Gravel grinders and disc brakes continue to take over, but throwbacks are also on the rise
The definition of a road bike continues to blur, with tires getting fatter, disc brakes becoming more pervasive, drive trains nudging into 1x setups, and even a few 650B entries into the category (think: the Cannondale Slate). Naturally, companies continue to push faster and lighter machines at the high end of racing, but the energy is firmly in the adventure road (or all road or gravel road) corner—a welcome development as we see these bikes as the ultimate one-steed solution for most riders. Here are our favorites for 2016.
Pinarello Dogma F8 Disc ($5,750)
Yep, the bike that Chris Froome rode to win the Tour de France is now available with disc brakes, another indication that the technology will soon come to the pro peloton. In fact, Team Sky’s Bernard Eisel raced the F8 Disc at the Eneco Tour last month under the UCI’s program to allow teams to test the technology in race settings this fall. Still no word from the governing body on results, but it’s widely thought that pros could switch to discs as early as 2017.
Marin Four Corners Elite ($2,310)
To mark its thirtieth anniversary, Marin unveiled a line of special-edition bikes, including this sharp-looking gravel road tourer. The Columbus Thron steel tubing (fork included) is ideal for taking the edge off rough roads and the oversize 40c tires are ready for everything but the heaviest duty trails. The bike features SRAM’s new Rival 1x11 drivetrain, with a 40-tooth ring up front and a 10-42 cassette. There are fender mounts for hauling, too, and unlike many of the upstarts in the gravel category, Marin has wisely included a third water bottle mount underneath the down tube*.
Wilier Superleggera ($3,000)
For cyclists who cut their teeth in the 1980s, the Superleggera will be a blast from the past. That’s because Wilier, which is now known for its high-end, Pro Tour-caliber carbon racers, sourced Columbus SL tubing (the preferred chromoly tube set of those days), for the bike, then built it with lugged construction and finished it with a period-appropriate plated sheen. It’s no grouchy throwback, however, as it works with all modern components. Even that quill stem is new, with a one-inch threaded steer tube. The bike will sell in the U.S. as a frameset only, with 13 sizes between 48 and 60 centimeters.
Fuji SL 1.1 ($10,000)
With a frame said to weigh just 695 grams (1.5 pounds), the SL puts Fuji into rarified company next to the Cervélo RCA, Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod, and the Trek Émonda. This is a climber’s bike, made to be as wispy as technologically possible, and Fuji was showing it on a scale that registered 10.91 pounds, built. As expected, it costs a small fortune at $10,000. But keeping in line with their reputation for making great bikes at great value, Fuji also offers the SL 1.3, which tips the scales at just 14.1 pounds, complete with Dura Ace Di2, and goes for $6,320.
Open U.P. ($2,900)
The fact that Open Cycles launched three years ago and has had, until now, only one bike in its lineup (a weapon of a 29er race hard tail) speaks to just how demanding the company is about the bikes they produces. They’ve been working on model two, the Unbeaten Path, and by the looks of the careful details and perfect finish, it was worth the wait. Billed as a “Gravel Plus” bike, the defining characteristic is the massive tire clearance, which can fit 700c wheels with up to 42-millimeter tires or 650B wheels with 2.25-inch mountain rubber.
Bianchi l’Eroica ($3,500)
Giancarlo Brocci began his L’Eroica bike races in Tuscany almost two decades ago, and the concept, which stipulates that all participants must ride bikes and gear dating to 1987 or prior, has gained such a following that there are now similar races on three continents. The truth, however, is that finding a bike today with external brake cables, down-tube shifters, and pedals with toe straps can be difficult. Enter Bianchi’s new l’Eroica model, a Columbus steel replica bike that mirrors its ancestors right down to the cotton bar tape, gum brake hoods, polished clamp-on cable guides, and Brooks leather saddle. It’s not built to be high-performance like the Specialissima, but it’s one heck of a head-turner. At the Bianchi booth, there was a constant knot of admirers circling around this celeste beauty.
*This article has been updated to clarify how many water bottle mounts there are on the Marin Four Corners Elite.