After years of incremental advances, we’re seeing dramatic technological change in all bikes, thanks to trickle-down from top-tier models. Electronic shifting is set to expand as SRAM prepares to release its wireless system, and disc brakes have flooded the scene, with over half the bikes we reviewed sporting the new stoppers. There’s even a whole new category, the adventure roadie, with a longer wheelbase for more stability, a taller headtube for added comfort, and clearance for bigger tires. Superior rides with added versatility: just try and tell us it’s not an exciting time in road bikes.
GT Grade Carbon
Given GT’s BMX heritage, we weren’t surprised that the company’s crossover roadie ($3,580) outpaced its competitors. “It’s like the griffin of the cycling world,” said one tester, “with the snappiness of a road bike but the handling and trail manners of a hardtail.” The reasons we liked the Grade Carbon best? Read the full Gear of the Year review.
Trek Émonda SLR 10
Best For: Climbing like Contador.
The Test: “This bike is basically mechanical doping,” exclaimed one tester. Trek’s new superbike ($15,750) weighs an astonishing 10.3 pounds, thanks to its gossamer parts. Some, like the SRAM Red 22 drivetrain and the Bontrager Speed Stop direct-mount brakes, are outstanding. Others, including the tubular wheels with 22-millimeter tires and the integrated bar and stem combo, feel so light they might snap. But the frame is as low-slung and fast as a fighter jet, and it proved surprisingly capable on descents.
The Verdict: Amazing. But you can save almost $8,000 and get the Émonda SLR 8, which pairs the same frame with sturdier parts and still weighs in at just 13.6 pounds.10.3 lbs; trekbikes.com
Fuji Transonic 1.3
Best For: Free speed.
The Test: The full-carbon, super-aero Transonic ($4,699)—complete with top-notch Shimano Dura-Ace—is one of the best deals in race bikes. Developed after plenty of wind-tunnel time, the Transonic is said to be about a minute faster than Fuji’s comparable road and climbing models in a 40-kilometer time trial. “The claimed numbers always sound like marketing hooey,” said one tester, “but the Transonic actually feels fast.” Unlike many aero bikes, this one offers a ride that’s smooth, not harsh. And the Oval Concepts components, including the deep-section wheels, shallow-drop bars, and saddle, are as excellent as they are inexpensive.
The Verdict: The best aero racer for the price. 16.2 lbs; fujibikes.com
BMC Teammachine SLR03
Best For: Saving big while going fast.
The Test: We gave our 2014 Gear of the Year award to the BMC Teammachine SLR01. The 2015 SLR03 ($2,299) is almost identical to that USA Pro Challenge–winning bike, but it costs less than a quarter as much. The frame is built from lower-grade carbon, but you get the same quick handling and roller-coaster-smooth descending, just in a slightly heavier package and without the internal cable routing. The Shimano 105 group, with 11 speeds and excellent light-action braking, performs almost exactly like the more expensive components. “I bet few people could tell the difference in a blind test,” said one rider. The same could almost be said when comparing the SLR03 with its pricier relatives.
The Verdict: Swiss detail without the high cost. 18.5 lbs; bmc-switzerland.com
Wilier Triestina Zero.9
Best For: Leading the pack.
The Test: Eric Marcotte won the 2014 U.S. National Road Race Championships aboard the Zero.9. The crazy part: this isn’t even the company’s highest-end bike. The Zero.9 ($3,499) borrows geometry from Wilier’s top racer, the Zero.7, with a short headtube and long top tube for aggressive positioning. Yet the frame has a smooth road feel, and it was confident on sinuous descents. The smart attention to detail—coordinating FSA cockpit parts, a comfy color-matched San Marco saddle, and a complete Ultegra parts kit—made us like it even more.
The Verdict: Drips with the confidence of a much pricier bike. 17.3 lbs; wilier.com
Best For: Riding all day.
The Test: Greg LeMond’s new steel bike ($4,549), his first since 2010, reminds us of the man himself: purposefully counterculture, hard to ignore, and fast as hell. LeMond keeps the bike lively with Reynolds 853 steel, which has a bright, snappy feel. The classic geometry, with long headtube, top tube, and seatstays, was smooth and stable, and the Enve carbon fork adds to the silky road sensation. But with electronic Ultegra Di2, this is no throwback.
The Verdict: Go race a gran fondo—and win. 18.1 lbs; greglemond.com
Scott Solace 15 Disc
Best For: Forgoing back pain, not performance.
The Test: The endurance road category often implies slow steering and flag-in-the-wind positioning. That’s not the case with the Solace ($3,500), which gains forgiveness from smart tube shaping and layups but retains a geometry closer to the company’s true racers for impressively nimble handling. This year’s model is equipped with Ultegra-level hydraulic disc brakes, which give you more power and control.
The Verdict: An endurance bike that thinks it’s a racer. 18 lbs; scott-sports.com