A confluence of tech advances produces a thrilling new crop of rides.
BMC Teammachine SLR01
Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour de France aboard the Teammachine ($5,600). Now BMC has made the bike even better. The company claims the SLR01 is 25 percent stiffer and 15 percent lighter than the previous generation. Testers put it this way: stomp on the pedals and you feel like... well, Cadel smashing up L'Alpe d'Huez. With carefully tuned carbon layups in key flex points, the SLR01 is as ridiculously comfortable as ever, and the DT Swiss R-1650 tubeless wheels add even more plushness: "Races like a Ferrari, rides like a Bentley," said one tester. We chose the Shimano Ultegra 6800 setup, which gets the same 22 speeds, trim ergonomics, and lighter shifting action of Dura-Ace for a fraction of the price. 15.5 lbs
Boardman Air 9.2
BEST FOR: Riding very, very fast.
THE TEST: Aerodynamics are tough to gauge without a wind tunnel, but on the Air 9.2 ($3,800) we tried. “You can hear the hiss of speed, like a cleaver through air,” said one tester. Not only does this bike feel slippery in wind, partly courtesy of the slick internal cable routing, but it’s also smooth on the pavement—which isn’t usually the case with aero frames. Boardman uses the same molds and layups for every carbon Air, meaning that the 9.2’s frame is identical to the one on the model three times its price. A few testers felt the Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels weren’t deep enough for a bike this wind cheating, but it’s a fair trade-off for the price.
THE VERDICT: Minimal drag equals free speed. 17.2 lbs
Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Hydro
BEST FOR: Early adopters.
THE TEST: It might sound like an empty accolade, but the Dogma ($13,000 as tested) was the best-stopping bike we rode. It was one of a handful that came disc-brake equipped, and even skeptics admitted that no rim brake can offer the same power and finesse as TRP’s HY/RD hydraulics. Whether they’re worth the weight is debatable. But the Dogma is more than discs. It’s made from Pinarello’s top-tier carbon, and the bump-silencing asymmetric design and wavy Onda fork take the sting out of pocked pavement. Stable and comfy, the bike plummeted down sinuous drops. It’s beautiful, too, and God bless the Italian commitment to aesthetics. Still, 13 large is a lot to spend on a 17.7-pound ride.
THE VERDICT: Old World ride quality meets New World innovation. 17.7 lbs
Eddy Merckx EMX-525 Ultegra
BEST FOR: Breaking away.
THE TEST: This is the first bike in the Merckx lineup with full design direction from Eddy himself, and it rides like it. The EMX-525 ($5,500) packs angular carbon tubing and a few aero touches, including a smoothed-out fork junction and a foil-shaped seatpost, into a package that’s neither the lightest nor the most aerodynamic around—but one that can keep pace with both. It’s a strapping bicycle, with an oversize BB86 bottom bracket and a hard-wearing 11-speed Ultegra group set that feels at home churning big watts on flats and rollers.
THE VERDICT: A strong, long-lasting bike you’ll be comfy on all day—out in the wind, all by yourself. 15.7 lbs
Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod 3 Ultegra
BEST FOR: Crushing the gran fondo circuit.
THE TEST: Taking a cue from the world of mountain bikes, where manufacturers insist that suspension improves speed, the radically redesigned Synapse ($4,010) is all about compliance. With helix-shaped seatstays that absorb impacts like springs, a thin seatpost and clever wedge-fastening design to allow for vertical saddle flex, and, most radically, a cutout in the bottom of the seat tube that minimizes jarring, this bike gobbled up rutted asphalt and even felt good on gravel and dirt. All that and the Synapse still leaned toward a lower, stretched-out race geometry.
THE VERDICT: Don’t call it an endurance bike. This is an extremely comfortable racer. 15.8 lbs
BEST FOR: Climbing like a pro.
THE TEST: Last year, Cervélo brought out the lightest production frame you can buy, the Rca, which weighed 1 pound 7.5 ounces in a size 54 and cost a marriage-ending $10,000. Now the company has transferred what it learned to the R5 ($7,000 as tested), which will run you half that but still weighs less than a large, full water bottle. The frame is semi-aerodynamic, so you get speed descending and on the flats. Featherweight rides can feel noodly, but the R5 was so stiff at the bottom bracket that we couldn’t make it flex. The shorter shifting of the Dura-Ace drivetrain made us love it even more.
THE VERDICT: You could pick up two R5s for the price of an Rca, but the differences are minute. 14.5 lbs
Wilier Triestina GTS
BEST FOR: Well-priced speed.
THE TEST: Not only does the Triestina ($2,600) look as sexy as Wilier’s top models, but it rides like a premium bike, too. That’s partly because the Italian manufacturer borrowed carbon-layup tricks from its flagship frames, adding the bump-dampening technology that helped the GTS silence brutally derelict roads. Even the cost-saving Wilier FSA cranks and brakes are treated with Italian flair. But unlike race models, the GTS has endurance geometry, with a taller headtube, a more upright position, and a longer wheelbase. “It’s as plush as any bike I tried,” said one tester.
THE VERDICT: Gorgeous enough that you can tell your friends it cost double. Fast enough that they’ll believe you. 18.4 lbs