Best endurance road bike: From customisable to women-specific models

Super-aggressive, super-aero racing road bikes look the business, but comfortable they are not. If you’re the type of rider who leans towards longer stints in the saddle, an endurance road bike is going to be a better choice.

Endurance road bikes are geared towards tackling long days and smoothing out rough roads. Their slightly upright riding position makes them far more comfortable than purebred race bikes, but they can still go fast when they need to.

Another key benefit is durability. This category of bike was born out of the cobbled streets of Northern France, home to several of the “Classics” races. These historic landmark events are known for shaking bikes (and riders) to bits with rougher-than-rough road surfaces, and endurance road bikes were designed as a solution. If your local roads are littered with bumps and potholes, these may be the bikes for you.

We’re partial to a big day out, and our tester’s local roads in rural Northumberland aren’t exactly known for their smooth, rolling tarmac. This stood us in a good position to put some of the best endurance road bikes through the wringer and see how they performed.

We were looking for a good balance of comfort, speed, durability and sure footedness on less-than-favourable roads, all of which we found in the following machines.

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These are the best endurance bikes for 2021:

  • Best for customisation – Ribble endurance SL R disc: From £3,699,
  • Best independent option – Mason definition red axs: £5995,
  • Best for the original endurance bike – Specialized Roubaix comp: £3700,
  • Best for female riders – Liv avail 1: £949,
  • Best for good looks – Cervélo caledonia ultegra: £3879,
  • Best for a first road bike – Canyon endurace 6 disc: £1449,

Ribble endurance SL R disc: From £3,699

Best: For customisation

Rating: 9/10

If there are still people out there who think of Ribble as a budget bike brand, the endurance SL R disc should convince them otherwise. From the sleek integrated cockpit to the custom colour options, everything about this bike’s appearance screams premium, and after putting it through its paces on Struggle Dales, Yorkshire’s hardest sportive, it’s clear there is more going on here than just good looks.

Balancing nimble handling, stiffness and speed with comfort and reliability, the endurance SL R really does challenge ideas of what an endurance bike can be. It looks and feels racy, but even after 108 miles and 10,000ft of Yorkshire’s toughest climbs we still found it comfortable. Perhaps this is why it’s the bike of choice for the Ribble Weldtite pro team, who are no strangers to pushing bikes to their limits.

Another feature we’re big fans of is Ribble’s “Bikebuilder” service, which allows you to mix and match hardware and componentry for a bike that’s perfectly suited to your requirements. Everything from the wheels to the stem can be changed, and you’ll also be given the option of a custom paint job, where you can choose from a matte, gloss or sparkle finish and no less than 15 different colour options for the frame. You can even opt for a gradient finish, pick the colour of the decals and choose to have your cockpit painted to match the frame.

Mason definition red axs

Best: Independent option

Rating: 9/10

Our first ride on Mason’s definition road bike took us 140 miles from Newcastle to Dumfries and Galloway via the Solway Coast. Suffice to say it was a baptism of fire, but the bike didn’t disappoint.

The one we tested came equipped with electronic shifting courtesy of a SRAM force AXS groupset, a set of hunt wheels, and some beefy 32mm Continental GP 5000 tyres which really helped to take the edge off poorly surfaced roads. However, there are plenty of other off-the-shelf build options, or just get in touch with Mason and they can spec the bike according to your personal requirements.

At the core of it all is Mason’s not-so-secret weapon: a high-end, Italian-made aluminium frame, boasting beautiful craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail that puts it firmly in the “premium” category. It is, quite simply, the best aluminium bike we’ve ever ridden. Armchair levels of comfort with beautifully balanced handling and timeless looks that will make you the envy of everyone on the group ride. Plus, buying from an independent brand like Mason means there won’t be ten other riders there with the same bike. The only reason it’s not our best buy is it’s rather eye-watering price-tag.

Specialized Roubaix comp

Best: For the original endurance bike

Rating: 8/10

Taking its name from the infamous cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, the Roubaix from Specialized is one of the machines that started the endurance-bike party in the first place. It has been a benchmark for all other endurance bikes to aspire to since it’s launch in the mid-2000s and remains one of the best options available to distance-hungry riders today.

Prices for the Roubaix start from £2,900 (no alloy option here) for the Roubaix sport, which comes spec’d with Shimano 105, and go all the way up to £11,200 for the top-of-the-line S-Works version. Bikes further up in the range come equipped with Specialized’s “futureshock 2.0” technology, which, for the uninitiated, is an integrated suspension unit, cleverly housed in the headset, which provides just enough travel to take the sting out of rough roads. The best part is that damping can be quickly adjusted by turning a dial where the top cap would normally be found. This means you can glide over cobbles with ease, yet still make the bike stiff and responsive when the road takes you uphill.

We managed to get our hands on the mid-range Roubaix comp, which comes with Shimano ultegra and alloy wheels, but whichever bike you pick from the range, you’ll get the same comfortable geometry and bouncy ride that have made this one of the most popular and respected endurance bikes on the market.

Liv avail 1

Best: For female riders

Rating: 8/10

Not every female rider will want a female-specific bike, but for those who do, Liv should be the first port of call. The sister brand to Giant is one of the only brands that caters exclusively to female cyclists, tailoring its bikes’ geometry to meet their needs.

The avail 1 is an entry-level endurance road bike which we found to be a solid bike for the money. It had good handling, a comfortable riding position and great ride feel for such a modestly priced aluminium bike. We’ve ridden it extensively on both long hilly rides in the Lake District and just the local coffee run, and it has never put a foot wrong.

The sub-£1,000 category is home to plenty of questionable bikes, but buying from a name like Liv guarantees a level of quality, and this is backed up by a lifetime warranty on the frame. Our favourite thing about the bike itself, though, is the thought that has obviously gone into the geometry. Liv calls it its “3F design philosophy”, and it basically means that the entire shape has been carefully designed using data from female riders to optimise performance on the bike. Every inch has been thought about in great detail to fit based on women’s muscular activity and strength patterns, and this is obvious from the moment you start pedalling.

Cervélo caledonia ultegra

Best: For good looks

Rating: 9/10

Having spent a lot of time riding bikes from Cervélo’s endurance-focused C-Series line (our tester actually bought one) we were sad to see it discontinued last year. However, the blow has been cushioned somewhat by the launch of the Caledonia.

This all-new bike from the Canadian brand came onto the scene to a lot of noise in 2020, promising to “blur the line between endurance and performance”. Having used it for century rides and short sprints alike, we’re inclined to agree. Whatever the road throws its way, the caledonia can handle. It’s reassuringly comfortable but surprisingly quick when it needs to be, and with clearance for tyres up to 34mm, it’s almost edging towards gravel-bike territory. Good news for anyone whose local lanes are as battered by tractors as ours are.

There are currently four models available, ranging from the shimano105 option at the bottom to the ultegra Di2 version at the top. All feature the same carbon frame and comfortable geometry, so it’s really just a matter of selecting the right group-set for your riding style, and perhaps more importantly, your budget.

Canyon endurace 6 disc

Best: For a first road bike

Rating: 8/10

The clue is in the name when it comes to Canyon’s endurace line of bikes. These are machines designed to do two things: go far and get there quickly. They’re agile and fast, but also comfortable enough to handle sportives, centuries and gran fondos.

The endurace 6 disc is the disc-brake version of the entry-level endurace. At just shy of £1,500 it’s by no means a budget option, but thanks to Canyon’s direct-to-consumer model it does still represent good value for money. That said, prices have gone up recently, but with bikes still selling like hot cakes that’s pretty much par for the course.

For your money, you’ll get a high-end aluminium frame, a full Shimano tiagra groupset, modern looks with internal cable routing and a comfortable yet lively ride. We think all of the above makes the endurace 6 disc an excellent option for anyone just getting into road cycling. The comfortable geometry is perfect for new riders but there’s enough here to keep more experienced cyclists happy too.

The verdict: Endurance road bikes

Few brands offer better value for money than Ribble and the endurance SL R disc is further evidence of that. We love the customisation options and the fact that you can slap a custom paint job on your order too. With most brands only offering a few set-menu colourways each year, this really is a breath of fresh air.

For those of you with deeper pockets, we’d urge you to consider the Mason definition. It may not be cheap, but we fell in love with it out on the road and you can’t put a price on that.

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