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Best endurance road bikes 2023: The most comfortable machines for long rides

best endurance bikes 2023

Extend your two-wheeled adventures with our pick of the best endurance road bikes that balance speed and comfort without sacrifice

Looking to push your limits and ride further? The best endurance road bikes will help you to get there as quickly and comfortably as possible. These are bikes designed with distance in mind, but, unlike a classic touring bike or a long-distance bikepacking rig, they’re also intended to be as fast as possible on tarmac.

Endurance road bikes differ from classic road racing bikes in a number of ways. First, the geometry – by which we mean the way the tubes that make up the frame are angled relative to one another – is tuned to place the rider in a more upright position. This is more sustainable over long distances than an aggressive, stretched-out position. Second, endurance road bikes tend to have clearance for wider tyres. Not MTB or even gravel-bike wide, but just enough to provide a bit of extra cushioning for added comfort. If you’re worried about that impacting your speed, don’t be – it’s now widely accepted that slightly wider tyres that run at slightly lower pressures are faster than thin tyres inflated to be rock hard. An endurance road bike will generally accommodate anything up to 32, 35 or even 38mm.

Think an endurance road bike sounds like the best option for you? If you regularly like to go on lengthy rides, and don’t plan on racing crits at the weekend, then you’re probably right. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together our favourite options that are available to buy right now. Whether you’re looking for your first road bike to build up distance and develop your skills, or you want a top-flight, World Tour-worthy steed that will make you the envy of the Sunday club ride, you can find it right here.

The best endurance road bikes: At a glance

How to choose the best endurance road bike for you

Do I need a carbon fibre bike?

Carbon fibre is the most common material used in modern, high-end bike design. This is because it’s incredibly strong for its weight and it allows stiffness and compliance to be finely tuned in precise areas around the frame. Unfortunately, it often carries a higher price tag than the likes of aluminium or steel, which may have you wondering, “do I really need it?”

The short answer is no, you don’t. Aluminium is cheap, corrosion-resistant, stiff and better for the environment. If you’re looking for a simple machine that’s relatively easy on the wallet, then it’s definitely the better option. That said, there’s no getting around the fact that carbon fibre often offers a better quality of ride. If you’re looking for the highest possible level of performance, then carbon is the way to go.

What groupset should I buy?

Aside from frame material, one of the main things that affects the price of a bike is what sort of groupset it comes with. For the uninitiated, the groupset is the collective term for all the moving parts responsible for pedalling, braking and changing gears. There are three main brands of groupsets: Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. Each of these brands offers a tiered range of products, from cheap and cheerful to expensive and high-performance. 

Which brand you pick is largely a matter of personal preference, and often cyclists will tend to pick one and stay loyal to it for life. In reality, they all do the same job equally well. The main decision to make is which level of groupset to go for. For example, Shimano’s range, in ascending order, goes Claris, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace. The groupsets at the bottom of the range will do the job with no frills and a bit of added weight, while the ones at the top end offer buttery smooth shifting, powerful braking (usually courtesy of hydraulic disc brakes) and reduced weight.

Beyond that, there’s electronic shifting, like Di2 from Shimano or eTap from SRAM, which bumps the price up further still. Gear changes with these groupsets are triggered by an electronic signal – either wired or wireless – rather than by a mechanical cable system, which, in theory, means they’re easier to maintain and go wrong less frequently.

How much should I spend?

It’s possible to spend insane amounts of money on a bike. And for truly high-end bikes – such as the ones being ridden by pros in the World Tour – you can expect to pay anywhere upwards of £9,000 for a full build. Don’t let that deter you, though: it’s entirely possible to get a good bike for a lot less. You can get a brand-new alloy bike with mechanical shifting and braking from a big-name brand for less than £1,000. Going up from there, a carbon bike with a mid-range mechanical groupset, such as Shimano 105, is likely to set you back around £2,000.

However, at around £4,000 or £5,000 you may find you reach a point of diminishing returns. For this money, you can get a bike with all the big upgrades that make real, noticeable differences – carbon rims, disc brakes, carbon frame, electronic shifting – and any upgrades beyond this point are really just marginal gains.

READ NEXT: The best electric bikes to buy 

The best endurance road bikes you can buy in 2023

1. Giant Defy Advanced 1: Best mid-range endurance road bike

Price: £2,706 | Buy now from Balfe’s BikesThis mid-range option from Giant is a great-looking bike with plenty to entice riders of all levels and abilities. It would make an excellent upgrade for someone looking to leave the world of alloy frames and budget groupsets behind, or a stellar first bike for the deep-pocketed shopper who isn’t afraid of splashing out to get something they can grow into.

The Defy frame is somewhere between straight-up road geometry and that of a sporty gravel bike, providing agile handling balanced with a stable, planted ride feel. Giant’s proprietary D-Fuse seatpost and handlebar work together to dampen vibrations and take the sting out of rough roads, and there’s clearance for tyres up to 35mm for even more cushioning. Best of all, it’s built around a full Ultegra mechanical groupset (minus the non-series crank), which delivers smooth, precise shifting and confidence-inspiring braking.

Key specs – Frame: Carbon; Groupset: Shimano Ultegra; Sizes: S, M, M/L, L, XL; Max tyre clearance: 35mm

Buy now from Balfe’s Bikes

2. Specialized Roubaix Comp Rival ETAP: Best suspension endurance road bike

Price: £5,500 | Buy now from SpecializedSuspension? On a road bike? Yes! It might go against everything you thought you knew about stiffness and power transfer, but hear us out: the Roubaix Comp uses Specialized’s trademarked Future Shock 2.0 headset – the same tech it uses in its Diverge gravel bike – which gives the front end up to 20mm of additional travel. It’s not enough to noticeably impact handling on tarmac, but it’s enough to take the edge off when the road gets lumpy. We’ve ridden several bikes with this tech before and it always impresses.

Throw in some dropped seat stays, a vibration-damping Pavé seatpost and 30mm tyres and you’re in for a seriously cushy ride. Shifting and braking come courtesy of SRAM’s Rival eTap AXS 12-speed wireless electronic groupset, and it’s all finished off with a set of DT R470 Disc wheels.

Key specs – Frame: Carbon; Groupset: SRAM Rival eTap AXS; Sizes: 44, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61, 64; Max tyre clearance: 33mm

Buy now from Specialized 

3. Cannondale Synapse Tiagra: Best entry-level endurance road bike

Price: £1,200 | Buy now from Cycles UKYou don’t have to spend thousands to get a bike that’s capable of going the distance. The Synapse has been a part of the Cannondale road fleet since 2006, taking cyclists further and winning countless awards en route. This entry-level version is newly updated and features the same comfortable, yet sporty, geometry as the top-of-the-range versions.

In order to bring the price down, Cannondale has specced this bike with Shimano’s affordable Tiagra 10-speed groupset, made the frame from aluminium rather than carbon, and equipped it with mechanical disc brakes instead of hydraulic. This means you’re still getting smooth shifting, reliable braking and relatively low weight, but at a much more accessible price than the rest of the range.

This would make an excellent first bike for a newcomer roadie looking to build their skills, a great winter bike for a seasoned rider, or simply a solid value-for-money option for anyone on a budget.

Key specs – Frame: Aluminium; Groupset: Shimano Tiagra; Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61; Max tyre clearance: 35mm

Buy now from Cycles UK 

4. Liv Avail AR 3: Best women-specific endurance road bike

Price: £1,199 | Buy now from TredzMost bikes are marketed as being unisex, but many of them are designed around men’s bodies and women are simply expected to buy smaller sizes. This doesn’t account for fundamental biomechanical differences between the two sexes, which is why this bike from the women-specific Giant offshoot, Liv, is such a great option for female cyclists.

The geometry offers a good mix of comfort and agility, tailored for the female rider. It’s relatively affordable, too, thanks to the cheap and cheerful Shimano Sora groupset and Tektro mechanical disc brakes. It also features Giant’s D-Fuse seatpost to dampen vibrations from the road.

Key specs – Frame: Aluminium; Groupset: Shimano Sora; Sizes: XS, S, M, L; Max tyre clearance: 38mm

Buy now from Tredz

5. Cervelo Caledonia 5 Dura-Ace Di2: Best high-end endurance road bike

Price: £10,699 | Buy now from Start FitnessThis super-high-end machine from the Canadian aero wizards at Cervelo is the culmination of years of work perfecting their endurance-road offerings. This top-spec version of the brand’s Caledonia 5 offers unparalleled levels of comfort in a surprisingly sporty-looking package.

The price tag is admittedly not for the faint of heart, but you have to part with some serious cash if you want the best Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset, a hi-mod carbon frame and 44mm carbon rims, which is exactly what you’ll get here. The integrated cockpit is stunningly slick and streamlined, and there’s even a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket to squeeze every last watt out of each pedal stroke.

Key specs – Frame: Carbon; Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2; Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 56, 61; Max tyre clearance: 35mm

Buy now from Start Fitness

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