By David Kennedy
Here for the latest installment of our ‘best of’ lists Zap charged me to look back and highlight my favorite road bikes I’ve ever ridden. As the group-appointed ‘racer’ of the RBA editorial crew, I’ve brought more than a few test bikes that I’d like to list (or at least tell the PR manager that sent them) to our local SoCal crits. Here’s are six of the most memorable bikes I’ve had the chance to throw a leg over. The first three are all true race bikes that feel most comfortable when a race starts to get uncomfortable, the last three can be (and have been) raced too but are what I consider well-rounded road bikes that I’d hesitate throwing into a corner at full-gas and are better suited for chasing PRs and riding with friends.
CANYON AEROAD CFR — ALL-IN ON AERO
As if the value wasn’t enough, Canyon has engineered some of the most sought-after road and gravel bikes around. When the black-out Aeroad CFR arrived at the RBA office I was impressed with its 16-pound weight given all the aero stylings to keep it slippery in the wind. On the road is where the Aeroad stood out, as it was quick to input thanks to its aggressive race-focused geometry. As the story goes, a few weeks after its arrival, Mathieu van der Poel was piloting the CFR in the final meters of the Le Samyn road race when the proprietary handlebar snapped. As there was only one handlebar that fit the Aeroad, this incident proved to be disastrous for Canyon, as they issued a “stop ride” notice and have since developed a reinforced carbon bar to equip the bike. The reality that there is no simple solution when events like this happen is a reminder that it can be worth avoiding the industry’s embrace of proprietary parts, but Canyon’s overall design had me yearning for another ride on the Aeroad.
GIANT TCR — MY GO-TO RACE BIKE
Although they’re the biggest bike manufacturer in the world, I feel like Giant remains one of the most underrated brands around. Maybe it’s because there’s no need for them advertise to the American market or help support independent media publications in spreading the word about their goodness, still, Giant’s TCR has been a favorite of mine since I bought one in 2014. It was a mid-level Advanced frame that was a size too big, but it was my first carbon road bike and opened up a new meaning of high responsiveness and quick handling that my aluminum Cinelli just couldn’t reach.
Since then, the TCR has undergone a few updates, most notably a move to disc brakes. I was able to get my hands on a 2021 TCR Advanced SL frame that we’ve been using to test out most of the SRAM-compatible gear that rolls through the office. One of the reasons I’m a fan of Giant is that they have long been ahead of the trends with tubeless-compatible wheels and wider tire clearance (the TCR can fit 32mm tires) for years.
CANNONDALE SUPERSIX EVO — AN OG RACER
Between the Liquigas lime green sheen and the classic frame aesthetic, Cannondale’s 2013 SuperSix Evo was lust-worthy. It was the first race bike that I bought when I was working at my local bike shop. Descending, the bike feels like it’s on the limit, which as I’ve had the chance to ride other modern bikes, makes it hard to really reach one’s true limit. In the years since, Cannondale, along with the rest of the industry, has gone on to push high compliance and controllability, which allows for easier handling over the relatively high learning curve that is needed to get the most out of the old SuperSix Evo.
BIANCHI SPECIALISSIMA — COVETED CELESTE CRAFTSMANSHIP
Another Italian design that just gets it right for me is Bianchi’s Specialissima. Our test bike hit the scales at 17.25 pounds—not exactly the lightest Italian climber, but its precise handling and iconic Celeste paint with mermaid-scale graphics gave the frame all the modern marks that, with the proper parts upgrade, would make it primed for high-performance scenarios. While it has race-bred DNA, it just made me too nervous to throw such a good-looking bike into a corner at full-gas.
BMC ROADMACHINE — ONE BIKES FOR ALL THE RIDES
Whether on tarmac, gravel or singletrack, it wasn’t hard to find a good time on the BMC Roadmachine. As one of the most well-rounded modern road bikes I’ve ridden, the Roadmachine made gran fondos and gravel roads seemingly equal opportunities to find some fun. With clearance for up to 32mm tires and stable, predictable handling characteristics, BMC made the most of the latest trends with the endurance-oriented Roadmachine. With the proper tires I made the most of riding our local fire roads right before heading to the Saturday-morning group ride—the best of both worlds, right?
DEANIMA UNBLENDED — CUSTOM CARBON
Not many things get me as excited as racing a crit on a bike that deserves to be displayed at a bike show. Not only is DeAnima’s Unblended fit for a builder’s award at NAHBS, but it’s equally fit to perform on the road. DeAnima is the brainchild of Gianni Pegoretti, brother of the late legendary frame builder Dario Pegoretti. The duo began building steel frames together in the ’90s and quickly adopted carbon fiber frame manufacturing in the early 2000s until they went their separate ways in 2005.
The Unblended was a standout when it hit our scales at 15.12 pounds in 2018. An oversized handlebar and seatpost upped the rigidity of the build, plus the rim brake frame and tubular wheels gave it an old-school feel that was sharp, precise and unforgiving on the road. It was perfect for high-speed crit racing and short sprints. The hand-painted design made it all the better looking when it was hanging in the living room between race days.