They say ‘jack of all trades’, but where these four bikes are concerned, each can be considered a master of the craft. Enter Cyclist’s best all-round racers…
Photography: Rob Milton
What was the first road bike you ever owned? Turn over the page and we’ve given you a space to draw it and five lines underneath to describe it. Ask a responsible adult to cut out the page and send it in a stamped addressed envelope to: Cyclist, 31-32 Alfred Place…
Only joking, although drawing bikes is a very nice way of passing the time, something to which our secondary school teachers will grudgingly attest. And closing one’s eyes and remembering that first road bike does rather bring into question the idea of ‘all-rounder’, because at some point we all had our first road bike, which by definition meant it was at the time our only road bike and so, de facto, was an all-rounder because it did everything, right?
We think not, as to our mind the best all-round road bike isn’t so much a bike that can ride over any terrain (that’s the preserve of the endurance bike) but rather a bike that systematically ticks off the road bike clichés one by one: it’s lightweight, it’s stiff, it’s comfortable. It climbs like a dedicated climber’s bike, it accelerates like a sprint machine, it descends like it’s on 32mm tyres, it flicks through the turns like a crit racer.
It’s hard to sum up, but the all-rounder is the epitome of balance in terms of handling and feel, hitting the sweetest notes between nimble and stable, punchy and smooth, flighty and solid.
It’s the bike you pick out when a friend says, ‘Come out for a ride with me,’ and when you ask what the ride will be like the reply is along the lines of, ‘Some ups, some downs, quite a long draggy stretch that leads to this super-steep climb which drops into this really technical descent…’
It’s the bike that is ready for all occasions.
Or perhaps to put it another way, this is the Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel of bikes, not just versatile but capable of top three finishes – if not outright wins – in anything from a one-day race in the Ardennes to a National time-trial to victory in a Grand Tour.
Just as you wouldn’t bet against riders such as these, you would never rule out the best all-rounder road bike beating a specialist at its own game.
Then one last thing: there’s something in this bike that makes you emotionally drawn to it because that’s the other part of the equation – the best all-rounder would also be the only road bike you’d own if you had to choose just one. The way it performs suits the way you ride, it completes you as a cyclist as best it can. The best all-rounder is your most trusted companion. And here are ours…
Pinarello Dogma F12
I’ll come right out and say it: I have never been a fan of the Pinarello Dogma aesthetically. It’s just not my cup of tea. I simply don’t find all those wavy tube-forms appealing, and all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers serves only to turn me off even more. So why, then, would I put it forward as my contender for our ‘best all-rounder’?
The answer is two-fold. First, and most importantly, despite wanting to dislike it I cannot deny that every time I have ever thrown my leg over a Dogma (several versions over the years, from F8 to F10 to this latest F12 Disc) and ridden it in anger, I’ve been reminded just how brilliantly it rides. The other reason is merely that it would be foolish to ignore this bike’s run of success on the world stage.
As a pro, company founder Giovanni Pinarello might have been best known for coming last at the 1951 Giro d’Italia, but bikes bearing his name are world-renowned for quite the opposite reason. A Pinarello has been first across the line in more than half of the Tours de France since 1992.
But the ‘Dogma era’ really began in 2012 with Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins. Since then this bike has won seven out of the past nine Tours. That is no small feat and is the reason this bike is as much an icon in its own right as the brand itself.
History in the making
While the Dogma can trace its roots back to metal in 2002, it was the 2009 Dogma 60.1 that launched Pinarello’s new top-tier carbon race bike into the stratosphere. The standout features were its asymmetry – designed to compensate for the drivetrain forces on one side – and the funky, wavy tube shapes that aimed to absorb road buzz.
Next came the Dogma 65.1 Think 2, as ridden to Tour victory by Wiggo in 2012, followed by the F8 in 2014, which introduced aerodynamics and had a claimed frame weight of 860g. In 2017 the F10 arrived, boasting less weight and more stiffness, only to be superseded two years later by the F12, which surprisingly saw the waviness creeping back into the tube shapes.
Buy the Pinarello Dogma F12 now from Sigma Sports
The current F12 actually looks a lot like the Dogmas of old, and Pinarello says the speed gains largely come from the new bar/stem combo and fully internal cabling, plus the slightly more svelte 840g frame.
In our hunt for the best all-rounder, Pinarello has one compelling argument for the Dogma. Unlike other brands, Pinarello’s sponsored riders rarely switch bikes for different types of races. Cannondale and Trek, for example, both have distinct bikes in their stables that pros can choose on any given day: a climber’s bike for mountain stages; an aero bike for flatter races; a cobbles bike for the spring Classics.
But look back at Team Sky/Ineos on practically any day or at any race over the last decade and you’ll almost always see the flagship Dogma as the riders’ weapon of choice. That, for me, is the mark of a true all-rounder.
Feeling like a pro
My own rides aboard the Dogma have left me in no doubt about its capabilities either. One memory in particular stands out – my first time on the F10. I rode it at a groupset manufacturer’s launch event, and remember being mildly annoyed to have been handed the F10 over a host of other top-flight race machines lined up in the bike rack. But that disappointment was short-lived.
The F10 was, in fact, superb. Far from being dealt a bad hand, I found myself aboard a rocket ship that impressed me no end, handling with absolute precision while never being anything other than agreeable to ride.
The F12 evoked a similar reaction years later. Pinarello has created something that feels just that little bit more refined, and with those claimed aero gains I’d wager it’s not likely to be toppled from its WorldTour dominance anytime soon – and not just because some of the fastest riders in the business are doing the pedalling. Dogmas, however, don’t come cheap, so you’d better get on the phone to your mortgage lender before you step foot in the bike shop.
The BMC Teammachine gets my vote because in a particularly refined and competitive category the brand has shown it can not only pioneer the blueprint of a modern all-round race bike, but consistently improve on it as well.
The Teammachine is now in its fourth iteration and every time BMC has been able to add without taking away. By definition all-rounders are an exercise in compromise, so for BMC to keep mixing ingredients into the Teammachine dish without spoiling its already delicious flavour gets ever more impressive with each update.
Released 10 years ago, the Teammachine quickly built a reputation for its light weight, sharp handling and stiffness. It also did this funny thing with the seatstays – it dropped them below the intersection of seat tube and top tube. BMC claimed the design was better for compliance at the rear end and was more aerodynamic to boot.
The feature was met with some skepticism but the Swiss brand had the last laugh, seeing as how nowadays you’d be hard pushed to find a bike of any genre without dropped seatstays. The fact that the Teammachine’s overall profile has remained broadly similar over the years, where some competitors have changed drastically, is very telling.
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