If you have £1,000 to £1,500 to spend on a road bike, you really do get a lot for you money. A benefit of spending this sort of money is that the bikes start to get much lighter than those costing half as much, which will have a significant impact on the ride quality and performance, and your times up your local hills.
Shimano 105 and Tiagra are the dominant groupsets in this price range. While there is a lot of own-brand kit for parts like wheels, handlebars and saddles, which is no bad thing (manufacturers have really raised their game with own label components), there is a lot more branded kit from the likes of Mavic and Fizik.
You'll typically find yourself making a decision between an aluminium frame (which range between very good and superb in this price range) with a groupset such as Shimano 105 or a carbon frame with Shimano Tiagra. Which you go for will depend, among other things, on whether you're a parts upgrader or a bike replacer when it comes to future developments.
We're also starting to see some intriguing, innovative thinking in this price range, like the fat-tyred, single chainring Road Plus Whyte Glencoe, if you fancy something more than a bit different.
Whyte's new Glencoe is a 650B-wheeled Road Plus bike that brings together a lot of the emerging trends in the road bike market into a really compelling package that will appeal to anyone wanting a smooth, comfortable, stable and confidence-inspiring road bike.
The Glencoe combines an aluminium frame and fork rolling on wide profile
WTB tubeless-ready rims and WTB Horizon 47mm tyres, and the stop and start
are taken care of by an SRAM Apex 1x11 groupset, with an 11-42t cassette
and 44T chainring, and TRP HyRd hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors.
The finishing kit is all Whyte branded, including the 50cm wide handlebar
that is unique to the Glencoe. Yes at 11.56kg (25.48lb) it’s heavy, but
weight isn’t everything.
The Vitus Zenium SL is a long-standing road.cc favourite. Last year's edition was a big orange bundle of fun: quick on the flat, grin-inducingly swoopy on twisty descents, and civilised on climbs. This more subdued-looking 2018 version gets a few tweaks that should make it an even better all-day ride, and it'll now take mudguards.
Fuji characterises its Roubaix as a race bike and completely reworked the frame for 2017, putting it firmly in the category of Very Light Aluminium at a claimed weight of 1,090g.
The fork is all-carbon, as befits a lightweight bike, and there are Shimano Tiagra gears and brakes to make it stop and go. The Oval Concepts finishing kit includes a chainset with Praxis rings. It looks like an excellent package for the money if you're in the marker for a fast, light traditional road race bike, and that light frame is a perfect platform for future upgrading as cashflow allows
Giant has two families of endurance bikes, the Defy series with carbon fibre frames and disk brakes throughout the range, and the Contend bikes with aluminium frames and a choice of discs or rim brakes. This is the top model in the six-bike Contend family. It has Shimano's excellent-value Shimano 105 11-speed transmission, and Giant's own hydraulic disc brakes. We liked the rim-braked 2017 version, but though it could use better brakes.
The Pinnacle Arkose 3 is a great option if you're looking for a versatile aluminium adventure, commuter or winter bike (or indeed all three at once) that is well specced for the price.
Pinnacle has been making the Arkose for a number of years. It was originally created off the back of a cyclo-cross design, and has become more of an adventure/gravel bike over time. The frame was redesigned in 2017 and the version I've been testing is the third tier of the bunch, sitting above the Arkose X and below the Arkose 4 and Arkose LTD.
Cross, Gravel, Road, that's what the CGR initials stand for on Ribble's latest all-rounder. A disc brake-equipped, mudguard-shod 'do a bit of everything' machine that makes a lot of sense for the rider who doesn't always want to stick to the tarmac. Thankfully, this jack of all trades is no master of none.
Thanks to Ribble's online bike builder, you can have any spec you like. The CGR starts from £799 with Shimano Sora; the price here is for the option with Shimano 105 and hydraulic brakes, which gives a good combination of slick shifting and powerful stopping.
Boardman is making some great bikes this year – both in terms of performance and value – and the Road Pro Carbon is no exception. If you're after a disc brake road bike that's engaging to ride, you should certainly take a look at this. If you're looking for a more versatile all-rounder, it's not such a good fit.
Given that this bike comes from an endurance mould you might expect the ride to be more forgiving than it actually is. The Boardman doesn't have the surface-taming characteristics of something like a Cannondale Synapse or a Trek Domane, it's much more of a road bike feel. It's not uncomfortable, but it is firm. It's well balanced in that the front and the back give about the same level of feedback from the road.
Certainly the frame and fork are a package that's worthy of some upgrades here: it's a very well-balanced bike that responds well to pretty much every kind of road riding. The steering is very predictable and never nervous, and I had no issues with any wobbles, vagueness or lift-off descending at speed.
When it was launched the CAAD12 set a new benchmark for all-aluminium frames; it still puts a lot of carbon bikes to shame. With a frame weight under 1,100g for the disc brake and regular versions, it's not much heavier than carbon either. Cannondale package the frame with a full Shimano 105 groupset, carbon fibre fork with tapered steerer tube, 52/36 crank, Mavic Aksium wheels and a Selle Royal Seta S1 saddle. You can also have it with disc brakes for an extra £300.
German company Canyon has made quite an impression in the UK with its direct-to-consumer business model meaning big savings for those prepared to bypass the bike shop for their next bike purchase. The Ultimate CF SL is produced using the same mould as that the Ultimate CF SLX we tested a while ago, it's just using a cheaper carbon fibre. That keeps the price lower. Although the weight does go up a bit, it's still light at a claimed 940g. This is the entry-level model built with a full Shimano 105 groupset, Mavic Aksium wheels, Continental GP 4000 25mm tyres, Canyon's own bars and stem and a Fizik Antares saddle.
Focus' Paralane range of go-anywhere endurance/gravel bikes includes this Shimano 105-equipped bike with a hydro-formed aluminium frame. Like other disc-equipped Focus bikes it has the German company's clever RAT quick release axles as well as plenty of tyre clearance and easily-fitted Curana mudguards. We loved the carbon fibre Paralane Ultegra when we tested the 2017 version; this bike brings Paralane versatility to those who don't have three grand to spare.
With a lightweight carbon fibre frame and Shimano Tiagra group, this speedster from Trek's racing range is a good deal.
The Emonda line is Trek's take on making the lightest road bikes it can produce for a given price, which means the frame here is worth upgrading as the parts wear out; it wouldn't be shamed by a Shimano Ultegra group.
German direct-sales operation Rose has some very keenly priced bikes, like this disc-braked sportive/endurance model that boasts and aluminium frame with room for 28mm tyres, and a full Shimano 105 groupset with hydraulic brakes. When he reviewed the next bike up in the range, the Ultegra-equipped Rose Pro SL Disc 3000, Stu Kerton said "Thanks to its neutral handling and impressive build spec, the Pro SL is the ideal steed for a day in the saddle with no surprises."
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Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.