You’ve an abundance of riches in the £1,500 to £2,000 price band, with bikes that are light, well-equipped and great value for money.
You also have a big range of choices. Carbon fibre frame, or the latest ultra-sophisticated aluminium? Caliper brakes or discs? Racing geometry, more upright for comfort or something in between? How about taking the the byways and bridleways on a gravel bike? Whatever type of riding you have in mind, there’s a bike in this price range that’ll suit you perfectly.
The Genesis Datum 10 will take pretty much whatever you can throw at it, on or off-road. The spec represents excellent value and the ability to jump between town and country use positions it as a sound contender for an 'only bike' that you won't be sheepish about getting muddy on, while being worthy of a shine-up for the Sunday morning group ride.
At launch two years ago, Dave rated the Di2 11-speed Datum 30 at 4.5/5, finding it a 'hugely capable bike that is loads of fun over all sorts of terrain'. Later that year it won our Sportive Bike of The Year Award, with only the Shimano Di2-influenced price holding it back from taking overall honours. At £3,200 in 2015 money, the Di2 version was a hefty price to pay, so this time around it's the base model £1,899 10-speed Tiagra model on test. Again, for this spec it's not a class-leadingly cheap bike, but the overall package is worthy of inclusion on anyone's to-be-considered list.
Merlin Cycles has been offering its own brand of bikes for a while, and the Nitro SL is an excellent addition thanks to its balance of speed, light weight and comfort. It's bsed on Ridley's Helium SL frameset , which holds its head up high and delivers across the board against the competition.
The ride is sublime, that balance of stiffness and the way it deals with the bumps in the road is a masterclass in carbon fibre layup and tube design. The Nitro SL just seems to take everything in its stride with regard to road surface imperfections.
If it's a modern, carbon fibre, disc brake-equipped road bike built around a race-focused geometry that you crave, the Vitus Vitesse Evo Disc is the bike for you. At £1,999.99 (currently discounted by £100) it's an affordable package, backed up by superb performance.
It doesn't take long before the real character and potential of the Vitesse Evo are revealed. It offers visceral performance, quick steering and unexpected speed that takes a few miles to dial in to. It's a thrilling and rewarding ride, backed up by decent equipment choices, and all at a competitive price.
With Raleigh's aluminium-framed Mustangs, carbon Rokers and steel Mavericks the Big Heron jumped into gravel bikes with both boots a couple of years ago. Raleigh's folks say they started revamping their endurance road range, then realised that for a lot of British riding a bike with a long wheelbase and fat tyres was better able to cope with back roads trashed by the combination of bad winters and hacked road maintenance budgets. The Mustang Comp has SRAM hydraulic brakes and 11 speed SRAM Apex 1 gears.
Proving that composites don't quite reign supreme, Cannondale's meticulously engineered CAAD12 frame wrings every last gram of performance potential out of aluminium. Cannondale combines that frame with Shimano 105 shifting, its own HollowGram Si chainset and Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes for a thoroughly modern fast road bike.
If you want to put that race licence to good use, smash those Strava KOMs or just want a fast, comfortable, easy-to-ride road bike, then the Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR needs to be on your shortlist. With a full-carbon frameset, SRAM Force groupset, Mavic Ksyrium wheels and weighing in at just 7kg (15.5lb), the SLR is a real contender even before you take the price into account – and that challenges even the direct-to-consumer specialists.
The Road Pro is a stunning bike to look at. That mirror effect silver paintjob makes it stand out, especially in the sunshine; you're going to get noticed for sure.
That beauty isn't just skin deep, though. In a cycling world where bikes are starting to cross as many disciplines as possible, the Boardman knows exactly what it is: a proper race bike that just begs to be ridden hard. It likes being on the tarmac, getting chucked downhill on the ragged edge of the tyre's grip, or being sprinted hard up that 20 per cent climb without the slightest hint of flex from the frame.
Giant's Defy line is one of the most popular bikes in the endurance and sportive sector, and is the company's best-selling model, combining smart geometry with a full range of competitively priced builds. It was completely revamped for 2015 with a whole new frame design providing enhanced comfort and, for the carbon frames, disc brakes only. The 2017 bikes are all carbon fibre, as the Contend range replaces the previous aluminium Defys.
Specialized's £2,000 Tarmac Elite is a smart looking and well packaged bike that offers the sort of fast and engaging ride that will suit budding racers, along with sportive cyclists who favour a less upright position than is provided by the company's Roubaix model.
Part of Trek's line of Émonda lightweight race bikes, the SL5 demonstrates one of two approaches to speccing up a bike in this range. Trek takes the second-lightest of its Émonda frames and equips it with Shimano's midrange 105 group for a bike that doesn't cost the earth but has plenty of upgrade potential.
There are some superb women's bikes in this category, of which Specialized's Ruby Elite Disc is a great example. It has the same shock-damping steerer and seatpost as Specialized's Roubaix (the men's equivalent) and the same spec as the Roubaix at the same price.
The Merida Ride 5000 is a quick road bike that offers plenty of comfort, splitting the difference between a standard race bike and an endurance bike. Jump aboard the Ride 5000 and within yards you can feel a bit more give than you get from most road bikes. There's just a touch more movement at the saddle to cancel out all the little bumps and hollows in the road surface, and the big hits when you ride over a drain cover or pothole aren't quite as big any more.
Rose claims an impressive 7.8kg for the CDX-2000 and given that its stablemate the Xeon CDX-4400 comes in at 7.5kg (16.6lb), we believe it. The ride is quick, easy to live with and delivers a lot of fun miles. Yes, it's slightly over the budget, but keep an eye on the pound/Euro exchange rate and you might bable to pick it up cheaper. It's a cracker of a machine ready to be ridden flat out or cruising the lanes.
[This article was last updated on August 3, 2017]
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.