6 ROAD BIKES WITH DISC BRAKES TO CONSIDER BUYING THIS YEAR

Road Disc Recommended Bikes
I’ve updated and extended the review below with a post entitled:
SOME OF THE BEST 2016 ENDURANCE ROAD BIKES WITH DISC BRAKES
Click on the title to go to it.

In this post, I evaluate the design, products and performance of road bikes equipped with disc brakes for both endurance riding and road racing.

If 2014 was the season most bike manufacturers dipped their toes in the road disc bike waters, 2015 looks to be the year many are in up to their waist.  And once you are in that far, it’s more likely you’ll continue all the way in than head back to shore.

In my earlier post, Why and When to buy a Road Disc Bike, I described the braking, speed and versatility benefits that convinced me to recommend that road cycling enthusiasts get or build a bike with disc brake components and wheels when they buy their next bike.  In this post, I’ll tell you which road bikes with disc brakes and frames built for disc brakes to consider buying this year.  You can also read my posts about the disc brake components and wheelsets.

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While some companies have given their road disc bikes distinct model names, most are adding the word ‘disc’ to bikes in their well established lines.  This suggests to me they are making a major commitment to road disc bikes, associating them with their most valued and highest volume brands and categories.

Where companies position their road disc bikes tell you a lot about the central role they are playing in their product line.  Bianchi, for example, makes both disc and rim versions of its Infintio CV bikes, models that are promoted for club level racing and endurance riding and sell for $5K and up with Ultegra and Ultegra Di2 groupsets.  The Infinito line sits, in performance, component and price terms, between Bianchi’s Oltre racing and Intenso endurance bikes, neither of which has disc versions.

Cannondale takes a somewhat similar approach to Bianchi.  Their top of the racing line SuperSix EVO carbon bikes do not have road disc models but their CAAD10 aluminum racing bikes and entire line of Synapse endurance bikes come in both disc and rim brake versions.  Cannondale’s road disc bikes sell in the $2.5K to $9K range equipped with groupsets ranging from the third tier SRAM Rival to first tier Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

Colnago sells its premier racing bike, the C60 as well as its top end endurance bike, the CX Zero EVO in disc versions.  Likewise, Specialized sells many models of its top race and endurance bikes, the S-Works Tarmac and S-Works Roubaix respectively, in disc models.  Pinarello sells its top of the line race bike, the Dogma 65.1 in a “Hydro” disc brake version. The bikes in Giant’s top end endurance line, the Defy Advanced SL, Pro and 1 are only sold as road disc bikes.  Same with BMC’s top GranFondo endurance line.  Trek sells its top endurance bikes, the Domane 6.9 and 6.2, as well as others in disc versions.  Wilier sells its Cento1SR race bike in a disc version.  Storck sells its Aernario aero race bike in mechanical or electronic shifting, hydraulic-disc braking combinations.

And so it goes. Orbea, Ridley, Scott, Parlee, LaPierre, Merida, Focus and Felt all have endurance road disc bikes with hydraulic-disc brakesets in this season’s lines, some with Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival levers and groupset components, others running all the way up to Shimano electronic Di2.

Below, you can see the road disc bike line ups of the leading bike companies.  I’ll say more about a half-dozen of these I think are worth considering in more detail later in this section

Road Disc Endurance Bikes

Road Disc Race Bikes

Not everyone has come to the road disc bike party yet.  Most notably Cervello, Time, Canyon, Cube, Look and Fuji don’t yet have an enthusiast level road disc bike.  But most of those companies that have come, arrived at the party on road disc bikes central to their current endurance lines and some on road disc bikes ready to race at the pro level as soon as the UCI gives its go-ahead.

To be clear, the models I mention above and have evaluated are full on road bikes and not cyclocross, gravel or ‘alternative’ or crossover bikes.  You can use tubeless and wider tires (up to 25mm or in some cases 28mm) on these road disc bikes for some limited and dry rough road or grass surface riding the same way you would your rim road bike, but none are designed as bikes that you should use for the occasional cyclocross race or regular gravel riding.

Why not?  Cyclocross and gravel bikes frames are designed with higher bottom brackets than road bikes and enough room or clearance between the front forks and rear stays to allow for tires up 38mm.  While some people will ride their cyclocross or gravel bikes on the road with these additional clearances, their aerodynamics are compromised for road riding.

DESIGN

When comparing a road disc and road rim brake bike, the major design differences are in the rear chain and seat stays and front fork.  These are built a bit sturdier on road disc frames by using modified carbon lay-ups to support the added brake loads that are applied by the disc to the frames vs. rim calipers to the wheels.  The extra material adds a combined 40g to 150g more for disc brake frames and forks over the rim brake ones I’ve compared.  Most are in the 50-75g range, an amount equal to the weight of an extra snack you might put in one of your back pockets like the Cliff bar in this photo.

Weight - Cliff Bar 71 grams

Stiffening the forks and rear stays for a road disc bike typically adds about the same or less than adding one 70 gram snack bar to your back pocket… not much.

There are some design changes on road disc bikes where the major equipment makers haven’t come out at the same place, principally around the disc brake rotor size (140mm vs. 160mm, discussed in the disc brakes design section in my post here), disc hub axle choice (12mm and 15mm diameter thru-axles vs. 10mm quick release ones) and the way the rotor attaches to the hub (ISO or 6-bolt vs. CenterLock).

As with the broader bike component market, you’ll find Shimano’s disc brake components on the lion’s share of model year 2015 road disc bikes.  With this, their quick release drop-outs and 140mm, CenterLock rotor design preferences predominate across the bikes offered by the leading companies.

On bikes using quick releases (QR), you slide your wheels into the drop-outs on the frame and fork.  With thru-axles (TA), you spring load or thread the axle through holes at the ends of the forks where the wheels attach.

Photo - BikeRadar

Photo – BikeRadar

Amongst the big three bike makers, Giant and Specialized are building their road disc frames for QR disc wheels while Trek has gone with TA.  While mountain bikes adopted the TA design, cyclocross and gravel bikes predominantly use QR wheels now.  With their competing approaches, bike manufacturers are essentially debating whether or not road disc bike stiffness targets require a TA design.

There are many more QR disc wheels to choose from now and likely to be for the next several years until the UCI or professional bike racing governing body selects one or the other.

Ben Delaney interviewed a dozen industry representatives on this topic for a story in BikeRadar and concluded: “One, there will not be a single standard.  And two, wheel companies are eager to make compatible and even convertible solutions, so you likely won’t be ‘stuck’ with an abandoned format in a few years.”  For example, wheel companies including Roval and Reynolds offer disc brake wheels with different hub end cap and axle options to make them compatible with whatever frame design you own.

We’ve long had different Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo ‘standards’ when it comes to 9- and 10-speed wheel free hubs and cassettes, though both will now work on 11-speed drive trains from either Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo.  There are also no standards when it comes to bottom brackets, cog and ring ratios, or clincher and tubeless wheels and tires.  There are just different approaches that mostly work, but work differently.  Same will probably go for quick release and thru-axle frames for the near term.  I think we’ll get along just fine.

I don’t mean to be glib.  I just don’t want anyone to obsess over ‘distinctions without differences.’  QR vs. TA and CenterLock vs. 6-bolt are such distinctions while 140mm vs. 160mm rotor size are true differences.

More important to selecting a road disc bike, the frame geometry – the lengths, angles, and tube shapes that make up the bike triangles – are the same on most rim and disc versions of endurance models.  Chain stay lengths are longer on some race bikes but it’s debatable how much difference it makes.  This should give you a good point of reference in moving from road bikes with rim brakes that you know or may have test ridden to disc bikes of the same brand or model.

By keeping geometries much the same, companies have tried to give you the same ride feel, handling and other characteristics (except of course for the braking) between rim and disc brake versions.  Some have done this better than others.

Most notably, some of the strengthening in the front fork and rear stays have made the road disc bikes “unbalanced” in the opinion of road testers – bikes have a stiffer front end and relatively softer back-end.  The practical effect is that the handling is still crisp and the back-end is still stiff and efficient (as the rear stays have been strengthened) but the bike’s stiffness doesn’t quite feel like it is synced front and back.  I’ll only suggest bikes below that have been evaluated to be well-balanced.

An early fear mentioned by some was that road disc bikes would not be as aerodynamic as their rim brake brethren.  With some test results now published, it looks like this should no longer be a concern for the road cycling enthusiast.

Specialized, who sell both rim and disc brake bikes, produced the video below as part of their “win tunnel” series.  It showed that a Tarmac equipped with disc brakes might add a negligible 8 seconds over a 40km ride versus one set up with rim brakes.  Being able to confidently go faster on a road disc bike should more than make up that difference.

Velo magazine published the results of a more extensive road disc vs. rim brake wind tunnel test.  The differences were a bit bigger, but for me and I’ll bet most road cycling enthusiasts, the small and likely imperceptible aero penalty of 1-3 watts should not put you off of getting the braking, speed and versatility benefits that discs bring.

PRODUCT

‘Endurance’ and ‘race’ are two categories often used to give you an idea of how comfortable or aggressive a bike is.  Endurance bikes tend to be designed for long distance riding on centuries, sportives, grand fondos and general weekend group riding.  As such, they have a more ‘relaxed’ geometry – longer wheelbase, shorter top tube and taller head tube – than a race bike.  These and other design aspects that make endurance bikes more comfortable to ride.

Racing bikes, on the other hand, are stiffer, more compact, and react very quickly when you tell them to do something. They transmit more of the road feel to the rider, which is what a racer wants, and put an emphasis on light weight components and aerodynamic tube shapes.  They aren’t nearly as comfortable as endurance bikes on long rides.

These categories work pretty well but aren’t absolute.  There are many so-called endurance bikes that fall somewhere between endurance and race in their design and performance.  These bikes work well for the club level racer who also wants to do comfortable and competitive long rides.  Likewise, while most road race bikes are designed for varied terrain, some are made very light for climbing and others are designed with more aerodynamic tube shapes for time-trialing or triathlons.  And, some people race very successfully on endurance bikes while others like the aggressiveness and fit of a race bike for enthusiast riding (and, shhh, never ride them across a starting or finish line).

Recognizing the limitations of putting 2015 model year road disc bikes in one of these two categories, I’ve identified about 50 road disc endurance bikes available this season from 17 companies who make production level volumes and 12 road disc race bikes from 7 of those companies.  And, if you want to build up your own road disc bike, 5 road disc endurance frames and 6 race frames are available to add your own components to. These are listed in the charts above.

Note that I am only including road disc bikes with hydraulic-disc brakesets.  There are lower priced bikes being sold with cable-disc brakesets.  As I wrote in my evaluation of road disc brakes, I believe a bike with a cable-disc brakeset (as well as putting a hydraulic-rim brakeset on your road rim frame) falls short of the benefits of what you will get when you make your next bike purchase a full on hydraulic-disc road bike to the point that it doesn’t justify the cost.  I realize these hydraulic-disc road bikes are expensive, but I would save for them or maintain or upgrade your rim brake bike until you have the dinero to go hydraulic-disc rather than go for a ‘half-a-loaf’ cable-disc or hydraulic-rim bike.

For those of you who follow the UCI pro race circuit, it’s interesting to note that 5 of this year’s 17 World Tour teams including some of the best performing ones – Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo, Etixx-Quick Step, Astana, and Cannondale-Garmin – have frame sponsors who are now making road disc racing bikes (Pinarello, Specialized, Cannondale).  All the other teams, save for the two riding Canyon, have frame sponsors who are now making road disc endurance frames and, I would think, have developed the design expertise to quickly apply that to road disc race frames.

Most of the 2015 road disc bikes are being equipped with tier two Ultegra level or better groupsets and many with Di2 electronic versions.  There are, however a handful equipped with less costly, tier three Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival groupsets too.

For disc and rim bikes of the same models with the same groupsets, the average disc bike runs about $400 to $600 more, essentially the cost of the disc levers and brakes.  Also, like most new rim bikes, entry-level or stock wheels come on just about all but the top-end Di2 versions of these disc bikes.  I talk more about the disc rim wheelsets on these bikes and your upgrade options in my post on road disc wheelsets.  But, safe to say, most of you will want to change out the stock wheels to realize the full performance potential built into these bikes.

All of this adds up to a pretty tidy sum to become a disc bike roadie.  Contrary to the old saying, the best things in life aren’t free, at least when it comes to cycling life.  With that in mind, buying a frame and building it with your preferred components and wheels is a good, usually less costly option to consider.

PERFORMANCE

Here are a few bikes and frames that my research suggests are worth a close look based on their performance, value and how well they’ve executed the road disc design and adopted or extended it toward the objectives and characteristics of the original bike model.  I’ve included the MSRP/RRP and links to the manufacturer listing, recommended stores who carry these bikes and some other reviews should you might want to explore further.  Note that you can order some bikes online and have them shipped to you, with others you can ‘click and collect’ (order online and pick it up at the store), and still others brands or stores require that you shop, order and pick up the bike at the LBS or local bike shop.  All store, price and stock information is as of October 9, 2015.

Endurance

Inifinito CV Disc - Bianchi

Bianchi Infinito CV Disc frameset – $3500, €3151 (US/AU Competitive Cyclist, UK/EU Bike24) – This bike accelerates and handles like a race bike but is dampened in a way that makes it feel as comfortable as an endurance one.  The frame is only 40g heavier than its rim brake sibling and its top and head tubes are only 10mm longer and 20mm taller, respectively, than Bianchi’s Oltre racing frame.  The rim version Infinito CV is the bike that the pro team races over the cobbles and rough roads of the Paris-Roubaix.  Testers at Bicycling Magazine and BikeRadar really liked this bike.  I’d recommend you start with the frameset and add the components separately; you pay a hefty premium to buy the store assembled 2015 model year Ultegra or Ultegra Di2 options with disc components over what you could buy it and build it for separately.  The stock wheels that come with the assembled versions aren’t ones that leverage the potential of this steed, another reason to build it yourself.

Synapse Carbon Ultegra Disc -Cannondale

Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra Disc – $3790, £2500, 3125 (US Cannondale dealers, UK/EU Evans, Cyclestore) – Both road.cc and BikeRadar gave the 2014 Synapse rim brake version its bike of the year award in the endurance/sportive category and liked this 2015 disc version just as much.  The bike is comfortable, smooth, speedy, well-balanced front and back and all at decent price point.  The bike comes with the mechanical shifting Ultegra 6800 groupset with Shimano ST-RS685 shifters and BR-RS785 brakes.  The Mavic Aksium One disc wheels are stock, but a decent pair to have around for bad and winter weather riding, especially with its 28mm width tires.  The bike weighs about 8.4kg (18.5 lbs), average for road disc bikes but about 700g more than the rim version.  Half of that extra weight or more can be eliminated by replacing the nearly 2000g stock Mavics with a good set of carbon disc wheels.

fenix-c30-disc- Ridley

Ridley Fenix C30 Disc – $2500, £1980 (US/AU Competitive Cyclist, UK/EU Slane) – This is a pure endurance bike, comfortable over long distances and rough or cobbled roads.  Ridely designed the Fenix with enough clearance to comfortably put on a 28mm wide tire, consistent with endurance/comfort design goals.  It’s probably the best value in the endurance road disc range as it comes with the Shimano 105 11 speed groupset (also with Shimano ST-RS685 hydraulic shifters and BR-RS785 disc brakes).  The Fulcrum Racing Sport disc wheelset are nothing special, but you haven’t spent so much on the overall bike to worry about putting some extra aside for a better set of wheels.  Ridley also has a cool feature that allows you pick out the colors you want your bike painted, albeit for an extra $500.  Road.cc has a first look here.

Race

With just a handful of road race disc bikes to choose from and likely many more to come, I’m hesitant to recommend any for risk of you getting buyer’s remorse once a bunch more comes out.  There are a few that are distinctive and worth a look for reasons which I’ll explain below.  As mentioned early, you won’t be able to actually race a road disc bike in sanctioned races for another season or two so only get one if you like the feel and fit of a race bike for your enthusiast riding or if you want to be the first one on your block to have one.

Tarmac UDi2 disc bike

Specialized Tarmac Pro Disc Race Ultegra Di2 – $7600, £4800, 6000 (US/AU LBS, UK/EU Evans, Cyclestore) – This bike has received the highest raves compared to all of the early road disc race bikes.  Speed, stiffness, ride, handling, acceleration, braking all rated top shelf by the likes of BikeRadar, road.cc and others for both the disc and rim versions of this new bike.  But, and it’s a big booty but, you can only use Specialized house brand Roval Rapide SLX 40mm SCS disc carbon wheelset that come with the bike for now.  Specialized designed a unique rear hub to avoid having to lengthen the chain stays to prevent the chain rubbing against them when in big/big or small/small front ring and rear cog combinations.  If you prefer another wheelset you are out of luck unless or until Specialized allows others willing to make rear wheels with ‘SCS’ hub.  If you are a Specialized fan and like the Tarmac, the wheels complement the bike nicely and there is no reason to hold back.

Pinarelo Dogma Hydro - PinarelloPinarello Dogma Hydro 65.1 Think 2 Bike-$11,000; Frameset – $4600 (US/AU – Competitive Cyclist, UK/EU LBS) – If you have the means, this is the ‘dream machine’ to get.  It’s a Pinarello race bike fitted out with a Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, RS785 brakeset, and Zipp 303 clincher wheelset.  Drooling yet?  Oh yeah, this bike rides like the Tour de France champ its rim sibling has won thrice under the legs of Team Sky – crisp and sure handling, stiff and balanced frame, fast in and out of corners, etc.  Who knows, riding one of these might get you confused for Wiggins or Froome doing some road disc bike testing, that is if your arms are really skinny.  You can also buy just the frameset and build it up yourself with your choice of components and wheels.

CAAD SRAM Rival Disc - Cannondale

Cannondale CAAD10 Rival Disc – $1700, £1100, 1850 (US – REI , UK/EU- Hargrove) – Here’s a solid, low entry price racing frame whose rim brake brother has had a lot of admirers over the years.  And if you prefer SRAM groupsets, this model comes with the 11-speed, hydraulic-disc Rival 22 HydroR kit. A higher priced model comes with the Red 22 on the same frame. While the initial introduction of the bike showed its dimensions much the same for the disc and rim bikes, I’m not aware of any who have had it out for ride and reviewed it yet and have characterized its ride.  So if this is a model you are interested in, check back.  I’ll update when I know more.

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55 comments

  • Comprehensively put together as usual! I’m considering a disc as the moment to replace my regular ride and regarding two of the bikes which I’m considering:
    1. Specialized Tarmac: most of the reviews I’ve read (and you’ve mentioned) are on the top of the range S-Work which though superb is very much out of budget. Are you aware of any reviews specific to the Pro version and also the weight?
    2. Focus Cayo: My understanding is Focus is pitching this as a race bike (albeit one with a more forgiving geometry than their top of range Izalco) as they have a dedicated endurance model called Ergoride.

  • The S-Works frame will be marginally stiffer and 100g or so less than the other models. You’d have to be a pro to feel the difference. Otherwise it’s groupset differences that separate one version of the Tarmac from another. Focus Cayo is an endurance/sportive/gran fondo bike; not a race bike.

  • Ordered a Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1 today! Was also looking at the Cayo 3.0, the Domaine 4.5, and the Polygon C8X. Looking forward to the wheel upgrade article!

    • Had my 2015 Defy Advanced Pro 1 for 4 months.I ride 18 mph on flats and 30 to 40 miles three times a week.Love the bike balance between compliance and handling(road feel).The stock wheels suits me fine for my ability at this point.Just upgraded with Gaint SLR stem,Easton EC90 AREO with red Lizard Skin and Pros Turnix Carbon AF 1 saddle.The compliance of bike improved between frontend and backend.And also make the bike look more aggressive.Hope you enjoy your bike as much as I do.Let me know the result when you upgrade wheelsets.No matter which bike or components you have,just be glad that you are riding outdoor and be healthy.Happy cycling !

    • I’m currently losing sleep over trying to decide between a Trek Domane 5.2 and a Giant Defy Advanced 1. The lower price point and disc brakes are pushing me toward a Giant but, up until now, I’ve always been a Trek fan.

  • The picture of the “Tarmac” is actually a Roubaix.

  • No mention of the first road bike specifically built with disc brakes?
    The liscio by Volagi.

  • Re the Cannondale Synapse: “… about 700kg more than the rim version…” Wow! That’s just too much of a weight penalty! 😉

  • Very helpful article.

  • In your spread sheet the 2015 Cannonade Synapse Hi-Mod Carbon Ultregra Disc does not have Di2. Thanks for compiling all this great info!

    • Garrett, True, but Cannondale doesn’t call it Di2 either. See here. Just trying to be consistent with what the supplier calls their products so you can find it, even if the name doesn’t always fully describe it, as you point out here. Note that I do list Ultegra Di2 for this bike in the Groupset/Discset column. Cheers, Steve

  • I got my Bianchi Infinito CV Disc with Di2 and have been using it for the last 3 weeks. I didn’t get a chance to test ride it before ordering it but I trusted my dealer (I bought my last bike, a BH Cristal from him). I loved my 5 year old Cristal but was facing a Ultegra drive train replacement so I decided to look at new bikes. My Cristal was a triple (I built up a frame) and a 50 cm frame but it climbed like a mountain goat. I live in a town where 7-12% grades are not uncommon and being a 58 year old woman (53 when I got my Cristal), weight is important to me. I don’t have the option to lose weight so I was concerned about the potential weight issue of the Bianchi. With my Cristal, the biggest issue I had was the way I got pushed around in winds 12-15 miles mph (I didn’t ride in winds over 15 mph). I used Ultegra wheels, with tubeless tires on the Cristal. On my first ride with the Bianchi, I thought I was slower (my initial dismayed reaction was “I bought a new bike for this!!???”). After testing it and learning I had to rethink my shifting, I am now about .5 MPH faster than on my Cristal and not in my best shape. The weight of the Bianchi is about a pound less – I did move my saddle over to the Bianchi – and, full disclosure here, I took stuff out of my saddle bag. I now have the compact drive train and the 47 cm frame so that could have contributed to the weight change for the positive. I am also using tubeless tires on the Bianchi wheels. Several key thoughts. 1) Shifting is fabulous. I am a small/light rider and an aggressive shifter. I did a test ride with a compact mechanical shifter and was a bit concerned about loss of momentum. Not to worry with the Di2. Shifting is so responsive and easy on my hands. I just love it! I can’t speak for those who have said it isn’t worth it, but I unequivocally disagree. I have it set so if I hold the button down, I shift one cog at a time and it is much faster than my old Ultegra. One of the reasons I was interested in the Bianchi was the CV technology. I bought my Cristal after testing Trek and Specialized and was really impressed by the lack of vibration on the Cristal. The Bianchi is even better and I’m hoping will help fatigue on longer rides. The last and perhaps most important thing for me, is the stability I feel in windy conditions. I am not being pushed around on the Bianchi like I was on my Cristal. I am much more confident in windy conditions (I realize many of you are laughing about what I call windy conditions but…..). The good news is I am much more stable in windy conditions; the bad news is no longer have a reason not to ride when the winds are up. I realize this is a lengthy review but I did it to show my appreciation for the bike review on this site. It really helped me to decide to get the new bike and I wanted to let others know of my experience.

    • Toni, Thanks for your review. So glad to hear you are enjoying your Bianchi and that InTheKnowCycling helped you make a decision. Now when you get in better shape and upgrade your wheelset, you’ll take flight in those winds and soar uphill like an eagle. Steve

  • what re your thoughts on the Giant Defy advanced Pro 0

  • Really keen to get a road bike with discs so this was a very useful article. Having trouble identifying a suitable women’s specific carbon frame disc bike. Got a fuji with 105 and would want similar level of components. Any recommendations? If my budget is £1500 am I being unrealistic about discs and carbon? Thanks

    • Kristy, Will tough to find a full carbon, fully hydraulic within your budget. The Ruby with a Rival groupset is an option slightly above your budget. You might wait for an end of season sale or price out a 105 groupset, and a basic wheelset with the frame you like. Often cheaper to buy the components and pay £150 or so to get someone to build it or buy a friend who knows how to do it a six pack to help you. Steve

  • I realize that with only six bikes being reviewed, many could not make the cut. I am curious (as a new owner) as to how the Roubaix Pro Disc Race lines up with others, as its cousin, the Tarmac PDR, was praised.

    With less than three weeks on the bike, my early impressions are based on less than 600 miles of varied riding. A lot of rural flat land group rides and some solo climbs in the hills of the California Gold Country. My previous bike was an ’08 Roubaix Comp, and in comparison I find the new Roubaix PDR to be faster. Whether it’s the wheels, the stiffness of the frame and crank, or the placebo effect from spending $$, the new bike rides several miles per hour faster for the same pedal effort. Riding with a group of cyclists at 22 mph on flat roads seems effortless compared to the same ride on my old bike. On long, winding descents the disc brakes make entering and exiting turns easier and faster. All in all, I’m very pleased with the bike.

    • Bill, You beast! It’s you, not the bike. 🙂
      Probably a combination of the factors you mentioned and you being psyched and riding harder on your new steed. See how it’s going after 3 months. I expect you’ll still be faster though perhaps not by as much. Steve

      • Time will, indeed, tell.

        In full disclosure, I should have added that I spent four weeks before mid-May preparing for my first Double Century (on my old bike). I was riding three days weekly, but for 100 or more miles each ride, with some significant hills on occasion. My fitness level improved with that conditioning. Today, on the new Roubaix, I was one of eight riders on the hilly roads around Lake Berryessa. Where previously I was the last rider on the climbs, for whom the others had to wait, today I was mid-pack or better. And at the end of the ride, where I would frequently get dropped a few miles out, I was maintaining the paceline speed, with my share of pulling.

        It’s impossible to apportion how much of the improvement is me, and how much is the new bike. Nevertheless, I’m going with the bike for most of it.

  • steve, thanks for the article and the research. it was just what i was looking for since i’m about to upgrade to my final bike (i’m 72) and want this one to be my last big-time bike purchase so i want all the new stuff: electronic shifters and disc brakes. i’m coming from a 2013 scott cr1-pro compact, which i really like and am hesitant about abandoning, but i think i’ll get over it! thanks again.

  • Steve,
    Excellent article and thanks for your research on disc road bikes. I am seriously interested in the Trek Domane Disc 6.9, and wondered what your thought were about this bike. I felt like with DA DI2, through axles and the plush Isospeed decoupler and stiff light carbon frame it was the best bike available in this format currently. I rode it and the Specialized Roubaix S Works Disc and I thought the Trek was a little stiffer in the bottom bracket and front end and as plush or more plush when seated. Just wondering why it was not one of your 6 bikes to consider? Great work on the site and thanks!

    • Robert, Thanks for writing. The six bikes I chose were a cross section of good ones rather than my picks of the best ones. Because of their dimensions and road feel, some bikes suit certain people more than others. I had heard that the Domane front end was a little stiffer/harsher than the back. But, if you like the Trek, I see nothing to recommend against it. Steve

  • Steve,
    How would my 2013 Specialized Roubaix Disc Elite compare/contrast with the other endurance bikes here?

    For reference:
    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/archive/2013/roubaix/roubaix-sl4-expert-compact

    Thanks much.

    Matt

    • Matt, Can’t tell whether you have hydraullic or cable disc brakes on those. Likely the later but you could upgrade if you prefer the former. The frame and wheelsets would be of comparable quality. I still ride an SL3 frame (rim brake version) with no complaints. Steve

      • Steve, thanks. It is the cable version, and the OEM was such a failure that the LBS exchanged the entire set out for a different brand, all on warranty. I still don’t notice a braking advantage over good clinchers (although I’m not a very experienced cyclist). Maybe I should consider the upgrade.

        What do I need to know about upgrading the wheels (at some point), given the disc brake setup?

        Your responsiveness is much appreciated!

        Matt

  • I see that no one has mentioned the BMC GF01 Disc. CyclingPlus bike of the year ! I test rode one about a month ago and am now waiting on mine to come in. The decisions was so hard with so many excellent choices in Disc Road bikes for this year ! Can’t wait to have mine !!

  • Hi Steve, left cycling 20yrs ago and still have my old trusty Gary Fisher MTB. Now looking to get back in the game full bore at 48yrs old. Your website was extremely helpful with my homework on the next big bike purchase. The new technology has blown my mind away. Anywho, have narrowed it down to either the Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Di2 or the Specialized Roubaix Expert SL4 Disc Di2. The latter not being available at this time. Leaning toward Spcialized however. Your insight on this whole disc phenomenon was well written.

  • Anyone have experience with the Parlee Altum Disc? I’m considering it or the new Roubaix. I want through axles so my choices are limited. Thanks

    P.S. Almost forgot to give Steve mega props for this and related articles!

    • Just to follow up, I ended up with a Specialized Roubaix Pro Disc UDi2. Parlee and my LBS were difficult, and the $2,000 extra for equivalent specs made the choice much much easier. A different LBS worked with me on the Roubaix, and I am super happy. The breaking and modulation is awesome. I’ve set several new Strava segment PRs on twisty descents in the 6 weeks I’ve had it (admittedly, I’m still closer to the bottom than the top of segment leaderboards). Confidence is through the roof. I’m also loving the thru axles: stiffer, safer IMHO, and easier to fine tune brake engagement points (because the rotor is always in exact alignment).

  • Great read! I’m looking at buying a disc road bike and doing a ton of research. I’m a big guy at 200lbs, love to sprint and can hold my own when the road turns up. Needless to say I want to avoid disc rub. The whole road axle debate is interesting. Looks to me like TA will win out. Trek is going TA on endurance bikes (long stays) and as for their race bikes they must be waiting to see. Specialized is showing their hand. They put out 135mm QR on a Roubaix with 415mm stays but when the Tarmac comes out with disc brakes they make a move to SCS all while keeping the 130mm road dimension. A lot of Specialized fans are scratching their heads about SCS but the more I research the more I think they are doing it the right way. The only other option I can see is go with 135mm hub and Q factor will need to grow with it.

    As a heavy rider who gets out of the saddle I’m thinking QR would not be good for me. Am I over concerned about rub? I’m debating a 2015 Roubaix pro race frame that I can get for $1K. The 2015 Roubaix is QR instead of the SCS which is found on the 2016 model year. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    Brett

    • Brett, thanks for commenting. Good stuff. I’m waiting a bit to do a comprehensive update of this post as more bikes come out for next year but it does seem that more and more endurance bikes are going TA. Hard to know on racing bikes yet – it may be another season before things shake out. Part of the issue is how to stock the team cars that carry the extra wheels. Seem so far removed from what matters to us enthusiasts. I’m not really excited about the SCS approach. I understand that Specialized is doing it to try to keep their rear triangle the same but it limits you and me to Roval wheels which I’m not personally a big fan of. I like to have choice rather than to be locked into one brand/system. But I said that about Apple too and was wrong.

      For you, I agree that TA would probably be the best soution, especially if you plan to get a bike this/next season. Most of the wheels are being made with convertible hubs to you’ll have plenty of choices. The Roubaix isn’t the stiffest bike out there so if you are putting out the kind of power I it sounds like you are, you might find the frame isn’t not stiff enough for you, regardless of the hub design. Steve

  • Steve, Just found your site – really good articles!
    I currently have a hybrid (Cannondale Quick SL-1) and thinking about a first road bike as a 70th birthday present (‘Endurance-type’ as comfort is important).
    Two questions:
    (1) Do ‘Disc’ brakes have added benefit, namely by allowing for 650B wheels and thus potentially facilitate use of wider tires (for those of us who think 32mm tires can improve comfort with little performance hit at the speed this 68-yr-old rides at)?
    (2) Do you have a view on the ‘durability’ of carbon-frames: I can see spending $5,000+ on a bike BUT at that price I want the frame to be durable

  • Great stuff Steve!
    I’m looking at buying a disc road bike too. I’ve been looking closely at the Bianchi Infinito CV. It looks like they are redesigning the frame for this bike for 2016 (found this info on a Bianchi UK site, not USA). I noticed the disc frame will now be TA. Do you know if there are other changes? Have they stiffened the fork which was one complaint I read about? I’m a fairly big guy at about 190 lbs and have read that disc rub was an issue on that frame. It seems to me like this is more an issue with fork and wheel stiffness, not just TA or QR.
    Tom

    • Tom, I’ll revisiting road disc bikes and frames with a couple new posts around the beginning of the year. I’ll look into your comments further then. Sorry not to have more to say now. Thanks, Steve

    • Any comments on the Vision Metron 40 wheels?

      • Pump that wheelset name (or any piece of gear) into the search bar at the top of any page on the site and you’ll see the posts where I’ve talked about them.

    • I built up a 2015 Bianchi Infinito CV Disc frame with HED Ardennes + wheels . No disc rub here. I weight 193 lbs. and ride very steep roads in Northern Ca. The stiff HED wheels help I’m sure. Thanks Steve for the suggestion to build the bike ourselves. It was a fun 60th birthday project and saved a lot of money ( even with Dura Ace Di2 )!!

  • CAAD 12 DA ordered, looking forward to trying out disc brakes.

  • Can’t wait to see your 2016 updates as there seem to be some great new bikes on the market. Personally I have enjoyed my Cervelo Soloist for nearly ten years and am really excited to see and read more about their new C series endurance bikes. Thought I had my next bike narrowed down to the Infinito, BMC GF01 or the Synapse. So many great options! Thanks for the terrific info on your site!1

    • Eric, Thanks for your interest and kind feedback. Working on a 2016 road disc bike update now. Cervelo has joined in on the party. Hopefully out in January. Best, Steve

  • Amazingly helpful article. I’ve been looking for a spreadsheet like this that lays out all the disc bike options. I’m looking forward to your 2016 post too!

  • Own a specialised expert carbon sirrus with disc brakes a 2015 model. Looking to upgrade the stock axis 2.0 disc wheels, the bike has a Shimano 105 front and rear mech as standard and is 11 x 2 speed. Would a set of specialised roval clx40 wheels fit my bike? Would I have to fit a longer rear mech cage to ensure the chain alignment is fine for gear changing up and down the gears? Would an upgraded front and/ rear much say to ultegra spec be a necessary consideration and further expense? I have the chance of the clx40 wheels brand new and unridden for an excellent discounted price..privately…hence will they fit? P.S. Your articles are excellent..keep up the good work..regards Phil..

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