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The best winter road bikes reviewed

The idea of having a ‘winter bike’ may seems like a luxury to some, but for anyone who has moved into second bike terrain it’s a sensible choice which allows you to keep your best bike pristine, ready for the rides where you want an injection of speed.

What is a winter road bike?

A winter bike will swiftly become best and faithful friend. You’ll go through more adventures together than any of your other bikes as it gets you through the most demanding season of the year, Equipped to cope with rain and snow, as will a general road detritus, including the corrosive powers of salt grit scattered on the roads to counter ice.

Key features will include winter tyres, designed to provide grip and comfort, disc brakes which cope well with wet conditions and bike mudguards/ fenders.

>>> Winter bikes: do you really need one? 

The professional road cycling calendar sees the racing season kick off in spring, finishing around September. Traditionally if you follow a cycling training plan, the winter months are used for building up endurance via long, slow ‘base miles’. This means spending a lot of time in the saddle, so winter bikes often have a more relaxed geometry – typically seen on sportive or endurance bikes.

The bike gears may be tweaked and consist of smaller, compact chainsets and wide-ratio cassettes suited to ample climbing and high mileage demands of winter riding.

Winter vs gravel vs endurance bike?

With their wide tyres, disc brakes, more stable and relaxed geometry, adventure and gravel bikes, are becoming an increasingly popular choice of winter bike.

Designed to allow riders to choose between tarmac and off-road sections gravel/adventure bikes will generally be more extreme, and the bottom bracket will often be higher, too to allow for less chance of pedal strike when riding over rocks and roots.

Endurance bikes are specific road going, but offer a more relaxed geometry and generally wider tyres than you’d see on a traditional race bike, to offer stability over a range of terrain.

If you think of a sliding scale, with race bikes would at one end (closely neighboured by endurance bikes) and adventure bikes would be at the opposite end, with winter bikes sitting somewhere in the middle.

While an adventure bike or gravel bike will certainly cope well with winter riding, and give you the option to head off the beaten track, it can lack the nimble ride feel of a bike built just for the road. Endurance bikes usually have that in spades, but may not come with mudguard and rack mounts and prices usually exceed your desired “winter hack” spend.

Below, we’ve listed winter ready road bikes. If you’re still after a do all option, then check out our dedicated  best gravel bikes buyers guide. Similarly, if you’re after something with a relaxed geometry that’s still light and fast, take a look at our  best endurance bikes guide.


The best winter bikes

With each bike you’ll find a ‘See More’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Kinesis RTD (frameset only)

  • RRP: £850/ $1168.99 (frameset)
  • Review score: 8/10
  • Groupset: NA
  • Weight: 1400g (51cm frameset)
  • Pros: Versatility, capable off-road, rolls well on road
  • Cons: Weight

Read more: Kinesis RTD Frameset review 

A common approach to the winter bike conundrum us to buy a relatively inexpensive frame, and build it up with assorted components lifted from your existing collection (or purchased second hand from club mates/ selling sites). The Kinesis RTD comes as a frameset only and is ideal for those keen to build their own.

On test we loved the versatility of the RTD, finding it happy to roll off road, but without sacrificing it’s road going capabilities.

The distance ready frame was inspired by the events such as the Transcontinental, which Kinesis is a long term supporter of. It’s comfortable, disc brake ready, with clearance for tyres up to 34c or 30c with room for mudguards/ fenders.

See More: Kinesis RTD at Pro Bike Kit for £630.75 or Pro Bike Kit USA for $867.49. 

Ribble CGR AL -Sport

Ribble CGR AL -Sport

  • RRP (from): £999 / $1,124.27
  • Review score: 9/10 (Ribble CLG AL 105)
  • Groupset: Shimano 105
  • Weight: 9.72kg/ 21.43lb (size L without mudguards)
  • Pros: Looks, versatility, robustness, handling
  • Cons: Handlebar shape

Read more: Ribble CGR AL 105 review

Ribble’s CGR platform comes with clearances and road bike geometry to all suit ‘Cross, Gravel and Road riding throughout the winter. Although this model is aluminium and Shimano 105, steel, titanium and carbon versions are available, likewise for groupsets with  options of both Shimano Sora and Ultegra also an option.

On test we found that the slim seat stays adsorb a lot of vibrations, as does the carbon fork. Although not designed as a race bike, the CGR still offered an impressive turn of speed, although adding the mudguards/ fenders would hinder this somewhat.  We also found it played well when shown a section of singletrack, so there’s plenty of scope for less traditional winter riding.

One recommendation we would certainly make is change the handlebars, as the stock ones have far too much reach for our liking, but other than that it’s a cracking full winter option.

See more:  Ribble CGR range at Ribble from £999 or Ribble USA from $1,124.27

Triban RC 520 disc brake road bike

best winter bikes

  • RRP: £799.99/ $1,199.99
  • Review Score: 9/10 (Triban RC500 Flat Bar)
  • Groupset: Shimano 105 shifting, TRP brakes
  • Weight: 10.4kg/ 22.92lbs (claimed)

Read more: Triban RC500 Flat Bar bike review

The Triban RC 520 spec is impressive for the price. For £799.99/ $1,199, you’ll get an Decathlon’s house brand aluminium frame kitted out with Shimano 105 shifting and TRP hydraulic disc brakes.

The frame is still designed to offer a comfortable ride, and the fork comes with carbon blades to drop the weight and dampen road buzz. There’s mounts for mudguards/ fenders, pannier rack and comes with 36mm tubeless ready tyres to help reduce the chance of punctures.

If you want to spend a bit less, there’s a Shimano Sora equipped model, which keeps disc brakes, albeit the mechanical variety, for £599.99

See more: Triban RC 520 at Decathlon for £799.99 or Decathlon USA for $1,199

Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc

best winter road bikes

  • RRP: £1050 / $1500
  • Review Score: 9/10 (higher spec model reviewed)
  • Groupset:  Shimano Tiagra
  • Weight: 9kg/ 19.84lbs (Shimano 105 size 54)
  • Pros: Handling, comfort,
  • Cons: Heavy wheels, mechanical discs

Read more: Cannondale Synapse Carbon 105 review 

Cannondale’s Synapse is a bike designed for the rider who wants to still feel nimble in winter, whilst enjoying the all-day comfort of a relaxed geometry, the secure stopping of disc brakes, albeit mechanical ones and wide 30c tyres.

We really enjoyed the Cannondale Synapse 105, which does come with a carbon frame, higher spec and higher price tag. The Sora model uses an aluminium frame and carbon fork, but you should still get the ride spirit.

There are also gender specific models available, with the women’s version coming with narrower handlebars and women’s saddle.

See more: Cannondale Synapse Tiagra from Rutland Cycles for £1,049.98 or 

Cube Nuroad Race FE Road bike

Cube Nuroad Race FE Road bike 

  • RRP: £1499 / $1599
  • Review Score: TBC
  • Groupset:  Shimano GXR
  • Weight: 11kg/ 24/25lbs (claimed)
  • Pros: Spec, versatility, winter ready
  • Cons:  Newer version has mechanical brakes

We’re big fans of Cube bikes, finding them offering great value for money and hard to fault. The Nuroad range of bikes got an overhaul for 2021, so which still offer’s great value for money, but if you can get the older one, you’ll get exceptional as it came with hydraulic disc brakes.

Winter ready straight out the box, the Cube Nuroad Race FE comes with an Aluminium frame and carbon forks. Interestingly Cube have equipped the bike with the gravel/ cyclocross Shimano GRX, which means a smaller chain ring than most bikes, but with a bigger spread in the cassette, ideal for cruising the climbs.

See more: Cube Nuroad Race FE Road bike at Wiggle for £1,499 or Chain Reaction Cycles USA for $1,423.99

Ridley Fenix SLA Disc road bike

Ridley Fenix SLA Disc

  • RRP: £1499 / $1599
  • Review Score: TBC
  • Groupset:  Shimano Tiagra
  • Weight: TBC
  • Pros: Shimano Tiagra Drive train, muguard/ fender and rack mounts, compact groupset
  • Cons: Mechanical disc brakes

Read more: Ridley Fenix SL 10 review (older model) 

We’ve really rated the Ridley Fenix models that we’ve seen over the years, and knowing the brand, would expect a great ride from this Aluminium frame and carbon fork pairing.

The Shimano Tiagra drive train may only have ten gears, but the compact 46/36 chain ring and 11/32 cassette will offer more than enough winter gear options for both up, down and on the flat riding.

With mounting racks ready for mudguards and pannier racks, it’s down to you to winterise to your choice of spec. The only downer is the mechanical disc brake, but that’s easily upgraded should you so wish.

See more: Ridley Fenix SLA Disc at Wiggle for £899.99 or Wiggle USA for $1,100

Vitus Zenium Road bike

Vitus Zenium Road bike

  • RRP: £1,099.99 / $1,399.99
  • Review Score: TBC
  • Groupset:  Shimano Tiagra
  • Weight: TBC
  • Pros: Carbon frameset, cross over summer bike
  • Cons: Mechanical disc brakes

Read more: Vitus Zenium CR review  (Cyclocross model)

We have always found the Wiggle/ Chain Reaction Cycles house brand to offer solid performing bikes. When we tested the CR model we gave it an 8/10 score, and rarely has the brand ever dipped below.

The Vitus Zenium road bike comes with reliable Shimano Tiagra gearing and disc brakes, although at this price point cable pull Tektro Spyre. There aren’t mudguard or rack mounts as standard, but the more relaxed geometry lends itself to long winter rides as does the compact chainset.

This does also mean that a pair of clip on guards can also clip off as soon as the sun comes out, making this a great year round rouler.

See more: Vitus Zenium Road bike at Wiggle for £1,099.99 or Wiggle USA for $1,399.99

Racer Rosa (frameset only)

best winter road bikes

  • RRP: £800 (frameset, our build £2500) 
  • Review Score: 10/10
  • Groupset: NA, our build Shimano Ultegra
  • Weight:  7.8kg/ 17.19lbs (full bike)
  • Pros: Made to measure, handbuilt in Italy, great ride
  • Cons: Nothing!

Read more: Racer Rosa bike review 

At his bike shop in Walthamstow, Diego Lombardi offers a unique experience. He flies WorldTour bike fitter Giuseppe Giannecchini, a bike fitter expert who featured in our ‘Is your bike set-up too aggressive?’ feature, in to London once a month, where customers can be fitted up for a custom machine – which is hand built at a near unbeatable price.

Frames are available in steel, carbon or aluminium – but for winter we opted for Aluminium and were not disappointed.

We thought the ride was excellent, and concluded in our review that “there can’t be a more cost-effective way to get a made-to-measure Italian frame.”

See more: Racer Rosa at Racer Rosa Bicycles

Isen All Season

best winter road bikes

  • RRP: £1950 (frameset)
  • Review Score: 9/10
  • Groupset: NA
  • Weight: TBC
  • Pros: Ride quality, paint job
  • Cons: Fiddly cable routing

Read more: Isen All Season review

If you’re after a real keeper, get in touch with Isen and have them build you up a customised steel machine.

The ‘All Season’ is exactly that – a bike you can ride in comfort all year. And since each bike is a one-off, you can spec it however you like.

Described as a bike for anything from a ‘gruelling Audax’ to a ‘bike packing escapade’, we tested it when riding on and off-road along the North Downs Way.

This machine boasts dynamo and internal cable routing, 12mm bolt thru ready fork, and can be built around 650b wheels for smaller riders or those who want really wide tyres. There’s mounts for racks and mudguards, too.

There’s some great touches of style, like the ISEN asymmetric seatstay bridge, hand formed ISEN solid brass headbadge and you can get it painted in one of five great ‘sikcandyfadez’ paint jobs.

See more: ISEN All Season at the ISEN Workshop


What should you expect in the best winter bike?

A winter bike is any bike which you feel comfortable riding during the months between October and March. Some riders are also known to remove the mudguards/ fenders and take their winter bike on training camps to avoid transport damage to their best race bike.

It’s quite common for riders purchasing a new bike to retire their old bike to ‘winter bike’ duties. Going down this route, you just needs to do the best you can to transform the old chassis into a wet weather mile muncher – fitting new tyres and mudguards, for example.

However, if you’ve got the luxury of buying a dedicated winter bike, you can be a bit more specific.

Tyres

The best winter tyres for road cycling will be wider, allowing you to them run at a lower pressure allow for a larger contact patch with the ground, offering greater grip and on uneven roads better rolling resistance as they depress over bumps instead of skittling along the surface.

Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyre

Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyreThis better grip and ability to run lower pressures (without increasing the risk of punctures) becomes even more important over winter where roads are often wet and more slippery. As a result, a winter bike needs capacity to manage at least 25mm tyres. Some come with clearance for tyres over 30mm.

>>> Choosing road bike tyres

The tyres themselves need to be designed to deflect sharp objects, and many of the best winter bikes now come complete with tubeless ready tyres or high quality puncture proof belt, and a compound which is sticky and grippy.

Disc brakes are especially helpful on winter bikes.

Disc brakes do not rely upon the wheel rim or provide adequate braking. This means that braking speed is not affected by rims becoming wet, and braking can be reliable in all conditions.

best winter bikes

It also means that debris does not get swept up from the road, and stuck in the interface between the brake pad and rim – causing premature rim wear. Finally, disc brakes mean that it’s easier to run carbon rims that still allow for quick braking in any condition, and the rims can be lighter as they don’t need to cater for braking forces.

Mechanical disc brakes are the cheaper variety, whilst hydraulic disc brakes are more expensive and more reliable. Hydraulic disc brakes don’t really require a little more maintenance, but might be worth watching our videos on Shimano disc brake bleeding  or  SRAM disc brake bleeding  to see how to do it properly, and in reality this only needs doing at most once a year, or if you feel the braking has become ‘spongy’.

Mudguards/ fender and luggage

Not all road cyclists like to use mudguards – but doing so prevents grit and dirt from being thrown up from the road and into the drivetrain and over you.

Mudguards can often save the face of the person behind you from the splatter so they’re advised (and indeed enforced) on many group rides.

best winter bikes

Mudguards can change your ride in the winter months

Dedicated winter bikes will often come with eyelets for mudguards, and enough clearance to cater for them – or even with mudguards fitted. The latter greatly reduces the risk of discovering that your new mudguards save your bum from getting wet, but rub on the tyres with every revolution.

You can fit mudguards to a bike without eyelets, but can be a bit hit and miss effectiveness wise.

Some winter bikes also come with pannier rack mounts, in case you fancy shooting off on some sort of all-day epic.

Geometry

The geometry of a winter bike often mirrors that of a sportive or endurance bike.

Expect to find a taller head tube, and shorter reach. This will put you in a more upright position. The wheelbase will likely be longer in relation to the top tube when compared with a race bike, and the head angle slacker – closer to 70 than 73. This provides a greater degree of stability – something many riders like when tackling wet and potentially icy conditions.

However – not all riders will want a massive geometry change between summer and winter bikes. If you’re planning on racing in summer, it’s understandable that you want to train in a similar position – so bear this in mind and don’t buy a bike that differs drastically to your race bike if this is an issue for you.

Of course, your own body dimensions remain the same – so saddle height and fore/aft position should not change between your bikes – big changes here can result in injuries.

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