The Best Road Race Bikes

The bikes in this roundup range from around $4700 to over $8000, and are among, if not the, top model in this category for each brand. As many share individual components and/or groupsets, these reviews focus mainly on the overall performance of the whole package (some specific content on the components may repeat where applicable).

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Specialized S-Works Tarmac
94
Best in Class
2016
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 10
Efficiency 9
Handling 9
Components 9
Wheelset 9

Stiffest, most responsive in group

Top-end carbon aero wheelset

Outstanding carbon crankset

Surprisingly comfortable ride

Very expensive

Deep wheels not ideal for climbing

Rougher ride quality than others

MSRP
$8,000.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Cervelo R5
92
Ride Quality 9
Power Transfer 9
Efficiency 9
Handling 8
Components 10
Wheelset 7

Best all-arounder

Outstanding stiffness-to-weight

Electronic shifting

“Squoval” aero tubing

Most expensive in group

Sub-par wheels for price

Stiff Seatpost

Some flex not for sprinter purists

MSRP
$8,500.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Diamondback Podium Equipe
90
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 9
Efficiency 9
Handling 7
Components 9
Wheelset 8

Excellent BB stiffness/power transfer

Carbon/alloy hybrid aero wheelset

Strategically placed aero tubing

Excellent braking for carbon wheels

Not as agile in the turns

Alloy bars too thin, flexible

Rough ride in rear

MSRP
$7,500.00
BEST DEAL
$5,599.99
Fuji SL 1.3
89
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 9
Handling 7
Components 10
Wheelset 7

Lightest in group

Stiff enough for sprinting

Excellent value for Dura Ace Di2

Tubeless-ready rims

Some instability on descents

Could use a wheel upgrade

Some front-end flex under load

MSRP
$6,320.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Merckx San Remo 76
88
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 7
Efficiency 8
Handling 9
Components 9
Wheelset 7

Excellent BB stiffness/power transfer

Incredibly stable on turns and descents

Outstanding braking and drivetrain

High value for DA-spec’d bike

Very heavy

Low compliance in rear

MSRP
$7,000.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Kestrel Legend SL
85
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 7
Efficiency 8
Handling 6
Components 9
Wheelset 7

Outstanding value for DA-spec’d bike

Very light

Comfortable, compliant ride

Tubeless-ready rims

Instability on fast descents

Frame flex lowers efficiency

MSRP
$4,700.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Specialized S-Works Tarmac

If a pure racing machine is what you’re looking for, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac is the best overall bike in the group (also the most expensive), with a rare combination of pure speed and handling with a fairly comfortable ride. The carbon frame is extremely stiff in all the right places, including the bottom bracket and steer tube assembly, but the layup allows for decent compliant in the rear which soaks up road vibrations. With carbon aero wheels and Shimano’s Dura Ace 9000 group, along with full carbon spec, this is a top-end racing machine worthy of the many pro teams currently racing on it.   

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Cervelo R5

As an all-around Road Race bike, Cervelo R5 has that rarest of combinations of extreme light weight and outstanding stiffness and power transfer. And in this case it also offers an excellent ride quality and some legit aerodynamic advantages. This was unquestionably our favorite all-bike—equally adept at climbing, descending, breakaways and even some sprinting. If it weren’t for the considerably high cost—most likely thanks to the Di2 setup—and what we feel is a mediocre wheelset for a bike of this quality, this would have won Best in Class. As it is it’s a very close second, but our testers’ clear go-to for everyday riding.

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Diamondback Podium Equipe

For long steady power and out-of-the-saddle sprints or climbs, the Diamondback Podium Equipe is a stand-out in this group. The carbon frame is extremely stiff in all the right places, including the bottom bracket, rear triangle and steer tube assembly, and the Shimano Dura Ace group is always a top performer. Plus, strategically placed aero tubing plus deep-dish wheels add a huge advantage in the wind. The ride is a bit stiff and bumpy, and turning can be sluggish, but if raw speed is what you crave, this is an excellent choice. 

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What Is A Road Race Bike?

by: Last Updated:

With all the sub-categories of road bike these days, it can be hard to tell which does what. But they all evolved from the original road racing machines that have changed surprisingly little in the well-over 100 years that bike racing has been a popular sport; and that category is now simply known as Road Race. These are the bikes you see flying 50 miles-per-hour down ridiculously scary descents, or tearing toward the finish lines in all-out sprint madness, at races like the Tour de France and Tour of California. 

As the name suggests, these bikes are designed to do one thing above all: go crazy fast! But they must also be super agile to navigate the twists and turns of tight road races or avoid crashing in the always-dangerous peloton, all the while remaining light enough to climb for hours on end. To accomplish this, these bikes feature extremely stiff forks and frames, especially in the bottom bracket/crankset area and surrounding tubes, and the handlebar/head tube area. To balance the stiffness and weight the tubing is designed to be stiff and strong in these key areas, and as thin as possible everywhere else. Geometries tend toward the very aggressive side: Shorter chainstays and longer top tubes, plus short, steep head tubes result in a highly efficient, forward-leaning rider position and keep the tubing stiff in the key front-end and bottom bracket areas. In recent years manufacturers have become more concerned with ride quality—something that used to be saved for more casual bikes—so they manipulate the geometries and tube shape/layup even further to allow compliance wherever it won’t sacrifice too much stiffness.