The best £500 to £900 road bikes
Stick below a grand and, as this roundup of six bikes shows, there’s a good choice
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 do you can get a lot for your money at this price.
The most common frame material in this price band is aluminium because it’s light, stiff and affordable. Shimano is the most prevalent groupset choice with 2300, Sora (3500) and Tiagra the three groupsets we find at this price.
There’s a key difference between the three groupsets. 2300 uses a thumb lever to operate upshifts and a small lever behind the brake lever to shift in the other direction. Sora and Tiagra, meanwhile, both use the same STI system that is used on 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace, with the brake lever activating downshifts in conjunction with a small paddle behind for upshifts. Both 2300 and Sora are 9-speed, while Tiagra is a 10-speed system.
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. The Road Sport here is brand new - we first saw it this week - and it's priced at just £499.99.
You get a 7005 double-butted aluminium frame with a Shimano 2300 groupset 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. You get mounts for mudguards too.
Jamis Ventura Sport £520
Borrowing the geometry from the racier Xeniths higher up the range gives the Ventura Sport great pedigree for not a lot of money. The geometry has been relaxed just a touch to take the edge off and make it more comfortable.
The Kinesis 6061 frame has a tapered head tube with a larger than standard 1.5in lower bearing race and an aero carbon blade fork slots into it with a chromoly steerer tube. Shimano 2300 combines with an FSA Tempo compact chainset. Tektro R317 brakes provide the stopping power and wheels are Formula alloy hubs laced to Alex ID-19 double wall alloy rims, with 28/32 spokes. Tyres are Vittoria Zaffiro 23mm.
Cannondale CAAD8 £599.99
It used to be impossible to get a Cannondale at such a low price but the company has made great strides in recent years, and it’s now possible to get the very excellent CAAD8 with a Shimano 2300 groupset for well under a grand.
The finely honed frame has real race pedigree and is a great introduction to road cycling. It has good upgrading potential in the future. A carbon bladed fork lugs into the slightly higher head tube to give a more relaxed fit. A Shimano Sora 8-speed groupset is completed with a Cannondale own-brand wheels, handlebars, stem, seatpost and saddle. Tyres are Schwalbe Lugano 23mm.
Vitus Zenium £699.99
The middle of the pack Zenium sports an updated version of last year’s frame, a 6061-T6 hydroformed triple butted alloy design with a geometry similar in its sporting credentials to those higher up the range. It has a full carbon-fibre fork with a tapered steerer tube to give a responsive ride.
It’s specified with a Shimano Sora groupset and FSA Omega compact chainset (smaller than standard chainrings) to help you get up the hills. Finishing kit - that’s bars, stem, seatpost and saddle - is FSA branded and the Shimano R501 wheels are fitted with Schwalbe Lugano 25mm tyres.
Trek 1.5 £850
A good looking aluminium frame marks the Trek 1.5 out, with the 100 Series Alpha aluminium sharing genes with bikes well above this price. The fork is Trek’s own carbon fibre design. They’ve managed to specify a Shimano Tiagra groupset with the shifters, cassette, and front and rear derailleurs all carrying that name.
Bontrager is Trek’s own componentry brand and is used in all the key areas, providing the wheels and the R1 23mm tyres.
Specialized Allez Elite £900
Nudging right up to our £900 price limit is Specialized’s Allez Elite. It uses their premium double butted A1 aluminium tubeset to produce a frame that is light and lively with well measured geometry. A Specialized FACT carbon fibre fork slots into the 1 1/8in head tube with an alloy steerer tube.
A full Shimano Tiagra 20-speed groupset makes this the best specced bike in this roundup. A compact (50/34-tooth) chainset combines with a 12-28t cassette meaning most hills will be manageable. Specialized Espoir Sport tyres feature a double BlackBelt protection layer to help prevent flat tyres and they're 25mm in width. The seatpost is topped with a comfortable Body Geometry Riva Road Gel saddle.