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We unveil the Recommends Bike of the Year 2023/24

After 12 months of riding and reviewing, covering a wide range of different types of cycling, it’s time to find out which models have made it into our top-10 Bikes of the Year, and which is the overall winner

Now it’s time to reveal the top-performing bikes that we’ve ridden and reviewed over the past 12 months and to announce the overall Recommends Bike of the Year 2023/24.

The bikes we’re about to present are the best in their respective categories – the epitome of excellence, if you will – covering the various types of cycling we deal with here on and, in some instances, on our sister sites and ebiketips

Over the past week, we've told you about the best bikes in each of these categories:

Now we’re going to take the top performers from each category and give you the best of the best. Before we open the envelope, let’s explain how we made our decisions.

First, for a bike to qualify for consideration, it must have been reviewed in 2023 on, (for gravel and adventure bikes) or ebiketips (for electric bikes). If a brand didn’t send us a particular bike to test, we couldn’t consider it. Simple.

We went back to our original reviews, consulted with our team of testers, and then debated long and hard.

We didn’t just add up the scores in our reviews. That would have been the simple way to do it, but the introduction of new models means that the landscape of a category can evolve significantly over a year, so we’ve looked at everything again with the benefit of hindsight.

Comparing bikes as diverse as these brings challenges. How do you weigh up a sub-£400 folding bike against a £12,000 superbike, or a gravel bike versus a utility e-bike? It’s not easy but we put them into order based on performance, handling, specification, and value (the prices considered – and quoted below – were correct when we reviewed each bike, although some may have increased since then). It’s a detailed process and it takes an age.

You might not agree with our choices, and that’s absolutely fine, but this is our fair and honest opinion of the bikes that we’ve reviewed over the past year.

Just a quick note: the prices quoted below were correct at the time of our original reviews. They’re the prices we based our findings on. Keep in mind that some may have changed, and specifications could have been updated in some cases.

Without further ado, let’s reveal our top 10.

10. Carrera Intercity Folding Bike £380

2022 Carrera Intercity Folding Bike - riding 1.jpg

We’re kicking off our top 10 with a bike that is – spoiler alert! – the cheapest here by a huge margin. It’s not, though – another spoiler alert! – the only folding bike. Believe it or not, there are three. Intriguing, huh?

The Carrera Intercity is an exceptional folder – one of the best you can buy when you take value for money into account. At £380 – reduced to £342 at the time of writing – you really can’t go wrong here, which is why this bike earned a place in our Bargain Buys of the Year round-up.

> Unveiling the ultimate cycling bargains: check out the Recommends Bargain Buys of the Year 2023/24

Perfect for short urban commutes and dashes to the train station, the Carrera Intercity offers convenience straight out of the box courtesy of its mudguards and rack.

The handling is nimble, almost bordering on twitchy, which adds a sporty edge that’s ideal for navigating around potholes and traffic. Admittedly, that can get a bit wearing on longer rides, which is why the Carrera Intercity is at its best for short urban hops and multi-modal commutes where the bike section is fairly short. The bike’s fairly compact fold is a huge plus; it packs down to just 83cm x 64cm x 35cm for easy stowage.

The Intercity's sizing might pose a challenge for taller riders – we think Halfords’ stated rider height range of 147cm to 191cm (4ft 10in to 6ft 3in) is optimistic – but its gear range is practical for city terrains, and the Kenda Kwest tyres provide a smooth ride at an affordable price.

For its specific purpose – quick trips to and from the train station – the Carrera Intercity is excellent. If your daily commute aligns with its strengths, this is a fantastic, cost-effective choice.

Why it’s here Great value folder with practical essentials ready fitted
Read the review 

9. Handsling A1R0evo Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8100 £5,429.99

2023 Handsling A1R0evo Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8100 - riding 1.jpg

Whereas the Carrera brand (above) is familiar to just about everyone courtesy of availability through Halfords, many people won’t know much about Handsling. This small-ish Hampshire-based outfit offers a superb bike in the shape of its A1R0evo, though, with the exceptional blend of speed and comfort earning its place among the best aero road bikes on the market and ninth spot in our countdown.

Designed with speed in mind, this bike’s agility is immediately noticeable. If you think of race bikes as bone-jarringly uncomfortable, the A1R0evo neatly defies the stereotype, offering a refined and supple ride, and it’s responsive in various scenarios.

The A1R0evo’s lightweight build – it comes in at 7.76kg – helps the nimble feel, making it a versatile choice for both long rides and sprints. Its geometry strikes a perfect balance, offering an efficient riding position without compromising comfort on endurance rides. The bike’s aerodynamic features, including truncated tube shapes and deep-section wheels, help you maintain speed effortlessly, especially on rolling terrain.

The bike’s prowess extends to descents, where its direct and precise handling really shines through. Technical bends and high-speed manoeuvres reveal the A1R0evo's point-and-shoot nature, providing confidence for riders of all levels of experience.

The A1R0evo is beautifully made from Toray’s T800 carbon fibre, and a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects adds a layer of confidence. It’s available in various builds on Handsling’s website including Shimano Dura-Ace and 105, and SRAM Red AXS and Rival AXS. Handsling also gives you the option of Campagnolo and going for a fully customised build.

Equipped with the latest Shimano Ultegra R8170 Di2 groupset, our review bike delivered impeccable performance with smooth gear shifts and powerful braking. The addition of Parcours Strade wheels and Pirelli P Zero TLR tyres enhanced the overall performance.

Overall, the Handsling A1R0evo is an impressive all-round package that offers you a high level of performance and impressive handling, matched with a lot more comfort than you'd expect from a bike of this kind. 

Why it’s here A high-end, no-compromise road race bike that delivers stiffness and comfort in equal measures
Read the review 

8. Surge Traveler P5e £3,499

Surge Traveler P5e

The second folding bike in our top 10 is the Traveler P5e from Surge, a relatively new, UK-based e-bike brand that so far offers just one model, although we hear that more are planned. This is a fabulous option if you’re looking for a reliable and efficient electric folder, and he fact that it’s a generic frame with standard hinges and other parts is good news in that it ensures replacements are easy to come by. 

The Traveler’s strong construction and well-thought-out design elements, like frame-routed cabling and a low-mounted carry handle, show Surge’s commitment to quality. The bike’s specifications, featuring a Bosch Performance Line motor, 500Wh PowerPack, Enviolo Trekking stepless gearing, and Gates Carbon belt drive, work together to give a solid and practical ride experience. It’s the only e-folder that uses this combo, offering powerful hill-climbing alongside low maintenance. With ample height adjustment, the one-size frame provides riders between 1.48m and 1.95m with a comfortable and stable ride.

Despite weighing in at 24.5kg, the Traveler's simple folding mechanism, complete with a secure magnet closure, makes it an attractive option for leisure users, and we’d happily use it from time to time when commuting via train too. You can easily extend the seatpost and roll it along, which is a very useful feature. When riding, the bike’s manoeuvrability at low speeds and stability at high speeds add to its appeal.

The Enviolo Trekking gears are designed so that twisting the gripshift makes it easier or harder to pedal. It’s impossible to get out of gear or for the gears to become ‘unindexed’. It is smooth in operation and works particularly well with the belt drive to deliver an easy-to-use and virtually maintenance-free system. 

Overall, the Traveler is a high-performance, value-packed debut from Surge. Blending practicality, innovation, and reliability, it is a great choice if you’re looking for a dependable and enjoyable electric folding bike.

Why it’s here A unique and very practical electrical folder for general use
Read the review 

7. Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 Di2 £4,799

2023 Canyon Grail CF SLX Di2 riding kit

At number seven, we have the CF SLX 8 Di2 version of Canyon’s Grail, a gravel bike that has undergone something of a transformation, shedding its distinctive double-decker handlebars in pursuit of improved aerodynamics. The result is a gravel race bike that offers impressive speed and responsiveness.

Canyon’s focus on stability and agility is obvious, the lengthy wheelbase, slack head angle, and increased stack height contributing to the steady character. This bike feels very reactive when you’re climbing out of the saddle or want to sprint, yet when it comes to fast descending, it traces even bumpy ground with confidence and a reassuring calmness.

While the Grail is stiff both at the front and around the bottom bracket, the carbon frame and quality finishing kit provide a comfortable ride. The ability to run tyres up to 42mm wide helps here too.

The new CP0039 Double Drop Bar offers an aerodynamic advantage over the previous double-decker bar, and its shaping and flare make it surprisingly comfortable.

The mid-tier Grail CF SLX 8 Di2 is fitted with a Shimano GRX815 2x setup that performs superbly, while the race-oriented DT Swiss GRC 1400 wheels and 40mm Schwalbe G-One RS tyres are reliable and add to the bike’s comfortable theme.

Overall, the new version of the Canyon Grail is a versatile, race-ready gravel bike that offers loads of speed and comfort. It's a superb choice for serious gravel racers and weekend adventurers alike, combining race-winning performance with the ability to handle diverse conditions.

Why it’s here Offers a fast and reactive ride with a focus on aero gains, without compromising on comfort or versatility
Read the review 

6. Brompton C Line Explore £1,640

2023 Brompton C Line Explore - riding 3.jpg

You might think you know all you need to know about Bromptons; they’re excellent urban commuting bikes, right? Correct, but the C Line Explore proves they can be much more than that. Climbing hills with surprising ease, maintaining an impressive cruising speed, and offering the comfort needed on longer rides, this bike will easily handle your commute and then take you exploring at the weekend.

The ride is a delight, the Brompton proving to be nimble and incredibly fun. It zips along thanks to three wide-range gears in the Sturmey Archer hub and another two via a derailleur. The low gears keep you progressing up sustained hills while the high gears allow you to eat up the flat miles.

The comfortable rubber handlebar grips and efficient dual-pivot calliper brakes add to the overall positive experience, and a small amount of flex in the frame helps to deliver a smoother ride than you’d expect on a bike with 16-inch wheels.

As ever with Brompton, the folding process is straightforward, making this an ideal commuting companion, especially if your journey is multi-modal. What really surprised reviewer Matt Swaine, though, was the Brompton’s potential for mini-adventures beyond the daily commute. Fold it up, take it on the train to wherever you fancy, and see where the road take you. This bike is more than up to it.

While the price may be a consideration – isn’t it always? – the Brompton’s reliability, range of gears, and versatility make it an outstanding choice. Whether weaving through city traffic, tackling lumpy terrains, or embarking on spontaneous adventures, the Brompton C Line Explore is a worthy investment. If you're looking for a folding bike that goes beyond the ordinary, this is an excellent choice.

Why it’s here The ultimate folding commuter bike that offers handling, comfort and gears to go much further
Read the review 

5. Mason Bokeh 3 GRX £3,280

2023 mason bokeh grx hero

The Mason Cycles Bokeh 3.0 is a testament to the “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” philosophy, with the British brand opting for thoughtful tweaks and enhancements to make this gravel adventurer even more versatile and capable than its predecessor. The lightweight and fun-ride essence remains intact, along with a noticeable uptick in attitude.

The ride is exceptional, with the Mason Bokeh 3 managing to strike a balance between aggression and versatility and offering a nimble and fast-rolling experience on gravel. Unloaded, it’s an absolute blast hooning around the woods looking for dry, twisty singletrack or taking on your favourite gravel trails. Responsive steering, coupled with plenty of feedback as to what’s going on beneath your tyres, provides plenty of confidence over various terrains. 

It’s not all about speed, though; the Bokeh excels over longer distances. The handling is direct and quick if you need it but there’s also a balance of neutrality that calms things down a bit –  ideal when you are carrying weight on the front end of the bike, or the conditions are on the tricky side. The plush yet responsive ride quality, courtesy of Dedacciai aluminium tubing, adds to the bike’s overall appeal.

One of the most noticeable features this time around is the increased number of mounts for carrying liquids or luggage, including bolt-on top-tube bags and a new seat tube mount for a rear mudguard.

Mason’s customary meticulous attention to detail is clear in everything from the cable routing to the redesigned rear dropouts and forged CNC-machined rack eyelets. The newly designed Rangefinder AS carbon-fibre fork, with internal routing and load-carrying capabilities, provides plenty of comfort up front. 

While the price may seem high for an aluminium gravel bike, the Bokeh 3 is a high-end product designed for serious riding. Its exceptional craftsmanship, thoughtful details, and impressive ride quality make it an excellent investment if you’re after a top-tier gravel adventurer.

Why it’s here Great build quality with a ride comfort to match
Read the review 

4. Orro Gold STC Force D2 Etap AXS Tailormade £5,499.99

2023 Orro 2024 Gold STC Force D2 Etap AXS Tailormade - riding 4.jpg

At number four, we have another bike from a British brand, the Orro Gold STC seamlessly merging comfort and aerodynamics to solidify its status as one of the best all-round aero-cum-endurance bikes you can buy.

The first thing you notice about this bike is its remarkable ride quality, especially considering its lightweight and stiff construction. The Gold STC exudes a planted, confident feeling with very little buzz or vibration, which makes it a lovely bike to ride even on poorly surfaced roads.

The seat angle contributes to an aggressive riding position, while the slightly relaxed front end ensures quick, precise steering without the twitchiness found in many full-on race bikes. Riding downhill, the bike proves exceptionally sure-footed, delivering precise feedback about tyre behaviour. A short wheelbase adds to the nimble feel, and the Gold responds effortlessly to your input, adding to the fun when you’re sprinting and climbing.

Made with Sigmatex’s spread tow carbon’ technology, the Gold STC takes cues from Orro’s Venturi aero bike, featuring smoothed junctions, dropped seatstays, and internal cable routing, and it weighs a highly creditable 830g. It accommodates both mechanical and electronic groupsets and takes tyres up to 32mm wide, so you get plenty of leeway to change the components as time goes on.  

The overall build quality is exceptional, offering a solid feel and clean aesthetics. Equipped with a SRAM Force AXS groupset and Vision SC 40 wheels, the version we reviewed excelled in terms of both performance and durability. Orro’s pricing adds to the appeal; you get excellent value across the range.

Overall, the Orro Gold STC is a high-performance bike that offers superb ride quality. Chuck in that value and you have the complete package for all kinds of road riding.

Why it’s here A wonderful blend of comfort and performance at an awesome price for a build of this quality
Read the review 

3. Fairlight Secan 2.5 GRX 820 2x £3,269

2023 Fairlight Secan 2.5 GRX - riding 1.jpg

Into the top three, and the Fairlight Secan 2.5 is a stunning steel gravel bike that’s light enough for fast and fun blasts on your local trails, while huge tyre clearances and plenty of mounts make it the perfect choice for loaded-up adventures. The Reynolds tubing provides the perfect blend of stiffness and smoothness and, with meticulous attention to detail, this bike stands out from the crowd both in terms of looks and performance.

The Secan 2.5 delivers everything you’d want from a gravel bike. The ride quality is just sublime, and the feedback it provides is great. 

Reviewer Stu Kerton said, “It’s one of those framesets that just talks to you as a rider, thanks to a mixture of the materials used and the geometry.”

At 9.77kg, it’s not as lightweight as some carbon-fibre rivals, but it’s not heavy either. It feels sprightly enough for hilly rides, and doesn’t hold you back on fast blasts. No, it feels lively and nimble, so if you fancy taking on a gravel race, that’s not going to be a problem. 

Even when loaded up with bags, the bike maintains its composure, demonstrating its jack-of-all-trades versatility, while its surefooted and planted behaviour adds to your confidence on loose terrain.

We see many gravel machines being pigeonholed into tiny niches, but the Fairlight straddles the entire gravel genre with no compromises whatsoever. The fact that it can work on the road, too, as a large-tyred tourer or Audax machine, is a bonus.

Fairlight's attention to detail is evident throughout, down to the custom-shaped tubes, updated dropouts, and a head tube that is CNC-machined from a single billet of Reynolds 631 steel. The Secan 2.5 offers ample mounts, three bottle cage positions, and full internal routing for dynamo lighting. If you want to explore the minutiae, you can check out Fairlight’s Design Notes… which runs to 91 pages. 

Overall, Fairlight's Secan 2.5 Fairlight is an absolute corker, excelling in both form and function. Everything is just top-notch – the way it behaves, the ride quality, the way it looks… Reviewer Stu said it is one of the best bikes he’s ever ridden, and our Stu has ridden a LOT of bikes. 

Why it’s here Simply stunning from every aspect and hugely versatile for all kinds of gravel riding, and even road
Read the review 

2. Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8 - SRAM Red eTap AXS £12,000

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8

The runner-up spot goes to the most expensive bike here, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8. The biggest launch of 2023 impressed us massively and proved that other high-level race bikes have some catching up to do. This really is a game-changer.

Specialized boldly claims the Tarmac SL8 is lighter, faster, stiffer, and more comfortable than its predecessor, the SL7, which was already a top-tier bike, and it has delivered on these promises.

The SL8 maintains the sleek aesthetics of the SL7, and the attention to detail is obvious throughout. The frame weighs just 680g – a remarkable engineering feat – which is 120g lighter than previously, while a new integrated bar/stem and a claimed 6% improvement in rear compliance contribute to the outstanding ride experience.

We opted for the range-topping SRAM Red eTap AXS model, and it didn’t disappoint in any way. The bike was a featherweight 6.94kg, putting it among the lightest we’ve ever reviewed.

The SL8’s aero improvements, including the new cockpit and redesigned head tube, contribute to a claimed 8w saving at 45km/h. While we can't validate this figure without a wind tunnel, the bike’s on-road performance is hugely impressive. It performs exactly how a true race bike should, responsive and direct, especially thanks to the added stiffness around the bottom bracket.

Despite being a race-focused machine, the SL8 is surprisingly comfortable. Okay, the improvement in compliance over the SL7 is subtle, but it is noticeable. This is Specialized's response to pro team requests for a bike that can be ridden on 26mm tyres for the three-week duration of a Grand Tour without getting beaten up.

The SRAM Red eTap AXS drivetrain performs flawlessly, offering a wide gear range suitable for various riding scenarios, and the Roval Rapide CLX II wheels and top-tier components complete a superb package.

The Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8 is a triumph of engineering and performance. It’s undeniably better than its predecessor and is certainly among the best race bikes in the world – perhaps the very best. Specialized has set a high bar for 2024, and other manufacturers need to respond. If you're in the market for a top-level road race bike, the SL8 has to be on your list.

Why it’s here Narrowing in on perfection - this is the new race bike benchmark
Read the review 

1. Vitus Venon EVO-RS Force AXS All-Road £4,399.99

roadcc recommends awards 2023-24 - Bike of the Year - Winner

In the face of serious competition, the Recommends Bike of the Year 2023/24 is the Vitus Venon EVO-RS Force AXS All-Road.

The Venon EVO is remarkable for many reasons, chief among them being its massive versatility. Vitus offers it in two different versions: the Venon EVO-RS, with road components, which came out top in our road bikes category, and the Venon EVO-GR, with gravel components, which was on the podium among our gravel and adventure bikes. We’ve not included the gravel model in our top 10 simply because it’s the same frameset as you get here, just built up differently. That gives you a good indication of just how multi-skilled this platform is.

The Venon EVO-RS Force AXS is an incredibly capable road machine with a forgiving ride and quick, no-nonsense handling that lets you exploit its speed. As mentioned, the real beauty is that, with the ability to run tyres up to 45mm wide, you can go exploring off the beaten path too.

Inspired by Vitus’ ZX-1 EVO and Vitesse EVO, the Venon EVO carves its own niche with sleek aero lines and comfort-boosting features, such as the slender seatstays. With the ability to take wide tyres, this bike offers wide-ranging capabilities without noticeable compromises. You can think of it this way: the Venon is a specialist bike that caters to riders with no speciality in mind.

Weighing just over 8kg, the EVO-RS is responsive, always eager to get a move on, and it’s a fabulous climber too. Hard accelerations feel great, and the fork legs stand up beautifully when you’re banking hard from side to side. You won’t be left wanting on a club run or a punchy chain gang ride. The EVO-RS handles quickly with loads of feedback from the front end, and it’s smooth too.

What sets the Venon apart is its adaptability. The EVO-RS can transform into a lightweight tourer, Audax machine, or year-round commuter with the addition of mudguards. Swap on a different set of wheels/tyres and it becomes an exceptional gravel bike that works best on fast, flowing and relatively hard-packed trails or on wide-open fire roads. If you like to mix up your riding, this is a superb choice.

Whether you prefer it as a road rocket or a gravel grinder, the Vitus Venon EVO-RS is a smart-looking, well-built bike that offers both performance and value for money. It transitions between its personas seamlessly, providing a fast and enjoyable ride on any surface. If you're in the market for a bike that can do it all without compromise, the Venon EVO-RS is the one.

Why it wins Great interpretation of 'all-road' – exceptional performance and handling whatever the terrain
Read the review 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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Avatar | 21 hours ago

Bike of the year is a mostly out of stock own brand bike from a company in administration. I would hestitate to spend over £4K with them currently. 

Smoggysteve | 23 hours ago

So, second place goes to a bike - which is unashamedly focused at performance. And at £12k is a steep asking price, but wait on! During the review it was pointed out the regular Specialized Tarmac SL8 was a better performer in nearly every aspect than the outgoing S-Works SL7. And a sram etap version would cost £6k. So not quite sure how a jack of all trades bike that costs slightly less gets 1st place. Versatility isn't usually the selling point at this price margin. Its - does it do one thing bloody good, not lots of things bang average? 

Bigtwin | 1 day ago

Still reelling at being in a world where £5.5K for a bike is an "awesome price".

jaymack replied to Bigtwin | 1 day ago

It is an awesome price...for the retailer.

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