There's never been a better time to buy a road bike, and £900 to £1,000 is a competitive price bracket - really, you're spoilt for choice. You're guaranteed a lightweight and great handling bike at this price that won't disappoint, whether it's your first road bike or you're upgrading from an entry-level bike.
It's a price-point that has been popularised by the Cycle To Work scheme, which has seen a rise in popularity with the success of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and Olympics. With over 1,800 participating bike shops, the cost of the bike is paid through your gross salary (so disregarding tax), and employers also benefit from National Insurance contribution savings.
If it's your first road bike, our Road.cc Buying Basics – Buying your first road bike guide is worth a read, packed as it is with useful advice.
What to look for
Shimano are the dominant groupset (the gears and brakes) choice, and their Tiagra and 105 groups are popular sights on bikes at this price. SRAM and Campagnolo offer an alternative choice.
Frame material is predominantly aluminium. It's been around long enough that most manufacturers have advanced the construction process with hydroforming and other techniques that the frames are light and very stiff. Look for touches like butted and profiled tubes, tapered head tubes and carbon-fibre forks.
Wheels influence the ride quality of any bike massively and nowhere is this better witnessed than on a bike at this price. Look for recognised wheel brands and don't skimp on the wheels and tyres. Reduced rolling weight is the easiest way to a faster riding bike.
Show me the bikes
So, what are your options? It’s a lot of money and a serious investment, so needs some careful consideration. Here are six of the top contenders.
Cannondale Caad 8 £899.99
Cannondale are one of the most recognisable brands available and their bikes have been iconic for many years. They're getting more affordable (as we saw recently) and the Caad 8 is a great choice, which for 2013 is £150 cheaper than before.
Packing an advanced aluminium frame with the company's famous huge diameter down tubes with double-pass smooth welds, taper-butted tubes, assymetric chainstays, horizontally ovalised top tube and SAVE vibration-reducing stays ensure it's a frame that will offer a great ride. It's equipped with a Shimano Tiagra groupset with an FSA Omega BB30 chainset.
Specialized Allez Elite £900
When we tested the Allez Comp earlier this year, we found it to be a “reliable, value-packed road bike that puts in a strong performance across the board,” and that's precisely what you're seeking at this price.
An A1 Premium aluminium frame with geometry borrowed from the company's race-orientated road bikes means if you're a budding racer, the Allez is an ideal introduction.
A carbon fibre fork is topped with a neat adjustable stem. Its four positions should make it a doddle to find a good fit on the bike without buying a new stem. Shimano's Tiagra 10-speed groupset is complete with a compact 50/34 chainset. DT's Axis 1.0 wheels are a good choice with Specialized Espoir Sport tyres.
Giant Defy 1 £999.99
As one of the largest bike brands in the world, it's no surprise that Giant's Defy 1 is packing some serious punch. The Aluxx SL aluminium frame has a tapered OverDrive headset for increased steering precision, and PressFit bottom bracket bearings feature as well. And it's one of the few bikes with a Shimano 105 (the next level up from Tiagra) groupset.
Kinesis Racelight T2 Tiagra
While the Specialized Allez is perfect if you want to get into road racing, the Racelight T2 is spot on if you want added versatility. The double-butted 7005 aluminium frame sports a racy geometry but the addition of mounts for mudguards and racks means it can handle winter commuting, touring and winter training.
Scott Speedster S30 £950
Coming in just under a £1,000, the Speedster S30 from Scott is a serious contender with a simply elegant double-butted 6061 frame, all wrapped up in a smart paintjob. The geometry is very nearly identical to their race-ready Foil, although a slightly taller head tube and shorter top tube make it less stretchy for a more relaxed ride position. Shimano's Tiagra groupset is partnered with Scott's own-brand brake callipers, and the finishing kit is respectable for the money.
Carrera Virago £999
Available from Halfords, the Carrera Virago is the only bike here to offer a carbon fibre frame and fork. And, with a Shimano 105 groupset, all for under a £1,000, it's apparent no shortlist should be complete without giving the Virago a look over.
With a carbon frame the Virago is one of the lightest bikes here (a claimed weight of 8.6kg) which gives it great climbing ability. There's some modern details like the BB30 bottom bracket, which makes for a stiffer frame and better power transfer. Superb value.
So there you go: a seriously impressive shortlist of bikes that offers fantastic value for money.
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.