What to expect for your money in the best-value road bike sector, plus your guide to the best bikes for under £500, under £750 and under £1,000
One of the great strengths of the bike trade is the idea of ‘trickle down’ technology: the idea that what might be currently found on only premium products will one day be available on even entry-level bikes in years to come. History has proven this idea again and again — aelatively low-cost road bikes today include technology that would have been unthinkable in that price range even a few years ago.
Component brands are particularly adept at passing down the innovations of higher model ranges to its cheap road bikes range in following seasons. Take Shimano, for example. Whenever the Japanese giant brings out a new version of the Tiagra groupset it tends to bear an uncanny likeness to the older version of the higher-end 105 groupset.
Meanwhile, public demand for carbon-fibre bikes has pushed down aluminium in people’s estimations, meaning that some extraordinarily well-engineered and beautifully designed aluminium frames are now on sale at staggeringly low prices.
That all combines to produce a great situation for the canny bike buyer: if you’re not obsessed with composite frames, brand names, or posing, there are a huge number of incredibly able, high-performing bikes available below £1,000.
What to expect: less than £500
While £500 might seem a lot of money for a road bike to non-cyclists, to more — ahem — ‘fussy’ and experienced riders it also seems far too little to buy anything with potential. Both trains of thought are utterly wrong — for less than £500 you can buy some fully-fledged drop-bar bicycles that are perfectly able to cope with everything from winter training, to commuting, to even sportive riding. In fact, brands such as B’Twin, Merlin, Calibre, Sensa and even some bigger names have great options from as little as £300.
What to look for…
- A total weight of around 10kg
- A modern aluminium frame
- Shimano Claris or Sora gears, although some brands fit Microshift components at this price
- Sturdy wheels
- Unbranded dual-caliper brakes or Tektro products on higher-quality bikes
- Own brand bars, stem and saddle
- Steel fork at low end; carbon fork nearer £500
Our pick of the best road bikes for under £500
What to expect: £500-£750
As we head past the £500 point, two significant things happen. First, the big household name brands such as Giant, Specialized, Trek, Scott and Cannondale enter the market with their entry-level aluminium road bikes, which normally offer slightly less exotic groupsets and components, but tend to feature very well-engineered frames. The second thing is that smaller specialist brands, such as Ribble, Verenti or Planet X, begin to offer very capable all-year bikes or winter training bikes, sometimes made of steel with excellent ride qualities. These machines may not have all the luxuries and speed of top-end models but do provide enough ride comfort and performance to satisfy even hardened, experienced road riders.
What to look for…
- A total weight of 9-10kg
- An aluminium frame with some design niceties such as internal cable routing, or even a mass-produced steel frame
- On big brand models expect Shimano Claris (on bikes circa £500), Sora (c. £650) and Tiagra (c. £750) components; with specialist value brands expect anything up to Shimano 105 or SRAM Apex parts
- Possibly Shimano groupset brakes, or more likely Tektro calipers
- Own-brand wheels or Alex rims on aluminium hubs
- Own brand bar, stem and saddle
- Carbon fork
Our pick of the best road bikes for under £750
>>> Scott Speedster 50 – £599
>>> Merida Ride 90 – £599.99
>>> Sensa Umbria Sora Special – £599.99
>>> Specialized Allez – video review – £600
>>> Hoy Sa Calobra .001 – £635
>>> Kinesis Racelight Aithein – £649.99
>>> Lapierre Audacio 200 – £679.99
>>> Giant Defy 3 – £699
>>> Boardman Performance Comp – £699.99
>>> B’Twin Alur 700 – £749.99
What to expect: £750-£1000
As we head towards the magic £1,000 mark, all bets are off. The dedicated bargain hunter can find almost any product in this price range, including carbon-fibre frames. Be careful with carbon bikes sub-£1k, though — there are some good composite frames available, but there are also some shockers. Conversely, aluminium bikes at this price can be extraordinarily good, and may also come fitted with mid to upper-range gears and brakes. There is also a growing trend among manufacturers to fit mechanical disc brakes at this price point, too.
We’d recommend you really do your homework and read our tests. It’s not a case of general product quality — at this area of the market most bikes are very decent. However, there is the matter of specialisation. By the £1,000 point manufacturers have started to tailor their bikes to fulfill certain specific abilities. So whether you want an all-day comfort machine, or a speedy rocketship, almost any requirements can be filled. Just make sure you know what you want and pick wisely.
What to look for…
- A total weight of 9kg or possibly less
- A degree of model specialisation for particular ride criteria
- A top-quality aluminium frame with details such as internal cable routing, general tube manipulation, specific elements designed for comfort, strengthened bottom bracket for power delivery, tapered head tube for better handling
- Possibly even low-end carbon-fibre frame from specialist value brands (but be discerning when it comes to value carbon!)
- Mainly Shimano Tiagra or 105 components, although the occasional piece of super-plush Shimano Ultegra also appears. SRAM Apex or Rival, and even Campagnolo Veloce have also been spotted below £1,000
- Matching groupset caliper brakes or mechanical disc brakes
- Lighter, own-brand wheels or respected third-party wheelsets
- Mainly own-brand bar, stem and saddle — occasionally a third-party saddle
- Carbon fork
Our pick of the best road bikes for under £1000
>>> B’Twin Ultra 700 AF 105 – £750
>>> Raleigh Criterium Sport – £750
>>> Trek 1.5 – £750
>>> Raleigh Revenio 2 – £750
>>> Dawes Clubman – £849.99
>>> Merida Scultura 903 – £849.99
>>> Vitus Venon – £879.99
>>> KTM Strada 1000 CD – £929.99
>>> Tifosi CK7 Gran Fondo Campagnolo Veloce – £999.99
>>> Verenti Insight 0.4 – £950
>>> Ribble Evo-Pro Carbon – £999
>>> Giant Revolt 1 – £999
>>> Kinesis Racelight T2 – £999.99
>>> Radial Revere 1.1 Apex – £999.99
>>> Planet X London Road – £999.99
>>> Trek Madone 2.1 – £1000
>>> Pinnacle Dolomite 5 – £1000
>>> Marin Gesalt 2 – £1000
Let us know if we’ve missed any bikes, and check back for regular updates to the lists.
As we test bikes throughout the year a range of season specific models will also be added, including winter bikes.
Thought about trying MTB?
One to keep an eye on…
It’s presently just over the ‘bikes under £1000’ threshold, but this is a great value machine.