If the idea of cruising down the highway as fast as you can possibly pedal appeals to you, a perfect aerodynamic silhouette going across the horizon, then a road bike is exactly what your adventurous spirit needs.
There are different types of road bikes, whether you’re looking to go for speed, long distance and endurance, or something else. There are some for beginners, and then some very high-end options that are unbelievably light due to expensive and advanced materials. Road bikes will take you further, and have you riding faster, than if you were to spend the same amount of energy riding a mountain bike. The thin tires are inflated very high, which means you’ll have a closer connection to the road, and you’ll feel every crack in the sidewalk.
Keep reading to learn more about how we’ve managed to sort through the very best road bikes, so that you can find one that’s exactly what you need.
In a hurry? The test winner after 18 hours of research:
Why is it better?
Last Updated: January 10, 2019
By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding road bicycles available for those who are interested in fast paced biking. The best 6 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best road bike currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
GIORDANO LIBERO 2.0
VILANO FORZA 2.0
Schwinn Women’s Phocus 1600
Best Carbon Frame Road Bike & Best Carbon Bikes Under $2000
Carbon frame bikes are widely considered the best among cycling experts. The combination of incredibly low weight and shock absorption makes them cherished by both competitive and recreational rides alike.
For those with a little more money to spend, you can get a lot of bike for under $2,000.
These bikes tend to have lighter frames, higher-end components, and some added features that help improve everything from speed to comfort. Here are our two favorites.
1. KESTREL TALON
Designed as an aero road bike, the Talon is a ridiculously good deal, as you get a quality carbon frame and plenty of quality components for well under $2,000.
While it may be a aero-style bike, the Talon is still very comfortable, and suitable for novices and recreational riders who want a bit of extra speed and responsiveness.
The frame of the Talon is its main feature, as it is fully carbon, and a big reason as to why the bike weighs just around 20 lbs. It offers a race-oriented seating position, while still allowing for better pedal efficiency in lieu of the obvious give and flex that a carbon fiber frame provides.
You get 11 speeds with the Talon, courtesy of a Shimano 105 system that includes shifters and the front/rear derailleurs. The frameset is Kestrel’s own Enhanced Modulus Hybrid. 11 Speeds may be a bit low for some, but the gears have an excellent ratio, so you get a lot of variance in between the highest and lowest gear setting.
Stopping power is more than adequate, as the Talon uses a Tektro R540 dual-pivot pad set that offers lots of grip, made possible with Shimano 105 STI levers. No spongy feelings her, just controllable, hard braking.
The Talon also has some minor comfort features that can make a big difference, especially on longer rides. The EMS Pro Carbon seatpost allows for shock absorption, and the included saddle is surprisingly pleasant as well. The Talon’s handlebars are ergonomic for a better grip and feel too.
The wheelset and tire combination of the Talon is a great value as well. Oval Concept 327 wheels provide sturdy, durable wheels and rims, with four extra spokes in the rear for better weight support. Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 700 x 32c folding tires are very durable as well, and create a smooth, responsive ride with lots of grip.
The Kestrel Talon isn’t just great value, it’s one of the best road bikes period.
While it may be an aero road bike, it still offers a comfortable ride that makes it more versatile than other aero bikes, while retaining plenty of speed.
If you'd like to learn more about this bike, click here.
2. BIANCHI INTENSO
Bianchi has long been a respected name in high-end road bikes and the Intenso is a perfect example as to why.
It offers riders a well-rounded carbon frame road bike, with even more added features to encourage a lighter and smoother ride, even at high speeds.
With the Intenso, the frame is obviously the star here.
The entire bike weighs just 18 lbs, and the give in the frame is just enough to absorb shock and vibrations, but not too much as to sap your pedal power away. The front for is carbon as well, and is reinforced with kevlar for better longevity and stability.
The Intenso utilizes a Campagnolo Veloce drivetrain that is very snappy and responsive, offering precise ratios that are great for climbing and top speeds. Shimano 105 derailleurs and shifters are the perfect complement, providing easy shifting and fast response.
The wheelset is equally impressive, as the Intenso comes with Fulcrum Racing Sport Wheels, which are about mid-range in terms of Fulcrum’s full offerings. The included Hutchinson Equinox tires are very rugged, with lots of grip and absorption. They are a bit on the slim side, at 23cm.
The Intenso’s drop bars are short and shallow, and can easily accommodate larger hands. Reparto Corsa components include brake levers, saddle, and seatpost, helping round out the overall look and feel of this bike.
Speaking of looks, it’s hard to beat the Intenso. It comes in a few color options, and each of them looks great, and certainly alludes to the overall quality.
The best part? The Intenso isn’t nearly as expensive as other carbon frame bikes, yet still offers a high level of components and overall ride feel. You may eventually upgrade a few components, but as a whole, the combination of value and quality is superior.
Click here to learn more about this bike.
3. DIAMONDBACK 2013 STEILACOOM RCX
Diamondback’s Steilacoom RCX is a cyclocross road bike, which is a bit of a different take on the average road bike.
Designed to take on certain off-road conditions, as well as pavement, the Steilacoom RCX defines versatility, and is a great commuter bike as a result.
The Steilacoom RCX features a very light aluminum frame, that results in just over 22 lbs when fully equipped.
The frame’s material results in a somewhat rigid ride, but this being a cyclocross bike, the large tires helps to absorb a good portion of the shock. A DBCX carbon fork helps with shock absorption as well, while also saving on weight.
With 10 available seeds, the Steilacoom RCX is a bit lacking, but its other aspects help make up for it. Like the Talon, the Steilacoom RCX makes use of Shimano 105 technology, which includes the brake levers, derailleur, and shifters too. The pedaling platform itself is very stiff and efficient thanks to an FSA Gossamer PRO Cross crankset.
The wheelset is designed to be more durable than the thinner, more fragile wheels found on a roadbike. John Tomac Small Block Eight tires give the Steilacoom RCX better maneuvering off the road, with subtle tread that gives better cushioning and grip, but still retains much of the speed found with standard road bike tires.
The Steilacoom RCX isn’t a pure road bike, but it is one of the most versatile cyclocross models you’ll encounter, and for a very good price. Whether you’re a triathlete, or just want the most versatile road bike possible for commuting and recreational off-road use, the Steilacoom RCX should be your first choice.
Want to learn more? Read our review.
Best Beginner/Entry Level Road Bike
If you’re just starting out and getting into road cycling, you don’t necessarily have to run out and get the most expensive bike you can find. In fact, you can find some very affordable road bikes that are priced and designed for beginners.
These two are our favorites for the entry level category.
1. GMC DENALI
Your can read our in-depth review of the GMC Denali road bike by clicking here.
2. vilano shadow
The Vilano Shadow is the most popular entry-level road bike for a reason.
For an incredibly low price, you get a relatively light frame, and a number of solid components that can be easily upgraded at a later time.
As an entry-level bike, this is all you can ask for, as it’s good to go from day one, yet has the ability to be upgraded so you hang onto it for years to come.
The frame itself is made from double-butted aluminum, and has an integrated headset. With all of the components equipped, the Shadow weighs just under 30 lbs, which is good for how much you’re paying.
Despite being a beginner road bike, the Shadow has some decent components made by Shimano. This includes a 7-speed freewheel and double crankset, for a total of 14 speeds. Shifters are actually integrated with the brake handles, so you use the brake handle itself as a shifter. This is different from the standard trigger shifters many are used to, and required a bit of adjustment at first.
The seatpost is made from alloy, and has enough length to suit nearly any leg length. The saddle itself has an anatomic fit, but you may want to consider upgrading it immediately if you have some extra money to do so, as many complain that it’s still a bit too stiff.
The Shadow comes with a pair of Kenda 700c x 25c tires, which hold up well even after miles of use. The tubes are another story, however. They are a bit fragile, and can easily puncture during assembly. It’s recommended to purchase some higher-end tubes along with the bike itself.
The included wheelset is decent enough to start out with, but you’ll likely encounter a bit of bending further down the line. Quick releases on the front and back wheels make changing tubes and tires much more quick and convenient. The Shadow’s pedals are the standard platform style pedals, which can also be easily upgraded if you so choose.
While you may eventually want to upgrade many of the components with the Shadow, it’s still an excellent and affordable option if you’re starting out. Those that need a road bike for recreational and commuter purposes will fine the Shadow to be everything they need, with the added ability to upgrade as time goes on.
The overall value is hard to ignore. If you’re looking for an easy way into road biking, the Shadow is perfect for you.
Click here to read our review.
3. Giordano Acciao
The Giordano Libero Acciao sits right below the Shadow in terms of being an optimal entry-level bike.
It is not only attractive in design, but also contains some very quality components that help set it apart from most other entry-level bikes.
It does cost a little more than the Shadow, but you get a few more things as well.
The Acciao’s frame is forged from high tensile steel, which results in a relatively heavy weight for a road bike, coming in at 28.9 lbs. While it may be heavier than what’s considered ideal, you do get a very stable frame that keeps you grounded, while making the most of your pedal efficiency.
Shifting is relatively snappy and precise with Shimano Tourney STI shifters, which includes front and rear derailleurs from the same series as well. This also applies to the braking system, which is Shimano Tourney STI too.The stock pads are pretty decent, giving you a suitable amount of stopping power and control without exerting too much pressure.
The Vitesse alloy wheelset is surprisingly solid, and employs 32 spokes for better support to protect against bending. The included back road clincher tires perform well in terms of grip and overall feel, but they are also fragile when over-inflated, so make sure you use an accurate tire gauge with them.
The Acciao’s Velo saddle is okay, but some may want to upgrade it after the first few months. Pedals are definitely entry level- as you only get basic plastic versions similar to the Shadow.
The Acciao is a bit of a trade-off.
You get some better components, a better look, and for some, a better ride in general, but it will cost you a little more, and you also have a heavier frame. Still, the Acciao is a top entry-level road bike for a reason, and is a great purchase for anyone starting out with road biking.
Sounds good? Learn even more about this bike by checking out our review.
Best Road Bike Under $1,000
If you’re trying to keep things more affordable, but are still willing to get closer to the $1,000 range, you still have plenty of options. These two bikes offer better quality than entry-level bikes, but still manage to stay within a mid range price.
Both of the bikes below are perfect for both beginners and intermediate riders, and can easily be upgraded over time to place them into a higher category as you progress.
1. TOMMASO IMOLA
Tommaso brings tremendous value to the table, shipping directly to the customer they can cut their costs dramatically and therefore sell you a superior bike at a more desirable cost. The Imola road bike comes in at just under $600, a fraction of the cost of many comparable models.
Unlike many of their competitors, they also offer a lifetime frame warranty and classic customer service through their USA based customer service team.
At this price point, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an entry level road bike. It’s not, it’s a performance product at an affordable price, a true unicorn in the cycling industry!
Complete with the Claris R2000 groupset which is a significant upgrade from the previous group sets that many competitors use. Rather than external cable routing which is less aesthetic and also risks damage, it goes inside the body of the handles.
Similarly, the crankset has been upgraded dramatically for superior shifting and greater all-around performance. Again, you are getting this on a bike that sells for less than $600.
The Claris STI shifters in this bike mimic 105 and Tiagra components which are reserved for top-tier products that cost thousands of dollars. Shimano gear sets are an industry leader, giving optimum performance and precision shifting.
Compared to other road bikes the Imola has a shallow handlebar drop which allows you to ride in the lower handlebar position and still be comfortable. For intermediate and beginner riders who aren’t accustomed to other positions, this is vital.
Similarly, they’ve slightly widened the tires on this bike to 25mm, 700c road bike tires which are going to give you a more comfortable ride, greater efficiency and added control on sharp turns.
The frame itself is built using the highest quality aluminum and is backed by their industry-leading lifetime warranty because their bikes are affordable and made to last. Plus, all Shimano components are supported by their two-year guarantee, allowing you to ride with confidence.
For advanced riders who want to race with the Imola, it comes equipped with their exclusive UltraCompact handlebar which allows for higher comfortability in the drops. This position reduces your wind resistance, giving you a faster ride and letting you go further than before.
Overall, the Tommaso Imola is a standout in the road bike niche, delivering fantastic performance at an exceptional price. For beginners through to advanced riders the Imola is for everybody and will top tier components this is a bike that will grow with you as you improve.
2. GIORDANO LIBERO 2.0
Think of the Libero 2.0 as an improved version of the 1.6. While the Libero 2.0 appears to be the same on the surface, further examination shows better components across the board.
This bike falls well under $1,000, but looks and performs like a road bike priced well above, which is all you can really ask for when spending the extra money for a better road bike.
The frame of the Libero 2.0 is the same as its lower-quality relative, as you get a 6061 aluminum frame that is rigid with a hint of give. There is one big difference, however: The Libero 2.0 has a carbon fork. This gives the front end much more shock absorption, while helping lower the weight to 24.3 lbs fully equipped
The Libero 2.0’s shifters, crank, cassette, and both derailleurs are all Shimano Sora series, creating a cohesive shifting experience that is very precise, snappy, and responsive. You also get two more gears than the 1.6, bringing the total up to 18. This gives you plenty of choices to really hone in the exact gear you need for climbs, sudden bursts of speeds, and whatever else.
The upgrade to Vitesse alloy 700c 32 spoke wheels makes a big difference as well. The rims are very light, and have enough strength and support to give you countless miles of use without worrying about the dreaded bent rim. The Libera 2.0’s Kenda tires are durable, and give you a noticeable grip on the pavement, while also adding in a bit of shock absorption.
As with the 1.6, the 2.0’s stance is a little more upright than a racing bike, so you have a more comfortable stance that is conducive for commuting and recreational riding. That’s not to say that you can’t put your head down and really get after it speed-wise, however.
If you’re willing to pay the money, the Libera 2.0 is a significant step up from a beginner bike, and has the upgradability and longevity of a mid-range bike, without having to spend thousands of dollars. The carbon fork is an added bonus that helps push it over the top.
If you'd like to read our in-depth review, click here.
3. Vilano Forza 2.0
Being that Vilano makes the best entry-level bike on this list, it’s no wonder that they also rank highly in the under $1,000 category.
The Forza 2.0 is a very potent road bike, offering a solid combination of ride quality and components.
The frame is made from 6061 double-butted aluminum, helping keep the overall weight down to 25 lbs.
Like the Libero 2.0, the Forza also has a carbon fiber fork, giving it better shock absorption. The frame offers a noticeable overall response, enabling improved maneuverability and pedal efficiency.
The drivetrain is a mix of Shimano and Vilano parts. The front derailleur is a Shimano Sora series, while the rear is the slightly better Shimano Tiagra series. The shifters are Shimano Sora, giving you easy control over all 27 of the speeds. Yes, 27 speeds, the most of any bike on this list. This allows you to fine-tune your pedaling in a variety of settings.
The Forza 2.0’s double-walled CNC wheelset provides elevated steering response, and perfectly complement the bike’s 700c x 22c Kenda tires. While many are often tempted to quickly upgrade their tire and wheel sets, it’s safe to say that you’ll be perfectly satisfied with these.
The Cionlli saddle is a nice bonus, as it’s surprisingly comfortable, and shaped well. While the Forza 2.0 doesn't come with clipless pedals, it does include toe straps, which many are more comfortable with when starting out. The straps improve your pedal efficiency as well.
While this doesn’t affect the ride quality, the Forza 2.0 looks great. It has a very minimalistic aesthetic to it, thanks to a matte grey finish. Seriously, it looks very sharp, and will probably earn you more than a few glances from other cyclists.
The Forza 2.0 is one of the best values for under $1,000, giving you an appealing design, a carbon fork, and high-end Shimano gear components for a very reasonable price. It’s built to perform immediately, and can easily be upgraded as time goes on. You can’t go wrong.
Read our review by clicking here.
Best Road Bike Under $500
1. GIORDANO LIBERO 1.6
The Giordano crams as much value as you can into an under $500 road bike. You get a lightweight frame, solid components, a very comfortable ride, and even a bit of added style.
It’s truly one of the most well-rounded bikes you can get in such an affordable price range, and it can easily be upgraded over time.
The frame of the Libero 1.6 is of moderate quality forged from 6061 aluminum that is both durable and offers a small bit of shock absorption. With all of the components equipped, the Libero 1.6 weighs around 26 precise shifting when needed. A Shimano Claris derailleur and smaller-sized crankset help round lbs, which is very good for an entry-level and intermediate road bike.
The Libero 1.6 utilizes Shimano Claris 16 speed STI shifters that do seem a little sluggish at first, but are still reliable and provide out the gear system, and give you a bit of a boost on steep climbs, which is definitely appreciated.
The linear pull braking system is decent, but the but eh actual brake pads may be the biggest complaint of the Libero 1.6. They are a bit spongy, and require a few extra feet for complete stoppage. Fortunately, this can be resolved with a $15 pair of new brake pads, so don’t worry too much about them.
The Libero 1.6 uses alloy rims with 32 spokes. This provides some extra reinforcement so you don’t have to be as concerned with bent rims over time. The stock tires are actually quite good, as are the tubes. No need to upgrade.
The spiked metal pedals are a nice step up from the lower-end plastic you’ll find on cheaper road bikes, and the quick release wheel latches are convenient as well. Water bottle holders mounts are included as well.
If you are trying to get the most out of your money, this bike is hard to beat. It is more than capable of handling grueling rides lasting for miles, and can take you even further with just a few small upgrades, should you choose to do so.
Want to read our review? Click here.
2. diamondback 2017 Haanjo Metro
Diamondback’s Haanjo Metro is a commuter bike designed to help you navigate city streets en route to your destination, while still possessing the ability to withstand rougher terrain.
It’s more of a hybrid road bike, as it features flat handlebars and treaded tires. It also happens to be a great value.
The Haanjo Metro uses an aluminum frame, helping keep the overall weight down to a manageable 25 lbs.
The frame itself offers excellent response, and allows you to get the most out of your pedaling leaving the shock absorption to the tires for the most part.
The drivetrain offers 9 total gears, which is a bit low. Still, the gears are configured for city riding, and you’ll likely appreciate the extra travel you get out of each gear, rather than having to shift all the time in start/stop situations. The Haanjo Metro uses Shimano Acera gear components, which includes both derailleurs and shifters.
Braking is a big emphasis on commuter bikes and hybrids, which is the main reason the Haanjo Metro comes with Tektro Aires mechanical disc brakes, operated by Tektro 2-finger alloy linear levers. Response is crisp, and you don’t need a lot of pressure for stopping.
The wheelset consists of DB Equation CX 700c Doublewalls, with Schwalbe Citizen with a kevlar guard, giving you a rigid wheelset that can take the extra punishment city riding dishes out, while also offering extra protection for your tubes.
Both the saddle and pedals are made by Diamondback, with the saddle giving you a bit of extra cushioning, which is a must with the more upright riding position and lack of drop handlebars.
Overall, this is a very inexpensive and solid hybrid that gives you speed, comfort, and durability, all of which are essential for commuting. For just around $500, this is easily the best hybrid value you’ll find.
You can find our review by clicking here.
Best Road Bike for Women
Women’s road bikes have a few subtle design features that are more inline with a woman’s body shape. While many women choose to ride unisex and small men’s bikes, there are plenty of others who prefer the a more women-oriented design.
These two bikes are among the top choices.
1. SCHWINN WOMEN’S PHOCUS 1600
Schwinn’s Women’s Phocus 1600 is part of their Signature Series, and manages to cram a lot of impressive features and components into a relatively low-priced road bike.
The women's version of the popular Phocus 1600 has all the same aspects of the men’s version, with a strategically-sized frame and handlebars.
The Phocus 1600’s frame is made from aluminum, and offers an appropriate amount of rigidness and response that is noticeable when pedaling and steering. It has an overall weight of 26 lbs when fully equippe, which isn’t exactly low, but still acceptable for its range. A carbon front fork helps to alleviate shock, while also helping to cut the weight down.
The Phocus 1600’s drivetrain is comprised of Shimano parts, and gives you 14 separate speeds, more than enough to offer enough options for inclines, declines, and flat terrain. Shifting is very crisp after an initial tune-up, and is accomplished by using Microshift integrated brake levers.
As for the brakes, they are just a little soft, and require a small amount of added pressure when using the included Promax alloy calipers. Some actually prefer a soft braking system, but if you don’t you’ll likely want to upgrade the pads for a small price.
The Phocus 1600 comes with high-profile alloy wheels that have 32 holes, and a paired spoke pattern in groups of four for better rim support and aerodynamics. Kenda K-196 tires are surprisingly responsive, and have a light tread for better grip and shock absorption.
Extra features include toe clips, helping maximize pedal efficiency for those who might not want to use clipless pedals. The light blue and white color pattern is very appealing as well, and looks very sharp out on the road.
In a way, it almost seems like the Phocus 1600 was intended to be a higher-end entry-level bike, but ended up being more of a mid-range bike for a lower price. If you’re looking for as much quality in a women’s bike for under $800, the Phocus 1600 should top your list. It certainly tops ours.
Here's the link to our in-depth review.
2. giordano Libero 1.6
The women’s version of the highly-rated Giordano 1.6 has all the great features in the men’s version, only in a scaled down size that includes a shorter stem.
The frame is made from aluminum, and presents an overall weight of 26 lbs when equipped. Like the Phocus 1600, this isn’t exactly a low weight road bike, but still falls just under what is acceptable.
The frame feels snappy and responsive on the road, with a noticeable rigidness.
Shimano Claris parts make up the drivetrain, which is operated using the integrated brake shift levers. This may take a ride or two to get used to if you’ve always used trigger shifters, but once adjusted, shifting any of the 16 gears is quick and easy for the most part, especially after a proper tune-up.
The wheelset is comprised of Vitesse Alloy 700c High V-Profile’s with Kenda black road clincher tires. Both are fairly durable, and offer a suitable amount of grip and shock absorption. Intermediate users will eventually want an upgrade, but the stock versions are more than acceptable.
The plastic pedals are the only real drawback with the Libero 1.6, but again, upgrading is easy if desired. Two water bottle holder mounts are a nice touch, and the paint job and design of the Libero 1.6 is very feminine, which some riders will prefer.
Like its male relative, the women’s Libero 1.6 is a noteworthy value, and is suitable for both entry-level and intermediate riders who want the most out of a road bike, but want to keep things under $500.
Click here to read our in-depth review.
What to Look Out for When Buying a Road Bike
Road bikes are not a one-type/size-fits-all purchase.
In order to ensure that you end up with the bike that is right for you, it’s crucial to know the most vital aspects beforehand.
Road bikes can generally be broken down into a few different main categories and subcategories.
- Race/Time Trial/Aero - These three road bike types are all designed for speed, and speed only. Time trial and aero bikes also incorporate a heightened sense of aerodynamics that make the bike even faster, and less conducive for casual and long-distance riding. These bikes are intended for competitions, not fitness and recreational use.
- Commuter - If you’re looking to use your road bike as a main form of transportation in an urban setting, a commuter bike is your best bet. Commuter bikes allow the rider to sit more upright, and have some strategic designs and features that emphasize comfort and maneuverability above all else.
- Sportive - Sportive road bikes are known for being the most versatile. These bikes are basically a more comfortable version of a race bike, making them great for fitness, recreational, and even some competitive riding, although the casual user can still appreciate their design.
- Touring - Designed for long-distance riding, touring bikes are built to be durable, comfortable, and stable enough for riding days at a time. They also incorporate added features such as luggage racks and mud deflectors for added convenience and functionality on a long ride.
So, before all else, consider what you want your road bike to be used for. This will help you decide on the category you should be focusing on. Sportive and commuter road bikes are among the most popular.
A road bike’s size in relation to your body size has everything to do with how comfortable and efficient it will be. The vast majority of manufacturers will have a size chart available for you to gauge the best size suited to your body size in terms of height. Further adjustments to seat height and the bike’s handlebars provide the opportunity for fine-tuning.
The bike’s frame is obviously the most important characteristic, but the included components are just a notch below. Gear sets, brakes, wheels, tires, and other components are all worthy of close examination before purchasing.
Nearly every road bike you’ll find online lists the model and manufacturer of the essential components, so familiarize yourself with them as best as you can, and compare with other models as well. Sometimes you’ll find that a bike may have a great drivetrain, but poor wheels. It’s all about finding the right balance of what’s important to you.
And of course, you can always upgrade if need be as well.
These are the best road bikes out there... What's next?
By now you should have a much better idea as to what road bike to consider in terms of your price range and skill level. While we clearly have our two favorites, any of the bikes listed above are examples of a quality road bike that will give you miles and miles of use for years to come.
Regardless of which model you choose, be sure to choose the right size, and don’t forget to acquire all of the gear and accessories you’ll need as well. After a proper tune-up, you’ll be ready to go. Happy riding!
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