$3k Endurance Bike Shootout: And the winners are…

Testers tab favorite Gran Fondo Racer, Climber, Gravel Racer, Best In Test

$3k Endurance Bike Shootout 2014 Road Bike

test-bikes

This article is part of RoadBikeReview’s $3,000 Endurance Bike Shootout. See an introduction to the test here and head over to our Shootout Round-Up Page to read all the reviews.

First a very important caveat: There is no perfect bike, endurance or otherwise, that will satisfy all the needs of all people. In nearly every case the No. 1 criteria shaping a bike buying decision should focus on fit and function as it relates to you — and not what some on-line reviewer tells you.

That said, we’ve done our best to evaluate these seven bikes on a wide range of criteria with a varied group of testers. And we certainly believe the information you’ll find in each of the tests and in our awards wrap-up is a good starting place as you start the vetting process. We’re also convinced that in the right situation, any one of these bikes could deliver years of riding pleasure.

But at the end of the day there is no substitute for getting out there and conducting your own tests. Any bike shop worth its salt will let you take a few spins on that bike you have your eye on, and then and only then can you really determine if that Trek or that Specialized or that Giant or whatever other bike you’re looking at is the right bike for you and your needs. Happy shopping — and happy riding.

BEST IN TEST

Trek-Domane-action2 Trek-Domane-isospeedTesters were sold on the Trek Domane 4.7′s IsoSpeed decoupler, which did a great job of absorbing bumps and vibration, but didn’t negatively effect pedaling efficiency.

Trek Domane 4.7

No doubt there was a bias among our test group that favored bikes which could handle the rough stuff, and no bike in this test did that better than the Trek Domane 4.7. Utilizing a unique decoupling mechanism at the junction of the seat tube/top tube area, this bike simply works as advertised, smoothing out rough roads without compromising pedaling efficiency. Toss in the fact that WorldTour superstar Fabian Cancellara chooses to ride a racier version of this bike all the time, not just at the cobbled classics, and we’re sold. The other major factor in favor of the Domane 4.7 is its parts spec. Like all the bikes in this shootout, it benefits from the precision reliability of an 11-speed Shimano Ultegra drivetrain. But unlike many of those bikes, the Trek’s gruppo is 100 percent Ultegra. No swapping in substitute components (brakes, chainrings, etc), which is often done by product managers to help keep costs down at the expense of reliability and performance. You can read the full review here.

Runner Up:
Testers also had near universally high praise for the Giant Defy Advanced 1, which didn’t have quite as smooth a ride as the Domane, but handled just as well and comes with a complete Shimano Ultegra drivetrain. Read the full review here.

BEST CLIMBER

scott-solace-seatstays2 scott-solace-action2

The Scott Solace 20 was by far the lightest bike in the test, making it a favorite for big climbing days. It also goes downhill reasonably well.

Scott Solace 20

While we weren’t fans of the chainstay mounted rear brake, there is no denying the Scott Solace 20’s ability to scale the steeps. Thanks to an easy-to-spin 11-speed Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with a compact 50-34 crankset and 11-28 cogset, and an overall weight of 16.49 pounds (size 58cm, no pedals) this bike welcomed tests against gravity. Its total weight is more than a half pound lighter than any other bike in this test, which included some 56cm frames and one 55.5cm frame. It also must be noted that at $3400, the Solace 20 is the most expensive bike in this test by at least $200. You can read the full review here.

Runner Up:
Once again, testers pointed to the Giant Defy Advanced 1, which was the second lightest bike in the test, and was stiff enough to handle out-of-saddle efforts on super steep pitches. Read the full review here.

BEST GRAN FONDO RACER

Cannondale-Synapse-Full Cannondale-Synapse-wishbone

Thanks to its unique frame design, the Canondale Synapse Carbon 3 maintains stiffness and handle well in high-speed situations.

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3

If you’re looking to just ride your next gran fondo or charity century ride, then our nod goes to the Scott Solace 20, which is both supremely comfortable and very light. But if a top 10 in your age group is the goal, we like the Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3, which has a more racy feel just in case you get caught up in a finish line sprint. It had the best high-speed handling characteristics among our test fleet, especially when bombing descents or diving into sharp turns. Read the full review here.

Runner Up: Testers also gave high praise to the Felt Z3, which eschews radical frame designs in favor of a classic look that was a joy to ride, especially on the flats and bumpy pavement. Read the full review here.

BEST PURE GRAVEL RACER

jamis-endura-action4 jamis-endura-tire-checkThe Jamis Xenith Endura had the most tire clearance, a huge advantage for extreme rough road riding.

Jamis Xenith Endura

Testers found much to nitpick on this bike, but the Jamis Xentih Endura was the undisputed king of the hill when it came to tire clearance. Thanks to a set of TRP RG957 long-reach brakes, we easily swapped on a set of 32c Vittoria Cross XN Pro tires. And the Xenith Endura could deal with 34c file treads no problem, which is the kind rubber that will give you a leg up if your next ride is the Dirty Kanza or similar rough road racing affair. Read the full review here.

Runner Up:
It was a tie with Trek Domane 4.7 and Specialized Roubaix SL4 both receiving honorable mention. The Domane’s frame is best at soaking up bumps, while the Roubaix has a reasonably compliant frame and extra tire clearance thanks to a set of Axis 2.0 brakes. You can read the full review here.

$3k Endurance Bike Shootout: And the winners are… Gallery
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Giant Defy Adavnced 1

One of the best all around bikes in this test.
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Felt Z3

Nothing fancy, just a solid performer.
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Specialized Roubaix SL4

Wide tires are no problem on the original comfort bike.
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Trek Domane 4.7

Our Best In Test winner, testers universally praised the IsoSpeed decoupler for its ability to soak up rough roads.
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Trek Domane 4.7

The IsoSpeed decoupler that makes this bike such a hit.
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Scott Solace 20

The lack of a brake bridge yields a supremely comfortable bike that climbs well, too.
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Scott Solace 20

The lightest bike in our test by more than half a pound.
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Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3

For the rider looking for an endurance bike with a racy personality.
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Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3

The scalloped seat tube helps maintain stiffness and keep weight down.
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Jamis Xenith Endura

If a gravel grinder race is in your future, this bike is worth a long look.
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Jamis Xenith Endura

You can easily slip on a 34c file tread tire.
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The Test Fleet

And our testing grounds, the road riding playground that is Boulder County, Colorado.
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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