The best winter road bikes reviewed

A winter road bike should get you through the worst of winter in a bit more comfort and with less chance of mechanicals We explain what to look for in a winter road bike and highlight some key models on the market

best winter road bike
(Image credit: Andrew McCandlish)

The idea of having a 'winter road bike' may seem like a luxury to some, but for anyone who has moved into second bike terrain it's a sensible choice which allows you to keep your best bike pristine, ready for the rides where you want an injection of speed.

A dedicated winter road bike is likely to be more robust too, with cheaper components which are likely to wear better and will be less expensive to replace when they do succumb to the inevitable damp and dirt. You're likely to be able to fit mudguards too, which will up your comfort level no end.

What is a winter road bike?

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You may question why you need a winter road bike, but take the plunge and it will swiftly become your best and faithful friend. You'll go through more adventures together than any of your other bikes as your winter bike gets you through the most demanding season of the year, equipped to cope with rain and snow, as well as general road detritus, including the corrosive powers of salt grit scattered on the roads to counter ice.

Key features will include winter tyres, designed to provide grip and comfort and possibly wider than your summer tyres, disc brakes which cope well with wet conditions and bike mudguards/ fenders.

The professional road cycling calendar sees the racing season kick off in spring, finishing around September. Traditionally if you follow a cycling training plan, the winter months are used for building up endurance via long, slow 'base miles'. This means spending a lot of time in the saddle, so winter bikes often have a more relaxed geometry - typically seen on sportive or endurance bikes.

The bike gears may be tweaked and consist of a smaller, compact chainset and a wide-ratio cassette suited to ample climbing and high mileage demands of winter riding, letting you spin a lower gear to reduce the risk of slipping a wheel on wet roads.

Winter vs gravel vs endurance bike?

With their wide tyres, disc brakes and more stable and relaxed geometry, adventure and gravel bikes, are becoming an increasingly popular choice of winter bike.

Designed to allow riders to choose between tarmac and off-road sections, gravel/adventure bikes will generally be more extreme, and the bottom bracket will often be higher too, to allow for less chance of pedal strike when riding over rocks and roots.

Endurance bikes are specifically road-going, but offer a more relaxed geometry and generally wider tyres than you'd see on a traditional race bike, to offer stability over a range of terrain.

If you think of a sliding scale, race bikes would be at one end (closely neighboured by endurance bikes) and adventure bikes would be at the opposite end, with winter bikes sitting somewhere in the middle.

While an adventure bike or gravel bike will certainly cope well with winter riding, and give you the option to head off the beaten track, it can lack the nimble ride feel of a bike built just for the road. Endurance bikes usually have that in spades, but may not come with mudguard and rack mounts and prices usually exceed your desired "winter hack" spend.

Gravel bikes tend to have low gearing too, to help you negotiate steep terrain and obstacles off road, often with limited grip. That means that if you're riding faster on tarmac it's easy to spin out. A winter road bike is more likely to have a compact chainset with 50/34 chainrings. Coupled with a wide ratio cassette you'll have a bit more top end speed, but still be able to spin up hills on damp roads.

Below, we've listed winter ready road bikes. If you're still after a do-all option, then check out our dedicated best gravel bikes buyers guide. Similarly, if you're after something with a relaxed geometry that's still light and fast, take a look at our best endurance bikes guide.

The best winter bikes

best winter road bikes: Kinesis RTD

Specifications

Groupset: N/A
Weight: 1400g (51cm frameset)

Reasons to buy

+
Versatility for different terrains and specs
+
Capable off-road
+
Rolls well on road

Reasons to avoid

-
Weight is quite high

A common approach to the winter bike conundrum is to buy a relatively inexpensive frame, and build it up with assorted components lifted from your existing collection (or purchased second hand from club mates/ selling sites). The Kinesis RTD comes as a frameset only and is ideal for those keen to build their own.

On test we loved the versatility of the RTD, finding it happy to roll off road, but without sacrificing its road going capabilities. The geometry is shorter and higher, for a more relaxed riding position as you eat up the miles.

The distance ready frame was inspired by the events such as the Transcontinental, which Kinesis is a long term supporter of. It's comfortable, disc brake ready, with clearance for tyres up to 34c or 30c with room for mudguards/ fenders and internal cable routing to keep the weather at bay. With a 1,400g frame weight, it's not the lightest option out there though.

Ribble CGR AL 105

(Image credit: Future)

Specifications

Groupset: Shimano 105
Weight: 9.72kg / 21.43lb (size L without mudguards)

Reasons to buy

+
Smart looks
+
Can spec as you want
+
Robust frame and components
+
Good handling

Reasons to avoid

-
Handlebar shape leads to a long reach

Ribble’s CGR platform comes with clearances and road bike geometry to all suit ‘Cross, Gravel and Road riding throughout the winter. Although this model is aluminium and Shimano 105, steel, titanium and carbon versions are available, likewise for groupsets with both Shimano Sora and Ultegra also options and a range of different wheels available. You can spec the bike as you want using Ribble's Bike Builder on line.

One nice spec choice for winter riding is a threaded bottom bracket, which should make for easy maintenance and help keep creaks and squeaks away.

On test we found that the slim seat stays adsorb a lot of vibrations, as does the carbon fork. Although not designed as a race bike, the CGR still offered an impressive turn of speed, although adding the mudguards/ fenders would hinder this somewhat. 

We also found it played well when shown a section of singletrack, so there’s plenty of scope for less traditional winter riding, although the stock wheelset is a bit heavy, leading to a less lively ride than you could expect from the frameset.

One recommendation we would certainly make is to change the handlebars, as the stock ones have far too much reach for our liking, but other than that it's a cracking full winter option.

Triban RC520

(Image credit: Decathlon)

Specifications

Groupset: Shimano 105 shifting, TRP brakes
Weight: 10.4kg / 22.92lbs (claimed)

Reasons to buy

+
Good value spec
+
Wide, tubeless-ready tyres
+
Rack and mudguard mounts

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit more expensive than previously

The Triban RC 520 spec is impressive for the price. For £849.99/ $1,199, you'll get Decathlon's house brand aluminium frame kitted out with Shimano 105 shifting and TRP Hy/Rd cable actuated hydraulic disc brakes.

The frame is still designed to offer a comfortable ride, and the fork comes with carbon blades to drop the weight and dampen road buzz. There are mounts for mudguards/ fenders and a pannier rack and it comes with 28mm tubeless ready tyres to help reduce the chance of punctures. You can squeeze in tyres up to 36mm wide for even more grip and comfort.

Decathlon quotes a bike weight of 10.4kg, which isn't too bad for a bike at this price equipped with disc brakes.

If you want to spend a bit less, there's a Shimano Sora equipped model, which keeps disc brakes, albeit the mechanical variety, for £599.99 and there's a flat bar hybrid option as well. We've also reviewed the rim brake Triban 520.

best winter road bikes: Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc

Specifications

Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Weight: 9kg/ 19.84lbs (Shimano 105 size 54)

Reasons to buy

+
Great handling
+
Long ride comfort

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy wheels
-
Mechanical disc brakes rather than hydraulics

The Cannondale Synapse is a bike designed for the rider who wants to still feel nimble in winter, whilst enjoying the all-day comfort of a relaxed geometry, the secure stopping of disc brakes, albeit mechanical ones, and wide 30c tyres.

The range is quite wide, starting at around £1,000, and includes both carbon and alloy frame options. All bikes in the current range are equipped with disc brakes.

We really enjoyed the Cannondale Synapse 105, which does come with a carbon frame, higher spec and higher price tag. The Sora model uses an aluminium frame and carbon fork, but you should still get the ride spirit.

The frame geometry is a bit higher than Cannondale's racier SuperSix, but still not as upright as many endurance bikes, so the Synapse feels that bit faster than some alternatives, letting you press on that bit more. The wheels are on the beefy side though and we enjoyed our rides more following a swap-out.

There are also gender specific models available, with the women's version coming with narrower handlebars and women's saddle.

Cube Nuroad Race FE

(Image credit: Cube)

Cube Nuroad Race FE road bike

Specifications

Groupset: Shimano GXR
Weight: 11kg/ 24/25lbs (claimed)

Reasons to buy

+
Specced for wide gear range
+
Versatile for on- and off-road use
+
Winter ready out of the box

Reasons to avoid

-
Newer version has mechanical disc brakes rather than hydraulic

We're big fans of Cube bikes, finding them to offer great value for money and hard to fault. The Nuroad range of bikes got an overhaul for 2021, which still offers great value for money but if you can get the older one, you'll get exceptional value as it came with hydraulic disc brakes.

Winter ready straight out the box, the Cube Nuroad Race FE comes with an aluminium frame and carbon fork. Interestingly Cube has equipped the bike with the gravel/ cyclocross Shimano GRX groupset, which means a smaller chainring than most bikes, but with a bigger spread in the cassette. Gear ratios go down well below 1:1, ideal for cruising the climbs, although the low top gear means you may spin out on faster tarmac sections.

With 40mm tyres, mudguards and a rack, the Nuroad Race FE is all ready for winter duties both on and off road and it even comes with front and rear lights, so you won't get caught out by the early winter dusk.

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