If you have £1,000 to £1,500 to spend on a road bike, you really do get a lot for you money. A benefit of spending this sort of money is that the bikes start to get much lighter than those costing half as much, which will have a significant impact on the ride quality and performance, and your times up your local hills.
Shimano 105 and Tiagra are the dominant groupsets in this price range. While there is a lot of own-brand kit for parts like wheels, handlebars and saddles, which is no bad thing (manufacturers have really raised their game with own label components), there is a lot more branded kit from the likes of Mavic and Fizik.
At the time of writing (October 2016) we're in the transition between 2016 and 2017 models, so our selection reflects that. There are some 2016 bargains here, as well as some of the best 2017 bikes in the category.
Fuji characterises its Roubaix as a race bike and has completely reworked the frame for 2017, putting it firmly in the category of Very Light Aluminium at a claimed weight of 1,100g.
The fork is all-carbon, as befits a lightweight bike, and there are Shiano 105 gears and brakes to make it stop and go. The Oval Concepts finishing kit includes a chainset with Praxis rings. It looks like an excellent package for the money if you're in the marker for a fast, light traditional road race bike.
Boardman is making some great bikes this year – both in terms of performance and value – and the Road Pro Carbon is no exception. If you're after a disc brake road bike that's engaging to ride, you should certainly take a look at this. If you're looking for a more versatile all-rounder, it's not such a good fit.
Given that this bike comes from an endurance mould you might expect the ride to be more forgiving than it actually is. The Boardman doesn't have the surface-taming characteristics of something like a Cannondale Synapse or a Trek Domane, it's much more of a road bike feel. It's not uncomfortable, but it is firm. It's well balanced in that the front and the back give about the same level of feedback from the road.
Certainly the frame and fork are a package that's worthy of some upgrades here: it's a very well-balanced bike that responds well to pretty much every kind of road riding. The steering is very predictable and never nervous, and I had no issues with any wobbles, vagueness or lift-off descending at speed.
Last year, the CAAD12 set a new benchmark for all-aluminium frames; it still puts a lot of carbon bikes to shame. With a frame weight under 1,100g for the disc brake and regular versions, it's not much heavier than carbon either. Cannondale package the frame with a full Shimano 105 groupset, carbon fibre fork with tapered steerer tube, 52/36 crank. Mavic Aksium wheels and a Selle Royal Seta S1 saddle. You can also have it with disc brakes for an extra £300.
German company Canyon has made quite an impression in the UK with its direct-to-consumer business model meaning big savings for those prepared to bypass the bike shop for their next bike purchase. The Ultimate CF SL is produced using the same mould as that the Ultimate CF SLX we tested a while ago, it's just using a cheaper carbon fibre. That keeps the price lower. Although the weight does go up a bit, it's still light at a claimed 940g. This is the entry-level model built with a full Shimano 105 groupset, Mavic Aksium wheels, Continental GP 4000 25mm tyres, Canyon's own bars and stem and a Fizik Antares saddle. It's nominally a 2016 bike, but Canyon is still listing it at this price.
The Focus Cayo Tiagra uses a race-proven carbon fibre frame and fork with a more relaxed fit and geometry than the German company's racier offerings. The frame is fitted with Shimano Tiagra brakes, gears and semi-compact crankset, along Continental Grand Sport tyres. Focus uses its own-brand Concept components for the wheels, handlebars, stem, and saddle.
With a lightweight carbon fibre frame and Shimano 105 group, this speedster from Trek's racing range is a good deal.
The Emonda line is Trek's take on making the lightest road bikes it can produce for a given price, which means the frame here is worth upgrading as the parts wear out; it wouldn't be shamed by a Shimano Ultegra group.
We bet most people will want a Bianchi on any new bike shortlist. Bianchi classifies the Intrepida as part of its endurance racing line-up which places an emphasis on comfort over long distances. That means a slightly more relaxed geometry and more upright position than a traditional race bike. Bolted to the frame is Campagnolo's Veloce groupset with an FSA Omega chainset and Bianchi's own label Reparto Corse for the wheels and all finishing kit.
Recent price increases mean getting a full Shimano Ultegra group with disc brakes on any bike under £1,500 is unusual, making the offering from Chain Reaction's house brad excellent value with it spec on an aluminium frame. It comes with Michelin's fast Pro 4 tyres in 25mm width and there's room in the frame to go up to 28mm for versatility.
The frame is the same as the 2016 Zenium SL Disc, which our Stu Kerton really liked when he reviewed it. The SL tames the previous Zenium's harshness a bit, but this is still a fast bike. "I like it,"Stu wrote. "It feels purposeful, a kind of 'this is what I am, deal with it' type of thing. With a lot of bikes these days trying to be a bit of an 'everything' option, it's good to get on board something that can just be smashed about a bit and ridden hard."
Giant’s Defy has long been a benchmark for bikes that combine comfort, endurance and value. Over the years the model range has developed from being purely a mid-price aluminium bike to where we are now with a range of carbon fibre-framed Defy Advanced bikes from £1,500 to £6,000; the previous aluminium Defy range is now badged Contend.
The range starts with three Defy Advanced models, of which the Defy Advanced 3 is the cheapest. It has Shimano's excellent-value Shimano Tiagra 10-speed transmission, including hydraulic brakes.
If the carbon fibre frame pushes the Defy Advanced 3 out of your price range, the Contend SL 1 has an aluminium frame, Shimano 105 components and hydraulic disc brakes for £1,149.
If your tastes run to fast and sharp-handing road bikes, but your budget won't stretch to the astounding Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc, this everyman race bike will provide a big chunk of the thrills without holing your bank account below the waterline. It has Specialized's light, nimble FACT 9r carbon frame with a Shimano 105 groupset providing the stop and go bits.
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.