super sixes Bikes for sportives

Sportive bikes need to balance a need for speed with a reasonable level of comfort. Lifelong cycling fan and writer Mike Curtis reports on what to look for and picks out six of the best.

What is a Sportive Bike?

The sportive road bike sector is possibly the fastest-growing niche market in cycling, and while the definition of a sportive bike does vary between manufacturers, what are increasingly termed endurance road bikes have some or all of the following features to provide genuine day-to-day usability and ensure a more comfortable ride compared to a thoroughbred road-race bike built purely for speed:

  • Relaxed frame geometry giving longer a wheelbase for a more stable and less twitchy ride, improving ride safety when fatigue kicks and concentration decreases;
  • Taller headtube and proportionately shorter top tube giving a more upright riding position, relieving stress on the lower back and increasing comfort, especially in riders where core strength is an issue;
  • Clearance for wider tyres offering improved grip and the ability to be run at lower pressures - perhaps the single most important factor for a more forgiving and comfortable ride;
  • Thinner section seatstays, often with some dampening technology incorporated within their design, that provide a degree of flex to absorb road shocks;
  • Smaller diameter seat tube in comparison to a super-stiff racing bike, another feature designed to boost comfort;
  • Compact crankset, with for example 50/34 teeth, and a wide-ratio cassette to enable relaxed climbing of steeper inclines: 11-28 or 11-32 ratios are common.

1Boardman Sport

Although a bit ‘racier’ than our other picks, the Sport has what Boardman nevertheless term ‘sportive’ geometry, so it makes the list. The longer top tube and short head tube will get you long and low for fast riding, but there’s still room in the 7005 aluminium frame for 25mm tyres, with the rear wishbone stays offering a degree of respite from the harsh ride usually associated with alloy-tubed bikes. A machine at this budget price point certainly makes compromises, but the Sport is still a lot of bike for your money: enough, indeed, to scoop the Budget Bike of the Year award 2013-14.

Price: £349.99

2Trek Domane 2.3

Trek offer the Domane at a wide range of prices, and whilst their 2.3 bike lacks the refinement of the range’s higher-level carbon offerings, it’s still a great bike for the money. Excellent levels of performance are matched with a wonderfully smooth ride thanks to Trek’s unique IsoSpeed Decoupler which allows the seat tube to pivot, the 15mm down-and-back movement providing more give and ensuring a comfortable ride. The T200 Series Alpha Aluminium frame is built with ‘endurance fit’ geometry, meaning that despite the slightly higher head tube, the Domane retains the racing heritage of its higher-specced race-bred carbon siblings.


3Giant Defy Advanced 2

The Taiwanese firm’s best best-selling bike, the Defy has had a complete overhaul for 2015. Like all the new carbon-framed Defy models, the Advanced 2 now sports disc brakes, and a new D-Fuse seatmast to improve rider comfort. A new top tube and super-skinny seatstays augment the frame’s compliance over bumpy roads, but performance hasn’t been sacrificed: an oversized head tube and bottom bracket area ensure responsive handling and good stiffness. Sitting at the lower end of the 8-bike Defy Advanced range, your £1400 gets you a Shimano 11-speed 105 groupset, TRP mechanical disc brakes, Giant’s own P-R2 wheels with P-R3 tires, and a Giant Contact finishing kit.

Price: £1,400

4Specialized Roubaix SL4

Regardless of configuration, the bikes in Specialized’s Roubaix range all offer an enviable balance of low weight and vertical compliance, helping to forge a well-deserved reputation as one of the best endurance bikes available. Size-specific engineering, a high front end and elastomer Zertz vibration-dampening inserts in the carbon frame and fork blades coupled with the unique CG-R seatpost are all designed to create a smoother, more compliant ride. There’s still plenty of stiffness for the more competitive-minded too, as proven by wins in the 2012 and 2014 Paris-Roubaix cobbled classic under Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra respectively.

Price: £1,300 - £7,999

5Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra Disc

Winner of’s Sportive Bike of the Year in 2015, the Synapse is fast, smooth and perfect for non-racers who nevertheless like rapid riding but still appreciate features such as the frame’s ‘Endurance Race Geometry’, the unique asymmetrically split seat tube designed to increase BB stiffness, and the option of running wider tyres up to 28mm. The welcome 2015 addition of Shimano’s RS685 hydraulic disc brakes are a real boon for tackling the wide range of riding conditions a sportive bike is likely to be used in, and further make it a compelling option as a year-round bike.

Price: £2,099

6Enigma Evoke Disc

If you fancy something a little different from the seemingly ubiquitous moulded-carbon bikes from the Far East, then how about a traditional made-to-measure frame from respected British framebuilders Enigma? The East Sussex-based firm can build your custom dream bike in steel or titanium, with your choice of components and finishing kit: we’re particularly taken with the Evoke Disc for its ‘endurance’ frame geometry, the rust-proof Grade 9 3AL 2.5V tubes - half the weight of steel for the same strength - and the celebrated ‘plush’ ride quality that makes titanium so appealing for sportive bikes.

Price: £2,499.00


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