Six of 2014's hottest £500 to £900 road bikes

Stick below a grand and, as our selection shows, there’s a good choice

by David Arthur   December 30, 2013  

roadlite-al-6_c1073

road.cc reviews

You don't need to spend a fortune on a new road bike, as this roundup of good quality bikes costing between £500 and £900 shows. If you're in the market for a new bike, we've picked six of the newest 2014 road bike models at a variety of prices. 

This price range gives a good spread of options depending on your budget, and each are ideal if you're new to road cycling and want to start cycling to work, get into road racing or dabble in a sportive or two. The popular Cycle to Work Scheme makes bikes in this price range very popular with first timers and commuting cyclists and there’s never been a better time to buy a road bike: technology and features have trickled down from the expensive top-end bikes to bikes below a grand.

2014 road bikes offer good value for your money. The most notable change from picking these six bikes is that Shimano's new Claris groupset features a lot on the more affordable bikes. It's a brand new groupset replacing 2300 and gets Shimano Dual Control STI levers. These have the downshift lever behind the brake lever rather than a thumb button. It's the same as the higher end groupsets. It's an eight speed system, with the capacity for up to a 32T cassette at the back and double and triple options at the front, so should give enough ratios for. Spend a bit more and Sora and Tiagra becomes more prevalent. Shimano's top-notch 105 groupset features on the bikes nudging closer to the £1,000 mark.

All of these bikes feature alloy frames. Aluminium is the most popular frame material in this price range. It's a good choice, both light and stiff and modern construction advances have seen most manufacturers continue to develop alloy frames, so much that the level of performance and ride quality from all of these bikes is excellent. 

Let's take a look at the six bikes then. 

Boardman Road Sport £499.99

Boardman Bikes have built up an enviable reputation for really well designed road bikes that cram a lot of good kit in at low prices, and the newest models dip below £500. First introduced in 2012, the Road Sport was well received and and got an impressive four stars in our review. For 2014 the bike is largely unchanged, save for the upgrade to Shimano Claris shifters, which are a big improvement on the 2300 shifters on the previous model - Claris has the same STI  gear change system as Shimano’s more expensive offerings. There is the same quality alloy frame and strong build kit for the money, all finished in the same popular red paint with some fresh new decals.

Trek Lexa Compact £550

Trek has a fine range of bikes at affordable prices and we’ve picked out this women’s Lexa Compact which, at £500, is a good buy. (We've reviewed the more expensive Trek Lexa SLX which is based on a similar frame here here). At the Lexa Compact's heart is a 100 Series Alpha aluminium frame with a matching alloy fork, and Trek use Shimano’s excellent Claris groupset, which offers proper STI shifting. It’s 16-speed with a compact 50/34 chainset and is finished with Bontrager (Trek’s own brand component range) parts. A bonus is the mudguard and rack mounts, so it can double up for commuting as well as weekend rides.
Buy it here from Rutland Cycles

 

Specialized Allez C2 £600

Specialized’s Allez range has been well honed over the years, and this £600 offers any new cyclist a light and stiff bike perfectly suited to doing your first sportive, getting into road racing or just commuting to work. The smart looking frame, with the signature bowed top tube, is matched with an aluminium fork. Shimano’s 2400 Claris groupset with proper STI shifters provides 16 gears and a Shimano Claris compact chainset. Finishing kit is all Specialized branded and brakes are Tektro dual pivot calipers. Here's our review of the 2012 Allez.
Buy it here from Evans

 

Hoy Sa Calobra .001 £750

We really liked the Hoy Sa Calobra in its £1,000 guise when we tested it earlier this year. The .001 here has a smart 6061 T6 triple butted alloy frame with the same geometry and carbon fibre fork as the more expensive models in the range, but keeps the price down with a Shimano Sora 3500 18-speed groupset and FSA Omega compact chainset and decent finishing kit for £750, making it a really good buy.
Buy it here from Evans

 

Canyon Roadlite AL 6.0 £899

German direct-to-consumer brand Canyon updated the Roadlite for 2014. The aluminium frame gets a bit lighter and you now get a full carbon fibre fork and VCLS carbon seatpost, both shed a bit of mass as well as providing a little more comfort. The geometry has been improved with a slightly longer wheelbase to make it more stable of handling. This is the most affordable of the range, and Canyon really pass the savings onto the customer, it packs a full Shimano 105 groupset with Mavic Aksium wheels and Continental Grand Prix 4000S tyres and Ritchey handlebar and stem. You can read our first ride review here.

We'll be adding a few more bikes to this roundup soon, this list obviously doesn't cover every single brand out there, so let's hear your suggestions for bikes in the comments box below.

27 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

So, is this a £500-600 roundup, or a below £900 one? Why include the Allez Elite at £900, but only the CAAD8 with 2300 which is £600?

"Full Shimano Tiagra 20-speed groupset makes this the best specced bike in this roundup" - should be too, at 50% more than anything else. The CAAD8 with Tiagra is £900 too. Or you could have used the Allez Sport at ~£750...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [823 posts]
28th November 2012 - 17:36

like this
Like (89)

or for a Wildcard throw in the BTwin Triban 3 at £299. Bet the big brand names above would not ben happy if you did that !

posted by skintosh [3 posts]
28th November 2012 - 18:39

like this
Like (111)

You might need to wait for the £200-£500 reviews for that one!

posted by Bobbys boys [81 posts]
28th November 2012 - 20:28

like this
Like (90)

"Why include the Allez Elite at £900, but only the CAAD8 with 2300 which is £600?"

Maybe there wasn't time or space to include every single bicycle on the market within the £400 range and they had to pick just a few of them, I dunno.

Smile

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [371 posts]
29th November 2012 - 13:06

like this
Like (90)

I got a Giant Defy3.
At just under 700, probably the best value road bike out there. Much pleased.

posted by gio71 [5 posts]
6th December 2012 - 0:18

like this
Like (86)

Why have a price range test not a comparison test? The Triban 3 has similar spec as the ones here at £500. If you want one in the above price range why not look at the Triban 7 at £600 with full Tiagra and rear carbon seatstays as well as the forks. The Trek and Specialized have the Tiagra but are 150% the price of the B-Twin, can you justify why?

posted by B-Twinners [4 posts]
8th April 2013 - 23:54

like this
Like (103)

It is a pretty pointless summary, anyone can Google for bikes in that range and get the same info. What it doesn't tell you is how it rides, that's what magazines/review sites should be doing...

posted by fuzzywuzzy [59 posts]
29th April 2013 - 11:05

like this
Like (99)

If you dont mind mail order you can get a canyon al roadster with 105 on at 869

Gleah

posted by graham2212 [1 posts]
26th June 2013 - 15:06

like this
Like (86)

"Specialized Allez is matched with an aluminium fork"

Not carbon fibre? That must be a firm ride.....

posted by Tom Amos [242 posts]
28th December 2013 - 13:36

like this
Like (75)

Rather than the predictable usual suspects, how about something slightly different.
MARIN Argenta A6 Comp 2014. List price £725.00, I got mine for £580.00. Sora 18 speed, Aluminium 6061 frame and carbon fork.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [606 posts]
28th December 2013 - 17:11

like this
Like (60)

http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike/rose-pro-sl-2000-2014/aid:668081

rose anyone? Even with better wheels (ROse RS1400 with contigp4000s folding tyres 23c front 25c rear) better seatpost (ritchey wcs) and pedals it still reasonably cheap. Tapered headtube, sub-1300gr frame, full carbon fibre fork, 105 gruppo (albeit, with fsa omega chainset) and mavic aksium wheels or you can opt for rose branded lighter wheels with conti tyres or whatever tyres you'd like)

also, choose saddle, handlebar, seatpost, bartape.. the frame seems to be very refined.

Anyway, I know some people feel hard about Rose and their pricing policy : )

2ryd

posted by Vejnecske [23 posts]
28th December 2013 - 19:05

like this
Like (56)

I have the 2011 SL pro 2000 and it's a fabulous bike for the money.

It was great speccing it up and choosing components, although I did have to wait for the seat post I wanted.

Might not be a cool brand but bike performs as good as others priced above it.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1245 posts]
28th December 2013 - 21:00

like this
Like (64)

Decent summary in my view, being bikes from mostly mainstream manufacturers, i.e. those that people buying at this price point will actually recognise and be able to test at their LBS or cycling chain store (rather than taking a gamble with online only). Might expect to see mention of the Giant Defy in there though, or possibly a nod to B'Twin, with the value for money on offer and their updated 2014 range.

Looking forward to an update on the £1000 price point summary, being as that's where I've recently bought at.

posted by parksey [215 posts]
28th December 2013 - 22:39

like this
Like (59)

Quite agree with Parksey. This is always going to be a difficult review to write.
There's quite a bit of difference between £500 where many quality brands have their entry level road bikes and £900 where there are some outstanding value set ups to be had (witness the Canyon Roadlite AL 6.0). Furthermore many brands have multiple models in this price range, each with subtly different component combinations (in particular groupsets).
So I've got a lot of sympathy for the author, yet there are undoubtedly some important omissions: the Giant Defy is a major player at these price points and B'twin have some great offerings even below £500, and their upcoming Alur 700 has the potential to become one of the best value bikes of 2014 (Ali frame, carbon fork, 105 gearset and internal cable routing).
Similar to Parksey quite looking forward to the ~£1000 review, I'm weighing up between the Canyon Roadlite AL 6.0, Planet X's Pro Carbon Ultegra, and waiting for the B'twin Alur 700. What to do?! Thinking Day Dreaming

posted by Cantab [59 posts]
29th December 2013 - 0:25

like this
Like (61)

skintosh wrote:
or for a Wildcard throw in the BTwin Triban 3 at £299. Bet the big brand names above would not ben happy if you did that !

or the Triban 5 Applause

posted by Adey [98 posts]
30th December 2013 - 21:29

like this
Like (53)

Is a longer wheelbase on the Canyon necessarily an improvement on the previous design?

posted by Nick T [804 posts]
30th December 2013 - 23:26

like this
Like (61)

My earlier comment of course related to last year's selection.

This year, the Canyon has to win this hands down. Comes with a free torque wrench too, which is nice. I'd go for the Apex model.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [823 posts]
31st December 2013 - 1:20

like this
Like (52)

Why do people focus on the kit when looking at the value of the bike. The frame is the heart of the bike and dictates the ride quality - if you only look at kit, the big boys appear more expensive, but that's because they give you much better frames. Just because two different frames are made out of same grade alu/carbon does not mean they are the same quality and ride the same.

A really interesting article would include a close look at the frames, including the material, build technology and ride characteristics, and not just the kit.

For example, I've had a go on a couple of btwin bikes and the ride is less comfortable and a little dead compared to similarly speced Merida or giant bikes.

It would also be interesting to include feedback on quality of service from respective stores/suppliers for each brand, as I'm guessing people buying at this level are more likely to need assistance to get the bike properly setup/fitted for them and more likely to need ongoing help.

posted by joules1975 [69 posts]
31st December 2013 - 9:28

like this
Like (54)

joules1975 wrote:
Why do people focus on the kit when looking at the value of the bike. The frame is the heart of the bike and dictates the ride quality - if you only look at kit, the big boys appear more expensive, but that's because they give you much better frames. Just because two different frames are made out of same grade alu/carbon does not mean they are the same quality and ride the same.

Because for a given model the frame on a £600 8-speed version is the same as the £1,000+ one with 105 groupset fitted.

I'm not sure there is as big a discrepancy as you suggest anyway, and having the 'big boys' name on the frame does not necessarily mean a noticeably better bike. Also, people vary in what they define as 'better' and have wide-ranging needs and preferences.

While the frame holds everything together it is, at this level, not a complicated element to get right. Wheels and tyres also make a significant difference to ride quality.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
31st December 2013 - 10:58

like this
Like (50)

Simon E wrote:
joules1975 wrote:
Why do people focus on the kit when looking at the value of the bike. The frame is the heart of the bike and dictates the ride quality - if you only look at kit, the big boys appear more expensive, but that's because they give you much better frames. Just because two different frames are made out of same grade alu/carbon does not mean they are the same quality and ride the same.

Because for a given model the frame on a £600 8-speed version is the same as the £1,000+ one with 105 groupset fitted.

I'm not sure there is as big a discrepancy as you suggest anyway, and having the 'big boys' name on the frame does not necessarily mean a noticeably better bike. Also, people vary in what they define as 'better' and have wide-ranging needs and preferences.

While the frame holds everything together it is, at this level, not a complicated element to get right. Wheels and tyres also make a significant difference to ride quality.

Entirely this. Better wheels and groupsets are going to make much more difference to the satisfaction of the ride (which is not just handling), than the marginal differences between the frames on these low end bikes. Diminishing returns set in pretty quickly with road bikes, once you've got a decent wheel set and good gears (talking 105 equivalent at least) then maybe it's time to start looking at what the frame is doing but you'll pay a lot more before you find a significant difference over b'twin, canyon, ribble etc. offerings in terms of handling, weight or comfort.
Furthermore at these prices the fact that the 'value' brands are much more likely to offer carbon forks, and even stays in canyon's case, probably more than outweighs any extra technology the big boys are putting into their aluminium.

posted by Cantab [59 posts]
31st December 2013 - 12:59

like this
Like (54)

Surely at this time of year it would be better to focus on some of the 2013 clearance bargains ? There are loads of better specced bikes out there on sale now and most of what you see here is a paint job !

posted by arfa [484 posts]
31st December 2013 - 17:46

like this
Like (45)

Cantab wrote:
Simon E wrote:
joules1975 wrote:
Why do people focus on the kit when looking at the value of the bike. The frame is the heart of the bike and dictates the ride quality - if you only look at kit, the big boys appear more expensive, but that's because they give you much better frames. Just because two different frames are made out of same grade alu/carbon does not mean they are the same quality and ride the same.

Because for a given model the frame on a £600 8-speed version is the same as the £1,000+ one with 105 groupset fitted.

I'm not sure there is as big a discrepancy as you suggest anyway, and having the 'big boys' name on the frame does not necessarily mean a noticeably better bike. Also, people vary in what they define as 'better' and have wide-ranging needs and preferences.

While the frame holds everything together it is, at this level, not a complicated element to get right. Wheels and tyres also make a significant difference to ride quality.

Entirely this. Better wheels and groupsets are going to make much more difference to the satisfaction of the ride (which is not just handling), than the marginal differences between the frames on these low end bikes. Diminishing returns set in pretty quickly with road bikes, once you've got a decent wheel set and good gears (talking 105 equivalent at least) then maybe it's time to start looking at what the frame is doing but you'll pay a lot more before you find a significant difference over b'twin, canyon, ribble etc. offerings in terms of handling, weight or comfort.
Furthermore at these prices the fact that the 'value' brands are much more likely to offer carbon forks, and even stays in canyon's case, probably more than outweighs any extra technology the big boys are putting into their aluminium.

Really! Almost totally disagree.

Pick a bike, any bike, and is the groupset really going to change the performance of you and the bike? Once you get to even Shimano Claris level, the groupset has little or no difference on performance (bar the lower weight and the advantages that gives, but I'll come to that, and arguably the smaller gaps between gear ratios, but that won't bother people buying the lower end bikes). It will certainly make no difference to the comfort (shifting on Claris although not as crisp as Ultregra/Dura Ace, it uses the same ergonomics).

Granted, the wheels make a big difference, but on the majority of lower end bikes the wheels tend to be very similar (often using the same rims, but with different quality of hubs). Granted weight is important, but it's more important on wheels than on the non-rotating parts, so the crankset, hubs and cassette are important places for the groupset weight to make a difference, but most companies cut corners on all these parts, particularly the 'value' brands. Next time you look at a bike that says it has a particular shimano groupset, take a closer look and you'll find very few parts are actually from that groupset, with most being lower end shimano or no-name alternatives. All this diluting makes the groupset less important again.

There are big differences in the frames between the bigger guys and the value end. Giant, Merida, Spesh and others tend to make very refined well engineered, butted and formed frames, even at the lower end, that offer better ride comfort than the often fairly basic tubed lower value stuff (the material may be the same, but it's what's done with it that counts!).

Some of the lower end alu frames from the big boys are now almost as good, if not better than some of the cheap carbon frames (add a carbon seatpost to the alu frames and they tend to be more responsive but only slightly less comfortable).

In case you are wondering at this point, yes I'm in the industry as I own a shop. But don't take my word for this, take my customers word. I have had a number of customers who had what they thought were great value Claud Butlers, Carreras or BTwin bikes, but when they tried out Giant or Merida with the same kit in the park area outside our shop, each one said they noticed a difference. They all said that the bike was a little more responsive and a little more comfortable. If they notice this on a short ride of a few hundred yards, then boy will they feel it by the end of a reasonable ride.

posted by joules1975 [69 posts]
1st January 2014 - 16:47

like this
Like (47)

Sigh... everything's compact these days. Unless you're speccing a bike from someone like Ribble you can't get a standard double chainset, and if you want one you pay extra to sort it yourself afterwards.

seven's picture

posted by seven [109 posts]
8th January 2014 - 8:20

like this
Like (43)

Just a quick point, the Boardman here doesn't seem to be available. Both the Boardman and halfords websites still show the 2012/13 model with 2300...

posted by AndyQ [0 posts]
19th January 2014 - 22:31

like this
Like (36)

Cantab wrote:
Simon E wrote:
joules1975 wrote:
Why do people focus on the kit when looking at the value of the bike. The frame is the heart of the bike and dictates the ride quality - if you only look at kit, the big boys appear more expensive, but that's because they give you much better frames. Just because two different frames are made out of same grade alu/carbon does not mean they are the same quality and ride the same.

Because for a given model the frame on a £600 8-speed version is the same as the £1,000+ one with 105 groupset fitted.

I'm not sure there is as big a discrepancy as you suggest anyway, and having the 'big boys' name on the frame does not necessarily mean a noticeably better bike. Also, people vary in what they define as 'better' and have wide-ranging needs and preferences.

While the frame holds everything together it is, at this level, not a complicated element to get right. Wheels and tyres also make a significant difference to ride quality.

Entirely this. Better wheels and groupsets are going to make much more difference to the satisfaction of the ride (which is not just handling), than the marginal differences between the frames on these low end bikes. Diminishing returns set in pretty quickly with road bikes, once you've got a decent wheel set and good gears (talking 105 equivalent at least) then maybe it's time to start looking at what the frame is doing but you'll pay a lot more before you find a significant difference over b'twin, canyon, ribble etc. offerings in terms of handling, weight or comfort.
Furthermore at these prices the fact that the 'value' brands are much more likely to offer carbon forks, and even stays in canyon's case, probably more than outweighs any extra technology the big boys are putting into their aluminium.

I think you all miss a point. Most of the time, the brands keep two or even three types of aluminium and finishes in his "low end" bikes. For example, Felt usually changes F95 6061 to 7005 in his higher range aluminium bikes. Specialized changes A1 Premium from lower aluminium to E5 Premium. Canyon changes aluminium from roadlite to Ultimate AL. Even the welds are different. Cannondale also uses 6061 in his CAAD8 with a more relaxed and beginner's friendly geometry but aluminium 6069 in his CAAD 10 with a lot of different treatments and finishes and they even change geometry in the same model for different purposes.

So this sentence is in some way inaccurate, sorry:

Quote:
Because for a given model the frame on a £600 8-speed version is the same as the £1,000+ one with 105 groupset fitted.

Also:

Quote:
having the 'big boys' name on the frame does not necessarily mean a noticeably better bike.

I think some of that 'big boys' spend a lot of time and money improving his top sellers low end bikes. Cannondale, Canyon, Giant, Specialized have some aluminium bikes more expensives than lower end carbon fiber bikes and they keep improving aluminium works nowadays.

New Specialized Allez S-Works with Dura-Ace and good kit weights less than 15 lb...

joules1975 has pointed something very interesting and I'm totally agree with that. Good finishing kit is important but not mandatory. Good wheels will improve the experience but are not crucial.

xoanmarin's picture

posted by xoanmarin [1 posts]
26th January 2014 - 12:46

like this
Like (41)

No mention of the saliva-inducing Genesis Flyer? I'm buying me one o' 'em in a month's time. <3

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [211 posts]
22nd March 2014 - 19:40

like this
Like (25)

Again great.
http://www.tuttibringa.hu/kerekparok/orszaguti/orszaguti/wilier-montegra...

507 pounds for something with quite decent kit. Though the cranks are square tapered. Tooo bad I can't persuade the shop's owner to ship outside the country. Big Grin

2ryd

posted by Vejnecske [23 posts]
17th April 2014 - 16:37

like this
Like (16)