Road Cycling

Best climbing bikes 2020 | Top 5 lightweight road bikes –

Let’s face it, nearly everyone would like to climb faster, and while your legs will do most of the talking, your bike also plays a role in how quickly you fly up those hills. 

So, with that in mind, we’ve picked five of the most interesting climbing bikes out there, which will hopefully give you no excuses next time the road points upwards.

Wilier Zero SLR

The Wilier Zero SLR is a beautiful bike.

We all know that well known saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so correct us if we’re wrong, but we think the Wilier Zero SLR, launched in June 2019, looks rather nice.

But looking great won’t mean much when you’re crawling up an 18 per cent gradient with salty sweat burning your eyes. 

Sitting outside the cafe, on the other hand, helmet draped tastefully over the bars? 

The stats you should be interested in are a claimed 6.8kg complete weight for a Zero SLR with 28mm tyres. A painted frameset contributes just 780g to that over all weight, so we suspect you could go a lot lighter if you went for a full weight weenie build. 

As you’d expect, it’s claimed to be 24 per cent stiffer than the old model. When will bikes stop becoming stiffer? Surely there’s a limit? 

But what we’re really interested in is the seamless integration throughout the bike. 

Integration has been the bike industry buzzword of late and Wilier has turned the dial to 11. You won’t find many unsightly cables sticking out of the Zero SLR, and the one-piece bar and stem combo makes this one of the cleanest climbing bikes around. 

Top-spec builds don’t come cheap, but we all know the real secret to climbing success is to buy the most expensive bike you can find and not bother with any training…

Trek Emonda

The ‘purple phaze’ paintjob of this Trek Emonda SLR will make you look great riding at max heart rate.

We suspect there would be commenter Armageddon if we didn’t include the Trek Emonda on our list, so, here it is. 

Released way back in 2014, and with top-spec complete builds weighing around 4.5kg (yes, we did just say 4.5kg), the Trek Emonda has long been touted as one of the go-to climbing bikes of the modern era. 

And with the likes of Alberto Contador and Bauke Mollema winning big on the Trek Emonda, who are we to argue?

The latest incarnation, in its top-spec guise, comes with disc brakes and SRAM’s latest 12-speed Red AXS groupset. 

The weight? 6.68kg in a size 56. Add on a set of pedals and you’ll be hovering around that UCI minimum weight limit of 6.8kg. 

If you want to go even lighter, you’ll have to use Trek’s Project One custom programme, where it’s still possible to order a rim brake model of the current Emonda. We reviewed a disc-equipped Project One Emonda in October 2018 and awarded it four stars.

There’s plenty of different colours to choose from, but we reckon this ‘purple phaze’ colourway will make you look great riding at max heart rate, while trying to dance on those pedals, just like Contador. 

Bianchi Specialissima

The Bianchi Specialissima is designed for climbing.

Long known for making lovely bikes for diminutive climbers to fly up hills, Bianchi’s lightweight machine is the Specialissima. It’s not new by any means, but it’s still one of our favourites.

Just like every other bike on this list, you don’t have to try too hard to build up a Specialissima that comes in well under the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight limit. But what Bianchi really likes to shout about is the Countervail technology built into the frame. 

What’s Countervail technology, we hear you ask? It’s a viscoelastic resin built into the carbon fibre that is said to cancel out up to 80 per cent of road vibrations.

That means the Specialissima should be more comfortable than your bog standard full carbon climber’s bike. In fact, we awarded the Specialissima a full five stars when we reviewed it in 2016.

Being Bianchi, you can spec the Specialissima in a wide variety of colours and specs with the Italian firm’s custom programme, but we think classic celeste with full Campagnolo has to be the way to go. 

Canyon Ultimate

It’s not cheap by any means, but the Canyon Ultimate CF Evo 10.0 Ltd is the best value bike on this list.

Canyon is known for two things here at BikeRadar. One, the direct sales model means the German company can offer very competitive prices no matter what your budget is. And two – and sorry about this, Canyon – the names of its bikes aren’t the most inspiring. 

Case in point, the flagship climbing bike. While Trek has the Emonda and Bianchi has the Specialissima, Canyon has the Ultimate CF Evo 10.0 Ltd

Obviously we jest, a bike’s name matters diddly squat. What really matters is how it rides. And having impressed bike reviewers the world over, it’s safe to say the Ultimate Evo is a really good bike. And the weight? Just 6kg.

However, what sets the Canyon apart from the other bikes on this list is its price.

Now, £6,800 is far from cheap, but when you consider the exotic build and compare it to the competition, it represents a more affordable option (relatively speaking, that is).

In fact, you could almost buy two of these for the price of the next bike on our list. 

Festka Scalatore

Our last bike on this list is a truly stunning example of turning the weight weenie dial all the way up, then setting it on fire and shooting it into space while play Metallica at full blast. 

Low and behold, this custom Festka Scalatore superbike. 

We’ll get to all that beautiful carbon fibre in a second, but let’s address the elephant in the room – it’s got disc brakes.

A climbing bike with disc brakes, we hear you cry. You might as well not even bother! It needs rim brakes! What was ever wrong with a rim brake?

Well, without dragging the rim vs disc argument up again, you needn’t worry about this disc-equipped Festka because it weighs – and we hope you’re sitting down for this one – just 5.6kg. 

Yes, 5.6kg for a ready-to-ride bicycle equipped with disc brakes. Surely even the most picky of climbers will be happy with that? 

How do you get a disc bike that light? By speccing a who’s who of boutique, lightweight components. Highlights include the Schmolke bars, post, saddle and wheels, an Extralite stem, THM crankset and Tune bottle cages.  

If you see any of those names on a bike, you know it’s going to be a light one. 

Although, perhaps not a cheap one… being a custom model, it’s hard to pin down the true cost of a bike such as this, but with the frameset alone costing over £5,000, we expect the full build to sail comfortably past the £12,000 mark.

What do you think of our list? Did we get it right? Or should we have picked something else? As always, let us know in the comments.