My love affair with bikes started at a young age. First a Raleigh Tomahawk, then a Commando, then a Grifter, then a series of proto-mountain hack bikes consisting of old tourers saved from skips. Then a Muddy Fox Courier comp for fun and a Peugeot Carbolite road bike for serious training. The list goes on…
But once I started working for bike magazines, things changed dramatically, testing – at a rough estimate – more than 2,000 over two decades. And the problem with spending all of your time working in a sweet shop is that you run the risk of becoming a glutton…
So, yes, I have a problem with road bikes: I test them, I fall in love with them and then I want to keep them, which often means reaching deep into my pocket and shelling out on machines I just can’t bear to be without.
God help me if I had unlimited funds and unlimited storage – I’d own more than 200 by now. The fact that my bike stable is only a tenth of that shows a lot of restraint. Trust me, it does.
The bikes selected here are the ones that I fell for in a big way and haven’t fallen out with since.
BikeRadar Podcast | Warren’s bike buying problem
Warren’s two garages hold around 30 different bikes, including current test bikes and old favourites from a couple of decades of testing. His collection is as diverse as they come and they aren’t all super-high-end road bikes (though many are!).
In this episode of the BikeRadar Podcast, Warren talks us through some of his favourites, and the stories behind them. Otherwise, keep reading for a closer look inside Warren’s garage.
Storck Scenario Comp 1999
German brand Storck’s carbon bikes are pretty special, but the brand’s golden era was aluminium.
This all-alloy (Easton tubing) Scenario Comp was custom-painted for the 1999 Eurobike show for Storck’s stand. After seeing it, I was taken by the amazing candy-apple flip metallic paintwork.
One day, my garage was burgled. I lost a lot of bikes, so after the insurance was settled, I used some of the money on a project to cheer myself up. The Storck Scenario Comp frameset was purchased, along with custom-built (by Harry Rowland) DT Swiss rims on matching green anodised Tune hubs (and green spoke nipples), a custom Tune chainset, custom green Crank Brothers road pedals (sadly no longer made), custom green tune components, a green Chris King headset, ultralight Alpha Q fork and Campagnolo Record. Even the cables were custom green anodised Nokons (a cable with outers made from lightweight aluminium sections).
It took 18 months to arrive and I put more than five figures into building it, but when it was finally finished, it was a 6.3kg superbike that rides brilliantly. Sadly, it took so long to build that, by the time of its completion, carbon had happened in a big way, drivetrains had got another gear and tyre clearances made more generous. I had ended up with something that was heading for obsolescence. Nevertheless, it’s a bike that I still judge favourably against the latest and greatest race machines.
Dedacciai Temerario 2010
The Temarario is a bike that looks so crazy that I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for it. The angular boxy carbon tubing up front, with the aero bladed fork, is like an imaginative child’s drawing of a road-racing superbike, all combined with titanium seatstays (apparently to add some comfort). I love the weird juxtaposition between futuristic and classic styling here.
As mad as the Temarario looks, it also has something special in its ride. It’s classic Italian road-bike character with an aggressive head angle and short fork offset, meaning laser-fast handling.
The mish-mash of tubes between square, aero, round and sculpted all blend together to produce a ride quality that’s hard but not harsh. It’s a bike so far out there, so off the wall, that it deserves to be remembered for its brilliant oddness.
Bikes like this are a perfect reminder that we all ride for fun. It also runs Shimano’s first-generation Ultegra Di2 with its boxy little batteries and cabling that incorporates a lot of tape and zip ties – something that today’s all-hidden, fully integrated fashionistas would baulk at.
Parlee Z-Zero custom 2013
A few years ago, a few of the Cycling Plus magazine team went through the process of creating a custom bike. Parlee had a reputation at the time as the go-to guys for the top professionals. If the bike they rode in the peloton didn’t quite meet expectations, Bob and his team could create an ultra-light bike that would do the business.
I visited Bespoke bikes in Farringdon for Rëtul fit sessions – a process that involves 3D motion capture technology – so this bike fits me like a glove. Handling-wise, it was based on the Storck and I even went for a metallic green paint finish in homage to it. The result is a bike that goes beyond my wildest expectations.
The chassis has had a few rebuilds in its time and it’s been ridden for more than 8,000 miles. Nonetheless, it still feels gloriously rapid, light and lively. I’ve now settled on SRAM Red eTap (the old 11-speed setup), but with the long cage rear mech and an 11-32t cassette paired with Zipp 404 NSWs. It’s another sub-7kg bike and, now that everything has gone aero and disc, acts as a good reminder of everything that was good about classic road bikes with rim brakes.
Cannondale Synapse 5 2014
This is the bike that was crowned 2014’s Bike of the Year, and one that remains much loved to this day.
The original Shimano 105 groupset stayed on the bike for a long time and it was only replaced (with Dura-Ace) when I didn’t have a donor frameset to build with Shimano’s (at the time) new kit as part of a launch.
I still think this modest Synapse is one of the most balanced bikes, combining fun handling and smooth comfort. In fact, I can remember raising a few eyebrows at Cannondale when I said that this standard model was superior to the high-end, hi-mod carbon models; I thought that one lost its smooth edge with the transition into ultra-stiff, lightweight, high-modulus carbon. I believe an endurance bike should have comfort as a priority over stiffness and light weight.
The Synapse is still my go-to bike for long days out as the ride position suits me – once I placed a Cane-Creek zero-stack headset to reduce the front-end height – and the butter-smooth comfort is high-mileage heaven.
Cannondale Slate Ultegra 2016
When I first saw the Slate at the launch of Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO Disc, I was awestruck. It had taken the bubbling-under trend for gravel bikes and mated it with the sort of aluminium mountain bike hardtails I rode in the 1990s. I knew I needed to get one in to test and I absolutely loved it.
At the time, I described it as a bike nobody needed but, by God, did I want one! In hindsight, an aluminium bike with a huge single-sided carbon suspension fork didn’t make commercial sense: about half the price of the bike is in the fork, after all. But on the road, track and trail, it’s bags of fun.
Compared to modern gravel bikes, it’s a little off as it has 650b wheels, not a huge amount of tyre clearance (42mm at most) and road gearing that’s fast road-bike territory (none of the mega-range 1x or adventure compact chainsets here: 52/36t chainrings with an 11-28t cassette).
However, the Slate marks a moment in time before the development of gravel bikes and I’m sure it’ll be a future classic, which is why I’m holding on to this wonderfully odd diversion from the drop-bar norms.
The one(s) that got away…
It’s sad but true. Even though Warren has collected this many bikes, there are still a few he wishes he had…
2012 Cannondale SuperSix Evo
The original Evo was an absolute stunner, with the combination of the classic horizontal top tube design, slim round carbon tubes and super-low weight all screaming future classic. Add in handling that’s nothing short of sublime and I still kick myself for not squirreling away one of these dream machines in my garage.
2016 Bianchi Specialisima
This was like Bianchi’s take on the Evo, but wrapped up in a gloss of heritage and celeste-coloured beauty that’s ageless and iconic.
1992 GT Zaskar
I had one of these classic mountain bikes. I raced it and I loved it, but tragically made the mad mistake of chopping it in for a long-forgotten ‘upgrade’.
Lynskey Helix Disc custom 2017
This Lynskey came together when I was writing a feature on the legendary US titanium brand. As part of the research, I got talking to one of the Lynskey clan about bikes we’d always wanted. I explained that I fancied a bike with big clearances for off-road tyres, but with road geometry and a smooth Synapse-like ride. something versatile, sporty and comfortable.
Lynskey accepted the challenge. Nothing I proposed was dismissed out of hand and it accommodated everything I asked for. The resulting bike has a paint scheme I designed and the geometry I wanted, as well as the clearances and ride quality. Lynskey even sourced an out-of-production FSA bar that was a personal favourite.
I got to visit them to see it being finished in Tennessee, so this is the one bike that I’ll never part with because I had such a part in its conception. It rides so beautifully smooth I can take it anywhere, road or trail, and it always brings a smile to my face.
Giant TCR Advanced SL Disc 2018
The TCR is a bike that’s been around pretty much as long as I have been testing bikes. Across its incarnations, it’s always been a winner and the new Giant TCR looks to continue that trend.
My 2018 edition is one hell of a machine and, in my opinion, is the epitome of what makes a great fast bike: the weight is low, the stiffness is high and the handling is rapid.
This one was a long-term test bike. After a year of riding it relentlessly – and using the chassis as a test bed for masses of components – I just couldn’t imagine being without it. So when Giant asked for its return at the end of the year, I asked for the bill. Since then, I’ve continued to use it as a test bed, but to me it’s perfectly set-up with its current component line-up. And that’s pretty much how it’s destined to remain.
Sven Cycles Swift ebike
This is another test bike that was something a little different: an ebike for my 60-mile round trip commute to Bristol and back.
Due to the pandemic, for most of 2020 it’s been the stalwart of our weekly shop at home; with the box mounted on the front porter rack and a backpack, I can usually carry our weekly food rations.
This year, I’ve put more miles into the Sven than into my car and it’s been an absolute rock. The Shimano Steps system is bulletproof and the quality of Sven’s frame workmanship is stunning. It’s a ride that’s pure luxury in a very utilitarian way. And it’s got custom carbon mudguards too!
It’s not just purposeful road machines Warren has stowed away…
GT Performer Jamie Bestwick long wheelbase
This BMX of indeterminate age was a gift from my best mate, who couldn’t understand how I’d gone from kids’ bikes, to skateboards and mountain bikes in my youth, but still fully believed a man in his forties should have a BMX.
Bianchi Pista chrome
I spied this gorgeous all-chrome fixed/single-speed on a trip to Italy and, on my return home, I just knew I had to find one. It became a Christmas present from my partner Laura.
1960s Falcon 531 road bike
This is a bike I bought for a £100 Cycling Plus challenge. I cleaned it up and got it working, and have always promised that one day I’ll get round to restoring it to ride at L’Eroica. But it’s more than five years down the line and I still haven’t found the time.
The Kansi was the brainchild of mountain bike trials legend Martin Hawes. It was only around for a couple of years, but I still think it’s the best handling folding bike around. It’s our family go-to bike when it comes to mix-mode travel.
Buying tips from a bike addict
1) Always test ride a bike. Reviews alone can only tell you so much. Only you will know what suits your riding style, shape and quality of the roads in your location.
2) Don’t buy for its parts. These will wear out. It’s easy to be taken in by a bike with a smattering of high-grade parts, but remember drivetrain parts will wear out eventually. You want the heart of the bike – the frame and fork – to be the best you can afford. Everything else can be upgraded when it comes to replacement time.
3) Get the bike you need. We can all be drawn into getting a premium Tour de France conqueror, but if you ride predominantly on byways, towpaths and trails, then a ultra-lightweight WorldTour machine won’t be optimum. If you’re not super- supple, then a slammed aero race machine isn’t for you either. An ill-fitting or ill-chosen bike won’t help your riding experience. A bike that fits both you and the terrain will enhance it.
4) If you are unsure… ask. Good bike shops are there to help: you’ll get good advice on what’s the right bike for you and you can get guidance on fit, or even a proper fit itself. Plus, a relationship with a good bike shop is invaluable for getting the best when it comes to servicing, upgrading and repair time.