From disc brakes to, dare we say it, “gravel grinders,” these are the five best bikes—and five big trends—in road biking for next year.
Scott Addict SL
Remember the day, just a few years ago, when it was big news that a bike manufacturer—Scott, in fact—was producing a sub-1,000 gram frame? (That’s 2.2 pounds for those with furrowed brows.) While that was a bare frame weight, this year’s Addict is below a kilo including the fork. That doesn’t make the Addict the lightest production frame ever, but it does place it right up there—about as airy as your kid’s helium balloon on a windy day. Scott makes all the requisite claims about how the new Addict is more compliant, stiffer at the bottom bracket, and more aerodynamic (with DNA lifted from the Foil) than ever before. But we remember just how dang good the original Addict was, and we wonder how it could possibly get better. It will come in four specs for 2014, from $2,950 up to $12,650.
Eddy Merckx EMX 525
While Scott (and Cervelo, and Cannondale) obsesses over weight, Eddy Merckx doesn’t give a damn. The EMX 525 is the first bike designed with direct input from The Cannibal himself, and at 1200 grams for the frame alone it’s no lightweight. But according to the company, that’s by design. “Weight is one important factor. But there’s also ride quality and balance and descending and aerodynamics, none of which are affected by weight,” says Peter Vanham, the U.S. manager for Merckx . “Eddy believes these things are more important than just creating the lightest thing around. And if you are the best rider in the history of the sport, you must be right.” The fact is, a fully equipped EMX525 can still duck neatly under the UCI minimum of 6.8 kilos (15 pounds), meaning this might just be the best-riding, heaviest-framed, lightweight bike around. Perhaps sanity will soon reign and the weight wars will come to an end. (Or perhaps not.)
Bianchi Infinito CV
The endurance category of road bikes continues to expand. And with bikes like the Infinito CV, the Orbea Avant , and the revised BMC GF01, it’s clear that these aren’t just sluggish, comfort road bikes for old men anymore. The CV in the name refers to Countervail Vibration Cancelling Technology, an application licensed from aerospace pioneers Materials Science Corp. Apparently even the folks at Bianchi don’t know exactly what it is, but the application, which has been used by NASA, is embedded into the carbon layup to absorb vibration so that your body doesn’t have to. It sounds like a lot of good marketing, though the ping pong demo is convincing. And for good measure, Juan Antonio Flecha rode the Infinito CV at Paris-Roubaix last year and called it, “the best classics bike” he had ever ridden. It will come in five models, ranging from an Ultegra mechanical spec for $4,600 up to an eye-watering Campy Super Record EPS version (pictured) for $12,400.
Wilier Cento Uno SR Disc
Debate is raging over whether we actually need disc brakes for road bikes. (It’s not unlike past disagreements over the necessity of things like disc brakes for mountain bikes, suspension, and even clipless pedals.) We’re not going to wade into the quagmire now, but the fact is, disc brakes for road bikes are here. Nearly every major manufacturer in Vegas was showing a new disc-optimized model, and one of our favorites was the Cento Uno SR. Though this all-around roadie was in the line last year, the company says the disc-model is a full makeover, including a fully redesigned rear triangle with mounts on the chain stays and additional reinforcement for braking forces. And unlike many manufacturers, who have saved the discs for mid-level and lower models (ostensibly because the technology isn’t yet adopted in the pro ranks), the Cento Air is no entry-level bike at $4,000 for the frameset alone. It’s built from costly, high-modulus 60-ton carbon fiber and has tidy internal routings and a handy, oversize port at the bottom bracket for setup ease. For a grand more, you get a complete bike with Shimano R785s.
Everyone at Interbike was showing a “gravel bike,” but ironically, Surly, wouldn’t hang the Straggler with the limiting name. And yet that’s exactly what it is: a road bike with stable geometry, vibration-quashing CroMoly steel (without the CV price tag), clearance for tires up to two inches wide (over 50mm), and even mechanical brakes. It’s an offshoot of the tried-and-true Cross Check, and though it could be used for cross, marketing manager Tyler Stilwill chuckled when he told me that. “Everyone who tries it complains about the cables on the top tube digging into their shoulders,” he says. Make no mistake: this is a road bike for unpaved backwoods lanes and every condition (including commuting and even some good-natured cross racing)—“rough roads” in Surly parlance. We like the $1,850 price point, and we love the glittery purple finish. But most importantly, we’re thrilled that at least someone has the good sense to resist the “gravel” marketing hype.