassis. The Roubaix is no slouch in the handling stakes either, with precise steering and zippy acceleration. Where the Roubaix really excels though is its performance over poor surfaces and its overall comfort. Riders who like uncompromising, hard-riding road bikes may feel a little ‘disconnected’ from the road on the Roubaix, but most of our testers were impressed by its feel and the performance.
Van Nicholas Mistral Apex (+ wheel upgrade)
£1,749 / $2,773
The Mistral’s skinny titanium tubes, semi-sloping geometry and long wheelbase set it out as a bike designed for big distances. The unusually narrow titanium tubes gives the Van Nicholas an old-school feel that’s as unique as it is welcome. It’s blessed with a supple smoothness that makes it a wonderful bike to ride over long distances, especially when the route includes some tough climbs. If you’re not a dedicated racer, and sportives or big challenge rides are more your thing, then the Mistral could well be the bike you’ve been looking for.
Cube Agree GTC Race Review
£1,799 / $2,850
The Cube Agree has always been a firm favourite with our testers due to its combination of fast handling, excellent equipment and outstanding value. For 2012, it’s undergone its biggest ever revamp, with a stiffer fork and fresh and intricate shaping of the frames tubing being just two of the many big revisions. The results of these changes are obvious, comfort over coarse surfaces is vastly improved over the solidly Germanic outgoing Agree, and handling is a little slower. The finishing kit is among the best value around and the overall finish is of the highest quality. Overall Cube’s endurance bike does things differently but with impressive results
Giant Defy 1
£999.99 / $1,275
Giant’s Defy has been the dominant bike in the sub thousand pound category for the past few years, yet with the all-new 2012 frameset this is now the benchmark for alloy responsiveness and ride quality at this pricepoint. A superb chassis creates a responsive but flowing ride backed up by balanced handling and excellent components for the money. It’s this ride quality that really makes the Giant stand out from its peers, this is simply the best riding bike we know of for this price. Finishing touches like Defy-specific close-clearance mudguards and an aftermarket seat collar that includes rack mounts complete a superbly designed package.
Rose Xeon RS3100 review
£1,996.65 / $3,152
Rose's direct sales model has allowed them to offer a lightweight race bike with the latest electronic shifting from Shimano and a smattering of high quality finishing kit. All of this costs less than £2,000 and that’s a price that high street brands just can’t match. The chassis is stiff enough for rock solid response to pedal inputs yet ultra-skinny seatstays, topped with a carbon seatpost allow for great isolation from road surface vibrations. Overall the Xeon offers a superb level of equipment on a lively and responsive aluminium frame, a top value package.
Boardman Team Carbon
£1,499.99 / $1,799.99
The Boardman Team Carbon is a bike with a class-leading specification and a ride to match. Everything about this bike, from the quality of the frame to the level of components and its sheer ride ability, would have us believe this was a machine with a pricetag of hundreds more than £1,499. There are sharper handling options out there – the Team Carbon doesn't excel at fast direction changes or hustling through the tight stuff – but for an all-rounder with an emphasis on big rides, it’s hard to beat.
Ribble Sportive 7005
£608.90 / $963
The Sportive 7005 from Ribble is, as the name suggests - a sportive specific model. Coming in at just over the £600 mark this is an affordable entry into sportive competition with very good all-round performance and a kit spec that’s hard to beat. The Sportive balances the needs of comfort and performance well, the quite modest frame is decked with some very good kit, and it’s good to see a carbon fork. Overall this is a fine Sportive choice but we think it would also make an ideal first road bike.
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