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Not rolling in cash? These bikes will get you on the road without busting the bank

Road bikes are the fastest and most fun way of getting around under your own power, zooming you to the office during the week and taking you out to explore the lanes at the weekends.

What if you're dying to join the cycling revolution, but can't afford the four-figure price tags of those featherweight carbon creations in your local bike shop? We've combed the catalogues for a selection of decent bikes that'll get you started without breaking the bank.

Fortunately almost every bike out there meets what we'd consider the rock-bottom minimum spec for a bike to be safe and pleasant to ride. Horrors such as hard-to-repair cottered cranks and steel rims with useless wet-weather braking are things of the past. Most of these bikes have efficient, easy-to-use gears from Japanese firm Shimano, the world's biggest maker of bike components.

We've looked for bikes with drop handlebars — the defining feature of a road bike — indexed gears that click into place to make changing easier and at least 14 speeds so you get a decent range of gears for riding up and down hills.

All that said, in the last couple of years the pickings in the sub-£300 category have become slimmer. All bike prices have risen 10-20% since the Brexit vote crashed the pound, which has pushed quite a few bikes that were previously in this category out of reach. The survivors, as it were, mostly come from companies with huge buying power that get their own-brand bikes directly from bike factories: Halfords and Decathlon.

If you want to know more, we've an in-depth article about choosing and buying your first road bike. Go have a thorough read, we'll wait here.

£200 and under

If your budget is this tight looking for a second hand bargain is something you should seriously consider (see below for more), but if it has to be new if you shop around for discount bargains during the winter you might find something.

Vittesse Sprint — £200.81

Vitesse.jpg

Vitesse.jpg

The Vitesse Sprint is typical of what you'll find for around £200, with an aluminium frame and 21-speed gears. You're not going to win any races on this (unless you're little short of superhuman) but it'll get you started, and the triple chainset gives you low gears for hills. We've seen this bike as cheap as £165; prices at Amazon vary automatically with demand, so it's worth keeping an eye on it.

Avenir Aspire — £varies

avenir.jpg

avenir.jpg

Head to Amazon and you can get this Avenir Aspire for, well, anywhere between £190 and £300 thanks to Amazon's idiosyncratic approach to pricing. It's worth snapping up if you can find it at the lower end of the range.

Unlike some inexpensive road bikes, it's available in several sizes, which is immediately far more appealing, as getting the right size bike is so important to cycling happiness.

You'll have to do some assembly to get the Aspire on the road. If this is your first road bike and you're unfamiliar with setting up bikes, we suggest getting a mechanically inclined friend to help.

£200-£300

B'Twin Triban 100 — £249

B'Twin Triban 100.jpg

B'Twin Triban 100.jpg

A new model for 2017 from French-based sports superstore chain Decathlon, the B'Twin Triban 100 has an aluminium frame and seven-speed gears with 32mm tyres so it can tackle the odd dirt track or towpath without any fuss. It'll take mudguards and a rack so will make a serviceable commuter that can take you pootling round the lanes at the weekend. 

Wiggle Road Bike — £289

Wiggle-Road-Bike-Road-Bikes-Black-1WGMY16R7048UK0001-0.jpg

Wiggle-Road-Bike-Road-Bikes-Black-1WGMY16R7048UK0001-0.jpg

Wiggle's own-brand range of basic cycling gear includes this entry-level road bike, which looks pretty decent, on paper at least. It has an aluminium alloy frame with 14-speed Shimano gearing and combined brake/gear levers for easy shifting.

Unusually at this price its available in five sizes, so you should be able to get one that fits well unless you're very tall or short.

B'Twin Triban 500 SE — £299

BTwin Triban 500SE.jpg

BTwin Triban 500SE.jpg

French-based international sport store chain Decathlon has a wide range of keenly-priced road bikes of which the Triban 500 SE stands out if you're strictly limited to £300.

You get a good quality aluminium alloy frame and lightweight components. Most significantly you get a really wide range of gears thanks to the triple chainset and eight rear sprockets, and the frame is available in five sizes.

On paper the gearing means you get 24 ratios, but in practice there is lots of overlap between ranges from the three chainrings. What matters isn't the number, but that the small ring gives you lower gears for easier hill-climbing.

Carrera Zelos — £220

Carrera Zelos.jpeg

Carrera Zelos.jpeg

There are plenty of bikes costing under £300 at Halfords, and pick of the bunch is this Carrera Zelos. It's currently discounted to £220 from its nominal RRP of £275, so it's a good deal if you act quickly. It features an aluminium frame built up with a 14-speed Shimano groupset and Tektro dual pivot brakes.

The secondhand alternative

If you've got champagne — or maybe prosecco — tastes but only a beer budget, there are bargains to be had in the secondhand market.

The places to look are eBay, Gumtree and our own classified ads.

Gumtree has a good guide to staying safe and not getting scammed or lumbered with a stolen bike, and eBay has a thorough guide to the intricacies of buying safely through its auction system.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

10 comments

Avatar
Hipshot [61 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Good article, it's remarkable what a couple of hundred quid can buy, the BTwin in particular looks amazing.

My advice is save up just a little bit more and get a slighly better model with carbon forks and Shimano Sora or similar. £400 or so is a sweetspot. Much cheaper than upgrading later on.

It is right to mention buying second hand too , get someone to who knows a bit about bikes to help and you can get some real bargains. I recently bought an immaculate 2012 Wiler Triestina  with Campagnolo for £200 on ebay. Stupidly cheap, and I actually prefer it to my Cervelo.

 

 

Avatar
davkt [43 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

"you even get an alloy fork where most bikes in this range use steel" Hmm I'd far rather have a good steel fork than cheap aluminium one, much nicer to ride!

Avatar
80sMatchbox [36 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

I was out on my winter bike, my Allez on Saturday and this young lad asked me how much it costs... He was surprised when I told him that it was £350. He thought that it was an expensive bike until I told him. Admittedly he didn't know much about bikes..

It was second hand a number of years ago but if I could have bought some of the bikes in this list at the time, I would have been tempted to buy new.

Avatar
unconstituted [2351 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
80sMatchbox wrote:

I was out on my winter bike, my Allez on Saturday and this young lad asked me how much it costs... He was surprised when I told him that it was £350. He thought that it was an expensive bike until I told him. Admittedly he didn't know much about bikes.. It was second hand a number of years ago but if I could have bought some of the bikes in this list at the time, I would have been tempted to buy new.

 

Bit off-topic but I saw the 2017 Allez Sprints on Instagram last night. WOW

 

Look like pure baller machines. I'd love one. Though they are actually still a tad pricey I bet. Can't find any word on UK prices but definitely gonna be over a grand..

 

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/allezsprint/

Avatar
Griff500 [206 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
Hipshot wrote:

My advice is save up just a little bit more and get a slighly better model with carbon forks and Shimano Sora or similar. £400 or so is a sweetspot. Much cheaper than upgrading later on.

It is right to mention buying second hand too , get someone to who knows a bit about bikes to help and you can get some real bargains. I recently bought an immaculate 2012 Wiler Triestina  with Campagnolo for £200 on ebay. Stupidly cheap, and I actually prefer it to my Cervelo

But therein lies the problem! If you get the bug, you will always want to upgrade later on. There are a bunch advantages of buying second hand. First, you get more bang for your buck now. Second, if you decide to sell later to fund an upgrade later, you will suffer less depreciation on a second hand bike. A budget spec alloy Trek or Giant will always be easier to offload than a Carrera. Third, the hydroforming on an alloy Trek or Giant looks, and performs proper, to the point where you pass one in the street and find yourself looking for the welds to see if it is carbon! 

Avatar
SingleSpeed [317 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
unconstituted wrote:
80sMatchbox wrote:

I was out on my winter bike, my Allez on Saturday and this young lad asked me how much it costs... He was surprised when I told him that it was £350. He thought that it was an expensive bike until I told him. Admittedly he didn't know much about bikes.. It was second hand a number of years ago but if I could have bought some of the bikes in this list at the time, I would have been tempted to buy new.

 

Bit off-topic but I saw the 2017 Allez Sprints on Instagram last night. WOW

 

Look like pure baller machines. I'd love one. Though they are actually still a tad pricey I bet. Can't find any word on UK prices but definitely gonna be over a grand..

 

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/allezsprint/

Yeah they were for a while a Specialized US product but I know any Specialized UK dealer can order them, from top of my head £1600 springs to my mind.

The perfect Crit Racing bike, fast but relatively disposable when some Cat 3 nodder decides to take everyone down running out of talent.  1

Avatar
shewy [1 post] 3 months ago
2 likes

you won't go wrong with the btwin, it has carbon forks and the micro shifters are just as good as my Shimano tiagra shifters on my boardman. Also has a wide spread of gears with the 3 ring front and 8 ring rear, great for hills.

Avatar
HurdyGurdy [15 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

BTWIN 500 series are really good workhorse frames. Note however that the provided wheels are really not good and if you abuse them a bit they are quickly so out of line that trueing is not possible any more.  REplacement set had exact same problem after three months and triban forum has plenty reporting same. But then you just buy som RS10-11 wheels and you are pretty much set for some time.

They do have very little clearance under rear brakes ( at least the 2015 model had that problem, might have changed) so that you couldn't really fit mudguards SKS raceblade style.

Avatar
kil0ran [362 posts] 6 days ago
0 likes
HurdyGurdy wrote:

BTWIN 500 series are really good workhorse frames. Note however that the provided wheels are really not good and if you abuse them a bit they are quickly so out of line that trueing is not possible any more.  REplacement set had exact same problem after three months and triban forum has plenty reporting same. But then you just buy som RS10-11 wheels and you are pretty much set for some time.

They do have very little clearance under rear brakes ( at least the 2015 model had that problem, might have changed) so that you couldn't really fit mudguards SKS raceblade style.

The new 500s have huge clearance front and rear and mudguard eyelets. They ship with 25mm tyres but I think you'd be OK going up to 32mm at least with mudguards. Deca mention market-beating tyre clearance but don't specify a size. Looks lovely in matt red, I'm kinda tempted to get one and chuck my spare 105 group on it.

Avatar
kil0ran [362 posts] 6 days ago
0 likes
80sMatchbox wrote:

I was out on my winter bike, my Allez on Saturday and this young lad asked me how much it costs... He was surprised when I told him that it was £350. He thought that it was an expensive bike until I told him. Admittedly he didn't know much about bikes.. It was second hand a number of years ago but if I could have bought some of the bikes in this list at the time, I would have been tempted to buy new.

 

When I first saw my brother's Triban 3 5 years ago I thought he'd spent well north of a grand on it. Not knowing much about bikes back then I saw "carbon fork" and "24 gears" and thought woah...

Such a good bike for the money and when he upgraded to a carbon bike I got it as my commuter. As others have said the wheels are utter bobbins but an RS10/11 upgrade sorted that out for around £100...