Eight of the lightest road bikes for 2016

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Eight of the lightest road bikes for 2016

Bikes that barely tickle the scales

Bike brands have been locked in something of an arms race in recent years, going toe-to-toe to produce the world’s lightest bike. In the process, frame weights have dropped below 700g and complete bike weights down towards 4kg on particularly exotic models.

While the UCI’s weight limit remains at 6.8kg for any bike used in racing, it’s relatively easy to walk into a bike shop (or browse online) and ride away on a  machine which weighs less – providing your pockets are deep enough, of course.

Over the past few months we’ve seen the launch of a raft of super-light bikes from the likes of Canyon, Merida, Cannondale, Fuji, Bianchi and more. Here are eight bikes to whet the appetite of weight weenies for 2016.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

The Canyon Ultimate CF SLX was already one of the lightest frames available and while the latest version of the frame, launched in June and ridden to second place at the Tour de France by Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, is only 10g lighter at 780g, Canyon have achieved that drop in weight while improving aerodynamics and comfort to make the 2016 Ultimate a true all-rounder.

The yet-to-be-released Canyon Ultimate CF Evo 10.0 SL tips the scales at just 4.85kg (Pic: George Waugh)

The existing Ultimate was one of our favourite bikes, with the frame’s stiffness-to-weight ratio makes it a sprightly and exciting bike to ride as well a joy when you’re climbing. It combines that with supreme handling and – having spent some time on the new machine already – we’re looking forward to logging more miles.

Canyon operate a direct sales model through the German firm’s website, meaning that pound for pound the Ultimate is one of – if not the – most affordable super-light bikes on the market. See what we did there? Pound (lb) for pound (£). Oh, forget it…

The lightest bike in the range is the £3,799 Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL, which comes with SRAM Red 22 (the lightest groupset on the market) and Mavic R-Sys SLR WTS Exalith 2 wheels. But whether you look in the range, from the £2,699 Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 with Shimano Ultegra to the flagship Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Ltd, which comes with Campagnolo Super Record and Campag Bora One 35 wheels for £4,899, you’re getting a bike which dips under the 6.8kg weight limit. Impressive.

And that’s with mentioning the Ultimate CF Evo 10.0 SL, which is based on a modified frame made from ultra-high modulus carbon fibre, and with an integrated front derailleur hanger and titanium screws to drop the weight to an astonishing 665g.

Paired with Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels, which weigh a frankly ludicrous 940g for the pair and cost £4,150 in their own right, along with cranks, brakes and saddle from German carbon fibre specialists THM and Tune, and a smattering of SRAM Red components, the complete bike comes in at just 4.85kg. Trouble is, it’s not available to buy. Yet.

Merida Scultura

The Merida Scultura follows as an update of an existing model, seeking to combine low weight and comfort with improved aerodynamics.

The frame was unveiled ahead of the Giro d’Italia, where it was ridden by the Lampre-Merida team, and is available in two versions: the 9000 and the Team (unsurprisingly, the frame used by the Lampre squad), weighing 680g and 750g respectively.

The Merida Scultura 9000 Ltd was launched with the title of the world’s lightest production road bike at 4.55kg

While both frames share the same tube profiles to the eye, the 9000 reduces the wall thickness to 0.4mm in places, and is made from 400 pre-peg piece, placing strength only where it’s needed to maintain rigidity but reduce weight. Merida say the complexity of the production process means each frame takes between 11 and 15 hours to make.

Frame weight’s all very well, but what about the headline bike weight? When Merida launched the Scultura 9000 Ltd, it came with the claim of being the world’s lightest production road bike at 4.55kg. Merida have dressed the frame in a SRAM Red 22 groupset (save for the Praxis chainring and THM cranks), 1,255g DT Swiss Mon Chasseral wheels, and a handlebar, stem, seatpost and saddle from from AX Lightness. That’ll set you back £10,000 on the nose.

Below that sits the ‘regular’ Scultura 9000 (£7,500) before you step down to the Scultura Team (£5,000) and Scultura 6000 (£2,300), which uses the same 750g frame as the Team but swaps a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon wheels for Shimano Ultegra and Fulcrum Racing 7 hoops.

Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod

As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it’, and that’s what happened as far as Cannondale’s flagship SuperSix EVO was concerned, with the launch back in 2011 feeling like an eternity ago in bike life cycle terms.

The £6,999.99 Cannondale SuperSix EVO Black Inc gets a very smart spec for a claimed weight of 5.8kg

But the time came to go back to the drawing board and Cannondale have re-worked the SuperSix. To the eye, it bares more than a striking resemblance to the old frame  but there have been upgrades across the board to improve weight, comfort and aerodynamics. Can you see a theme developing here?

The frame weight has actually gone up a little, from 760g to 777g for a 56cm, but the fork weight has dropped from 320g to 280g, seeing the overall frameset weight (frame and fork) drop, along with grams also being shaved off the headset and seatpost.

Cannondale have borrowed the skinny 25.4mm seatpost from the Synapse endurance bike to improve comfort, while also reworking the fork and seatstays to add a little more flex. The bottom bracket has also been widened to improve stiffness, with the rigidity of the front end also boosted. The tubes now also adopt a subtle TAP (Truncated Aero Profile) shape, along with a narrower headtube and thinner fork to improve aerodynamics. You get the picture; Cannondale have sought to improve the SuperSix EVO across the board.

Of the five bikes in the EVO range, the lightest is the £6,999.99 SuperSix EVO Black Inc, which has a very smart spec indeed with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, Cannondale SISL2 chainset and Enve wheels for an all-up weight of 5.8kg. The range otherwise extends down to the £2,999.99 SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Ultegra.

Fuji SL

Having launched the Transonic aero road bike in 2014, Fuji focused on weight this time out with the introduction of the SL in August.

While we doubt it took Fuji long to come up with the name (the bicycle industry seemingly slaps SL on anything remotely light or, rather, super-light), it’s one of the lightest frames out there, with a claimed weight of 695g putting the SL in esteemed company.

Fuji launched the SL for model year 2016 and the 1.1 is the lightest bike in the range at 4.96kg

And to showcase that low weight, Fuji put together the flagship SL 1.1, which weighs just 4.96kg with a SRAM Red groupset and Reynolds RZR 46 tubular wheels. Naturally, it’ll cost you (£8,499.99, to be precise) but it’s another example of what’s possible with a frame this light. More realistically, the SL 1.5 comes it at £3,399 and still uses the same frame, dressed in Shimano Dura-Ace and with a claimed weight of 6.58kg.

The frame itself is 19 per cent lighter than anything Fuji have created before, replacing the existing Altamira. And Fuji have reduced the number of bonded joints in the SL frame to four from eight on the Altamira, making it stronger and lighter. That hasn’t come at the cost of stiffness, though, with SL said to be nine per cent stiffer in the headtube, 11 per cent stiffer in the bottom bracket and 18 per cent stiffer in the fork than the SL. Pretty stiff, then.

There’s also the 2-series frame, which weighs just under 900g (so still very light) and comes in Shimano Ultegra Di2 (£2,599), Shimano Ultegra (£1,599) and Shimano 105 £1,499) builds.

Bianchi Specialissima

Ah, the Specialissima. A bike which, while only launched in June, has quickly established itself as one of our favourites, striking that delicate balance between low weight, ride quality and handling.

While super-light bikes often feel great uphill, the same can’t always be said when you crest the summit and head down the other side. But Bianchi have wholly addressed that with the Specialissima.

The Bianchi Specialissima we tested earlier in 2015 weighed just 5.9kg

The frame weight is 780g – undoubtedly light, if not the lightest here – but the real story is how Bianchi have achieved that low weight while introducing the vibration-cancelling Countervail first seen on the Infinito CV endurance bike and, more recently, the Aquila CV time trial bike.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Specialissima at its launch in Italy, the time we spent on it back in the UK later in the summer did little to dampen that enthusiasm. “The way the Specialissima climbs, the way it descends and the way it handles rough roads are all at least as good as anything else out there,” was our review verdict.

It’s just about as expensive as anything out there, too, with four bikes ranging from £9,900 with Campagnolo Super Record EPS to £7,000 with Shimano Dura-Ace. If we’re going to obsess about weight – and we might as well – then the flagship model we tested tickled the scales at just 5.9kg.

Trek Émonda

The Trek Émonda has been around for a little more than a year now, having been launched in July 2014, and the Émonda SLR 10 remains the flagship model – with an all-up weight of 4.65kg.

The Trek Emonda SLR 10 2016 is the American company’s lightest ever road bike at 4.65kg

The 690g frame is made from 700 Series OCLV, Trek’s highest grade of carbon fibre, and is the chassis of choice for Trek Factory Racing’s climbers, including Frank Schleck.

The SLR 10 is specced to be as light as possible, with SRAM Red groupset and Tune tubular wheels and saddle, and Bontrager finishing kit, including Bonty’s smart Speed Stop direct mount brakes.

Otherwise, the Émonda range is Trek’s lightest ever line of bikes, and there’s also the SLR 9 (£7,400, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2), SLR 8 (Shimano Dura-Ace, £5,200) and SLR 6 (Shimano Ultegra, £3,700), before you move down to the SL and S collections, based around slightly heavier versions of the frame.

Focus Izalco Max Disc

We’re cheating here a bit, in that at 6.8kg the Focus Izalco Max Disc is bit chubby compared to the rest of the bikes we’ve featured so far – but there’s one caveat to that. It has disc brakes.

The Focus Izalco Max Disc is the world’s lightest disc brake road bike at 6.8kg

In fact, at 6.8kg and bang on the UCI weight limit, Focus say the SRAM Red-equipped version of the Izalco Max Disc is the world’s lightest disc-equipped road bike.

The frame weighs a shade of 800g, making it light by any standards, let alone for a disc-ready frame, and it uses thru-axles at the front and rear, though Focus’ proprietary Rapid Axle Technology means wheel changes should just about be as quick and easy as with regular quick releases. That’ll be a boon next season when Ag2r La Mondiale, sponsored by Focus, will be able to use the Izalco Max Disc in any race they choose.

The 6.8kg bike comes with SRAM Red 22 and DT Swiss RC38 Carbon C Disc tubeless ready wheels for £4,699, but there’s also a heavier version (you’re looking at about 7.6kg) with a mish-mash of components, including Shimano Dura-Ace derailleurs, for £3,299.

AX Lightness Vial Evo Ultra

We’ve saved the lightest until last – the AX Lightness Vial Evo Ultra takes the title of the world’s lightest bike at just 4.4kg. Yep, you read that right. 4.4kg. For a complete bike.

Is this the world’s lightest road bike? The 4.4kg AX Lightness Vial Evo Ultra

It’s little surprise that AX Lightness have waded in here. When a rival manufacturer seeks to put together a super-light, they often look to German firm AX Lightness for exotic carbon components, lighter than typical off-the-shelf bits.

Here AX Lightness have produced their own frame and it weighs just 660g, made in Germany utilising the company’s homegrown expertise in composites. The wheels are also from AX Lightness, and handmade in Germany, while SRAM Red 22 shifters and derailleurs are paired with Praxis chainrings and THM cranks. THM also provide the work, which weighs a paltry 265g.

How much? Yours for a cool €15,000 (nudging on for £11,000 at today’s exchange rate). Start saving.

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