10 of the best £500 to £750 road bikes

We pick some bargain bikes from Trek, B'Twin, Boardman, Ribble, Giant, Specialized, Mekk, Cube, Cannondale and Genesis

by David Arthur   April 17, 2014  

Trek 1.2

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Previously we’ve looked at the best bikes costing under £500, and 10 of the best £1,000 to £1,500 road bikes, now it is time to have a close look at the bikes you can buy for between £500 and £750.

Road bikes in this price category will share many common features, and one of the main ones is an alloy frame. Aluminium is an excellent material for bicycles in that it’s relatively cheap and it’s very light and stiff, and most modern alloy frames offer a very good ride. Many of these frames feature geometry that places the handlebars a little higher than a race bike along with a shorter top tube which can make them more comfortable, especially if you’re new to road cycling.

Japanese firm Shimano is the predominant component choice and we see mostly 2300 and Claris groupsets at the more affordable end, and the closer you get to £750 the more you can expect to see Sora. Tiagra, one peg above Sora, might feature on some bikes in this price bracket. Compact chainsets with two chainrings (50/34-tooth) are most popular but some of these bikes do a have a triples (three chainrings) that are useful if you want some really low gears for getting up the hills.

Expect own-brand wheels, tyres, handlebars, stem and saddles on most of these bikes as manufacturers aim to keep the bikes within budget. Most own-brand components are of an excellent quality these days as most brands have really raised the standard over the past 10 years. That means you’re getting really well finished bikes ready to ride and race from the shop.

If this is your first road bike and you want some more useful advice for buying your first road bike, then make sure you have a read of the road.cc Buying Basics: Buying your first road bike guide. It’ll arm you with all the important advice you need to know before making a decision.

Boardman Road Sport £499.99

A good place to start is the bike we featured as the most expensive in our £140-500 buyer's guide, the Boardman Road Sport. We've been so impressed with the performance and value of this bike that it won our Budget Bike of the Year 2013-14 and came third in the overall Bike of the Year Awards. The Road Sport gets a smartly finished 7005 double-butted aluminium frame and it's well appointed with a Shimano 2300 groupset and FSA Tempo compact chainset.

Ribble 7005 Race £579.95

Ribble always get a good mention in any buyer's guide about affordable road bikes, so here's the 7005 Race. Instead of lots of stock models, the Ribble website features a bike builder that lets you specify your own build, from the groupset and wheels down to details like the handlebar and even the headset spacers. This is a their cheapest build on a 7005 aluminium race frame, with a Shimano Tiagra 4600 groupset, Rodi Airline 4 wheels and Yaw Nitro 23mm tyres, ITM bars and stem and a Selle Italia X1 saddle. 

B'Twin Triban 7 £599.99

Decathlon's own-brand B'Twin generally offers great value for money and this Triban 7 is no exception. You get an aluminium frame with carbon-fibre seatstays, the only bike here that does, along with a carbon-fibre fork. It's one of the better specced bikes on paper in this list with Shimano's Tiagra groupset, featuring a compact 50/34 chainset and 12-27 cassette. It's finished with B'Twin branded wheels fitted with Hutchinson Equinox tyres, and the handlebars, stem, seatpost and saddle are all from the B'Twin stable too. 

Specialized Dolce Triple £650

The Specialized Dolce X3 women’s specific road bike uses the company’s A1 Premium alloy tubeset with a FACT carbon fork featuring Zertz inserts, which are claimed to provide a vibration absorption when bumping over rough roads. It’s built with a Shimano Claris groupset with a triple chainset and Tektro dual pivot brakes. It’s finished with shallow bend handlebars and a Body Geometry Riva Sport, and rolls on Specialized Espoir Sport 25mm tyres fitted to AXIS Classic wheels.

Giant Defy 3 £699.99 

The Giant Defy range consists of road bikes designed with comfort in mind and features a geometry tailored towards a short reach and higher handlebar position. This model gets an ALUXX-Grade aluminium frame paired with a carbon fork and is available in six sizes. The groupset is Shimano Sora with Tektro TK-R312 brakes and a compact 50/34 chainset. All the finishing parts are Giant Sport branded, and it’s fitted with a pair of Giant S-Elite C wheels and 25mm Giant S-R4 tyres.

Mekk Pinerolo AL 1.0 £699.99 

Mekk are relatively new to the market but they’ve made quite an impact with well-designed road bikes at affordable prices, and the Pinerolo AL 1.0 is a bike that looks to deliver a good package. It’s built around an alloy frame, but where Mekk differ from many brands is that they’ve invested in a very high quality frame, this one uses triple butted seamless tubes. This gives it good upgrade potential. It’s built a carbon fibre fork, Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset and Mekk chainset, Shimano R500 wheels and Vittoria Zaffiro 23mm tyres.

You can read our review of the Pinerolo AL 1.0 here.

Cube Peloton £699.99 

German brand Cube have risen to prominence in the UK in recent years with well designed and good value road bikes. Their entry-level road bike is the Peloton, which builds a Shimano Sora 24-speed groupset onto an aluminium frame with double butted tubes and internal cable routing. It’s available in seven sizes right from 50cm all the way up to 64cm. It’s finished with Cube’s own wheels and 25mm Schwalbe Lugano tyres which will offer a bit more comfort over 23mm tyres.

Cannondale Synapse 8 Sora Triple £749

 

The Synapse is Cannondale’s latest ‘endurance’ road bike, designed for comfort whether you’ve got a sportive or charity ride in your sights, or just for long Sunday rides. The 6061 alloy frame features Cannondale’s SAVE PLUS technology borrowed from the carbon fibre versions: profiled seatstays, chainstays and a fork that are all intended to offer a little extra comfort when riding over rough roads. It is also higher than normal at the front with a taller head tube and has a shorter top tube, meaning you won’t be so stretched out for a more comfortable fit. It’s built with a Shimano Sora groupset, Cannondale’s own C4 wheels and handlebars and saddle, with Tektro brakes. The frame also has mounts for mudguards and racks giving it added versatility.

Genesis Volant 10 £749.99

British brand Genesis have a fine reputation for steel race and touring bikes, but you might like to know they also do some nice alloy road bikes too. This is the Volant 10 which has a ALX-8 6061/6069 triple butted frame and an oversize 44mm head tube to increase front end stiffness - that’s something we’re only used to seeing on much more expensive road bikes. It has a carbon-fibre fork and is built with a Shimano Sora groupset with a compact 50/34 chainset and Claris 2400 wheels with Continental Ultra Sport II 25mm tyres and is topped off with Genesis 0.2 handlebars, stem, seatpost and a Madison Prime saddle.

Trek 1.2 £750

This is Trek’s entry-level road bike which shares some of the aero tube shaping of the far more expensive carbon fibre Madone that the Trek Factory Team races in the WorldTour, but in an Alpha Aluminum 100 series tubeset. The H2 fit features a taller head tube to put you in a more relaxed position so you don’t put as much strain on your back. Hidden rack and mudguard mounts mean you can use the bike for commuting as well as tackling a sportive. A Shimano Sora and FSA Vero groupset, Bontrager wheels and 23mm tyres and finishing kit complete the Trek 1.2.

20 user comments

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Best for what? I don't see mudguards, pannier racks for touring. No sprung forks for the mud pluggers.

Surely we are trying to promote cycling as an everyday, everybody included activity?

Why this obsession with the head-down, arse-up, arrogant, get-out-of-my-way brigade?

They are cycling's worst enemy.

posted by bobdelamare [19 posts]
17th April 2014 - 19:52

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I'm confused.

Are you saying cycling is for everybody or just people who keep their arse down and head up?

If the website is called road.cc then I personally wouldn't be surprised to see road bikes feature prominently in a feature about 10 of the best ..... road bikes.

I actually think unnecessary tribalism is (one of) cycling's worst enemies. Don't get me started on inattentive drivers, poorly painted cycle lanes and potholes though..

posted by paulmcmillan [78 posts]
17th April 2014 - 20:21

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bobdelamare wrote:
Best for what? I don't see mudguards, pannier racks for touring. No sprung forks for the mud pluggers.

Surely we are trying to promote cycling as an everyday, everybody included activity?

Why this obsession with the head-down, arse-up, arrogant, get-out-of-my-way brigade?

They are cycling's worst enemy.

No. That's nasty people that stereotype other cyclists as being a problem. No need for animus just because you don't like the type of bicycle someone else rides.

posted by Ush [379 posts]
17th April 2014 - 20:22

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Bobdelamare it says 10 road bikes not 10 touring bikes. Most people cycle to have a short fun ride and dont need mud gaurds and to carry luggage. Ignorant muppet.

posted by Will Steed [47 posts]
17th April 2014 - 20:51

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bobdelamare wrote:
Best for what? I don't see mudguards, pannier racks for touring. No sprung forks for the mud pluggers.

1. All of these will fit SKS Raceblade Long mudguards.

2. These aren't touring bikes. For reviews of the best £500 to £750 touring bikes, see www.nichebikereviewstosuiteverypedantstaste.com

3. W-T-actual-F? (see first four letters of URL in browser)

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [438 posts]
17th April 2014 - 20:53

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... and who needs all those gears? Eh? 12 gears is more than enough for anyone.

posted by alanpike [4 posts]
17th April 2014 - 20:57

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alanpike wrote:
... and who needs all those gears? Eh? 12 gears is more than enough for anyone.

10 gears was considered a luxury in the 70's. It was certainly all I ever needed.

posted by Joeinpoole [196 posts]
17th April 2014 - 22:13

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Joeinpoole wrote:
alanpike wrote:
... and who needs all those gears? Eh? 12 gears is more than enough for anyone.

10 gears was considered a luxury in the 70's. It was certainly all I ever needed.

I am personally quite happy with my 22 speed mechanical dura ace. the biggest threat to cycling is people who complain about innovation. Yes, i may not need carbon clinchers. No, they were not a waste of money. Stop bothering those who enjoy new things.

My crash - 5/31/14 (a little blood but nothing nsfw) https://imgur.com/a/Aafht

Skilled Strava Sniper

posted by ezra421 [7 posts]
17th April 2014 - 23:12

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Good job the Giant wasn't next to the Cube and Cannondale too; it would have been even harder to tell them apart then.

posted by CharlesMagne [22 posts]
18th April 2014 - 0:48

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ezra421 wrote:
Joeinpoole wrote:
alanpike wrote:
... and who needs all those gears? Eh? 12 gears is more than enough for anyone.

10 gears was considered a luxury in the 70's. It was certainly all I ever needed.

I am personally quite happy with my 22 speed mechanical dura ace. the biggest threat to cycling is people who complain about innovation. Yes, i may not need carbon clinchers. No, they were not a waste of money. Stop bothering those who enjoy new things.

More and more gears is not "innovation". What you are witnessing is simply a *trend*. There will almost certainly come a time, in the relatively near future, when fewer gears will suddenly become "more" because of weight and longevity considerations for example.

I've also been a hi-fi and golfing addict for a few decades too. The 'holy grail' of what is *really important* in each of those disciplines also tends to radically shift every 2-3 decades too.

It's all down to fashion and marketing (because the manufacturers need to sell more kit each year). It has virtually nothing whatsoever to do with the physics. If you read 'Cyclist' magazine you'll find that they confirm that through scientific testing time and time again. The market constantly demands lighter bikes for example but the physics suggests the gain is relatively marginal ... although the price is astronomical. But that's what sells.

posted by Joeinpoole [196 posts]
18th April 2014 - 1:52

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I don't see why a road bike should have rack or guard mounts or clearence for fatty tyres. Those are tourers and hybrids.

Most of these bikes have pretty relaxed frame geometry and some even have triple chainsets, definitely qualify them as good for beginners. Imho..

2ryd

posted by Vejnecske [20 posts]
18th April 2014 - 8:47

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Can you explain why any of this is a bad thing, Joeinpoole?

Of course these companies want my money, just like the company I work for wants someone else's and they can then continue to pay me as a result.

This is how The World Works.

posted by Nick T [763 posts]
18th April 2014 - 9:10

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Nick T wrote:
Can you explain why any of this is a bad thing, Joeinpoole?

Of course these companies want my money, just like the company I work for wants someone else's and they can then continue to pay me as a result.

This is how The World Works.

To me it's 'a bad thing' because bike components have become so much more fragile. When I bought my latest bike (after a few decades out) I thought it was great that it had an astonishing 27 gears. Then I found that the chain needed replacing every 1500 miles or so instead of the 7-10K that I had assumed was still 'normal'. Whilst I love STI gear-changing I would happily trade half of my gears for greater longevity of the components.

A few years ago I watched the TV series of Mark Beaumont cycling from Alaska to Tierra Del Feugo, on a supposedly rugged touring bike, custom-built for the journey and costing over £4K. I was flabbergasted when his headset catastrophically failed in Mexico after about 3500 miles! What!? I've probably cycled about 25K miles in my lifetime, most of it in my youth, and I've never even heard of anyone having problems with a headset. Engineering-wise, if properly specced, they should last forever particularly with the advances in materials and manufacturing available today.

Of course there many good things too. In the mid-70's an aluminium frame cost an eye-watering £200 and was strictly the preserve of the pros (one of their bikes would have cost about £400). Funnily enough an aluminium frame today probably still costs about £200 and is in the lower end of the frame market.

posted by Joeinpoole [196 posts]
18th April 2014 - 12:08

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bobdelamare wrote:
Best for what? I don't see mudguards, pannier racks for touring.
I bought one of these relaxed geometry road bikes at sale time, added pannier rack, changed the cassette, rear mech, chain, and headed off to France, lightweight camping-touring, brilliant. Party
You pedal to the foot of a famous TdF mountain, picking up "form" along the way, set up base camp, then with the bike now feeling light, attempt the ascent with all the roadies. It's a great basis for a good cycling holiday plan!

Most "tourer" bikes are 32lbs and not half as good for my particular touring needs.

posted by vbvb [221 posts]
18th April 2014 - 16:09

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Things break, Joe. They broke in the 70s, they broke in the 20s and they break now. There's always going to be a lemon headset in someone's bike, and your 1500 mile chain will last someone else 6000 with the right conditions and maintainance.

The only thing that's really changed since then is the increase in nostalgia and the common belief that things were just better when we were lads.

posted by Nick T [763 posts]
18th April 2014 - 17:37

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Vejnecske wrote:
I don't see why a road bike should have rack or guard mounts or clearence for fatty tyres. Those are tourers and hybrids.

Outside cycling forums and clubs (aka real world) vast majority of riders have just one road bike for various duties; simply riding, sportives, commuting, light touring, gravel? etc.
Adding extra mounts and clearance for wider (at least 28-32mm + mudguards) tyres to a bike costs nothing and doesn't affect performance but makes it more versatile, so why not?

As for "fatty" tyres, definition of fatty or skinny depends on the point of reference and what you got used to ride. Spend some time on high end 30-32mm tyres like Grand Bois or Challenge and you'll understand that the world of fast tyres don't end on 25mm and skinny tyres make very little sense for non-competitive cycling especially on UK roads.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [172 posts]
18th April 2014 - 22:46

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If its 'all round' rather than 'arse up in the air' then perhaps this one fits the bill…discs, carbon fork, rack mounts, mudguard clearance and a wheel/tyre package that will deal with most road conditions…(and its shiny..!)

http://rouxbikes.co.uk/shop/conquest-3500/

Applause

Dick Dastardly's picture

posted by Dick Dastardly [2 posts]
19th April 2014 - 12:29

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bobdelamare wrote:
Why this obsession with the head-down, arse-up, arrogant, get-out-of-my-way brigade?

They are cycling's worst enemy.

Interesting, here it is the other way round - the commuters are the biggest pricks because they just don't care, don't look, don't signal, don't hear, don't see.

ricolek's picture

posted by ricolek [38 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 18:30

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Trek info:- Hidden rack and mudguard mounts mean you can use the bike for commuting as well as tackling a sportive.

posted by Johnnyboyrebela... [3 posts]
5th May 2014 - 23:20

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Joeinpoole wrote:

To me it's 'a bad thing' because bike components have become so much more fragile. When I bought my latest bike (after a few decades out) I thought it was great that it had an astonishing 27 gears. Then I found that the chain needed replacing every 1500 miles or so instead of the 7-10K that I had assumed was still 'normal'. Whilst I love STI gear-changing I would happily trade half of my gears for greater longevity of the components.

A few years ago I watched the TV series of Mark Beaumont cycling from Alaska to Tierra Del Feugo, on a supposedly rugged touring bike, custom-built for the journey and costing over £4K. I was flabbergasted when his headset catastrophically failed in Mexico after about 3500 miles! What!? I've probably cycled about 25K miles in my lifetime, most of it in my youth, and I've never even heard of anyone having problems with a headset. Engineering-wise, if properly specced, they should last forever particularly with the advances in materials and manufacturing available today.

Of course there many good things too. In the mid-70's an aluminium frame cost an eye-watering £200 and was strictly the preserve of the pros (one of their bikes would have cost about £400). Funnily enough an aluminium frame today probably still costs about £200 and is in the lower end of the frame market.

I think your memory might be playing tricks on you...

- Headsets were a pain in the backside. Always messing around with 2 large headset spanners and always getting pitting somewhere down the line

- Bikes that weighed 50% more than they do now

- Lights that needed 2 x D batteries and weren't much more powerful than candles (when they didn't fall off the bike)

- Rubbish tyres

- Rustless or chrome spokes that either snapped or rusted, or both

- Single pivot brakes that didn't stop anything

- Rear axles that snapped because of the distance between the outer bearing and the drop out...

- .....

posted by Huw Watkins [54 posts]
6th May 2014 - 22:40

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