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The Best Road Bikes of 2016

The Best Road Bikes of 2016

We’re witnessing a sea change in what road bikes look like and how they perform. Manufacturers are realizing that consumers don’t need the lightest, most aggressive designs used by professional riders, and they’re turning out machines that are more versatile and user-friendly. While the racing world has resisted disc brakes, for instance, bike companies are keen on their advantages and are pushing to make them standard. Modern geometries lean toward stability, and smarter tube shapes continue to boost comfort. Tires and rims are getting wider, improving traction and ride quality. And as the gravel market grows—with bikes like our Gear of the Year winner built to handle asphalt, dirt, and even light trails—the roadie is becoming more capable and fun, no matter where your next adventure leads. 

  Photo: Open

Open Unbeaten Path 

Gear of the Year

The Unbeaten Path is the rally car of road bikes: blazingly fast and light (just over 17 pounds with skinny tires) yet muscly enough for gravel and slickrock trails. This carbon machine gets the adventure recipe right by mating road geometry with mountain-bike tire clearance. The UP can accommodate everything from 700c wheels with 40-millimeter tires to 650b hoops with 2.1-inch rubber—more than half an inch wider than most bikes in this class. Details are spot-on, too, with powerful braking, thanks to 160-­millimeter discs; stiff mountain-size through-axles at the front and rear; and four sets of bottle bosses, including one on the top tube for an integrated feedbag. “It’s the universal road bike,” said one tester. “There’s nothing it can’t do well.” 

Price $2,900 (frame only)  Weight 17.6 lbs

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  Photo: Pinarello

Pinarello Dogma F8W

Best For: Pro-tour victors. 

The Test: Only two companies got early ­access to SRAM eTap—the world’s first wireless electronic drivetrain—and Pinarello took advantage by building an eTap-specific model of its Tour de France–winning frame. The new components are a revelation, with a unique shifting mechanism (the right lever shifts up, the left shifts down, and both at once move the front derailleur), and no wires means easy installation. The frame is equal to the high-tech parts, with best-in-test power transfer, solid handling on everything from steep climbs to snaky descents, and a surprising amount of comfort given its race pedigree. 

The Verdict: You can have perfection—provided you’re willing to pay for it. 

Price $11,500  Weight 16 lbs

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  Photo: Scott

Scott Foil Premium

Best For: Free watts. 

The Test: The second coming of the ­aerodynamic Foil is stiffer, lighter, and slipperier than its predecessor. But the most impressive stat is the 89 percent increase in vertical compliance. Translation: In addition to being faster and more efficient, it’s also more comfortable. “Not harsh like most aero bikes,” a tester said. The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain is the smoothest available, and the brakes outperform any rim variety. The Zipp 404 Firecrest wheels felt more stable in the wind than previous versions. Our only niggle: some riders found the seatpost and integrated stem too flexy. 

The Verdict: An all-around excellent ride that just happens to cheat the wind. 

Price $12,000  Weight 15.4 lbs

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  Photo: Cipollini

Cipollini Nk1k 

Best For: Racing and looking the part.

The Test: The Nk1k is fast and flashy, like company founder Mario Cipollini, the Italian sprinter who racked up 191 wins. The brand dubs this its “everyman” model, with a taller headtube and shallower seat-tube angle, but that’s like calling it a street-legal Ferrari. This machine was the stiffest in the test—­aggressive in its angles and exceedingly fun if crits are your game. We loved the Shimano Dura-Ace group, although the Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50 wheels made for mediocre braking. But this bike’s for blazing, not stopping, and the wild carbon tubes and Cruella De Vil detailing ensure you’re seen as you fly past. 

The Verdict: Great for speed demons. If you want the pomp, get the frame and build it yourself for less.

Price $7,299 (frame only)  Weight 15.9 lbs

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  Photo: Focus

Focus Izalco Max Disc Red 

Best For: Racers who want disc brakes. 

The Test: This year the UCI finally ­allowed season-long testing of disc brakes in the pro peloton. That means fast, hard-edged race steeds like the Izalco Max are now available with superior stopping power. On descents the bike tracks like a freight train (and not of the runaway variety), which we credit to the extra grab and finesse of the SRAM Red hydraulic discs. “You can brake later and carry more speed through turns,” raved one tester. Not everyone loved the SRAM Red 22 shifting, but praise was unanimous for the shallow-drop Fizik Cyrano bars and crisp, tubeless-ready DT Swiss RC38 carbon clinchers (complete with through-axles).

The Verdict: With a different group set, the Izalco Max would have easily earned our Gear of the Year award.

Price $6,800 Weight 16.1 lbs

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  Photo: Norco

Norco Tactic SL Disc Ultegra 

Best For: Everyday riding. 

The Test: This cruiser was the sleeper of our test. Its understated looks belie tons of value: through-axles front and rear; a full ­Shimano Ultegra drivetrain and hydraulic brakes, which offer the best feel and ergonomics for the money; clean internal cable routing; and solid, tubeless-ready DT Swiss R32 wheels. The slightly shorter reach and taller headtube gave the Tactic an easygo­ing feel, though the tight chainstays still made for quick acceleration. That said, it’s not the lightest roadie around (alloy wheels don’t help), and a few testers noted that 
the 140-millimeter rotors yielded less power than other disc brakes.

The Verdict: An adventure machine that sits right at the intersection of performance and value.

Price $2,025 to 7,015 Weight 18.1 lbs

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  Photo: Fuji

Fuji SL 1.5

Best For: Scratching your competitive itch for less. 

The Test: Year after year, Fuji delivers the best bike value of our test. Case in point: the SL 1.5, which is as good as racers costing twice as much. For less than five grand, you get a complete Shimano Dura-Ace group set (the gold standard in components), and a bike that’s lighter than UCI standards—14.4 pounds, less than any other in this issue. This carbon race rig was balanced on the flats, explosive on steep climbs, and rooted on even the most technical descents. Sure, Fuji saves money by using its house-brand Oval components, but we’ve found these to be as refined as anything else out there for the money. You can always get better wheels, but not for this price. If only there was a disc-brake model. 

The Verdict: We’d proudly pit this against most other race bikes on the market. 

Price $4,740 Weight 14.4 lbs

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The Bike Hunting Essentials of 2016

  Photo: Sitka Sitka Mountain Pants  Made from stretch polyester with a DWR treatment, these pants shrug off rain and brush. The cargo pockets swallow essentials, and the removable foam knee pads make crouching almost comfortable.  Price $189 Buy Now   Photo: Maven Maven B.2 Binoculars  With its direct-to-consumer strategy, Maven sells exceptional optics at a fraction of the price of its competitors. Choose from three magnifications and customize the colors of lens rings and other pieces.  Price $1,000 Buy Now    Photo: Icebreaker Icebreaker Tech Lite Long Sleeve Crewe Real Tree Shirt  This lightweight merino top repelled body odors even after wearing it for a week

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The Best Bike Apparel of 2016

A cadre of upstart brands is shaking up cycling clothing. Thank God.    Photo: DannyShane DannyShane Red Tornado Plaid  Cut from 50 percent bamboo-blend fabric, this dapper soft top has a network of airy channels that spirited away moisture and kept us cool in the Arizona heat. Price $139 Buy Now   Photo: Sombrio Sombrio Grappler  We broke out the Grappler on big days in the mountains when we’d be encountering variable temperatures. The performance mesh-poly fabric kept us cool in the foothills, while the sleeves provided warmth when the storms rolled in up high.  Price $70 Buy Now    Photo: Twin Six Twin Six

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The Best Mountain Bikes of 2016

Plus-size is fast becoming the new normal in mountain bikes. One year ago, you had only a few niche options in this category, loosely defined as including anything with 2.8-to-3-inch tires. At this year’s test we evaluated eight of the rigs, including our Gear of the Year winner, and another dozen are coming to market this season. These mid-fat machines add grip and confidence without the heft of a full fat bike, making them ideal for loose, sandy trails and super ­capable on bigger-hit riding. While the development is still in its infancy, with manufacturers debating rim widths and rubber

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The Best Bike Accessories of 2016

Build your kit with the right stuff for road and trail. DAILY ROAD   Photo: Specialized Specialized Airnet MIPS Helmet  The Airnet’s sleek, retro looks pay homage to old-school racing lids, but the MIPS technology, designed to reduce rotational force in a crash, is all new. It’s the only helmet you need.  Price $170 Buy Now   Photo: Niterider NiteRider Sentinel 40 Taillight  Do yourself a favor and ride with a taillight. Always. The tough, USB-chargeable Sentinel 40 projects a thin beam on either side of your bike, creating a visible safety lane that moves with you.  Price $50 Buy Now   Photo: Shimano Shimano RP5 Shoes  An understated,

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The Best Starter Bikes of 2016

The biggest beneficiaries of the great evolution in bike tech? Lower-cost rides.   Photo: Cannondale Cannondale CAAD8 105 5  Best For: Aspiring Racers  Anyone who thinks aluminum is stiff and heavy hasn’t ridden the CAAD8. Cannondale used lightweight tubing to build a bike that’s nearly identical to its older brother, the CAAD12, but for $270 less and at a mere two-pound weight penalty. In a blind test, most people wouldn’t notice a performance difference between the Shimano 105 drivetrain included here and top-shelf Dura Ace, and though the wheels are mediocre, they’re easy to upgrade. On the road, the CAAD8 feels snappy

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The Best Women’s Bikes of 2016

We tested 25 women’s bikes in the Arizona desert. These were our four favorites.   Photo: Felt Felt ZW2  Best For: Blasting on a Budget  The first thing we noticed about the ZW2? The murdered-out matte paint job and red highlights. This carbon roadie is as fast as it looks, with fairly aggressive geometry and stiff Fulcrum Racing 5 LG wheels that flew along smooth pavement and leaped up steep grades. The Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting is top-notch, making the ZW2 a good value at under five grand. “Gorgeous, poised, stable, with e-shifting? At this price?” said one tester. The ride

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The Best Women's Bike Accessories of 2016

We combed through hordes of gear to put together the best kit for road and mountain biking.   Photo: Giro Giro Chrono Pro Shorts  A good chamois could be the single most important item in your gear closet. This is about the plushest we’ve found, with a wide waist, leg bands that stay in place, and silky Lycra.    Price $150 Buy Now   Photo: Specialized Specialized S-Works Evade Helmet  The secret to speed isn’t shedding weight—it’s getting aero. The Evade will save you 46 seconds over 24 miles compared with a standard helmet, says Specialized. We couldn’t verify the claim, but we sure

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The Bike Commute Essentials of 2016

You can do better than jeans and a T-shirt.   Photo: Ibex Ibex Shralp Jersey Ibex calls this a jersey, and while it does have some nice tech details—including odor- and moisture-resistant wool fabric, a drop hem, and reflective hits on the back—the wrinkle-free, plaid button-up hangs just as well at the office as it does in the saddle.   Price $150 Buy Now   Photo: Du:er Du:er Slim Utility Rinse Jeans  These trim-fit jeans are excellent on the bike, thanks to the proprietary, slightly stretchy, bomber denim and hidden gusseted crotch. We found ourselves wearing them almost full-time since they don’t show their

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