If you're keen to get into road cycling, for the fun of zooming round the lanes, for fitness or as a quick and cheap way to get to work, it is possible to buy a road bike for under £500. In fact, we've found a few bargains starting from just under £200, proving you really don't need to spend a fortune to get a good road bike these days.
It’s quite likely that if you’re reading this you’re looking at buying your first road bike. You’ll probably have a lot of questions. A good place to start is always a well stocked bike shop where you can view the bikes in your budget and get a good idea of what is offered.
Road bikes priced under £500 often feature light and stiff aluminium or steel frames with good quality gears and brakes. Japanese firm Shimano is the predominant component choice at this end of the market, and the good news is that a lot of the technology seen higher up the ladder eventually trickles down to the entry level.
Weight is the main area where entry-level bikes suffer. However, with compact or triple chainsets, and the wider range of gears they offer, getting up steep hills is made easier. As a general rule, the more you spend the lighter the bike will be. Closer to £500 and you can expect a carbon fibre fork which saves weight and offers improved performance over the steel and aluminium forks on cheaper bikes.
You can get bikes cheaper than this, but they are — frankly — not very good. If your budget is so tight this is beyond your range then should seriously consider looking for a second hand bargain (head over to eBay or our own classifieds for a look), but if it has to be new you might find something if you shop around for discount bargains during the winter.
Spend just a bit more and you get a whole lot more bike. Lighter, better equipped, and we're willing to bet nicer to ride too. This is a price point where the big specialist retailers are really able to flex their buying muscle for your benefit, and combine it with design knowledge to deliver the maximum bang for your buck.
It's no coincidence that both Decathlon and Halfords in-house brands figure strongly here. This is also a price point at which you can pick up a really good discount bargain at the right time of the year, something we've reflected in our pick of bikes here.
A new model for 2017 from French-based sports superstore chain Decathlon, the B'Twin Triban 100 has an aluminium frame and seven-speed gears with 32mm tyres so it can tackle the odd dirt track or towpath without any fuss. It'll take mudguards and a rack so will make a serviceable commuter that can take you pootling round the lanes at the weekend.
If this isn't the now-discontinued Wiggle road bike with different decals I'll eat my cycling cap. The spec is the same, though the price has gone up from £250. It was great value at that price; for £260 it's still decent.
It's available in five sizes, so you should be able to get one that fits well unless you're very tall or short.
There are plenty of bikes costing under £500 at Halfords, and pick of the bunch is this Carrera Zelos. It features an aluminium frame built up with a 14-speed Shimano groupset and Tektro dual pivot brakes. There's a women's version too.
The price of the Zelos varies quite a bit from its £275 RRP. We've seen it as low as £220 (its current price); anything under £250 is a good deal.
£300 to £500
Step up to this price bracket and the choice suddenly increases, with some of the bigger manufacturers now coming into contention, especially the more you approach the £500 mark. Most of the bikes at this price, though not all, will feature an aluminium frame, which makes for a lighter bike. Get closer to £500 and you can expect to see the fork upgraded to carbon fibre, saving weight and improving the ride.
With a double-butted aluminium frame, this is a good-value package with Shimano 14-speed gears, and a good smattering of basic name-brand components in the finishing kit. Certainly the frame wouldn't be shamed by parts upgrades down the track to Sora or even Tiagra components as the stock parts wear out.
Fuji bikes don't pass through the road.cc office very often, but we liked the Sportif 1.3 we tested a few years ago.
For a bit more money, the £500 Fuji Sportif 2.1 has the same frame, but with carbon-legged fork and Shimano Sora groupset. We'd have led with it, but it's only available in 52cm and 54cm sizes.
B'Twin's Triban bikes are deservedly popular as first road bikes and as commuting bikes that you won't feel too bad about exposing to road crud and winter salt and grime. The Triban 500 has a triple chainset for a wide gear range, a carbon-legged fork and plenty of clearance for mudguards.
With an aluminium frame, chromoly fork, wide-range gears and cantilever brakes, the Roux Etape 150 is an excellent-value touring bike, that is, a bike for long-distance, multi-day travel. It'll also do nicely for the ride to work.
With mudguards and a rack, it's ready to roll — all you need to add is panniers.
For this price you might expect a women's bike to be the men's frame with a shorter stem and a woman's saddle. That's not the case here. There's a female-specific frame at the heart of this version of the Laterite 1, with a shorter reach for any given size, and a size range that goes down further too. There's a men's version too.
It's fair to say the Boardman Road Sport is a bike that impressed us a great deal when we reviewed it. Enough in fact that it was our Budget Bike of the Year 2013-14 and came third in the overall Bike of the Year Awards. You get a 7005 double-butted aluminium frame with Shimano Claris gears and FSA Tempo compact chainset.
The Road Sport comes in a slightly more relaxed, sportive-friendly geometry than a full-on race bike; the top tube is a little shorter and the head tube is a little longer — not massively but enough to add extra comfort without sacrificing too much efficiency. You get mounts for mudguards too so it's very versatile. This is a seriously impressive bike for the money — not just a good bike for its £500 RRP but a good bike full stop.
The Road Sport's now been replaced in the Boardman range, but some Halfords branches still have stock in 55.5cm size. At £350 it's an absolute steal.
With Shimano Claris components on a 6016 aluminium frame, the latest version of the entry-level bike in Chain Reaction's Vitus range looks like excellent value for money. There's a carbon-legged fork too, and plenty of space in the frame for mudguards, plus the necessary eyelets in the frame. You can fit a rack too, making the Razor a sharp commuter.
A new model from Evans Cycles house brand Pinnacle, the Laterite 2 has a frame made from double-butted 6061 aluminium and a fork with carbon fibre legs. Shimano brings its Sora 9-speed gears to the party and there's plenty of room under the Tektro brakes for mudguards even with tyres fatter than the 25mm Schwalbe Luganos fitted.
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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.