Over the past 12 months we’ve tested over 150 different bikes for Cycling Weekly, Cycling Active, and Cycle Sport, everything from £400 aluminium commuters to £12,000 super bikes, all of which have their merits in an increasingly crowded market.
To allow every bike to shine in its own way, we have split our Bike of the Year award into five categories: best aero bike, best lightweight bike, best endurance bike, best disc brake road bike, and best value bike. So whatever sort of bike you’re looking for, you’ll know that you’re buying the best.
However, there can only be one overall winner: a bike that not only stands out in its own category, but is fantastic however and wherever you choose to ride it…
Overall Winner: Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 6.0
Our Bike of the Year for 2016 is the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 6.0.
The Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 6.0 is a bike that ticks all the boxes you should be looking for when looking for a new bike. It’s stiff, it’s light, it looks great, represents great value, and is aerodynamic too. In fact, with this last point in mind, we also crowned the Aeroad the best aero road bike of 2016.
This is a bike that looks fast and rides even faster. The slender aerofoil tube shapes and curved seat tube cutout are matched by a seriously stiff bottom bracket that will be more than a match for even the most powerful of riders. And what’s more this is not just a bike for drilling it along on the flat, also thriving uphill thanks to its relatively svelte 7.43kg weight.
Just as impressive is the comfort on offer – not usually a strong point of aero bikes. While the Aeroad might not be taking the crown as our endurance bike of the year any time soon, it’s still comfortable enough during long days in the saddle, being good enough to be the steed of choice for Alexander Kristoff during his victory in the 2015 Tour of Flanders.
The thing is that not only has Canyon managed to build an excellent bike, but is selling it to you for an excellent price. For £2699 you’re getting a frame that has won countless World Tour races, equipped with great quality Mavic Pro Carbon wheels and Shimano’s superb Ultegra mechanical groupset.
Our pick of the best lightweight bike of the year is the Merida Scultura 6000.
If you’re looking for the best lightweight bike that you can buy without having to remorgage the house, then that bike is the Merida Scultura 6000. For a little over two grand this bike gives you the same Scultura Team frame that’s seen Giro d’Italia success courtesy of Lampre-Merida decked out with some half decent finishing kit to create a climber’s dream.
The 800g frame is not only light but also incredibly stiff. Get out of the saddle on steeper gradients and this bike will make you feel like Alberto Contador dancing on the pedals, and such is the excellent handling that you’ll feel like Vincenzo Nibali coming down the other side too.
Comfort has also not been compromised, with the frame being designed to accommodate wider 28mm tyres if you’re riding over really rough roads, while the mix of Shimano Ultegra shifting, FSA chainset, and Merida’s own brand brakes might not look sexy, but works well and help to build a lightweight bike that also offers value.
The winner of our best disc endurance bike of the year is the Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2.
While a lot of endurance bikes focus on comfort at the expensive of all other factors, the Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 is a much more balanced bike that eats up long days in the saddle for breakfast, but still has a performance edge for when you want to up your average speed and win that sprint for the town sign.
Most of the comfort comes from the relaxed geometry with the super-long wheelbase that was over a metre on our 56cm test model, but there’s also Giant’s D-Fuse composite seatpost which helps to give a really comfortable back-end that soaks up the worst of any road buzz.
The Defy also comes with a pretty impressive spec for its £2,299 pricetag. You get Shimano’s impressive Ultegra mechanical groupset combined with RS785 hydraulic discs which provide powerful and consistent stopping whatever the conditions.
The winner of our best value bike of the year is the B’Twin Ultra 720 AF.
The £1,000 price point is probably the most competitive in the cycling market, but the B’Twin Ultra 720 AF has really blown the competition out of the water. For £1,050 this bike gives you a great aluminium frame, solid Mavic Cosmic wheels, and, almost unbelieveably, a full Shimano Ultegra groupset.
That groupset is undoubtedly the highlight of the package. As anyone who has ridden with mechanical Ultegra will testify, it is a superb groupset in every way. The shifting is precise and reliable, even under load, and the direct-mount brakes fitted on this model offer greater modulation and power than the standard design.
However the frame is certainly no slouch. Ok, it’s not going to be making an appearance on the World Tour any time soon, but power transfer is still good enough for sharp accelerations and tackling the steepest gradients. Comfort is also particularly good, and despite the lack of a carbon seatpost, we were still more than happy putting in big miles on this bike.
Our pick of the best disc brake road bike of the year is the Focus Izalco Max Disc.
If you’re not convinced that disc brakes belong on road bikes, then the Focus Izalco Max Disc is the bike most likely to change your mind. It really does thrive on all terrains, and with a total weight of only just over 7.5kg there’s not much of a penalty associated with fitting the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.
That weight means that this bike simply glides up hills, but the great thing is that it excels in other areas too. Handling is well-balanced, and descending fun and secure in all conditions thanks to those disc brakes. It’s also lovely and comfortable too, with an innovative seatpost design that takes the worse out of any road buzz.
Compared to many other disc brake road bikes, the Focus Izalco Max Disc represents impressive value too. This model comes with a mix of Shimano Dura-Ace components with RS805 hydraulic discs, which seems like great value for money with a price that’s not miles north of £3,000.