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£1,800 sportive bikes test: Genesis v Ribble v Kuota v Specialized

Mid-priced rides promising all-day comfort with a performance edge

Marc Abbott
29 Nov 2017

For a big ride, you need a bike that covers all eventualities – something that can hang with the fast group, demolish a climb, provide descending stability and, most importantly, provides enough comfort for hours in the saddle.

These bikes do exist, and we’ve taken four built very much with those aims at their heart – three carbon and one steel.

And for this money, there’s a decent level of spec on offer, with higher-end groupsets, good wheels, wide tyres and aerodynamic touches abounding.

It’s just a matter of knowing where to look. All four of these bikes come in close to the £1,800 mark and offer a lot for the money.

The best way to test this quartet of eager mile-munchers? That’ll be some non-stop, hard miles in the English countryside, to highlight any shortcomings in the comfort department, and give us ample opportunity to wring every last drop of performance out of them…

The bikes

Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20 | £1,649

Genesis promises ‘all-day comfort’ from the Equilibrium Disc 20, thanks to its steel frame and carbon fork combination.

It’s certainly a versatile bike, coming as it does with 28c tyres on its Fulcrum wheels, along with Shimano’s hydraulic disc brake set-up and a dependable 105 groupset used for the lion’s share of the mechanical parts.

Read the full Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20 review...

Ribble Gran Fondo Disc | £1,759

Ribble’s Gran Fondo has been revamped for 2017, with different tube profiles and geometry for a more relaxed, less tiring ride.

The British mail-order firm has gone all in to replicate an Italian look that matches the bike’s name, even going as far as to paint an Italian flag on the top tube.

But even if it has come from a warehouse in Lancashire rather than Veneto, all the ingredients are there for a comfortable ride at speed.

Read the full Ribble Gran Fondo Disc review...

Kuota Kubalt | £1,899

Kuota claims the Kobalt to be ‘ideal for cyclists looking for the perfect sportive bike’, so we’ve high expectations.

Being the Italian firm’s entry-level carbon road bike, we’re interested to see just how good a bike at this price range can be with a decent set of wheels.

Often, they’re the first thing we’d upgrade, but the £1,899 built of our Kobalt test bike includes Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels as standard.

Read the full Kuota Kobalt review...

Specialized Tarmac SL4 Sport

The 2018 Tarmac is Specialized’s ‘everything’ bike, aiming to be as compliant while climbing a mountain as it is on a Sunday group ride.

The SL4 Sport’s steering geometry and wheelbase are identical to the firm’s decidedly pricier higher-end Tarmacs, which have won the biggest races in the world under the likes of Peter Sagan.

This model represents the second rung on the nine-bike Tarmac ladder.

Read the full Specialized Tarmac SL4 Sport review...

The winner: Kuota Kobalt

It’s been a while since a test result was this close at the sharp end, but on balance the Kobalt just shades the victory from Specialized’s Tarmac Sport.

What you get from Kuota is a very handsomely specified bike (the latest Ultegra kit is sublime), a future-proof wheelset, and the ability to choose between full-on attack mode or a more leisurely approach to your century ride.

It’s an exceptional balance of comfort and performance. It just busts the budget we set ourselves here, but it’s worth every extra penny.

The Tarmac is stunning in many ways. Even forgetting the paintscheme, this is one bike here that rewards committed riding.

It’s not taken the laurels on this occasion for the simple reason that for most riders it might actually require too much focus too much of the time.

That said, for the money, you’re getting a bike that will hang with the fastest riders, as long as your quads are up to it.

Ribble’s Gran Fondo represents the power of the online retailer, with a high level of equipment at a tempting price.

Its handling isn’t razor sharp, but neither is it ponderous. It will transport you over a four-hour ride in comfort, but if you hanker after excitement you might want to look at the Kobalt or the Tarmac.

The Genesis Equilibrium 20 is a beauty – nothing compares to the sleek-tubed steel approach, and this is a truly cosseting machine.

It does give away 2kg to the lightest bikes here, though. Whether that’s important is down to you, but for a long day in the saddle (with not too many hills), it really will put a smile on your face.

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