Unlike much of the cycling media, I never fancied myself as a pro bike racer. Rather my dream was always to be a dissolute hack. And while I may once have thrashed around on a bike sporting a 53t chainring, tiny headtube, and brutally deep wheels, I've since accepted these things are best left to Remco and co.
This means that when it's time to choose a bike, like most riders, I'm probably best picking something from the endurance segment. Although the definition varies from brand to brand, for those of us whose pro debut has been postponed indefinitely, an endurance bike will provide a less taxing position along with a wide range of gears.
Tyres are a bit broader, frames more forgiving. Like Specialized's Roubaix or Trek's Domane, some even feature mechanical solutions to provide additional compliance over bumpy terrain. Also more versatile, endurance bikes are not only more fun on long-haul rides but can even be faster, as proved by the aforementioned bikes, both of which have won multiple Classics.
So, if you're after a bike that won't rough you up and yet is still capable of winning at the elite level, below you’ll find seven of our favourites. Alongside each top-teir version you’ll also find a more accessibly priced verison we think represents the keenest value or most exciting alternative spec in the range.
Trek Domane SLR 9 eTap
£11,500, Shop TrekLocked in an eternal war with its American compatriot and rival Specialized (at least in my mind), Trek's endurance platform also uses mechanical solutions to improve comfort at both the front and back of the bike. To achieve this, its neatly integrated IsoSpeed decouplers allow both the seat and steerer tube to flex independently of surrounding tubes or components. The flex at the seat tube can even be adjusted by the rider to suit their weight or preference.
A lightweight and elegant solution, it's a system that's since been applied across the brand's ranges, including to its out-and-out Madone racer. Arriving rolling on super wide 32c tyres, these further increase comfort, while the ability to run treads as large as 38c opens up the ability to take on a wide range of routes.
Featuring massively wide gearing, this means there's little chance of the Domane stalling even on the steepest slopes. Generally very well put-together, the bike’s oversize downtube also features internal storage for spares and tools making the whole assembly even slicker.
Also consider, Trek Domane SL6, £3,700
Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Force eTap AXS
£7,000, Shop Cannondale
I love Cannondale's SuperSix. But if I had to spend all day riding, I'd opt for the Synapse in a second. It doesn't hurt that it's a great looking bike too. While other machines have either gone aero or deviated from the Platonic ideal of a racing bicycle in search of improved compliance, the slender and round tubed Synapse stay true to the bicycle's most romantic form, in my eyes at least.
Look closer, though, and you can see that those simple looking tubes are actually doing a lot of work. Notable particularly in the flattened chainstays, thin seatstays, and the seat tube's curiously split bottom bracket junction, Cannondale uses the profile and layup of the tubes to create the ride characteristics it's after without resorting to more drastic mechanical suspension solutions. It's an idea also at work in the diminutive and very flexible 25.4mm seatpost.
Besides lovely looks, another upshot of this approach is minimal weight and fewer parts to worry about servicing. Whisper it so as not to scare away the aspiring racers, but there are also secret mounts for mudguards, which is useful because not only will they keep you comfy, but you won't be allowed on a winter chain gang without them.
Also consider, Cannondale Synapse Ultegra Di2, £4,500
Specialized S-Works Roubaix
£11,200, Shop Specialized
A bike that's won the race it's named after seven times, Specialized's Roubaix played an outsized part in establishing the endurance category. First released in 2004, today, the Roubaix still sports an ever-so-slightly relaxed geometry, wider tyres, plus a frame and fork featuring pronounced comfort boosting features.
However, alongside disc brakes, newer versions of the platform have also sprouted a radical FutureShock damper that isolates the handlebars from impacts coming via the fork and headtube. Matched by a seatpost that also provides a significant amount of deflection, the result is probably the smoothest ride of any road bike. Designed and proven on the cobbles of France and Belgium, it's a design just as at home anywhere the surface is less than perfect.
Shipping with medium-depth wheels and extremely wide-ratio gears, despite its success in the Low Countries, it's equally confident in high places too. Early into the market and refined ever since, it's a bike that takes an unapologetically radical approach. Less likely to be overkill than you might imagine, the Roubaix's minimal weight and superb efficiency make it well worth considering.
Also consider, Specialized Roubaix Comp, £3,700
BMC RoadMachine 01 One
£10,000, Shop BMC
Occupying the aggro end of the endurance market, BMC's characteristically boxy looking RoadMachine freely borrows tube profiles from the brand's more aero models. Every bit as premium in price as the firm's pre-approved TeamMachine models, its slightly longer wheelbase and higher front-end nevertheless flatter riders whose every outing isn't bookended by a complimentary massage. With the now de rigueur dropped seatstays the Swiss brand helped pioneer joined by a D-shaped seatpost, the Roadmachine’s ride is purposeful without being obnoxious about it.
It's also relatively easy to adjust the fit via a slippery yet still adjustable bar and stem combo. As standard, the Roadmachine comes with 28c tyres, which will suit most people; however, fat tyre fans will see their rubber lust curtailed to a comparatively narrow 33c. With less clearance than some, not only will you not find mounts for mudguards, you'll also find the Roadmachine a less willing companion on mixed terrain jaunts.
Still, I guess the clue is in the name. Instead, stick to the tarmac, and you'll benefit from a speedier-than-average endurance bike backed by serious brand cachet.
Also consider, BMC Roadmachine Five Ultegra, £3,600
Look 765 Optimum+ Ultegra
£4,730, Shop Look
Not having much space in the flat means I can only own one drop handlebar bike at a time. This means each prospect needs to do a lot of things on top of general road riding, like the occasional circuit race, time trial, cyclocross, or trendy bikepacking adventure. Being a mediocre practitioner of all these disciplines, it's not the end of the world if the bike isn't exactly matched to each; it's just cool to be able to do everything on one bike.
It's for this reason that I have no problem with Look throwing on some new tyres and rebranding its 765 Gravel bike to create the ‘new’ endurance-focused 765 Optimum+. Arriving with 30c road tyres and Look's own medium depth R38 carbon wheelset, the 765 Optimum+ is more than competent on the road.
With pretty standard endurance bike geometry, it can nevertheless also swallow tyres up to 42c. Making it ideal for both gravel and cyclocross duties, it's proof that most bikes are really only a tyre swap away from transcending their given segment anyway.
Also consider, Look 765 Optimum+ 105, £2,750
Price on request, Shop Passoni
When made into a bicycle, titanium is a material that's less likely to cause discomfort to your arms and legs than it is your bank balance. Naturally very flexible, extremely hard wearing, and relatively light, it's a natural choice for an endurance bike; if you don't mind the high price tag.
Passoni's Prima is a classically styled road racer assembled just outside of Milan from the highest grades of titanium. Potentially more aggressive in its angles than some endurance bikes, the Prima simultaneously offers an almost incomparably composed ride. Available off the peg, Passoni's custom build options still allow riders to play around with the spec, meaning it's easily possible to tailor the bike's gearing and wheelset towards more endurance-style riding.
Definitely a machine made for the road, don't expect oversized tyres or disc brakes. Instead, the Prima is likely to make some people very happy on account of its conventional calliper brakes. Still comfortable dealing with less than perfect tarmac, if your definition of an endurance road bike is a bicycle you'd be happy to spend extended time riding on the tarmac, the Prima absolutely fits the bill.
And, of course, it is a true object of beauty.
Pinarello Paris 105
£2,999 Shop Pinarello
Even for professional racers completing the Tour de France and making it back to Paris is an achievement. Considering that's all Ineos' GC men can hope for until Pogacar retires, they might contemplate trading in their famous Dogmas for Pinarello's endurance-focused Paris and make life easier on themselves while doing it. Just joking Ineos fans, just joking.
Still, the Prince could well be the Pinarello with the greatest mass appeal. You still get all the fun of deciding whether faster wheel changes are a fair exchange for crap braking, while its shorter reach and higher stack is more consumer-friendly. With both aerodynamics and asymmetrical design borrowed from the ever-winning Dogma, it's still a stinkingly quick bike.
If you do opt for discs, you'll also benefit from entirely internal cabling, adding to a package that's aesthetically still very much fully-pro, even when it arrives with a more affordable Ultegra or 105 build. Finished off with 26c Pirelli Pzero Race tyres, you'll only ever be able to go another couple of millimetres wider, reinforcing the idea that this is very much an endurance bike for rapid road riding.
Also consider, it's a Pinarello for a quid less than three grand. So to misquote Michael Parkinson, you can't get this sort of bicycle for less.