We review four of the best lightweight road bikes for triathlon
There are some brutally hilly courses on the UK multi-sport calendar, and having an ultralight bike that can climb with effortless ease doesn’t just make heading into the mountains less stressful either. Lighter bikes accelerate faster, change direction quicker and feel more responsive, and ego-boosting overall – particularly in pack rides.
Sweating out every excess gram without leaving a bike weak when you pedal or so low-fat it’s uncomfortable takes a lot of time and money, though. We’ve looked at a broad spectrum of summit-chasing superbikes in the super-light sub-7kg category to see how different manufacturers have handled their dieting.
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL
German direct-sales brand Canyon has finally got a dedicated UK service centre and its Ultimate CF SLX is truly outstanding in terms of top-performance value for money. The innovative chassis delivers drive and precision handling, with kit selected to amplify that to a dizzying degree in acceleration and altitude gain. It might not be the lightest or comfiest chassis but for maximum performance amplification per pound we’ve not ridden anything matching it.
Read the full Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL review
+ The fastest accelerating, most direct responding bike we’ve ridden
+ Superbike performance for a fraction of the price of its peers
– £3,500 is a lot to spend without the support of your friendly local shop
– Not as cultured and cruise-comfy as the other bikes here
Phenomenal drive and precision handling in an ultralight, ultra bargain direct-sell deal
Specialized Tarmac Pro SL3
Specialized’s super-light Tarmac S-Works has dominated the climbing stages of the Tour de France since it appeared. The SL3 uses the same shape in a slightly downgraded material, but proves it’s got morale boosting moral fibre when the roads get mountainous.
Read the full Specialized Tarmac Pro SL3 review
+ Specialized’s ride position and shock absorbing saddle make it very comfy
+ Overall bike weight is good for a complete bike at this price
– Flexy wheels and bars add comfort but sap peak power and steering
– Frame is heavy for a £4,000 bike, which limits upgrade potential
Flexy when flogged hard, but an outstandingly friendly fit and ride feel for a racer.
Scott Addict R1
One of the most successful bikes in the pro peloton, Scott’s R1 combines gravity cheating frame weight with an addictively aggressive on-road persona. Outstanding performance doesn’t mean unbearable punishment though, except from a wallet point of view.
Read the full Scott Addict R1 review
+ Superbly balanced, precision handling and super-light frame
+ Full Shimano Dura-Ace kit plus top-quality Fizik and Ritchey kit highlights
– Fractionally off the pace in ultimate power kick transfer
– Some gust and slower acceleration issues with the Mavic wheels
Beautifully balanced, precise and naturally predatory ultra-light race bike that’s only brutally punishing on your wallet.
Cervelo’s £3,500 R5 frame is already one of the lightest, stiffest, most innovative and most prestigious road frames available. However Cervelo’s own design engineers hand-build this limited-edition Project California (Ca) to take their design and tech skills to the limit. Can it be worth £7,500 just for the frame and fork? In terms of owning a piece of state-of-the art technology that’s both breathtaking and breath saving, it outrides anything else we’ve ever tested.
Read the full Cervelo R5ca review
+ Truly ultralight, but still superbly surefooted and sprint-bustingly quick
+ More upright distance and dodgy-back-friendly position than most
– Not everyone will get on with the position and large sizing
– Massive cost increase compared to the ‘standard’ R5
Insane cost and controversial sportive shape, but a sublime mix of ethereal weight, electrifying responsiveness and efficient comfort.
What surprised us was the difference between the character of each bike. In friendliness and fun, the Specialized Tarmac stood out. Its cockpit and geometry meant we were saddled up and ready to gallop straight away. While it buckled under the cornering and crank onslaught of our most powerful riders, it’s an efficient all-rounder.
Given its murdered aesthetics and cost-no-object pricetag, we were shocked by the long-haul comfort slant of Cervelo’s R5Ca, but considering those who’ll buy it, it’s also a smart choice. Its ethereal climbing efficiency, surefooted descending and sublime fatigue-fighting ride quality sets it apart.
Scott’s Addict is for flat-out racing, with a long, low position that drops you straight into a head-down, arse-up hunting position. While the dynamic is aggressive, ride character balances smoothness, precise handling and blistering sprint acceleration to make it a great all-rounder.
The Canyon Ultimate has an urgent ride character. It’s the sharpest here, but comfort is fine for the longest days, and phenomenal power delivery makes it the fastest-reacting and feeling bike here.