What is the best bike for climbing? The selection by The Cyclist House
In this Article
Published on December 21, 2023
To climb the cols, you need good training above all... But you also need a good mountain bike, in other words, an ultra-light bike to maximize watts/kg. And to go below the 8 kg or even 7 kg mark, there's no secret: you need to invest in a carbon road bike. What are the best bikes for climbing? What are the strengths of the best mountain bikes? In this article, we present a selection of 5 high-end bikes that excel when the road goes up (but not only!). For each of them, we provide the strengths, but also the weaknesses (for one of them, we couldn't find any 😅). Come on, let's go left... on the road! 🚵♀️
Specialized Tarmac: the best bike for climbers
It is one of the most famous high-end bikes. The Specialized Tarmac was invented in 2004 and developed gradually until the SL8. This latest version was unveiled in the summer of 2023, first in the hands of Remco Evenepoel at the Glasgow World Championships, before being marketed in the following weeks.
The Tarmac is a safe bet on all terrains, offering an excellent quality/price ratio. You can get the Pro version of the SL8 for less than 10,000 euros, a threshold that other major brands have crossed long ago for their flagship models.
Between us, it's still much more expensive than a Certified Pre-Owned Specialized Tarmac by The Cyclist House mechanics 😉
Very good roller, rigid, dynamic, the Tarmac is also an excellent mountain road bike. Its weight of just over 7 kg also places it among the lightest high-end models. A marvel!
Strengths: excellent quality/price ratio, performance on all terrains, lightweight
Weaknesses: 🤔 … none? If you find one, feel free to write it in the comments below 👇👇👇
Pinarello Dogma: design and performance
Inseparable from the domination of the Sky team in the 2010s, the Pinarello Dogma is still the favorite weapon of the Ineos team. The Dogma appeared in the professional peloton shortly before the arrival of Sky. At that time, it replaced the Prince at the top of the hierarchy of Pinarello road bikes.
Even today, its style never leaves anyone indifferent: seductive Onda fork, asymmetrical geometry... Some hate it (yes, it happens!) while others are completely charmed 🤩
Why is the Pinarello Dogma a road bike for climbers? In addition to its impressive record (13 Grand Tours according to our calculations 😵), the Dogma is one of the most accomplished road models thanks in particular to its high-end T1100 1K carbon fiber. This carbon weave combines performance and resistance perfectly.
And although it is not the lightest bike (just above 8 kg, which is still very decent), its ingenious design allows it to be among the best climbing bikes. Its formidable aerodynamics also allows it to continue to widen the gaps in the valley. In short, a complete bike that excels everywhere.
In its new version, you will have to spend at least 10,000 euros to ride a Pinarello Dogma, a rather prohibitive amount... By riding a reconditioned model from a few years ago, you can save 30 to 60% of this amount.
When you know that the models from 3 or 4 years ago are the ones that led Chris Froome and Egan Bernal to victory in the Tour, you realize that a Pre-Owned Pinarello is more than enough to break records!
Strengths: versatility, aesthetics, performance
Weakness: the price for a new model
Trek Emonda: the road bike that loves the mountains
Less aerodynamic than the Madone, more performance-oriented than the Domane, the Trek Emonda is a pure mountain bike. It's no coincidence that it's the choice of the Lidl-Trek team riders when they know they're going to have to climb... Ultra-light, this road bike weighs less than 8 kg when assembled, and its frame alone is under 700 g in its most recent version! Who does better?
Marketed from 2015, the Trek Emonda was created to offer a true mountain bike at a time when the Madone became the speed demon we know today.
But beware, don't think that this model is worth nothing on long flat sections. Its very aerodynamic design also makes it a reliable ally even when no pass is in sight.
Note that there are 2 carbon ranges of the Emonda: the SL and the SLR, but also (and it's rare for a high-end mountain bike), an aluminum version that is slightly cheaper: the ALR.
Strengths: very light weight, comfort, a more affordable aluminum version
Weakness: lack of versatility even though it can do the job in the valley
👉 Discover all our Certified Pre-Owned Trek bikes!
Giant TCR: the best quality/price ratio
At the world's largest volume manufacturer, we find two high-end models: the Giant Propel for flat terrain, and the Giant TCR Advanced for the mountains or long distances.
It must be admitted that it is not the most sought-after bike by connoisseurs. And yet, it is formidable when the road goes up. Proof of this, its SL version allowed Simon Yates to take 4th place in the 2023 Tour!
Created 20 years ago, the Giant TCR Advanced is a perfect example of controlled weight/efficiency/price compromise.
The weight is on par with what you find in competitors: around 8 kg depending on the version and size. To reach the top of the mountain bikes, Giant relies on a T1000 quality carbon fiber.
As for the price, Giant is not really positioned among the most expensive brands in general. In its premium version, the Giant TCR Advanced SL will be available to you for about 10,000 euros.
Due to the brand's reputation, Giant bikes retain good resale value. It is therefore an excellent investment as well as a very good bike for climbing cols.
💡 By choosing one of our Certified Pre-Owned Giant bikes, the investment is even more interesting... And in addition, you benefit from our one-year warranty!
Strengths: good quality/price ratio
Weakness: not the most comfortable on flat terrain
BMC Teammachine SLR: a versatile road bike that excels all the time
The Swiss brand BMC recently presented the Teammachine R, its new aero model. In the mountains, however, the Teammachine SLR remains the king among the Swiss.
The SLR is a pure climber's bike, explicitly designed to push its limits when the slope rises. Light, rigid, responsive... It ticks all the boxes of a high-end mountain bike.
To focus on weight for a moment, this BMC Teammachine SLR is below the symbolic 7 kg mark in size M/L.
Aesthetically, it's hard to believe it's a climber's bike, as the geometry and finishes demonstrate that aerodynamics have been carefully worked on. Equipped with high-profile wheels, the SLR is therefore fully capable of comparing with aero models in lower price ranges.
Market priced between 5,000 and 10,000 euros depending on the versions, the Teammachine SLR is, of course, discounted at The Cyclist House. And if you're looking for a very good mountain bike more focused on endurance and ultra, also take a look at the Roadmachine among our Certified Pre-Owned BMC bikes.
Strengths: very lightweight, enjoyable handling in the mountains
Weaknesses: a bit less compared to the Tarmac on flat terrain for a comparable price
With one of these five mountain bikes, you should be able to tackle any pass... in theory! Because in practice, climbing Alpe d'Huez or Mont Ventoux is not something to be improvised. Specific training is necessary to achieve these goals under good conditions.
We also recommend using appropriate gear ratios. While pros can tackle the steepest slopes of the mythical passes in the Alps or the Pyrenees with a 39-28, you'll quickly realize that it's not so easy to handle for an average-level amateur. It's better to rely on a 36-32, or even a 36-34 to ensure smooth passage.
One last thing: pay attention to the weather! ⛅ The Galibier at 35 degrees or the Granon in the rain and 4 degrees, that's very challenging 😉