You’ve an abundance of riches in the £1,500 to £2,000 price band, with bikes that are light, well-equipped and great value for money.
You also have a big range of choices. Carbon fibre frame, or the latest ultra-sophisticated aluminium? Caliper brakes or discs? Racing geometry, more upright for comfort or something in between? How about taking the the byways and bridleways on a gravel bike? Whatever type of riding you have in mind, there’s a bike in this price range that’ll suit you perfectly.
Highly capable, with a performance that shines on any surface as it smooths out bumps with the skinniest of skinny rear stays – and a very competitive price – the new GT Grade Carbon Expert is a top choice in an increasingly crowded gravel bike market.
The Grade is brilliant at being fast and comfortable on rough roads, and right at home on forest trails and gravel roads. The new frame, with its 'floating stays' design, is impressively smooth at the saddle. Rough tracks, jagged roots and rippled fields are soaked up exceptionally well thanks to the seat post flexing backwards. It's freer to do this on the new frame since the seat tube can bow forwards, unhindered by the seat stays.
GT makes no claim for how much flex there is, and it’s obviously not tuneable, plus variables like rider weight and aggression influence just how much you get. However the stays actually flex visibly, either when you press hard down on the saddle with your elbow, or look down when you’re riding. At the worldwide launch event in Girona, riding next to another Grade revealed that it's even noticeable from afar.
Geometry defines a gravel bike, with stability a key focus. The new Grade gets a lower bottom bracket across the size range, along with 15mm longer chainstays, and feels extremely surefooted on any terrain at any speed.
Ribble's CGR AL is a hugely versatile and superb value bike for everything from gravel bashing to cyclocross and road commuting. The aluminium frame isn't overly compliant and the kit needs a few tweaks if you intend to mostly stick to dirt, but that's easy enough to custom spec it to your heart's content when you order. (That's the £1,400 105-equipped version in the pic by the way; the Ultegra version is available in the same screaming orange.)
The CGR bit of the name stands for Cyclocross, gravel and road, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about where this bike is pitched, namely as a do-it-all drop bar bike. The impressive thing is that it actually delivers on this promise, having taken in everything from gravel rides, road Audaxes and tow-path bashing commutes.
The aluminium frame is really nicely made with flattened welds, there are 12mm through axles at either end with flat mount disc brakes, loads of guard, cage and rack mounts and the paint job is smooth and smart - orange is available as well as this blue - and it generally gives off the vibe of being a much more expensive machine than it is. It scores extra points for having a proper, tapered steerer on the carbon forks where many rivals still have a straight item too.
The Specialized Allez Sprint Comp is an aluminium alloy masterpiece. The ride quality is impressive and the stiffness is right up there with some of the most overbuilt carbon wonder bikes.
Specialized describes the Sprint Comp as a 'crit-racing weapon', a fast bike that is going to give you plenty of thrills and excitement when you just want to get out and smash the pedals.
The Sprint has an unbelievably stiff frame brought about, Specialized says, by its use of D'Aluisio Smartweld Sprint Technology. Basically this means the welds have been moved at some of the most stressed sections of the frame, most noticeably at the head tube and bottom bracket junction.
Acceleration and sprinting are epic against pretty much every alloy bike we've ridden, and powering out of corners whether on the race track or on your favourite section of road will see you grinning like a deranged nutter.
How does Cube manage to make a carbon fibre endurance bike with Ultegra equipment and hydraulic discs for under £2,000? Well, they've swapped out the Ultegra brakes and shifters for 105 R7000 units, which saves a bunch on the price tag without substantial detriment to performance.
The Attain GTC SL Disc is very much a mile-eating all-rounder, with clearance for mudguards so you can keep going through winter without getting drenched.
You don't get many bikes in this price range with Shimano Ultegra R8000 components and with its superb frame and Mavic Cosmic carbon wheels that makes this eminently raceable speedster superb value for money.
When he tested the 105-equipped version, which has the same frame, Stu Kerton said it was "further evidence, if any was needed, that B'Twin knows how to build awesome-riding race bikes which offer excellent stiffness, handling and speed while also managing to be unbelievably comfortable." Decathlon has since rebranded these bikes as Van Rysel, but the sentiment reminds solid.
Proving that composites don't quite reign supreme, Cannondale's meticulously engineered CAAD13 frame wrings every last gram of performance potential out of aluminium. Cannondale combines that frame with Shimano 105 shifting, its own HollowGram Si chainset and Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes for a thoroughly modern fast road bike.
The CAAD13 includes a stack of refinements over the previous, much-loved CAAD12 with tweaks to the aerodynamics and dropped seatstays to improve comfort.
Giant's Defy line is one of the most popular bikes in the endurance and sportive sector, and is the company's best-selling model, combining smart geometry with a full range of competitively priced builds. It was revamped for 2019 with a frame that will take up to 32mm tyres, some tweaks to the cable routing, and the addition of Giant's new D-Fuse buzz-reducing handlebar. Those improvements carry on into the 2020 models.
The 2019 Defy bikes also get tubeless-ready wheels and 32mm tyres, and the Defy Advanced 2 has Shimano's 105 R7000 shifting with an 11-34 cassette for a 1:1 low gear.
Part of Trek's line of Émonda lightweight race bikes, the SL5 demonstrates one of two approaches to speccing up a bike in this range. Trek takes the second-lightest of its Émonda frames and equips it with Shimano's midrange 105 group for a bike that doesn't cost the earth but has plenty of upgrade potential.
This 2019 model is usually £1,800, but there are plenty around at this reduced price.
The Genesis Datum 10 will take pretty much whatever you can throw at it, on or off-road. The spec represents excellent value and the ability to jump between town and country use positions it as a sound contender for an 'only bike' that you won't be sheepish about getting muddy on, while being worthy of a shine-up for the Sunday morning group ride.
At launch a few years ago, Dave rated the Di2 11-speed Datum 30 at 4.5/5, finding it a 'hugely capable bike that is loads of fun over all sorts of terrain'. Later that year it won our Sportive Bike of The Year Award, with only the Shimano Di2-influenced price holding it back from taking overall honours. At £3,200 in 2015 money, the Di2 version was a hefty price to pay, so this time around it's the base model £1,899 10-speed Tiagra model on test. Again, for this spec it's not a class-leadingly cheap bike at RRP, though it's a very good deal at this sale price.
It's always worth checking out what Canyon has to offer, and this combination of the light, quick but comfortable Endurace CF SL frame and Shimano 105 components is decent value, and — if the women's equivalent is any guide — a superb all-day mile-eater.
Merida's dramatic take on the gravel bike genre is as close as a bike gets to being a mountain bike without becoming the bailiwick of our sister site off.road.cc. It has the long head tube and top tube that's a feature of many contemporary mountain bikes, with Shimano's new GRX groupset providing wide-range gearing. It'll go just about anywhere on its 38mm tyres, and if you wanted to get really adventurous there's room to go bigger.
With Raleigh's aluminium-framed Mustangs, carbon Rokers and steel Mavericks the Big Heron jumped into gravel bikes with both boots a couple of years ago. Raleigh's folks say they started revamping their endurance road range, then realised that for a lot of British riding a bike with a long wheelbase and fat tyres was better able to cope with back roads trashed by the combination of bad winters and hacked road maintenance budgets. The Mustang Comp has SRAM hydraulic brakes and 11 speed SRAM Apex 1 gears.
If you want to put that race licence to good use, smash those Strava KOMs or just want a fast, comfortable, easy-to-ride road bike, then the Boardman SLR 9.2 needs to be on your shortlist. With a full-carbon frameset, Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset, and Boardman's own tubeless-compatible wheels, the SLR is a real contender even before you take the price into account – and that challenges even the direct-to-consumer specialists.
Rose claims an impressive 7.9kg for the Team GF 4 Disc 105 and given that its predecessor the Xeon CDX-4400 comes in at 7.5kg (16.6lb), we believe it. The ride is quick, easy to live with and delivers a lot of fun miles. It's a cracker of a machine ready to be ridden flat out or cruising the lanes.
The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.
Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product in a if we think it's one of the best of its kind.
As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.
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.