[This article was last updated on March 7, 2018]
Previously we’ve looked at the best bikes costing under £500, now it is time to have a close look at the bikes you can buy for between £500 and £750, and see what spending a couple of hundred pounds more really gets you. You can generally expect lighter frames, carbon fibre forks and higher quality components.
At this price range you an expect lighter aluminium frames with double and triple butted tubes - saving weight and offering improved ride performance - and carbon fibre forks (but with aluminium steerer tubes) again to save a bit of weight. Many of these frames feature a 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.
Shimano is the predominant groupset brand with Claris and Sora common on bikes costing between £500 and £750. Most bikes will feature compact chainsets - that's two chainrings in 50 and 34-tooth ratios - that should make spinning up even the steepest hills a little easier. Some bikes even have triple chainsets - three chainrings between the pedals - that will make climbing anything much easier. Shimano's excellent Tiagra groupset starts to get a look in the closer you nudge to £750 and you might just find .
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.
At the time of writing (mid-August 2017) 2018 bikes are arriving in the shops, and there are plenty of great deals around on 2017 bikes, so our selection contains both.
One of the first of 2018's bike crop, this is the top model of three entry-level Domane bikes that share the spendier bikes' all-day geometry, clearance for 28mm tyres and eyelets for rack and mudguards, but lack the shock-absorbing IsoSpeed decoupler in the rear.
There aren't many women-specific bikes for much less than a grand, but Specialized and Trek both offer them at these sensible price points. The Dolce has an aluminium frame with endurance geometry tailored for women and tweaked details like a woman's saddle and the right bar, stem and crank dimensions for a female rider.
If yu want a versatile disc-braked endurance bike, it's hard to go past the sheer value for money on offer here. The Ventura Comp has a double-butted aluminium frame and all-carbon fork, with a mix of Shimano Sora, FSA and Tektro parts making it go and stop. It comes with 28mm tyres and there's room — and fittings — for mudguards and a rack.
The Avail 1 is second up in Giant women's range, known as Liv. It uses Giant’s ALUXX aluminium with a shape and size designed to be comfortable to ride whether it’s for longer adventures, sportives or commuting to the office. It’s available in four sizes down to XS. It’s equipped with a Shimano Sora 18-speed groupset and Tektro brakes.
Drawing on frame design features from the more expensive Allez models in the range, the Allez Sport is built around an E5 Premium aluminium frame with smooth welds and carbon fibre fork with a Shimano Claris groupset. Comfort is taken care of with 25mm Specialized Espoir Sport tyres with a double BlackBelt puncture protection, which should help ward off flat tyres. There are mounts for mudguards so it would make an ideal weekday commuter, and strip them off for the Sunday morning ride. Allez models are currently subject to a fork recall, so we expect them to be available again soon, when the defective forks have been swapped out.
Ribble always gets a good mention in any buyer's guide about affordable road bikes, so here's the 7005 Winter. 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 the deservedly popular base spec and price of the 7005 Winter.
The 7005 aluminium race frame comes with a carbon fiber fork and is hung with a Shimano Tiagra 10-speed groupset. The wheels are Shimano RS010 with Continental tyres, and there's an Deda bar and stem and Selle Italia X1 Flow saddle.
Giant do a large range of bikes for men and women. In the men’s range the Contend 2 is the most affordable model. It has an aluminium frame with a carbon fibre fork, a Shimano Claris 16-speed drivetrain and comfortable 25mm tyres. There are also mounts for mudguards if you want to add some rain protection for winter riding.
If you want one bike to do everything from commuting to clubruns to exploring dirt roads, then a gravel/adventure bike with fat tyres like the Kona Rove is the way to go. It's still fairly unusual to see disc brakes on a bike in this price range, but they're worth having for their more-consistent stopping in the wet and the fact that they're unfazed by dinged or dented rims.
If you've been thinking about dabbling in cyclo-cross, or just getting a cyclo-cross bike for its ability to take fatter tyres and so ward off the depredations of potholed roads, here's a great chance. Chris Boardman says the cyclo-cross bikes are his favourites from his range and with Shimano Sora components and Tektro Lyra disc brakes the CX Comp is well priced.
Bike shop own brands are a great source of amazingly well-equipped bikes that don't cost much money. The wizards at Merlin Cycles have come up with this great-value combination of a triple butted aluminium frame and Shimano Tiagra 10-speed gears, rolling on Mavic wheels, and with the stopping power of disc brakes. For the price, it's magic. [That's enough bad gags riffing on 'Merlin' — Ed.]
Decathlon’s B’Twin line of road bikes receive much attention at the budget end, with the cheaper Triban a hugely popular model, but if you have a budget of £650, the Triban 540 is a very good proposition. With an aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork and largely 11-speed Shimano 105 specification, it’s a bit of a bargain. The frame features triple butted tubes, to save weight, and a relaxed geometry that places the handlebars a bit higher and closer to you so it’s more comfortable, ideal for riding to work or embarking on some sportives. It's a really good bike,one of the best specced in this guide, for not a lot of money.
A racy ride for blatting through the lanes on a sunny day, the FR40 is a good-value way to satisfy your need for speed. There's a 6069 double butted aluminium frame, a full carbon fork, and Shimano Tiagra components, plus tubeless-ready wheels and Schwalbe Durano Raceguard 25mm tyres.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.