It might require winning the lottery, but building your ultimate bike from the frame up is something that’s at least fun to dream about. With all the research and development manufacturers are pouring into building frames that are lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamic, there are some crazy good bikes out there.
Check out these 10 road-bike frames that offer top-of-the-line performance — and keep reading to the end for two frames that offer a true bang for your buck.
SPECIALIZED VENGE VIAS
Slapping disc brakes on a road frame that was previously designed to house rim brakes can be problematic as far as aerodynamics are concerned. What you’ll get with the redesigned Venge Vias is something Specialized calls a cohesive speed system — meaning that the brakes, frame, seatpost and integrated handlebars all work together seamlessly as a unit, rather than a random combination of parts. The result is a bike that cuts through the wind like few others do and one that rivals any bike on the market in terms of pure speed.
Known for producing some of the fastest, lightest wheelsets on the planet, Lightweight’s recent production of bike frames promises to be just as exciting. While the company name might make it sound like another attempt to produce a really light bike frame, the Urgestalt is heavier than others on this list (790 grams). The company focused on all-around ride quality and a frame that works cohesively with its high-end wheelsets for supreme aerodynamics and lightning-quick accelerations when the road goes up.
Dario Pegoretti is, without a doubt, one of the best frame builders on the planet — and you can bet that each of the one-off frame he produces will be a true piece of art. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the Columbus XCR stainless steel Responsorium, you can expect a bike built to be comfortable over long distances, complete with rust-proof materials, long-butted sections, custom geometry and one-of-a-kind paint schemes.
SARTO GRAVEL TA
Starting at $4,000
All Sarto carbon frames feature fully customizable geometry and color schemes. But where it differs from some of the other custom-frame options is the variety of its frame lineup. This Gravel TA bike is one of the only adventure road bikes you’ll find with fully customizable options, and with the ability to handle 42mm tires, it can also be used for cyclocross with a few adjustments by Sarto’s Italian builders. If you want to purchase a complete bike, Sarto also has other custom specs which add leather touches to the top tube, stem, handlebar, seatpost and chain guard.
One of the strongest, lightest materials available for bike-frame production, Litespeed specializes in high-end bikes made from titanium. While it costs quite a bit more than most carbon or aluminum frames, the benefit is your bike should last forever and will be plenty light — something that can’t be said for other frame materials. Stand-outs of the T1SL include the top tube, which is created with a single sheet of 6Al/4C titanium, and the oversized triple-butted chainstays that focus on power and efficiency.
For climbers, there aren’t many bikes available that can rival Cervelo’s Rca. Designed at Cervelo’s Project California facility, the Rca uses squoval shapes to allow for a significant reduction in frame weight (just 667 grams) while increasing lateral stiffness. But what makes the Rca different is that it is able to do all this without compromising any of the ride-quality features that have made most of Cervelo’s other bikes a favorite in the peloton. If you’re looking for some of the same technology for a little less bite into your wallet, the new R5 is another high-end option worthy of consideration.
PINARELLO DOGMA F10
While the new-for-2017 Dogma F10 doesn’t provide the custom options that some of the other frames on this list offer, it is absolutely one of the fastest frames on the planet. Ridden by team Sky on the pro tour, the F10 inherits most of its technological advancements from the Bolide — a time trial frame Bradley Wiggins used to set the Hour Record last year. The new features that differentiate it from the F8 are the various shapes and curves of the downtube, which shield your water bottles from airflow while increasing lateral stiffness for better aerodynamics and power transfer. Total frame weight is 820 grams.
Starts at $7,250
If you want a complete build with some pretty high-end specs like Enve wheels, this 2.0 from Argonaut will start around $12,000. But with a Chris King headset and Enve seatpost, you can own one of the 200 frames produced every year for just over $7,000. While this is definitely a substantial sum of money, keep in mind that Argonaut custom builds each frame to suit each person’s riding style — be it a wider wheelbase for better handling, a shorter top tube for a more aggressive position or a seat tube angle that focuses on comfort over speed. No matter which option you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting a bike that was truly built for you.
MORE REASONABLE OPTIONS
If you’re on a more realistic bike budget, most of these frames are nothing more than eye candy. Nevertheless, it’s possible to build a bike from the frame up without shelling out thousands of dollars. Here are two race-worthy frames that offer big dollar-for-dollar value.
While it’s true that carbon fiber is a bit more comfortable and can form shapes that are aerodynamically superior to other materials, it isn’t the only choice you have when selecting a frame. By using less-expensive aluminum instead, the CAAD12 from Cannondale is far less expensive and every bit as fast as the higher-priced bikes on this list. Other than it’s amazing stiffness and reputation for being smooth on the road, it’s also incredibly light at just 1098 grams. For a frame under $1,000, that’s a heck of a buy.
Like the CAAD12, the Allez utilizes aluminum to cut costs without sacrificing too much in the way of performance to it’s higher-end counterparts. While this limited-edition model is slightly more expensive that the regular Allez model, the unique paint jobs might be worth it if you’re into bike bling. It also comes in a women’s standard option (pictured), which uses a slightly different geometry from the men’s frame.