If you’re starting out on your cycling journey, or looking for a commuter to splash through the winter miles, then you probably don’t want to spend a fortune. The good news is, the best cheap road bikes can offer you miles of smiles without costing the earth.
If there’s one thing the bike trade loves, it’s a bit of ‘trickle down technology’. This simply means that features found on top end bikes will be available on mid-range models the next year, and eventually on cheap bikes.
Cycling Weekly’s test team has had the opportunity to put hundreds of bikes through their paces – with price tags from £250 right up to £10,000+ – so we know a good, inexpensive bike when we ride one.
We’ve rounded up our favourites – but read further on the page for an explanation of what to expect at each price point.
With each bike you’ll find a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Pinnacle is the in-house brand at Evans Cycles, and though we’ve yet to test one of the new Laterite models, we’ve always been impressed with these utilitarian rides.
The Laterite range starts at £360, and tops out at £700. All models come with women’s versions featuring narrower bars and women’s saddles.
The frame is aluminium, and at this price point you get a carbon bladed fork and Shimano Sora shifting. Braking comes from Tektro and a size medium weighs in at 10kg.
The cable routing is internal, bottom bracket is threaded and this model comes specced with Schwalbe Lugano tyres in 25c.
Review score: 9/10
An aluminium frame with carbon bladed forks and an alloy steerer, this model comes with Shimano Sora shifting and Shimano brakes. There’s a flat bar version if the idea of drop bars puts you off.
There’s lots of clearance for wider tyres – up to 32c without mudguards – which will be more comfortable and stable. There’s eyelets for mudguards and pannier racks and the weight is 9.9kg.
There’s a women’s version with narrower handlebars, and a women’s saddle, which saves female cyclists spending money on touchpoints soon after purchasing a new bike.
Review score: 10/10
Boardman’s entry level road bike, the SLR 8.6 Alloy will be just a smidge over the budget for anyone aiming to hit £500, but we’ve always been impressed by Boardman’s framesets.
This one features a quality aluminium frame, carbon fork and steerer, Shimano Claris shifting with Tektro brakes and the built bike weighs around 10kg. Our tester reckoned that with a wheel upgrade later down the line, this model could even compete at the £1,000 price point.
There’s a women’s version with narrower handlebars, and a women’s saddle.
The Allez from Specialized is one of the best selling bikes in the industry, and at last review we awarded this model a near perfect 9/10.
Designed with ‘wide ranging’ geometry, it’s comfortable enough but you can slam the stem for a more aggressive ride.
At this price point, you get an aluminium frame with the brand’s ‘SmoothWeld’ tech keeping the joins neat. The fork is carbon, shifting comes from Shimano Claris and the brakes are Tektro. A compact chainset comes with an 11-32 cassette, leaving plenty of options for the hills.
Review score: Editor’s Choice 2017 award winner
A two time winner of the Cycling Weekly Bike of the Year award (in both 2016 and 2017), the Triban 540 sits well below the price of many models offering a similar spec.
The aluminium frame comes with a carbon bladed fork and the Triban 540 offers Shimano 105 shifting for only £650.
Considering the bargain basement price, we were expecting a bargain basement frame and wheels too, but what you get is nothing of the sort.
Don’t be put off by not having a carbon frame, as the aluminium Triban frame offers impressive performance and comfort, and the Mavic Aksium wheels are more often seen on bikes costing twice as much.
Review score: 9/10
The Vitus Razor has become a bit more pricey since we reviewed it – but it’s had some significant updates, including disc brakes. For just under £700 you get an aluminium frame with a full carbon fork, plus Shimano Claris shifting. The brake set comes from Tektro, they’re mechanical discs so not as smooth as hydraulics but will be reliable in the wet regardless.
The geometry is designed to sit between endurance and race – so it’ll suit someone looking for a speedy ride, who doesn’t want to plunge straight into an agressive fit, or someone who wants to ride in comfort all day whilst still enjoying the nippy handling of a quick footed racer.
Described as the “overachieving little brother to the CAAD13“, the Optimo has been designed to offer an introduction to cycling – ideally for someone looking to go on to race in the future.
Cannondale has been renowned for its incredible aluminium bikes, and this machine benefits from trickle down technology from its older sibling – with shared learnings from the agressive race machine’s geometry.
The fame is aluminium, fork is carbon and shifting comes from Shimano Sora.
Review score: 10/10
The Van Rysel Ultra 900 AF (previously called the B’Twin’s Ultra AF) has been designed to suit riders seeking a bike for sportives, commutes, or even races. This model sports an aluminium frame with a carbon fork – and impressively at this price point you also get a Shimano 105 groupset with Mavic Aksium wheels.
When we tested the Ultra AF, we discovered a bike that was quick footed and fun to ride – we completely forgot it was an entry level road bike whilst bombing along the lanes – and it would suit racers with a wheel upgrade.
Review score: 9/10
We’re dipping into the £1,000 territory now – but if it’s a budget you can creep up to, then this is a bike we’d wholeheartedly recommend. The Boardman Team Carbon has been replaced for 2019, but you can still get one – and they’re currently reduced to £900.
Boardman’s Team Carbon has sat exactly on the Cycle to Work voucher guideline of £1000 since it first arrived on the scene. The frame is constructed from C7 carbon, with the geometry based around the SLR Endurance model with a 100mm taller stack. This makes for a relaxed ride.
Buy it at Boardman for £900 here
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.
Some bikes in this bracket have flat bars, and could be described of as hybrid bikes. However, if you’re looking for a speedy commuter or a bike that will be fast on the road whilst still handling some roughter surfaces, a hybrid bike might be right up your street.
What to look for in a cheap road bike under £500…
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 in road bikes between £500 and £800…
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 in a road bike between £800 and £1,000…
This content was originally published here.
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