Previously we’ve looked at the best bikes costing under £500, now it is time to have a close look at the bikes you can buy for between £500 and £750, and see what spending a couple of hundred pounds more really gets you. You can generally expect lighter frames, carbon fibre forks and higher quality components.
At this price range you an expect lighter aluminium frames with double and triple butted tubes - saving weight and offering improved ride performance - and carbon fibre forks (but with aluminium steerer tubes) again to save a bit of weight. Many of these frames feature a geometry that places the handlebars a little higher than a race bike along with a shorter top tube which can make them more comfortable, especially if you’re new to road cycling.
Shimano is the predominant groupset brand with Claris and Sora common on bikes costing between £500 and £750. Most bikes will feature compact chainsets - that's two chainrings with 50 and 34 teeth respectively - that should make spinning up even the steepest hills a little easier. Some bikes even have triple chainsets - three chainrings between the pedals - that will make climbing anything much easier. Shimano's excellent Tiagra groupset starts to get a look in the closer you nudge to £750 and you might just find the occasional bike with Shimano's 11-speed 105 groupset.
Expect own-brand wheels, tyres, handlebars, stem and saddles on most of these bikes as manufacturers aim to keep the bikes within budget. Most own-brand components are of an excellent quality these days as most brands have really raised the standard over the past 10 years. That means you’re getting really well finished bikes ready to ride and race from the shop.
If this is your first road bike and you want some more useful advice for buying your first road bike, then make sure you have a read of the road.cc Buying Basics: Buying your first road bike guide. It’ll arm you with all the important advice you need to know before making a decision.
The Merlin Malt-G1 is an aluminium gravel/all-rounder bike that puts in a solid performance on both asphalt and hard-packed roads and offers exceptional value for money.
The Malt-G is a versatile proposition, able to handle a variety of different types of riding with assuredness. We used this bike a lot for the commute into work – a 14-mile trip on mainly country lanes with a couple of miles of urban roads at the end – and although it lacks the all-out speed of a full-on road bike, it's comfortable and confident across the tarmac. When we fancied mixing it up with a bit of towpath, that was cool too, the Malt-G having semi-slick tyres that provide sufficient grip and enough low gears to cope with more draggy surfaces.
Built around Decathlon's new comfort-orientated 6061 aluminium frame, the RC 520 gives you most of a Shimano 105 R7000 groupset and TRP HY/RD disc brake calipers. These have a hydraulic stage to do the tricky bit of turning the braking force though 90° and are significantly more powerful and easier to modulate than cable-only disc brakes.
The Triban RC 520 also has tubeless-ready wheels and Decathlon's own Resist+ 28mm tyres.
It's a super-steady, confident ride and amazing value for money.
The RC 520 stands out as the enthusiast-grade version of the Triban RC range, but two other bikes deserve a mention. The Triban RC 500, with Shimano Sora components and disc brakes for £530 is an amazingly nice bike for the money, while the rim-braked women's equivalent, just named the Women's Intermediate road bike, is very impressive for £500.
It's slightly over our budget at its £800 RRP, but Boardman's adventure bike has an impressive ride on and off the road, at a very competitive price and even more so at this offer price. With the ADV 8.8, Boardman has continued its theme of offering great performing bikes at a sensible price. Well made, well specced and fun to ride, this latest adventure machine covers plenty of bases, from blasting the local gravel byways to year-round commuting. It's a lot of bike for not a lot of money, lighter and cheaper than many rivals, with excellent tyres as standard.
As Boardman points out, we don't have thousands of miles of unsurfaced gravel roads so the company hasn't gone down that route specifically, instead taking the fast-rolling features of a road bike with slightly more forgiving geometry for multi-terrain use.
The ADV 8.8 never feels twitchy on loose surfaces, with similar steering and handling off-road to Boardman's SLR Endurance on tarmac, which is confidence-inspiring, especially if you dart between the two terrains mid-ride.
On the road the ADV loses some of its steering sharpness but it never really feels ponderous through the bends. If you commute in all weathers this slower steering benefits in dodgy weather conditions like heavy rain or greasy, salt-covered winter roads.
Halfords has offered the Boardman ADV 8.8 for under £650, which suggests there's room for a bit of haggling about the price; it surely can't hurt to ask.
As far as we know, this is the cheapest disc-braked gravel/adventure bike on the market. You get an alloy frame, hung with Shimano Sora components and, in the kind of thoughtful speccing that's rare on an inexpensive bike, a 48/32 chainset with 11-34 cassette for gears lower than you usually find on general-purpose road bikes.
With a responsive, simple frame, surprisingly fun ride characteristics and nicely balanced handling, Pinnacle's Laterite 3 is a great package for those of you who are looking to spend less than a grand on their first or next bike. With its mudguard mounts, deep drop brakes and a smattering of Shimano's 105 groupset, I don't think you can really go wrong for the money.
This is the second-cheapest of Trek's entry-level, aluminium-framed Domane bikes. They all share the spendier bikes' all-day geometry, clearance for 28mm tyres and eyelets for rack and mudguards, but lack the shock-absorbing IsoSpeed decoupler in the rear.
There aren't many women-specific bikes for much less than a grand, but Specialized and Trek both offer them at these sensible price points. The Dolce has an aluminium frame with endurance geometry tailored for women and tweaked details like a woman's saddle and the right bar, stem and crank dimensions for a female rider.
The Avail 1 is second up in Giant women's range, known as Liv. It uses Giant’s ALUXX aluminium with a shape and size designed to be comfortable to ride whether it’s for longer adventures, sportives or commuting to the office. It’s available in four sizes down to XS. It’s equipped with a Shimano Sora 18-speed groupset and Tektro brakes. At this end-of-line special offer price, it's a great deal.
Drawing on frame design features from the more expensive Allez models in the range, the Allez is built around an E5 Premium aluminium frame with smooth welds and carbon fibre fork with a Shimano Claris groupset. Comfort is taken care of with 25mm Specialized Espoir Sport tyres with a double BlackBelt puncture protection, which should help ward off flat tyres.
Giant do a large range of bikes for men and women. In the men’s range the Contend 2 is the most affordable model. It has an aluminium frame with a carbon fibre fork, a Shimano Claris 16-speed drivetrain and comfortable 28mm tyres. There are also mounts for mudguards if you want to add some rain protection for winter riding.
Decathlon’s B’Twin line of road bikes receive much attention at the budget end, with the cheaper Triban a hugely popular model, but if you have a budget of £600, the Triban 540 is a very good proposition. With an aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork and largely 11-speed Shimano 105 specification, it’s a bit of a bargain. The frame features triple butted tubes, to save weight, and a relaxed geometry that places the handlebars a bit higher and closer to you so it’s more comfortable, ideal for riding to work or embarking on some sportives. It's a really good bike, one of the best specced in this guide, for not a lot of money.
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.