Cycling is a wonderfully democratic form of transport, but getting into road cycling as a sport can be a dauntingly expensive prospect.
It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that the more you spend, the faster you’ll go. And while you can quite literally purchase a certain amount of speed with aerodynamic bikes and accessories, ultimately what matters is how hard you can turn the pedals.
Furthermore, the rate of improvement in bicycle technology and the subsequent trickle down from the high to low ends of the sport, means even the budget bikes of today are, in many ways, better than the bikes available to riders at the pinnacle of the sport only a few years ago.
Besides, is there anything better than showing that guy on your local club run with the £10,000 super-bike a clean pair heels on your sub-£1000 workhorse?
The bikes on this list focus on road use, but if you’re looking for something more versatile, we’ve also compiled a list of the best gravel bikes over on BikePerfect.
Scroll down for a round-up of our pick of the best sub £1000 road bikes, or if you're unsure what to look out for, you can jump to our guide on what to look for in a budget road bike.
The best budget road bikes you can buy today
Cannondale Synapse Disc Tiagra
Cannondale's Synapse is a worthy platform to upgrade when you demand more performance
Price: £999.99 | Weight: 10.36kg | Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 4700 | Wheels: RD 3.0 rims on Formula Hubs | Frame Sizes: 44-61cm
At face value, the Cannondale Synapse Disc Tiagra might seem a little expensive in this company, but Cannondale is providing a high-quality platform that is capable of growing with you as a rider. The bike is built around a tidy SmartForm C2 alloy frame and full carbon fork, both of which have Cannondale’s SAVE (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) technology built-in to increase comfort.
The disc brakes are cable-actuated, but the frame has internal cable routing, through both the frame and fork and thru-axles on the front and rear. The Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset borrows technology from the previous generation of Dura-Ace (the 9000 series), making for a high performing, work-horse like groupset. Likewise, the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres aren’t the best road bike tyres on the market, but they are from a recognisable, well-regarded brand, and handily come in a 28mm size for extra grip and comfort.
Cube has put together a bike with some nice frameset details usually reserved for premium models
Price: £699.00 | Weight: 9.6kg | Groupset: Shimano Claris R2000 | Wheels: Cube RA 0.8 Aero | Frame Sizes: 47-62cm
German brand Cube isn’t the most well-known maker of road bikes but the company is known for its progressive designs – often bucking the trend for ‘boring, black bikes’. Coming in under 10kg is impressive for a bike that costs under £700, as is the fact that the Cube Attain comes with a full carbon fork, internal cable routing and nicely colour-matched finishing kit, meaning it looks more expensive than it is.
Shimano Claris isn't the best road groupset, but with the Shimano nametag, its durability makes for good value at this price – it all functions perfectly well but being 8-speed does mean noticeably larger jumps between the gears, especially as the cassette specced is an 11-34T. On balance though, we appreciate the spread of gears this offers combined with the 50-34T crankset, so it’s not something we’d necessarily recommend changing unless you live somewhere without hills.
Giant Contend 1
Unsurprisingly Giant have put together a superbly well rounded bike at a great price
Price: £749.00 | Weight: 10.5kg | Groupset: Shimano Sora R3000 | Wheels: Giant S-R3 | Frame Sizes: S-XL
Pretty much everything on the Giant Contend 1 other than the groupset and brakes comes from Giant. That’s no bad thing though, as it’s all good quality stuff. You get a decent set of wheels and 28mm tyres from Giant, along with a D Fuse seatpost – which Giant says increases comfort by allowing greater flex in desired directions, without sacrificing stiffness in others.
The frame is made from ALUXX-Grade aluminium, with Giant’s iconic compact frame design and a full carbon OverDrive fork. The groupset is Shimano’s Sora R3000, and you get an almost complete package of components – the only non-Shimano substitute is the Tektro TK-B177 rim brakes but these are good performers nevertheless, so it’s not a huge loss.
It also has mounts for mudguards and a rack, extending its usefulness into the winter months or for commuting/touring. Our only criticism is that it’s arguably a little bit dull, but you can’t really expect to have it all at this price point.
B’Twin Triban RC 520 Disc
B'Twin Triban RC 520 offers smooth Shimano 105 drivetrain at an incredible price
Price: £729.99 | Weight: 10.4kg | Groupset: Shimano 105 R7000 | Wheels: Triban Tubeless Ready Light | Frame Sizes: XS-XL
It’s pretty rare to see Shimano 105 R7000 on a bike that costs under £1000, let alone one that comes in at under £750, but that’s exactly what the B’Twin Triban RC 520 Disc offers. And it’s not just a pricey groupset at the expense of everything else either – you get a modern styled frame with dropped seat stays for extra comfort, heaps of tyre clearance (slick tyres up to 36mm will fit) and TRP HY/RD, cable-operated hydraulic disc brakes.
So what’s the catch? Well, the looks are a little workmanlike – not bad per se, but just nothing to set your heart fluttering. The externally routed cables also mean you need to be careful with keeping the exposed sections clean and in good condition, to keep everything working smoothly.
If you’re looking for value and performance above all else though, this might be the bike for you.
If you seek carbon, the Ribble R872 is your best option but a new wheelset should be first on the upgrade list
Price: £999.00 | Weight: 9.0kg | Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 4700 | Wheels: Raleigh Mach 1 CFX | Frame Sizes: XS-XL
The recently updated Ribble R872 has a thoroughly modern frameset. Both the frame and fork are full carbon, and a chunky downtube and chainstays offer great pedalling stiffness, while slim, dropped seat stays increase compliance and comfort over rough roads.
At 9kg, it’s decently lightweight (though there is a lighter and cheaper alloy bike on this list), but the Raleigh Mach 1 CFX wheels are more suitable for training rather than racing. You do get a full Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset though, as well as dependable finishing kit from Level, Ribble’s new in-house brand.
If you absolutely have to have a carbon frame, the Ribble R872 is a great option. Ribble also offers a large degree of customisation through its BikeBuilder tool – meaning you can change key components for size, make upgrades or you go a step further and build a completely custom bike with a custom paint job - if your budget is really flexible.
Specialized racing DNA can be seen even at the sub £1000 price point
Price: £649.00 | Weight: 9.73kg | Groupset: Shimano Claris R2000 | Wheels: Specialized Axis Sport | Frame Sizes: 44-61cm
If you’ve been inspired by the antics of Julian Alaphilippe at last year's Tour de France, you might be lusting after a Specialized. Luckily, its entry-level Allez bike isn’t as far off the S-Works Tarmac as you might expect.
Even at this price, Specialized still specs a full carbon fork and the E5 alloy frame has butted tubes to save weight, dropped seat stays and internal cable routing. It comes with a set of quality Specialized components and has a Shimano Claris R2000 groupset.
A choice of three paint options, mounts for mudguards as well as a rack finish off a tidy, good-value package.
Trek Domane AL 3
Trek's budget Domane promises miles of comfort thanks to its IsoSpeed fork
Price: £750.00 | Weight: 9.75kg | Groupset: Shimano Sora R3000 | Wheels: Bontrager Affinity rims on Formula Hubs | Frame Sizes: 47-62cm
Trek is usually renowned for making bikes that are on the pricier end of the spectrum, so you might be surprised to see one on this list, especially at this price. The Trek Domane AL 3 packs in plenty of value though, with a nicely finished 100 Series Alpha Aluminium frame and Trek’s clever IsoSpeed carbon fork – which swoops forward before the dropout to increase compliance without affecting wheelbase length.
The groupset is Shimano Sora R3000 and, though the Domane AL 3 gets a full set of drivetrain components, the brakes are unfortunately unbranded dual-pivot models. You do get 28mm tyres and tubeless-ready Bontrager wheels though, which is seriously impressive at this price point. There are also eight different size choices, so you can really narrow down the frame size to find the perfect fit.
Vitus Razor Disc
Price does not limit the Vitus Razor Disc's stopping power and good looks
Price: £699.99 | Weight: 10.71kg | Groupset: Shimano Claris R2000 | Wheels: Vitus KT wheels | Frame Sizes: XS-XXL
The Vitus Razor disc is one of the cheapest ways to get on the disc brakes bandwagon for road bikes.
It has a beautifully finished, double-butted aluminium frame and carbon fork with a gunmetal paint job. The Vitus KT wheels are of a good standard and they also look the part with their all-black rims. 28mm Vee Road Runner tyres are a welcome, high-quality addition too, despite not being from a brand that’s particularly well known in the UK.
The Shimano Claris R2000 groupset is a decent, well-performing kit but the 11-28T cassette could be slightly limiting if you live somewhere very hilly.
Canyon Endurace AL 6.0
Another solid bike from the direct to consumer powerhouse Canyon
Price: £799.00 | Weight: 8.7kg | Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 4700 | Wheels: Mavic Aksium | Frame Sizes: XS-XXL
Canyon is one of the most well-known direct-to-consumer brands and, as you’d expect, it offers a well-specced, great value, budget road bike. The Canyon Endurace AL 6.0 is a bike that doesn’t do anything flashy but does everything well. It’s also impressively lightweight for the price at just 8.7kg.
Built around a 6061 alloy frame and a full carbon fork, there’s a choice of two smart, unfussy paint jobs – race red or stealth black. You get a full suite of quality in-house components from Canyon, as well as Mavic wheels, 25mm Continental Grand Prix SL tyres, a full Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset and a Selle Italia X3 saddle.
The only issue is that you can’t walk into a local shop and check it out or test for sizing before you make a decision to buy one. Canyon does offer an in-depth guide to help you choose the right size but if you get it wrong, or even if you just want to swap a stem for sizing, it’s always going to be a little bit more of a hassle to sort it out, compared to shopping with your local bike shop.
What to look for when buying a budget road bike
1. Frame materials
Aluminium is still the undisputed king of budget frame materials. Lightweight, stiff and cheap, brands are able to build great performing road and mountain bikes out of the metal, at a manufacturing cost that still enables them to spec decent quality parts and finishing kit.
The drawback of aluminium is that it comes in tubes, and compared to carbon fibre, which is built up sheet by sheet into whatever shape a manufacturer wants, it’s difficult to mould it into shapes that are, for example, more aerodynamic, or promote stiffness and compliance concurrently. Although not impossible, as shown by some of the bikes in our roundup of the best aluminium road bikes.
Carbon fibre frames do appear in the budget realm but even in 2020 there are still usually compromises made with these bikes in order to hit these lower price points.
Manufacturers will often use cheaper, lower modulus carbon fibre when building the frame – which leads to a heavier, less stiff frame – or they are forced to spec lower quality components on a good frame.
If you plan to upgrade components in the future though, choosing carbon fibre can make sense, but the aluminium route is rarely a bad choice. Good quality aluminium bikes are better than poor quality carbon fibre ones.
At this end of the market, Shimano groupsets dominate almost completely, but that’s no bad thing as the Japanese giant makes high-quality components at practically every price point.
And though it might seem undeniable that, for example, 11-speed is better than 10-speed, which is better than 9-speed, and so on, you might not actually need all those gears in real life. Yes, tighter-spaced cassettes are a pleasure to use but you can ultimately still achieve the same overall spread of gears with a lower speed groupset, you just miss out on one or two of the middle steps.
Compromises unsurprisingly abound at this end of the market. You can’t have it all, sadly, so you’ll often have to choose between brands that spread the cost more evenly on, for example, a lower-end groupset and better quality components (saddles, handlebars, tyres, etc.), or brands that choose a higher-end groupset and make savings elsewhere on the bike.
Direct-to-consumer brands such as Canyon can buck this trend by cutting out the middleman (i.e. your local bike shop) and selling directly to you via the internet.
This is great if you’re trying to eke out as much value as possible but, obviously, if you run into any issues then support isn’t so easily at hand – knowing what size bike to go for can be an issue and swapping parts such as saddles, stems and handlebars for a more personalised fit is a no go.
Cable-operated rim brakes are what you’ll find on most budget road bikes. These generally work well, especially in clean and dry conditions but wet-weather performance can leave a little to be desired as rims and pads get contaminated with road grime.
The industry trend is undoubtedly towards disc brakes, and we’re starting to see this technology trickle down to the higher end of budget road bikes but usually only in cable-actuated rather than hydraulic.
Disc-brake bikes have the advantage of a dedicated braking surface that’s moved away from the road and muck, which generally leads to more consistent performance in all conditions. Without the size restrictions of a rim brake caliper, frame manufacturers are also able to build in greater tyre clearance for added grip and comfort.
5. Mudguard and rack mounts
Unless you live in a part of the world where the weather is exceptionally good all year round, a quality set of dedicated mudguards will make a world of difference to your riding during the winter months.
Likewise, rack mounts also give you the option for these bikes to double up as commuter or touring bikes, further increasing their range of uses and therefore value.