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Best winter road bikes: What makes a good winter bike?

Joseph Delves
7 Mar 2021

What makes a good winter bike and what are our top favourite winter road bikes

While it might seem an outrageous luxury to have a dedicated bike just for winter, if you ride a lot it can make sense. What we want in summer is different to what we want in winter, as the menu at any restaurant will tell you. Plus, a dedicated winter rig will stop your more expensive bike getting trashed courtesy of the bad weather and mucky roads.

For the old-school rider, the archetypal winter training bike might still be a fixed gear with an easy-to-turn ratio and mudguards. But there’s no need to go for something quite so austere.

However, there are some things we’d definitely look out for…

What makes a good winter bike?

Space for wide tyres and mudguards

Tough tyres in a wide size and run at a slightly lower pressure will increase grip and comfort over winter roads. Mudguards are also a must for riding in a group, plus they’ll save your kit and components from excess wear while keeping you dry and comfy.

Mounts for racks

If you’re going to get a second bike it might as well have the ability to carry a rack too. Plus the mounting point will ensure you can fit proper full-length mudguards, not the fiddlier clip-on type.

A more relaxed geometry

Winter is not the time for dashing about. A more sedate geometry will keep you happy on longer rides while providing more planted handling which can be a boon when weather, light or road surfaces conspire against you.

A wide range of gears and a mid-range groupset

Your drivetrain is made up of consumable components. In winter it makes sense to choose something expensive enough to survive in testing conditions, but not so expensive it’ll cost an excessive amount to replace.

Disc brakes

More powerful and consistent, disc brakes are ideal in the wet. Plus, they require far less maintenance, great when grit from the road can also devour your rims. About the only penalty is weight, something that shouldn’t be a major concern on a winter bike.

A durable frame

Salt from the road and cleaning products can slowly knacker carbon and aluminium frames, meaning steel remains a popular choice for winter hacks. Even better if you can afford it is titanium. Given a quick polish, it’ll look as shiny and new in a decade as it does today.

Six of the best winter road bikes

1. Triban RC520

Many will argue a winter bike should be cheap. And boy does the Triban manage this. Yet at the same time, it also provides riders an ultra-durable Shimano 105 groupset, and thanks to TRP’s clever Hy/Rd callipers, hydraulic stopping.

The rest of the spec is good too. The tyres are sensibly wide at 28c, plus they can be made tubeless without excessive faff. The wheels are durable and run on sealed bearings, while the whole bike is geared towards comfort and longevity.

With space for mudguards and racks, it’ll do for winter, but also touring in the summer, while the cost will leave you enough money to take it somewhere warm too.

Buy now from Decathlon for £850

Read our full review: Triban RC500 and RC520 review

2. Dolan Titanium ADX Disc 105

Titanium is perfect for a winter bike, if you can afford it. This Dolan provides the space-age material at a down-to-earth price. Comfy, light, and corrosion-resistant, it’ll polish up like new at the end of each season, while giving a superlatively smooth ride year after year.

Featuring a comfortable audax geometry based around a long head tube, it’s ideal for getting in the baseline miles without putting your back out. With room for big tyres and mudguards, both can be requested before it arrives thanks to Dolan’s online bike builder.

Also allowing you to tailor the gearing and cockpit components along with the wheels, we enjoyed using Mavic’s mid-section Cosmics. Set up tubeless, they added a small injection of speed to a bike whose progress was otherwise pleasingly stately.

Read our full review here

Buy now from Dolan from £2,000

3. Ribble Endurance 725 Disc

Steel is a great choice for a winter bike and at a time of the year when riders might be carrying a little extra timber, a kilo or so more on the bike won’t do any harm. Plus the extra resistance will help with training. Tough, comfy and cool looking, this Ribble provides riders with Reynolds’ mid-level 725 tubing, along with disc brakes and a carbon fork.

With builds starting at £999 for a Shimano Tiagra equipped machine, mudguards and racks can be added at the build stage, while gearing and finishing kit can be similarly tweaked. Finished in metallic British racing green, it’s a winter bike that’ll sparkle in the sun too.

Buy now from Ribble Cycles for £999

4. Condor Fratello Disc 

Lead singer of The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow are among the many cyclists to have been allured by London-based bicycle brand Condor, and we understand why.

Mixing old school tube lines and classic paint schemes with innovative performance nods, it is a bike brand that does things properly. The Fratello, for example, ticks all those winter bike boxes. 

Constructed of lightweight Columbus Spirit steel tubing it is as nimble as it is sturdy meaning you can really turn up the heat on that local climb while remaining confident it will survive a winter's worth of road muck.

Room for 32mm tyres and flat mount disc brakes means you could even be tempted off-road and provision for racks on the rear allow you to even to take this bike touring if you're so inclined.

Buy the frame now from Condor Cycles from £1,199.99

5. Genesis Flyer

There’s still something to be said for taking the Luddite approach and riding single-speed during the winter. Not only will you learn to improve your cadence, especially if you opt for a fixed gear, you’ll also look dead tough too.

With little to go wrong or wear out except perhaps your knees, the Flyer takes its geometry from the brand’s popular Equilibrium and pairs it to an open-road friendly 42/17t gear.

Even better, this Flyer comes set with chunky 37mm tyres which if are unable to tempt you onto some rough stuff will at least provide incredible grip, comfort and puncture resistance on the open road throughout the winter months.

With a fixed/free rear hub, it’ll give you something new to try too. Experimenting with either system is as simple as flipping the wheel around.

Buy now from Freewheel for £649.99

6. Merida Scultura Endurance

It is commonly believed that winter bikes should be heavier and slower than what you ride in the summer as a way of making you a better rider. We don't always buy that here at Cyclist and nor do plenty of bike manufacturers who are creating road bikes more than capable of taming winter without compromising on performance.

Among those is Merida which recently launched its new Scultura Endurance road bike, a relaxed adventure bike designed to keep its rider comfortable and steady through those long winter miles while providing aero details to keep you rolling at a steady speed.

Room for 35mm tyres makes this a fairly versatile bike and integrated cables not only improve the bike's looks but protect those moving parts from the grit and grim being sprayed off the road.

Buy from Tredz for £3,600