5 of the Best Road Bikes Compared Side-by-Side

A road bike should be full of fun, comfort, and speed while standing up to consistent wear and tear of its cyclist. Our roundup of the best road bikes features some top choices, like the Trek Madone 9.0, made with aerodynamics and power in mind, and the Ridley Helium Force 22, with a lightweight frame perfect for uphill climbing. After hours of research and consulting with cycling expert and 12-time Ironman finisher Dena Eaton, we’ve come up with what we think are five of the best road bikes overall.

Our Picks: The Best Road Bikes Overall

What makes a good road bike and how did we build this list?

The top 5 road bikes compared

This roundup compares the 54cm sizes for the top five road bikes. In the case of the Ridley Helium Force 22, we used the M (Medium) size bike, which, according to size charts, equates to a 54cm bike. We update our guide every year, so currently, this guide looks at 2017-2018 models. When looking at the graphs below, outliers are highlighted in blue.

Effective Top Tube Length


Effective top tube length = the level distance from the seat to the stem. 

Most of the road bikes in our roundup have a similar effective top tube length (ETT) of around 545mm. The Ridley Helium Force 22 is the only one with a notably longer length, making it a good option for riders who either have longer torsos or who want a more aerodynamic, racing-style riding position. Since the majority the pack is built for more serious road riding, none are going to have especially short ETT measurements, but the Helium Force 22 is the longest of the bunch.

Chainstay Length


The chainstay lengths of these bikes don't show a significant difference, all falling within the 405mm to 415mm range. While they’re all similar, a relatively shorter chainstay length, like on the Cannondale Super Six Evo Disc and Ridley Helium Force 22, can give the bike slightly more agility around sharp turns.

The Specialized Roubaix Comp has the most extended chainstay length of the bunch, which could give it a bit more climbing power. Still, with measurements this close, it’d be tough to really feel a significant difference.

Bottom Bracket Drop


Three of the bikes have similar sizes of 70mm and 71mm. The Ridley Helium Force 22 has the shortest drop at 66mm, which gives the bike a better center of gravity and more stability, but you’d likely bang yourself up riding over higher obstacles. The Specialized Roubaix Comp has the highest measurement, which provides it with better clearance under the pedals.

Stack & Reach


Stack

Reach

The Cannondale has the shortest stack of this group, which can make it a comfortable option for riders who don’t prefer a significantly bent-over position. The longer stack of the Ridley Helium Force 22 will create a more bent-over position, but it can also improve the aerodynamics of the bike.

The Specialized and Trek road bikes have a shorter reach than the others, which may offer slightly more comfort and a bit more maneuverability at slower speeds compared to the rest of the bikes here. Still, though, no major differences across the board.

Weight


The BMC Roadmachine is the heaviest bike in this group, weighing 1.6 pounds more than the next heaviest, the Ridley. Although these bikes all fall within a more or less “typical” weight range for a road bike, the BMC may have less responsive handling than the other comparable options and could take more effort to get up a hill.

Cannondale Super Six Evo Review

Cannondale Super Six Evo Six
Stack (551mm)
Reach (387mm)
Price

The Cannondale Super Six Evo Disc is a bike that's been chosen by Tour de France professionals and has a reputation for performance, speed, maneuverability, and reliability. This bike is one of the lightest options, making it an excellent choice for hill climbing. Its geometry also lends it to a slightly more comfortable riding position for those who don't particularly like a super bent position. Now, we'll talk about some specific components of the Cannondale so that you can get a better idea of what it has to offer.

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

The Cannondale Super Six Evo Disc uses a BallisTec Carbon Di2 Compatible SPEED SAVE frame.

Carbon frames are becoming the standard for high-end road bikes, as their lightweight and durable material helps the bike's maneuverability and durability.

What we really like about this frameset, though, is Cannondale's SPEED SAVE technology, which creates parts in the frame that are flexible to help absorb shock and vibration for a smooth riding experience with great control of the bike.

The Cannondale Super Six Evo Disc is built with racers in mind, from its lightweight frame to its high range of speeds from the cassette and crankset. This bike might be a good option for cyclists who want a bike that can meet the needs of professional racing.

Pros

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    Exceptional handling from this bike at high and low speeds
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    Doesn't sacrifice much in the way of comfort, despite its obvious focus on performance
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    Uses quality SRAM and FSA components to complete its groupset

Cons

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    Could use a bigger rotor, which makes the bike slightly better suited for smaller riders
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    With the shortest stack of the group, bigger riders might find the bike a bit awkward
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    As a professional bike used in the Tour de France, the Cannondale won’t be the easiest on your wallet 

If we were going to pick on the Super Six Evo at all, it would probably be because both the rotors and the stack height make it a bit awkward for taller riders. For most people, though, the pros probably outweigh the cons.

Expert Opinions

“The first thing I noticed was, not being a climber per se, but climbing on the bike, I noticed a big change. It climbed a lot better out of the saddle, steered a lot quicker.” – Jack Bauer, Cannondale Pro Cycling

“The real heart of this bike is, it’s a race bike, but they’ve really considered how to make it much more comfortable.” – Warren Rossiter, Senior Technical Editor, Road

“It’s one of the few bikes in the world tour to maintain traditional geometry, and by that, I’m talking about the horizontal top tube. Most bikes you’ll probably be familiar with have a slightly dipped top tube.” – David Formolo, Global Cycling Network

BMC Roadmachine 02 105 Review

BMC Roadmachine 02 105 Review
Stack (560mm)
Reach (387mm)
Price

The BMC Roadmachine 02 105 is a road bike that BMC made to work with a variety of ground and riding experiences. In the context of a road bike, it offers the typical geometry you'd expect for speed and stability.

The BMC gives riders a good boost of endurance over its competition, though, with overall frame stiffness and a comfortable riding position. This bike is notably heavier than similar road bikes on the market, though, which could pose a problem for riders accustomed to lightweight bikes that move seamlessly uphill.

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

This bike uses a Novatec 30 SL wheelset.

The wheels on the Roadmachine are notably wider than many other racing bikes. This critical factor is what helps the BMC excel in various types of terrain, making it almost a combination of a road and cyclocross bike.  

The frame innovations and wheelset contribute quite a bit to how this bike behaves as well as to one of the things that sets it apart from some of the other bikes in this list: its ability to handle rougher terrain. Let's look at some of the other pros and cons.

Pros

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    The BMC Roadmachine is serviceable as both a road and off-road bike
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    The wide Novatec tires and rims offer balance, grip, and strength on a variety of ground
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    It’s not the most affordable bike, but it’s priced very competitively for the versatility you get

Cons

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    The weight of the bike may be a turn-off for uphill climbers.
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    The Shimano 105 groupset doesn’t offer as high a range of gears as comparable bikes

All in all, the Roadmachine offers a comfortable and reliable riding experience for cyclists who want to take their bike on and off the road. With a good balance between short agility riding and comfortable endurance rides, the BMC can potentially meet the needs of the broadest range of riders.

Expert Opinions

“The frame of the bike is absolutely fantastic. You're never really aware of it; it's so responsive and so smooth." – Mike Boudrie, Ride Adelaide

“BMC’s bike differs from other disc brake machines in one crucial aspect: it was a bike originally conceived and designed from the ground up as a disc brake platform. The result is a bike that feels like it should always have had discs.” – Cycling Weekly

“[BMC] went through 34,000 iterations of the frame before coming up with this particular shape. By first glance, you can see that this is a bike that really means business." – Cycling Plus

Ridley Helium Force 22 Review

Ridley Helium Force 22 Review
Stack (575mm)
Reach (390mm)
Price

The geometry of the Ridley Helium Force 22 makes it stand out among the comparable bikes in our guide. Ridley built this bike with racing and agility in mind, with its short bottom bracket drop that can lead to a more grounded feel around turns to the long stack that improves its aerodynamic profile. Let’s look at some of the components of the Ridley Helium Force 22 that make it an excellent racing option for professionals.

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

This bike uses the Mavic Aksium One wheelset.  

With steel spokes and aluminum rims, the Mavic Aksium One wheelset is affordable and strong. These wheels offer a grooved braking surface that lends to the bike’s braking ability. Mavic also created extra strength where the spokes meet the rim to relieve some pressure from them.

The Ridley Helium Force 22 has high-performance components that give it power and responsiveness. This isn’t a cheap bike, but it’s certainly reasonable for a serious hobbyist, and it packs in a lot of power and speed for the price.

Pros

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    The Helium Force 22’s geometry has speed and aerodynamics in mind
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    This bike uses SRAM’s mid-range Force groupset, which meets the needs of many racers
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    Everything together makes for stiff for responsive riding

Cons

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    Downhill riding may not seem as balanced as uphill riding on the Helium Force 22
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    The aggressive racing riding position and high stiffness may be too uncomfortable for some riders

When considering the frame here, it's important to remember that the Helium has the highest stack and longest reach of all the bikes. It also weighs more than every other bike except the Roadmachine. All things considered, it's not a small bike.

Expert Opinions

“This is the bike I use on all GCN shoots. It’s nothing if not versatile. It eats up any road that you put in front of it.”  – Tom Last, Global Cycling Network

"It's a super light bike that makes no compromise on performance. The oversize tubing and bottom bracket give you an unbeatable stiffness to weight ratio."  – Robbie, Bikebug

“This is a bike that’s going to fly up the hills. It’s going to be extremely stiff and very responsive.” - Todd Schmidt, Ridley USA

Specialized Roubaix Comp Review

Specialized Roubaix Comp Review
Stack (570mm)
Reach (380mm)
Price

The Specialized Roubaix Comp is a bike that can give serious riders a comfortable experience with a design that helps distribute rider weight throughout the bike. Its geometry makes for an aerodynamic ride that powers through top speeds. You’ll also benefit from components and a frame that work together to absorb the shock of rougher roads.

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

This bike uses a DT R470 Disc thru-axle 2Bliss Ready wheelset.

The DT R470 Disc wheelset can house tubeless rims, but the bike comes standard with tubes. The tires are wider than some racing bikes in our guide but narrower than the Roadmachine’s. This wheelset ids designed to offer a bit of extra shock absorption when hitting rocks and potholes, lending to its overall smooth riding experience.

The frame is usually going to be the conversation starter with a Roubaix. It's unique, and it's almost a trademark. Everything else might be considered icing on the cake.

This Specialized bike may be an excellent option for those who are a bit more serious about cycling but still want a comfortable ride. The geometry and technology of this bike create a shock-absorbing machine that can stop rider fatigue in its tracks.

Pros

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    The front-end design handles shock exceptionally well
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    The upgraded Praxis crankset makes for smoother shifting
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    Performs well on most surfaces, which is really a trademark of this bike

Cons

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    It could be a bit out of the price range of some casual riders
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    The low-tread tires may need an upgrade for some who frequently ride on rougher roads

If you're not in it for the frame here, you should consider what you're really getting for your money. The Roubaix is obviously a stellar bike, but some of the others may beat it out in terms of components depending on what you're looking for.

Expert Opinions

“You can really push incredibly hard with just this insane amount of confidence that the bike’s just going to grip and grip. The traction they can create on pretty much any surface is truly stunning.”  – Warren Rossiter, Senior Technical Editor, Cycling Plus

"When I get on this bike, it handles superbly. You can sprint on it, and you really don't feel that future shock doing anything it shouldn't. It comes into its own when you hit the bumps."  – Alex, Bicycle Chain

“Having placed a much higher priority on suspension in the front, the aptly named Future Shock is comprised of a coil spring housed in a cartridge that provides nearly two centimeters of friction-free suspension.” - Dirt Wheels Magazine

Trek Madone 9.0 Review

Trek Madone 9.0 Review
Stack (560mm)
Reach (381mm)
Price

The Trek Madone 9.0 has serious racers on its radar, with standard racing geometry that improves speed and aerodynamics. For this bike, Trek uses its IsoSpeed technology to create a stiff frame that’s nimble and responsive while absorbing shock from the road.  

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

This bike uses a Bontrager Aeolus Comp Tubeless Ready wheelset.

Trek Madone 9.0 has mid-size tires with a mix of aluminum and carbon rim construction that make them a bit heavier than some, but also very strong. The rims also include an alloy braking track that offers consistent braking for fast or slow stops.

With this geometry and component setup, Trek’s Madone 9.0 is an aerodynamic powerhouse with the lightest weight of the bikes we compare in this guide, but, of course, a bike that light isn’t cheap.

Pros

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    This is a super-compliant and aerodynamic bike that can see you through a race or two
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    IsoSpeed technology helps absorb shock and reduce rider fatigue nicely
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    The same incredible frame from much more expensive Trek models

Cons

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    The Trek Madone 9.0 has the highest price tag of the bunch (although it’s still far from five figures)
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    Aggressive (and sometimes uncomfortable) riding position

The big selling point, of course, is the ridiculous frame -- one that also appears on ultra-high-end bikes. Depending how serious or casual you are, this could make the bike a bargain, or it could be what nudges it out of your price range.

Expert Opinions

“The Madone outclasses [other bikes] by accelerating up steep climbs, and the ISO speed decoupler is far superior to other bikes.”  – Cycling Weekly

“The massive tube is huge, actually, one of the biggest I’ve seen--not extremely narrow like on some other bikes, so that makes for excellent stiffness, even when climbing.” – Ronald Kuba, OKRCycles

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