If you're keen to get into road cycling, for the fun of zooming round the lanes, for fitness or as a quick and cheap way to get to work, it is possible to buy a road bike for under £500. In fact, we've found a few bargains starting from just under £200, proving you really don't need to spend a fortune to get a good road bike these days.
It’s quite likely that if you’re reading this you’re looking at buying your first road bike. You’ll probably have a lot of questions. A good place to start is always a well stocked bike shop where you can view the bikes in your budget and get a good idea of what is offered.
Road bikes priced under £500 often feature light and stiff aluminium or steel frames with good quality gears and brakes. Japanese firm Shimano is the predominant component choice at this end of the market, and the good news is that a lot of the technology seen higher up the ladder eventually trickles down to the entry level.
Weight is the main area where entry-level bikes suffer. However, with compact or triple chainsets, and the wider range of gears they offer, getting up steep hills is made easier. As a general rule, the more you spend the lighter the bike will be. Closer to £500 and you can expect a carbon fibre fork which saves weight and offers improved performance over the steel and aluminium forks on cheaper bikes.
You can get bikes cheaper than this, but they are — frankly — not very good. If your budget is so tight this is beyond your range then should seriously consider looking for a second hand bargain (head over to eBay or our own classifieds for a look), but if it has to be new you might find something if you shop around for discount bargains during the winter.
Spend just a bit more and you get a whole lot more bike. Lighter, better equipped, and we're willing to bet nicer to ride too. This is a price point where the big specialist retailers are really able to flex their buying muscle for your benefit, and combine it with design knowledge to deliver the maximum bang for your buck.
It's no coincidence that both Decathlon and Halfords in-house brands figure strongly here. This is also a price point at which you can pick up a really good discount bargain at the right time of the year, something we've reflected in our pick of bikes here.
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'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.
There are plenty of bikes costing under £500 at Halfords, and pick of the bunch is this Carrera Zelos. It features an aluminium frame built up with a 14-speed Shimano groupset and Tektro dual pivot brakes. There's a women's version too.
£300 to £500
Step up to this price bracket and the choice suddenly increases, with some of the bigger manufacturers now coming into contention, especially the more you approach the £500 mark. Most of the bikes at this price, though not all, will feature an aluminium frame, which makes for a lighter bike. Get closer to £500 and you can expect to see the fork upgraded to carbon fibre fork, saving weight and improving the ride.
Probably one of the best performance and value bikes in this whole price range, the B'Twin Triban 500 SE road bike costs just £299 and for that you get a clean looking aluminium frame, carbon fork and 3 x 8 Microshift drivetrain, for an all up weight of 10.08kg (22.4lb). There are no unwelcome shortcuts in the finishing detail and it rides much like a race-bred bike, making it an ideal first road bike for anyone with sporty intentions. You can read our review to find out how much we rated it.
The Merlin Cycles PR7 is an entry-level road bike that offers outstanding value for money and superb performance all wrapped up in a smart-looking package.
The ride feel is very sprightly with a decent turn of speed and very sure-footed handling that will make anyone buying their first road bike feel right at home. The components are far better than many bikes costing substantially more; the slick shifting Shimano Claris gears are a real highlight.
For your £400 Merlin Cycles throws in a pair of clipless pedals and shoes, making the whole package excellent value.
Good women's bikes under £500 are rare, but this Merida is currently an excellent deal. The frame is made from butted 6066 aluminium tubing, it has 25mm tyres for a comfier ride and a mix of Shimano's great-value Claris and Sora gears.
It's fair to say the Boardman Road Sport is a bike that impressed us a great deal when we reviewed it. Enough in fact that it was our Budget Bike of the Year 2013-14 and came third in the overall Bike of the Year Awards. You get a 7005 double-butted aluminium frame with Shimano Claris gears and FSA Tempo compact chainset.
The Road Sport comes in a slightly more relaxed, sportive-friendly geometry than a full-on race bike; the top tube is a little shorter and the head tube is a little longer — not massively but enough to add extra comfort without sacrificing too much efficiency. You get mounts for mudguards too so it's very versatile. This is a seriously impressive bike for the money — not just a good bike for £400 but a good bike full stop.
Giant is one of the biggest and most well-known bike brands in the world, and the £525 Defy 4 — currently on offer at £420 — is the most affordable road bike in the range. This is the 2016 model, but most sizes are still available. Thanks to technology trickling down from Giant's more expensive models, the Defy 5 is packed full of potential. It offers an Aluxx aluminium frame with an aluminium fork, Shimano Claris 16-speed groupset, FSA Tempo compact chainset and 25mm tyres for extra comfort. The Defy range of bikes have higher handlebars for a more comfortable riding position, nice if you're just getting into cycling.
With Shimano Claris components on a 6016 aluminium frame, the latest version of the entry-level bike in Chain Reaction's Vitus range looks like excellent value for money. There's a carbon-legged fork too, and plenty of space in the frame for mudguards, plus the necessary eyelets in the frame. You can fit a rack too, making the Razor VR a sharp commuter.
From a brand that started out with a singlespeed offering comes this brand new Point R aluminium road bike, available at four prices. This, at £499 with a Shimano Claris groupset, is the most affordable in the range; there's also a Sora version for £549. The frame has a very modern appearance. Smooth welds, curved tubes and internal cable routing. The bike comes fitted with 25mm tyres, and it'll go wider. We reviewed the top-of-the-range Shimano 105 model and were very impressed.
One of Halfords' new range of aero-tweaked women's road bikes, the 13 Intrinsic Lambda zips along well, and the handling/steering is neutral, not at all twitchy. We'd swap the 23mm tyres for something wider, but otherwise, this is a good looking bike that rides well and copes with ups as well as downs. It's a good first road bike; and if half a grand is what you can afford on your second bike, the Intrinsic makes a fast and capable commuter (add a rear mudguard to help in winter), so your posh carbon steed and its fancy parts can stay at home out of harm's way.
We haven't ridden it, but on paper this sportive bike from Wiggle house brand Verenti looks excellent for under £320. You get an aluminium frame with tapered head tube and — unusually at this price — a full-carbon fork. Shimano's Claris group makes it go and it rolls on 28mm Continental tyres which should make for comfort on potholed rural roads. Wiggle only has sizes 58cm and 60cm left, but it's a bargain if you're tall.
The bike Jeremy Corbyn said he wants to own turns out to have a very decent spec for £500, including the same frame as the £800 Criterium Sport, so there's plenty of upgrade potential. The 6061 aluminium frame has internal cable routing, and the fork has carbon legs with a tapered aluminium steerer. The components are mostly from Shimano's Claris groupset with a decently wide gear range for hills.
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.