I previously wrote a blog entitled "There has never been a better time to buy a bike". The standard of bikes (and groupsets) is such that an 'average' bike in 2017 is actually very good. And to be class leading it needs to be truly exceptional. And that's what the 2017 Tarmac SL6 is… it's a bike that can truly do it all - light, stiff, aero, rides well and handles like a dream. Whisper it, but this could be the only bike you ever need…
Every journalist I spoke to who had ridden the SL6 was blown away by it, and it's universally regarded that Specialized have absolutely knocked it out of the park with this bike.
As soon as I tested it (and started devising ways to delay its return) it was clear that this was the most impressive bike I had ridden in 2017.
Read my full review, and buy online here.
Honourable mentions go to the new Cervélo R5, which is a complete overhaul of a legendary frameset and was as good as we'd hoped. And the Emonda SLR - the lightest frame I have ever ridden. Bonus points to Trek and Cervélo for launching their flagship frames in both caliper and disc format.
Nothing ground breaking this year, just the most complete road range ever assembled. Trek now remind me of Cervélo when they were at their CSC pomp and everything they touched turned to gold (R3, Soloist, P3).
Trek have exceeded even this; and created four class leading road platforms; all peaches, no lemons.
Pick from an Emonda (a climbing super-star), Madone (race rocket), Domane (sportive wonder bike) or Speed Concept (fastest Tri bike in world) and you have consistent excellence. Combine these bikes with the customer-centric approach personified with Project One and you have a brand that's a joy to work with.
The whole Roval CLX range is very impressive and comes in 3 depths and in caliper and disc form.
The CLX50 is our pick of the bunch; they are light, stiff, roll beautifully on ceramic bearings (fitted as standard!) and take wide tyres. All at a price cheaper than Zipp, let alone ENVE.
If they were £2500 they would be a bargain - at £1870 they are an absolute steal…
Available in-store and online with free UK delivery - for Rim Brakes and Disc
These pedals only landed in December but even in that brief period of time their excellence made them a worthy award winner. Cheaper, lighter and better looking than their predecessors, a cinch to install and with the instant ability to swap over to multiple bikes, these pedals finally brought (dual sided) power to the masses.
A proper bike fit is the best investment you will ever make in cycling. Training and riding to power comes next, and no product does this better for the price than the Garmin Vector 3.
We were amongst the first in the UK to get our hands on these, and they've been flying out of the shops. Grab them while you can, supplies are limited. Buy online with free UK delivery.
It's not a secret that in previous years we were sceptical on Specialized's offerings. The designs were old and tired and increasingly uncompetitive with Trek. However the last two years has seen a remarkable renaissance. The Venge Disc is the bike the Generation One always should have been, the Roubaix is a breakthrough model and the Tarmac - our bike of the year - is sublime.
Add to that the investment in their own Wind tunnel, great components (especially wheels) and an upcoming power meter and you have a welcome return to form.
A strong Specialized is good for us all and will bring further competition (and benefits) to us riders.
For making pumps and tools beautifully tactile and objects of desire.
Someone once wrote a SILCA pump is so nice you actually look forward to getting a puncture. Clearly that author is a loon... But it's undisputable that good tools are much nicer to use than cheap ones. And better too - our mechanics constantly have to assist customers who have rounded out their stem bolts by using cheap Allen keys. Packing your bike in a bike box at midnight is less stressful when you have tools that don't damage your bike!
Buy a Silca pump and you will wince at the price. But every time you use it you will marvel at its construction. And very soon the price will be a distant memory. And if you follow the 'buy once, buy well' mantra it will last you years and years.
...are everywhere this year, and for good reason.
Disc brakes have been creeping further into the road bike market for a number of years, perhaps the best technology the road bike sector has borrowed from the mountain bike world. We've gradually become fans of the extra stopping power, the dependability in all weathers, and the extra clearance they provide for wide tyres, but more on wide tyres in a moment…
The biggest indication that disc brakes are here to stay came with the launch, and our subsequent test ride, of Trek's brand new Emonda SLR Disc. With a super light frame and the latest Dura-Ace groupset, here's a bike that makes a mockery of the UCI's weight limit, and for the first time almost virtually eliminates the previous weight penalty inflicted on any bike sprouting disc brakes.
We've not yet seen widespread adoption of disc brakes in the pro peloton, but with bikes like the new Emonda SLR Disc, it's only a matter of time before discs become a more regular sight in the peloton. That the pros haven't taken to disc brakes more swiftly has hardly been a hurdle to consumer interest, with disc brake road bike sales increasing and become more common on group rides and club runs across the country.
Disc brakes have readily enabled the other big trend to proliferate in 2017, and it's wider tyres. Years ago the only time you'd been riding anything wider than a 23mm tyre was when you went mountain biking… but wider tyres have become universally popular with road cyclists of all persuasions in the past year.
People have realised that wide tyres offer more comfort, improved grip and rolling resistance is lower (due to a shorter and wider contact patch that creates a rounder tyre that rolls better). According to Continental, a 28mm tyre at 80psi has the same rolling resistance as a 23mm tyre at 123psi, and we know which tyre is going to be more comfortable…
Bike manufacturers have responded to this trend by producing road bikes with improved tyre clearance. Models like the Trek Domane and Cannondale Synapse have been redesigned to cater for up to 32mm+ tyres, while race bikes like the Trek Emonda and Cannondale SuperSix Evo will now accept 28mm tyres.
We like our N+1 bikes at Bespoke. Just as photographers have different lenses for the job, one should have different bikes. Gravel caught fire in 2016 but really exploded in 2017 and looks to continue to do so.
There is something wonderfully back to basics about turning off the main road and exploring tracks, gravel roads and bridlepaths for the first time.
The sense of freedom and adventure reminds us why we started to cycle in the first place. Less about watts and FTP, more about freedom and a sense of adventure.
Cycling is split into two camps; those that have a gravel bike, and those that have not yet tried a gravel bike.
I talk more about my new-found love of gravel on our blog, and we have an intro to gravel, here.
Reflecting the sheer quality of new products launched this year, the 'good' awards were all very closely fought. Alas for our 'bad award' there is no contest; Shimano have been a shambles from start to finish.
From the delayed launch of Dura-Ace mechanical, Di2 and Disc to the delayed Shimano powermeter, to the delayed Ultegra mechanical, Di2 and Disc it has been one colossal supply chain cock-up after another.
Here's an idea; learn from Apple and only show a product when you are able to ship it in numbers. Whats the point of announcing a new groupset if you take a year to ship it?
Shimano own a 70% market share in the road market and their inability to ship on time has caused complete carnage along the supply chain.
Shimano products may be great (their only saving grace), but I have nothing but contempt for the way they have treated their customers (cycling brands, shops and riders alike).
The entire industry is deperate for SRAM and Campagnolo to continue to strengthen and offer us all choice...
It took a number of years for both sides to agree to work together. Now we have done so we are keen to make up for lost time!
Read Barry's first impressions of the latest R5 here, and read more about the Cervélo range.
Pioneers of the 'Gravel Plus' movement, we cannot wait to starting specc'ing some epic adventure builds.
Read our introduction to OPEN here, and read more about the incredibly versatile Unbeaten Path and range-topping U.P.P.E.R. in our online store.
And whatever comes, we'll be ready for it! We're proud to be at the cutting edge of bike technology, but our focus on correct fit always sits at the heart of what we do. No change for change's sake - everything must be fit for purpose and offer a real benefit.
We look forward to working with you in 2018 to ensure you get the best from your cycling...