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Best endurance road bikes 2020: combining comfort and speed

Cyclist magazine
11 Feb 2020

The best endurance road bikes combine comfort with speed – these are our favourites listed by price plus some helpful buying tips.

The Specialized Roubaix first kicked off the endurance road bike revolution over 10 years ago with its fancy Zertz inserts and upright geometry. The Roubaix was a big deal because it managed to combine speed with comfort. Endurance road bikes have come a long way since then, but many of the bikes today share some key design principles and core technologies. So what are the common features you should be looking for?

Increased tyre clearance

Tyres are getting bigger, but increased tyre clearance has been common on endurance bikes for years as an easy way to increase comfort. Clearance for 28mm tyres is the norm, but expect up to 32mm on some models that are appeasing the growing gravel scene.

Disc brakes 

Disc brakes are becoming the norm for bike manufacturers these days. They bring improved braking in all weathers while coming with only a minor weight penalty. They are also pivotal in allowing those bigger tyre clearances.

Skinny seatposts

To help increase the amount of flex, and therefore comfort, in the back-end of a frame, many manufacturers have turned to fitting skinny seatposts, with 27.2mm the most common size, but Cannondale has gone down to 25.4mm on the Synapse.

Longer wheelbase

To keep the handling stable when taking on the rougher roads these bikes were designed for, many manufacturers make the bikes with longer wheelbases. Even if you won’t venture off perfect tarmac, this has the added effect of increasing stability at higher speeds.

Vibration damping

There have been many solutions to vibration damping over the years – some more gimmicky than others. Generally they involve either adding an additional item to the frame material to dissipate vibration, or altering the frame shape such as the split seat tube on the Cannondale Synapse or inventing a suspension stem like Specialized.

Mudguard eyelets

While mudguards are not strictly essential for endurance bikes, most manufacturers have assumed that these bikes will be used in less than stellar weather, so mudguard eyelets are a common feature. We’d say they’re essential if you plan on riding through winter.

For our guide to the best mudguards, see here.

Upright riding position

Key to riding any bike for a long time is a comfortable riding position and for most people that means a more upright riding position than can be found on the average race bike. Head tube measurements are key to this but some American brands favour stack and reach measurements.

Lower gearing

If you’re going to take in rough roads off the beaten path then it’s quite likely that you’ll come up against some steep climbs. Whereas most road bikes come with mid-compact 52/36t chainsets these days, endurance bikes tend to come with compact 50/34 to help lower the overall gearing. We’d also look for an 11-28t cassette to give you a good spread of gears.

For a guide to choosing the right gear ratio for climbing, see here.

Best endurance road bikes 2020

Editor's pick: Cannondale Synapse, £2,700

Cannondale has geared the Synapse towards being a bike for all occasions. Now disc-only, it has clearance for 32mm tyres, micro suspension within the fork and discreet mudguard mounts, the perfect combination for mutli-terrain exploration.

And what’s more, the Synapse still feels a bit racey. After all, the frame weight comes in at a respectable 1,100g (medium) thanks to the BallisTec carbon frame that combines a rigid platform for climbing with subtle comfort for the longest days in the saddle.

In conclusion, the perfect sportive machine.

Buy the Cannondale Synapse from Evans Cycles here.

Best for performance: Specialized Roubaix, £5,400

With a total of six Paris-Roubaix cobblestones, the Specialized Roubaix has certainly proven its name to be worthy.

Last year, the bike was given a pretty big overhaul. Aerodynamics were improved dramatically (it’s now on par with a Tarmac), weight was dropped and it introduced us to the new FutureShock 2.0 adjustable suspension stem and Pave seatpost.

Basically, Specialized made its Roubaix an even better race bike without turning its back on its endurance origins.

Read our review of the Specialized Roubaix here

Buy the Specialized Roubaix from Evans Cycles here

Best for those on a budget: Ribble Endurance, £1,199

Whether you plan on building a robust commuting machine or sportive warhorse to ride some big miles, Ribble’s aluminium Endurance ticks the boxes.

Starting at £1,199 for Shimano 105 disc, it’s pretty cheap. At 9.5kg for a medium, it’s not that heavy either and there is also compliance for 32mm tyres (or 25mm if you are running full mudguards).

On a recent test, we argued that the Endurance was endurance done right, so take from that what you will.

Read our review of the Ribble Endurance here

Buy the Ribble Endurance from Ribble here

Best sportive bike: Canyon Endurace, £1,349

While the Canyon Endurace geometry is much more relaxed than the brand's Ultimate and Aeroad race bikes, it actually measures up a lot racier than most other endurance bikes with a conservatively low head tube and short reach.

Sold in both carbon and aluminium, the Endurance fork and seatpost has used VCLS (Vertical Comfort Lateral Stiffness) which has also been integrated into its carbon frames while the standard 25mm tyres that are sold across the range actually measure nearer 28mm for better comfort.

This particular option comes built with Shimano’s trusty 105 disc groupset, as bombproof an option as they come.

Buy the Canyon Endurace 105 from Canyon here

Best for spec: Cube Agree C:62, £2,499

At a whisker under £2,500, the Cube Agree offers plenty of bang for your buck.

Firstly, there is the full carbon C:62 frame and CSL Evo aero fork which combine to offer a relaxed geometry for comfort on longer rides while also offering up a few aerodynamic traits for a bit of speed when you decide to turn the screw.

Then there’s the full Shimano Ultegra disc groupset which benefits from the trickle-down technology of Dura-Ace, offering almost all the performance benefits of the brand’s flagship groupset at a lower price. And finally, there are the Newen Evolution Sl wheels which are stiff, durable and tubeless-ready.

Buy the Cube Agree C:62 from Chain Reaction Cycles here

Giant Defy, £2,198.99

The Giant Defy is a bike designed for all occasions with all the vim and vigour of a high-performance road racer mixed with the luxury and comfort of an endurance tourer.

The Advanced-grade carbon frame and D-Fuse seatpost and handlebar system have been designed to absorb road shocks and vibrations without giving away much in terms of weight. The 12mm thru-axles offer a stable base while compliance for up to 35mm tyres contributes to a host of versatility.

And best of all, at just under £2,200, it’s a very reasonably priced bike too.

Buy the Giant Defy Advanced 1 from Rutland Cycling here

Trek Domane, £5,000

Trek’s innovative rear IsoSpeed decoupler seperates the top tube and seat tube allowing a range of 35mm of flex in the back end of the bike, something that really impressed us when we tested the bike in 2019.

As for geometry, the expected longer wheelbase and taller headtube is here to see which offers a much more relaxed ride compared to the Madone or Emonda.

However, do not be fooled. The 500 Series OCLV carbon frame is still light and plenty stiff while the Sram Force eTap AXs groupset and Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheelset are both at the peak of performance.

Read our review of the Trek Domane SLR 9 here

Buy the Trek Domane from Evans Cycles here

Best for versatility: Orro Terra C 105 Hydro, £2,099.99

Orro’s Terra C 105 Hydro has been recently upgraded and updated to become a bike that lends itself to adventure.

While handling is sprightly and the frame relatively stiff, the bottom bracket has been lowered to offer sturdiness on those sweeping bends, tyre clearance has been bumped upto a gravel-inducing 32mm and full rack mounts for the promise of multi-day excursions.

Buy the Orro Terra C 105 Hydro from Cycle Republic here