[This article was last updated on March 21, 2018]
Sportive and endurance road bikes, with their comfort-focused design and equipment, are the most popular style of road bikes in the UK.
You can spend as much as your budget will allow on a sportive road bike, with full carbon and electronic gears at the top-end, but we’re going to focus here on bikes that cost under £1,000. As this article shows, your choices are wide and varied.
At this price you can expect bikes built with aluminium frames, carbon fibre forks and predominantly Shimano groupsets, with 105, Tiagra and Sora the most common. You might get a carbon fibre frame at this price but that commonly means the components will be downgraded to account for the more costly frame. Essentially, you'll get better parts on an aluminium frame because the cost of an aluminium frame is much less than one made from carbon. Modern aluminium frames are very good, a far cry from the harsh ride they used to be known for.
Many frames at this price share key features found higher up the price ladder so you’re getting the same focus on comfort, and in terms of geometry the same upright riding position and space for wider tyres - most bikes here feature 25mm tyres as a minimum and most will go wider if you wanted to upgrade. One advantage of disc brakes is that they more easily allow the fitting of wider tyres.
There’s a mix of rim and disc brakes as well, and both have their advantages - discs are generally better in bad weather but heavier and pricier, rim brakes are lighter and cheaper but not as good in the wet. Most manufacturers offer a choice but at this price rim brake bikes still offer the best value for money. Those bikes with disc brakes will be mechanical disc brakes, which are good but not as powerful or reliable as hydraulic disc brakes, but you're going to have to spend more to get a sportive bike with hydraulics.
This is the least expensive of Trek's Domane series to offer the bump-absorbing IsoSpeed seat tube joint. The seat tube is decoupled from the seatstays and top tube to allow a small amount of movement so that every edge and pothole isn't telegraphed to your bum. The components are Shimano's 9-speed Sora collection, with a wide-range 11-32 cassette and 50/34 chainrings for battling hills.
Brit brand Genesis Bikes is probably best known for its steel road bikes like the Equilibrium or Volare, and increasingly its carbon fibre offerings like the Datum and Zero, but snuck away at the back of the range is this aluminium model, the Delta. It’s pegged as a comfortable and practical road bike with some nice details, like the provision for mudguards. It’s well equipped with the new Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset and 25mm wide CST tyres.
Even with Canyon’s aggressive prices, you won’t quite get a carbon fibre Endurace (the Endurace CF 7.0 costs £1,349) but you can get the Endurace AL 7.0 for £999. It trades the carbon for an aluminium frame but it shares many of the same features including the relaxed riding position and pencil thin seat stays. Canyon specs a Shimano 150 groupset - a full groupset including the chainset and brakes - with high-quality Continental Grand Prix SL 25mm tyres on Mavic Aksium wheels.
Giant’s Contend models are what the company terms road all-rounders and that makes them perfect all-day bikes. The Contend SL 1 features a frame made using Giant’s own ALUXX SL aluminium with shared features like an OverDrive headtube and PowerCore bottom bracket to provide a stiff frame, but most importantly the D-Fuse seatpost is borrowed from the Defy to keep the ride smooth and comfortable. A Shimano 105 groupset with a compact chainset and Giant’s own wheels, tubeless tyres and finishing kit complete the package.
The Synapse has been a popular choice for cyclists seeking comfort for long distance rides for a good few years. The frame is designed to smooth rough roads and it's a comfortable ride thanks to a skinny 25.4mm seatpost and a geometry that places you in a more upright position. This aluminium version is equipped with Promax Render R mechanical disc brakes and a Shimano Tiagra/FSA groupset. Tyres are Schwalbe Lugano in a 25mm width. It's not quite as well specced as the Merida, Giant or Canyon but you are getting disc brakes which offer better braking in all conditions.
Merida's previous Ride endurance bikes are no more, replaced by new SIlex platform, a more versatile design intended for everything from sportives to exploring dirt roads and easier trails. The range opens with the £1,000 Silex 200 (above) which is built up with a 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset and Promax Decode R mechanical disc brakes. You get some very low gears via the 48/32-tooth chainset and 11-32 cassette.
While the Sora components aren't quite as nice as the Tiagra you usually find in this category, the 6066 aluminium frame and full carbon fork offer loads of upgrade potential down the line. Merida uses the same Silex Lite aluminium frame for the £2,100 Shimano Ultegra-equipped Silex 700.
Cube’s Attain combines an aluminium frame with a relaxed and upright riding position and it’s one of the few bikes here with disc brakes. It’s packed with modern details like internal cable routing, a carbon fork, thru-axles and mounts for mudguards, increasing its versatility if you want to use it for commuting as well as weekend sportives. A Shimano Tiagra groupset with 25mm wide Continental tyres and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are equipment highlights. At this price it's an absolute bargain if there's still a size available that fits you
For £949 there's a 2018 version now available, with cable discs instead of the 2017 model's hydraulics and 28mm tyres in place of last year's 25mm rubber.
B’Twin’s Triban 540 is a hugely popular road bike because you get a really good parts package for the price, backed up with a decent frame that offers a fine ride. This model features a Shimano 105 groupset with Tektro brakes and 25mm Hutchinson Equinox tyres on Mavic Aksium wheels. Those parts are all hanging off an aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork that is designed to provide the comfort a sportive cyclist craves, with a higher front end and shorter reach.
The Dolomite range is a popular choice for sportive cyclists and with rack and mudguard mounts it’s also a good option for commuting and daily riding. A 6061 aluminium frame with triple butted tubes to save weight and a carbon fibre fork are fitted with a Shimano Sora groupset and 25mm wide Kenda tyres for increased comfort. At this end-of-season price the Dolomite 4 is one of the most affordable bikes we know of with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.
Boardman has based this model on its more expensive SLR Endurance C7 frameset so you’re getting some top-notch design, with the sort of comfort that will look after you on longer rides. Despite the carbon fibre frame Boardman hasn’t skimped on the equipment, with a Shimano Tiagra, FSA Gossamer and Tektro R540 groupset ensuring it puts in a solid and reliable performance. Boardman Bikes have a habit of producing really good bikes at a competitive price and this one looks to continue that theme.
Revitalised brand Vitus has been turning out some really good bikes in the last couple of years, and the Zenium Disc which, with its light aluminium frame and disc brakes, looks a really good choice for sportive riding. A carbon fibre fork helps to keep the weight down while the tapered head tube boosts stiffness. A full Shimano Tiagra drivetrain is complemented by TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes and 25mm Michelin Lithion 2 tyres are mounted to Fulcrum Racing Sport Disc Brake wheels.
For £900 the next model up, the Zenium SL Disc, has a Shimano 105 groupset with hydraulic brakes hung on a slightly lighter 6066 aluminium frame.
Those are both end-of-line bargains on 2017 models. If you want the latest version, the 2018 Zenium Disc is £900 and has a 6061 aluminium frame, full-carbon fork, Tiagra groupset with Shimano wheels and 28mm Continental Supersport II tyres.
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.