If you’ve signed up to complete a sportive ride or charity cycle, you’re going to need the right bike to do it on. However, the definition of what exactly makes a sportive bike can be a topic of hot debate, and strictly speaking a sportive bike can be ‘any bike you can ride a sportive on’ including hybrids, flat-barred road bikes, more traditional road racing bikes or even off-road bikes like hardtail MTBs or gravel bikes. Worry not, because we’ve put together our hot picks of the best sportive bikes 2020.
If you want to head straight to our top picks on the Chain Reaction Cycles website, here are our favourites:
Leaving aside the fact that pretty much any bike with two wheels and pedals can be ridden over the finish line of a long-distance cycle, the term ‘sportive bike’ has in recent years come to cover a distinct category of road bikes that are designed primarily with all-day comfort in mind, rather than competitive performance. They may look like standard road racing bikes – with skinny wheels, drop handlebars and a general go-fast attitude – but typically feature a more relaxed geometry that enables a comfortable, upright riding position; as opposed to the flat-backed, aerodynamic style favoured by the pros (who have spent years building up the core strength and flexibility required to maintain it without discomfort).
Sportive bikes of this type – also called endurance bikes – often feature longer head tubes, shorter top tubes and shorter stems relative to their need-for-speed cousins, as well as component choices (such as compact or semi-compact chainsets, high-volume tyres and disc brakes) that combine to maximise all-day comfort, if at the expense of a few grams or a little straight-line speed.
While the racing purists may scoff, and coffee-shop debates continue to rage, the fact is that this breed of road bike is infinitely more suited to the needs of a majority of everyday riders than the latest slammed-stem superbike. For most of us, road cycling is about enjoying the outdoors in the company of others, and spending long and memorable days in the saddle. Sportive bikes are built to help us achieve this with maximum comfort, and that’s why they’ve become the natural choice for most riders – even the pros taking on cobbled Classics!
Read on for our guide to the best of this season’s sportive crop.
The Vitus Razor VR Disc is not only the quintessential start sportive bike but a perfect illustration of how bike technology that was previously only available at a premium price point is now available to the masses. Featuring a lightweight 6061-T6 aluminium frame matched to a vibration-damping carbon fork and equipped with Shimano’s highly-evolved 9-speed Sora groupset and TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes, the Vitus Razor VR Disc is a competent and compelling all-weather performer.
The addition of disc brakes – the mechanical Spyres being regarded as the best of their type – not only improves stopping performance in the wet but also gives Vitus’ designers free reign to spec cushy, comfortable high-volume tyres (which they have thankfully done), adding comfort and stability over rough roads. If you’re looking for a robust and eminently upgradeable endurance bike ready for action right out of the box, look no further than the Razor VR Disc – itself a bit of a looker with stealth bomber graphics and classy tan wall tyres.
Germany’s Cube has built a brand around great value bikes, using its scale and purchasing power to offer great specifications at a price point few of its competitors can match. Look around the start line of any sportive and a solid sprinkling of Cubes will attest to the enduring popularity of this marque among long-distance leisure cyclists and competitive club riders.
For 2020 Cube continues to offer its alloy-framed Attain model in various guises and specifications (with a women’s-specific model carrying the Axial name). For us this Attain Race hits the sweet spot for most sportive riders, especially those new to the sport. Built around a robust and reliable 6061 aluminium frame with handy mudguard mounts, the Attain Race features what Cube calls ‘road comfort’ geometry, indicating its all-day intentions.
This model features Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra groupset match with TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes for a durable, dependable stop-and-go system. Cube claim aero benefits for their understated Cube RA 0.8 Aero Disc wheelset but all things considered, any aero gains on the table are going to be marginal (and offset by coffee stop chats).
Of more note are the high-volume 28mm Continental Ultra Sport 2 tyres which nudge the dial towards smoothing out rough roads rather than mixing it up in finish line sprints. All things considered, the ‘Race’ in this bike’s title is a bit of a misnomer but don’t let that discourage you from considering the Attain/Axial as an ideal sportive steed.
Quality carbon frame, disc brakes and a Bike to Work-friendly price tag? It’s not a case of ‘pick two’ – with the Vitus Zenium, you can have it all. In fact, there’s a strong argument for this being all the bike that most leisure riders will ever need, and then some. Offering a full carbon frameset, Shimano Tiagra 2×10 gearing and TRP’s peerless Spyre mechanical disc brakes at a price point where most rivals are still battling component compromises, the Zenium is not just a great fit for your first sportive but perfect for fast Sunday club runs, winter training, back-road adventures and even the daily commute.
We love the fine balance between long-distance comfort (note the presence of 28mm tyres) and keen handling, with the Zenium’s compact frame and race-inspired geometry making it an eager partner for carving through corners at speed or putting the power down for a town sign sprint. Let it be said that we also love the 2020 colourway, with the combination of carbon grey/black paint and retro tan wall tyres giving the Zenium a touch of understated class.
With a name like that, there are no prizes on offer for guessing the Fuji Sportif 1.5 Disc’s intended purpose, and indeed it’s more than up to the task. Fuji may be a below-the-radar brand for some, but the venerable marque (which as might be expected, can trace its origins back to Japan) has been quietly building great bikes for decades and is well known to aficionados.
The tall head tube and short top tube on the alloy-framed Sportif series set out their intentions clearly – this is far from a flat-back racer but offers plenty of potential for riders seeking an upright position, whether for reasons of comfort or personal preference. Indeed the potential for this bike extends well beyond sportive rides, and the provision of rack and mudguard mounts on the frame mean it can easily be pressed into service as a long-distance tourer.
Mechanical disc brakes mean reliable wet-weather control; 30mm tyres offer sofa-like cushioning over the roughest of roads, while finishing kit comes courtesy of Fuji house brand Oval Components and is more than up to the task. Worthy of special mention with the Fuji Sportif is the 34×34 low gear combination –enough to take on any gradient short of a vertical wall. If you’ve found yourself struggling on the steeper ascents and don’t fancy the faff of changing cassettes (or for that matter, installing a long-cage derailleur) rest assured that the Sportif is made for spinning up the steepest of hills, all day every day.
For our next pick we stay with Fuji but somewhat controversially (shock, horror!) turn to the SL-A 1.3, which the eagle-eyed among you will point out is not strictly a sportive bike. Well, yes and no – while its racier geometry and semi-compact 52/36T chainset certainly draws on Fuji’s racing heritage, as we pointed out at the start of this guide, a sportive bike is any bike on which a rider can tackle a sportive, and this one is more than equal to the task. In fact, with a focus on light weight – the SL in the name being short for ‘super light’ – it’s arguable that this bike might make a better choice for hillier courses than comfortable-but-sluggish disc brake options.
No matter where you stand on the matter, let’s agree that the Fuji SL-A 1.3 is a great-looking bike (that electric blue gives us the shivers, in a good way) built around an A6-SL super-butted 6066 aluminium frameset and kitted out with a mixture of Shimano 105 and Oval Concepts componentry.
Sharp, responsive and ready to play, it’s the kind of bike you should seriously consider if your typical sportive involves hard efforts with competitive clubmates, rather than leisurely ambles between food stops. Alternatively, if your future plans potentially cover dipping your toe in the world of racing, this one should be on your shopping list. The SL-A 1.3 will turn its hand to long days out, or turn up the heat when it needs to.
We’ve already noted the Vitus Zenium as ticking the ‘all the bike you’ll ever need’ box, but the Zenium CRS could be all the bike you’ll ever want. If the Zenium’s jack-of-all-trades design and spec sheet makes it a potential quiver killer, the Zenium CRS’ sporty geometry, 11-speed Ultegra drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes and stunning Prime Baroudeur tubeless aluminium wheelset delivers a fatal blow to the notion that one bike can’t do it all.
Widely seen as Shimano’s best mechanical groupset, Ultegra’s reputation for faultless performance precedes it, with the R8000 generation offering optimised ergonomics and a sleek, purposeful aesthetic. Hydraulic disc brakes give riders the confidence to push themselves to the limit, safe in the knowledge that precise and reliable stopping is just a lever pull away.
Vitus have invested years in honing and refining their bike range, with the Zenium CRS standing testament to all that has been learned along the. And finally, for a bike built to set the heart racing, the Zenium CRS’ blood red paintjob is entirely appropriate.
Newcomer UK bike brand Orro has sparked plenty of attention in recent years with its well-considered and competitively specced range, and the Pyro Disc Evo 7020-Hydro R900 – unwieldy name aside – builds on this reputation. With a geometry that falls somewhere in between the sit-up Fuji Sportif and the sporty Vitus Zenium, the Orro Pyro Disc Evo (for that is what we shall call it) serves as a well-mannered companion on any sportive ride – comfortable enough for the long haul but with handling that stops well short of sedate.
As one might expect from a bike at this price point, that composed ride quality comes courtesy of a full carbon frame and fork, with Shimano 105 drivetrain and Fulcrum R900 disc wheels shod with 28mm Continental Ultra Sport tyres. Nothing jumping out as remarkable from the spec sheet, but the best bikes offer more than the sum of their parts and that’s the case with the Pyro Evo, all elements combining to offer that elusive Goldilocks feel – neutral handling, cruising comfort, efficient power transfer, everything just right – on long steady rides or shorter training blasts. The quality of the finishing kit is also worth of mention, with Deda Elementi cockpit and ProLogo saddle adding a touch of Italian flair.
The alloy Cube Attain Race has already been noted as a quality ride at a competitive price point, and further up the family tree we find this carbon-framed Attain GTC SL, worthy of addition to any sportive steed shortlist. In this iteration we find the same road comfort geometry but an obvious change in frame material and some key component upgrades.
Once again Shimano’s benchmark Ultegra R8000 mechanical groupset with hydraulic disc brakes is a pleasure to find on any spec sheet – or on any bike, for that matter – and we are equally happy to see Fulcrum’s Racing 77 disc wheels and 28mm Conti Grand Sport Race SL tyres.
Out of the box this bike has few faults, and a choice of stealth black or red/orange colour combinations should be enough to cover most preferences. Again we can gloss over any reference to racing in the manufacturer’s description – this is firmly a bike designed for sportive/endurance riding, as illustrated by the provision of a 34×34 low gear and long-cage rear mech. Just the ticket for winching your way up even the most challenging of climbs.
Rondo is another upstart bike brand- this time from Poland – that has grown a fanbase in recent years, as much for its individualist approach to bike design and functionality as for its range of bikes. The company has carved out a niche in offering something a little ‘different’ to off-the-peg copycats pitching variations on a theme, and for that it has to be applauded.
Case in point is the Rondo HVRT ST – a modern road bike made from not alloy, not carbon, but steel (high-quality, double-butted Tange Prestige tubing, to be specific). Much like alloy, steel has been superseded by carbon in most mass-market bikes but the intangible ride quality and, let’s face it, classic looks of steel-framed bikes have made sure they live on.
As with many smaller marques, Rondo offers a steel-framed bike and the HVRT is it. Boasting an 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain and an appealing list of quirky design touches – we love the flat-bladed, adjustable-geometry fork with Bauhaus-esque graphics, not to mention the white stem and two-tone rims – the HVRT is at home on rough roads as well as unpaved paths. We think it’s a great sportive option for anyone who wants to stand out from the crowd, and a sure-fire food stop conversation starter.
Much like its Sportif sister, with the Fuji Gran Fondo 1.5 the clue is in the name – this is a bike built for going the distance. The Gran Fondo shares its relaxed geometry with its less expensive stablemate but there the similarities end – at the heart of this bike is a high-modulus carbon frame offering impeccable manners on rough surfaces but with a singular spring in its step when it comes to putting the power down.
Add to this a quality Shimano 105 11-speed drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, while Fuji once again turns to its own Oval Concepts component brand for a compact Praxis crankset and disc wheelset. The latter is wrapped in high-volume 30mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres, sure to take the edge off all but the most rutted of roads. We admire Fuji for clearly setting out their stall when it comes to the design and execution of bikes with clarity of purpose – in this case, long distance riding in comfort – and the Gran Fondo is a great example at a competitive price.
We’ve already encountered two versions of the Vitus Zenium in compiling this list, and it only sees appropriate to conclude with the top model in the range – going out on a high, as it were. The Zenium CRI brings to the table the up-for-anything character of the base model Zenium and mid-range CRS – as well as the latter’s Prime Baroudeur Race wheelset – with the standout addition being a smooth and maintenance-free Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain.
For converts to electronic shifting, or those keen to take the plunge, this represents an opportunity to ditch the cables for an investment considerably lower than the majority of competitors. Given that an Ultegra R8050 Di2 groupset costs well in excess of £1000, having it specced as part of a full bike at this price point is positively a bargain.