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Like them or loathe them, disc road bikes are here to stay. And what better time to consider one than just before the Autumn-Winter period. Whether you are a competitive racer or a weekend club-riding warrior looking for an off-season training tool, or a commuter who wants something a little faster than a hybrid, the disc road bike is a versatile winter machine that will give you improved stopping power in all weather conditions, and if you’ve ever grabbed a handful of rim brakes in the rain and found stopping times to not be what they’re used to be, then you’ll already understand the benefits of discs.
Cable operated disc set-ups have been available on road bikes for some years now and, of course, have infiltrated the cyclocross scene since the UCI allowed their use at the top level of the sport in 2010. Then came bikes like the Genesis Croix de Fer who have shown how versatile a road disc bike can really be – something that can be used for commuting, occasional cyclocross, touring, audax and riding 100km sportives.
Most disc road bikes these days are in the ‘endurance’ category, mainly because there’s still a question mark over using discs in road racing. Discs have been tested in pro tours, and there have been mixed reactions. Some riders have been badly cut up in crashes, but it is inconclusive as to whether landing on a disc has or could cause rider damage or not. It’s safe to say, however, that most of us will not be matching their 40-70km speeds, or riding in such large groups, so I don’t personally see discs as a concern for most riders. Put it this way, mountain bikers have been using them for over a decade and not found any hazardous issues. And even if this is a concern for you, companies such as Hope Tech are coming up with clever inventions to protect you, like Hope’s new round-edged discs (pictured above).
Whatever your thoughts on the matter, they’re here to stay, and rumour has it that some companies may even go disc only in their entire road range. Until then, make good use of the choice. For those that have chosen, for whatever reason, there’s a disc road bike out there for you. From the classic endurance road bike and tourer, to the aero speed machines and road racers, there’s a disc in all the categories, and we’ve tried to capture the best of them below:
1. Colnago AC-R Disc Ultegra
Colnago have amended the design of their disc models by changing to 12mm thru axles both front and rear, and have also brought the brakes up to date with flat mount callipers. The all new C60 Disc, will be available from January 2017 looking as stunning as every other C60 with their distinctively lugged carbon frames. There is also word that the previous Colnago A-CR Disc model is being replaced with the updated CRS Disc for 2017 too. If you can’t wait until then, you may be able to pick up a 2016 AC-R Disc for around £3k, or even the 2015 CX Zero (which implies a cyclocross bike, but is in fact an endurance road bike) for less than £2k. One thing is for sure with these guys, is the price may be higher than the competition, but the quality of the ride, the attention to building detail and the aesthetics of these rides are equally as high. This is the roadie’s choice.
2. De Rosa Idol Disc
De Rosa create some stunning Italian beauties, like the Ferrari of bicycles. What’s more is they have provided a number of disc brake options outside of the typical ‘endurance road’ category, including the curvy SK Pininfarina, an angular aero road machine designed for outright speed. For nothing other than adrenaline-fuelled blurs across the tarmac, the Idol Disc looks to be a sturdy all-day beast. The Idol frame is made from super hi-modulus fibre with a blend of T1000 (70%) and T800 (30%), thereby guaranteeing structural rigidity, as well as vibration dampening and lightness. An Ultegra build is expected to retail at £2,999 and comes in a few colour options.
3. Cannondale CAAD12
Cannondale obviously provide an endurance disc road bike in the popular Synapse, but the CAAD12 is incredible value at £2,499 with Shimano Dura Ace, if you don’t mind aluminium, and it comes in a new shouty ‘Neon Spring’ yellow that’ll surely get you noticed on the roads this winter. Lower specs are available for even less too.
4. KTM Revelator Sky Ultegra
It’s quite telling that KTM’s top spec road bikes are disc, and it marks a direction more and more companies will move towards. The Revelator Sky is a cushy endurance ride retailing at £2,399 with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset. Key features include a comfy 27.2mm seat post with a classy integrated seat-post clamping system, which is a stylish touch that’s new for this year, and comes in at a reasonable sub-8kg weight.
5. Ridley Fenix 10 Disc
Ridley are arguably the kings of ‘cross, producing World Cup winning bikes for decades. Ridley now only produce disc brake cyclocross bikes and have had a few years perfecting their techniques too. Though Ridleys are lesser spotted on the UK roads, they are a high-performance brand seen between the legs of pros in the Tour de France. Currently, discs only make an appearance in their endurance range with the Fenix Disc. The Fenix Disc 10 is a carbon frame built up with a mixture of Shimano Ultegra and 105, weighs in just under 9kg and retails at £2,499, but 2016 models can be found for sub-£2k. On paper, it doesn’t quite compete in weight or value, but they are known to be good handlers.
Showcasing discs in the road racing range, Cube’s new Litening Disc is apparently too fast to spell the namesake properly. We reviewed a non-disc Litening C:68 recently and found it to be fast, fast, fast, and I’m sure the disc option will be no different, especially with the added benefit of bolt-through axels to compensate for braking forces. Your options include the Litening C:68 (referring to the carbon:resin ratio) with Dura Ace Di2 electronic gears and 25mm wide wheels retailing at £5,999, or the Litening C:62 (a lower ration of carbon: resin) with Ultegra, which is an utter bargain at £2,499.
7. Trek Domane
Trek have a good range of road bikes with disc brakes, but they remain firmly in the endurance domain, with a few tourers as well. If you’re a commuter and part-time touring adventurer, then the 920 Disc comes with pannier racks from and rear for under £2k. For everyone else, the Domane is their main performance road disc bike, designed to go the distance with comfort as its primary goal. The main selling point of the carbon Domane frame is the IsoSpeed design; a “decoupling” device that allows the seat post to flex by a few millimetres independently, as it is effectively disconnected from the chainstays and the top tube. Trek have now worked IsoSpeed into their carbon forks as well to give a super plush ride. We’ve had our mitts on a Domane 4.3 Disc in the past, and while it isn’t a race bike, it certainly does what it says on the tin with regards to comfort. The range starts at a respectable £1,900 for the 4.3 Disc, considering the amount of design work going into the frame, but this does make it comparatively expensive on paper with an a Ultegra build (Domane SLR 6) expecting to cost £3,600 for 2017.
8. Focus Cayo Disc
Focus offer the Cayo in disc, which is their ‘performance’ road bike; neither race nor endurance, but somewhere in-between and looking rather sporting. The Focus Cayo Disc Ultegra, as its name suggests, comes with full Ultegra build and the odd spattering of carbon in their finishing kit, which a nice touch for a bike that’s under £2,000. I can’t say the monochrome paint job excites me, but the price tag is certainly appealing for a full Ultegra spec on a carbon frame with acceptable wheels. Perhaps the most compelling feature of the Cayo Disc, though, is the inclusion of RAT (Rapid Axle Technology) thru axles, front and rear. The RAT axle incorporates a ‘T-Pin’ that replaces the threaded portion of the axle and allows for much quicker, more accurate wheel changes. Lower specs will save you some money, and the Cayo AL, with aluminium frames, will save you even more if you’re on a budget. This makes the Cayon probably one of the better value packages for a winter hack.
9. Merida Scultura Disc 5000
Merida are offering a couple of disc models in their range, but again, it’s nice to see a brand offering disc in their ‘road racing’ category with the Scultura Disc 400. The highest spec is pretty low with Shimano Sora on an aluminium frame, but at £800 it’s a cheap winter thrasher that still looks pretty slick. Keep an eye out for the all-new Scultura 5000 in 2017 though, which should hit the shops soon at a competitive £2,100 with Ultegra and a carbon frame, and also check out the Ride 5000 Disc for an endurance-oriented version.
10. Bianchi Infinito CV Disc
Bianchi have a couple of disc models in their ‘endurance road‘ range, including the Impuls0 (aluminium frame), the Intenso (carbon frame) and the Infinito CV (fancy carbon with Convervail; technology that offers an amount of flexibility in the frame to soak up the bumps and cancel vibration). The fancy CV model does come at a cost, as the Infito CV Disc with Ultegra is priced around £3,400. I guess the question is; what’s the cost of comfort and performance to you? The Intenso Disc, however, is only available in a slightly lesser spec than the Infinite CV, with Shimano 105, and is priced at £2,500. The ladies get the Impulso Dama in disc. This, and the unisex Impulso Disc, offer great value for a nippy aluminium ride at £1,300, which would seem the perfect winter tool for roadies who like a well balanced ride with performance heritage.
11. Scott Solace Disc
The Scott Solace is their carbon endurance bike, and it is available for women as well in the Solace Contessa. The HMF carbon fibre frame is built in 2 ‘zones’; a Power Zone and a Comfort Zone, in order to result in a stiff and responsive front end and a comfortable rear triangle. For an Ultegra build expect around £2,500. If comfort isn’t your bag, the Speedster Disc is more of a racier model with aluminium frame and carbon forks, which is available up to a Shimano 105 build at £1,300 or lower.
12. Storck Aernario Disc
As the name suggests, the Aernario hints at a lower drag design that your usual endurance-oriented disc bike. If you want even less drag then you’ll need to take a look at the Storck Aerfast, their dedicated aero road bike. Coming from a low volume, high quality, innovation and technology-focused manufacturer, you’ll be getting a very well designed product from Storck, albeit at a deserved premium price tag. Expect around £4,699 for an Ultegra build with DT Swiss bolt-through wheels.
13. Raleigh Mustang
Raleigh have a few disc options, but if you’re exclusively looking for carbon, you’ll need to look at the RX, their cyclocross bike, and the Roker, their gravel bike, and convert them for road use. We’ve tested a RX and RXW before, and loved the handling, so a set of road tyres would give you a great commuter, weekend trainer that can double as a cyclers race bike when it takes your fancy. Also on offer with disc brakes is the Mustang; a do-it-all, tarmac, gravel, pot-hole eating aluminium bike that is surely a bike for consideration by a rider looking to use this as their main weapon of training, whatever and wherever that may be. The base-model is quite a looker (pictured) and starts at a purse-pleasing £850, reaching up to £1,500 for SRAM Rival 1×11 and tubeless American Classic wheels.
14. Specialized Roubaix, Tarmac and Venge
Specialized have dived right into disc road bikes this year, and probably have the biggest choice of disc road bikes out there, with the Roubaix (endurance road), the Venge (aero), the Tarmac (road race), the Sequoia (touring) and the Diverge (all-purpose road). For the women, the Ruby (the women’s specific Roubaix), the entire range is disc only, but there’s still a few rim brakes left in the Dolce range. Being new, and being one of few brands to offer an aero road bike in disc, it’s understandable that the Venge comes with a hefty price tag at £3,600 for a mixed Ultegra groupset, but hey, this a Tour de France-worthy bike. The Roubaix doesn’t come cheap either, with a Shimano 105 spec coming in at £2,500 with a carbon frame. Unfortunately, they’re not making aluminium versions of their favourite models as yet, and the aluminium Allez is currently still a full rim-brake range. I’ve heard a rumour this may change though, so keep an eye on them next year if you’re interested.
15. Giant Defy and TCR Advanced
Giant’s TCR Advanced now comes in disc, new for 2017, but the highest spec you can buy at present is with Shimano 105 for £1,500, which is actually great value for a carbon frame, and one that is a proper road racing bike. If you’re looking for a better spec you can get the Giant Defy (the endurance road bike) or the Avail (the women’s specific endurance bike) in a carbon frame with Shimano Ultegra for the same price as the aforementioned TCR Advanced.
16. Lapierre Sensium & Xelius
For the Lapierre fans, you’ll be pleased to know that they now offer disc options in both their Sensium (endurance) and Xelius (race) range. What’s nice about the Xelius, other than it being a proper race bike with discs, is that they offer a good level of size customisation; small sizes get small handlebars, short stem and even a shorter crank arm length. It has never made sense to me that a small rider should have the same finishing kit as a large rider, so this is a welcome level of detail. By comparison to the rest of the bikes mentioned in this Guide, the Xelius won’t seem such a bargain on paper at £2,999 for an Ultegra build (in the Lapierre Xelius SL 600 Disc MC), but you have to remember that this is a road racing bike, not a casual endurance rider, and it’s one that has helped Team FDJ win many stages of the Tour de France in the past. This is a winter warmer for those that want more speed than scenery.
17. Genesis Zero and Equilibrium
Team Madison Genesis, a UK-based pro team, do very well on their Zero road racers, especially in short criteriums like the Tour Series, so I don’t doubt the ability of the Zero Disc as an equally nimble stead, especially with the added bonus of through-axels. There is only one build option for this, and that’s hydraulic disc brakes and electronic gearing (Ultegra Di2) at £3,300, which is well priced for the spec. Genesis says this is “the future”, and I certainly agree it’s the future for functionality regardless of weather. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if residents of typically wet regions in the UK start to use bikes spec’d like this as year-round racers. The Zero Disc also comes with size appropriate handlebars, stem and crank arm lengths according to the frame size. For everyone else, commuting, exploring and club riding with a dispensary for chatting rather than elbowing their way to the front of a pack, there is the steel Equilibrium; a do-it-all road bike, and one of the first of its kind, which starts from £1,249.