To pick these seven bikes, we spent several weeks in January building and testing over 70 models. On as many as 25 rides per day, we logged loops around Tucson, Arizona, from the hilly ten-milecircuit in East Saguaro National Park to a west-side route that culminated with the 500-vertical-foot climb up Gates Pass. This year, with the growth in the adventure-road-bike-category, we even added a day on gravel singletrack.
Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon ($4,000)
Best for: Riding anywhere you please.
The Test: This adventurous road bike mates some of Specialized’s snappiest carbon fiber with bump-silencing elastomer inserts in the fork and seatstays to produce a ride that’s half race bike and half endurance machine. When the pavement fades, the supple, oversize 32-millimeter roubaix pro tires make quick work of washboard dirt, and that awkward-looking goose-necked seatpost provides so much flex that we barely felt rough chip seal or cobbles. Even charging on buff singletrack is a cinch, thanks to the high-powered hydraulic disc brakes and shallow-drop handlebars, both of which add steering control. “It’s almost too competent,” lamented one tester. “I’m not ready to give up my road bike, cross bike, and mountain bike all at once.”
The Verdict: the ATV of road bikes. 183 lbs; specialized.com
Cervélo R2 ($2,500)
Best for: Value hunters.
The Test: the R2 is a trickle-down iteration of Cervélo’s flagship, the RCA, and includes the same semi-aerodynamic shaping, wire-thin seatstays, and tall headtube for fast steering, yet it costs about 75 percent less. One notable difference is the greater stiffness up front, which provides improved handling and control. The spare internal cable routing and ports for both mechanical and electronic shifting (in case you want to upgrade) are a boon at this price. And though everyone appreciated Shimano’s 105 shifters, several testers lamented that Cervélo chose low-cost, workhorse FSA parts.
The Verdict: An apt race bike out of the box, though a wheel upgrade from the hefty Shimano RS10s would really bring it to life. 17.8 lbs; cervelo.com
Alchemy Helios ($11,995)
Best for: Roadies who won’t compromise.
The Test: Using top-shelf carbon seat tubes sourced from composite expert Enve, Alchemy does what few manufacturers can afford to: it builds its frames by hand. That partly accounts for the Helios’s eye-watering cost, but it also explains why the bike is so gorgeous, with carbon wraps at the junctions and hand-painted details. Our stock-geometry 56-centimeter frame, which pairs semi-aero tube shapes with a slightly sloping top tube, was just as sublime. “An almost ethereal ex- perience,” one tester said. “Stiff and solid like a race bike, but somehow softer and straighter, with more direct power transfer.” The Enve ses 3.4 wheels are some of the fastest clinchers money can buy, and the Shimano Ultegra DI2 drivetrain was impeccable, though for this price we were surprised we didn’t get Dura-Ace electric.
The Verdict: A magical ride for the price of gold. 15.7 lbs; alchemybicycles.com
Diamondback Haanjo Trail ($1,850)
Best for: Hurtling over gravel instead of grinding it.
The Test: For the money, this was the most entertaining bike in the test. Yep, it’s alloy, which ensures durability in case of a crash and, more importantly, cuts the cost. It’s not unlike the Specialized Diverge, except that the knobby 35-millimeter Clément tires and additional clearance add even more versatility. It managed just fine on washboard forest-service roads and rough singletrack. The Shimano Ultegra group set is unheard of at this price—even with the lower-end FSA crank— and the aluminum Hed wheels proved sprier than testers expected and sported hydraulic discs, all but mandatory on mixed terrain.
The Verdict: A road bike that’s happiest on dirt. 21 lbs; diamondback.com
Ritte Ace ($5,300)
Best for: Going very, very fast.
The Test: The Ace is only the tenth bike designed by Ritte, and we love the results. The blocky tubes, industrial-looking oversize bottom-bracket shell, and understated logo had design-minded riders raving. “Jaw dropping,” gushed one. “Belongs in moma.” Our large test model was so light—thanks in part to the gossamer SRAM Red 22 group set—that it’s below UCI standards. It hummed along with the precision and speed of a moto GP bike. With an aggressive fit, bird-like handling, and stiff, bright road feel, it isn’t built for comfort, though the HiFi 50-millimeter carbon wheels definitely smooth out the ride.
The Verdict: Speed plus beauty equals happiness. 14.7 lbs; rittecycles.com
Eddy Merckx Mourenx 69 ($5,095)
Best for: Cannibalizing the competition.
The Test: It’s no coincidence that the Mourenx 69 is named for the 1969 Tour de France stage victory that Eddy Merckx solidified on a descent.“Plummets like an anchor,” said one tester. Between the long wheelbase, robust carbon frame, and solid Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, this bike carved through arcing turns and chewed up hills. It’s ostensibly an endurance bike, with a taller headtube for comfort, though the geometry is so dialed that it didn’t slow the handling at all. The Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifted faster than we could pedal, and Merckx himself chose the mechanical rim brakes, which is the only detail over which we’d quibble. (We’re convinced that disc brakes are the future.) Otherwise this is a near perfect racer for plowing out long, fast miles.
The Verdict: If it were disc equipped, this would have been the Editors’ Choice. 17 lbs; eddymerckx.be
BH Quartz Disc ($2,600)
Best for: Riding long.
The Test: The Quartz Disc was so gentle on the back that we had to cajole our riders to give it up.“I’ve sat in easy chairs less cozy,” one tester noted. Credit the tall headtube, flattened out seatstays that absorb road jolts, and upright positioning of the carbon frame, which add up to a bike built for riding all day. The shallow-drop bars help, too, by keeping the tuck reasonable, and the full Shimano 105 group set (including a wisely chosen, compact 50/34 crank) speaks to a commitment to quality. And kudos to BH for switching to discs: these TRP Spyre mechanical models may not have the power of the new hydraulics, but they’re grabbier and easier on the hands than most rim brakes.
The Verdict: Remarkable comfort with a small weight penalty. 19 lbs; bhbikes-us.com