Sportive and endurance road bikes, with their comfort-focused design and equipment, are the most popular style of road bikes in the UK.
You can spend as much as your budget will allow on a sportive road bike, with full carbon and electronic gears at the top-end, but we’re going to focus here on bikes that cost under £1,000. As this article shows, your choices are wide and varied.
At this price you can expect bikes built with aluminium frames, carbon fibre forks and predominantly Shimano groupsets, with 105, Tiagra and Sora the most common. You might get a carbon fibre frame at this price but that commonly means the components will be downgraded to account for the more costly frame. Essentially, you'll get better parts on an aluminium frame because the cost of an aluminium frame is much less than one made from carbon. Modern aluminium frames are very good, a far cry from the harsh ride they used to be known for.
Many frames at this price share key features found higher up the price ladder so you’re getting the same focus on comfort, and in terms of geometry the same upright riding position and space for wider tyres - most bikes here feature 25mm tyres as a minimum and most will go wider if you wanted to upgrade. One advantage of disc brakes is that they more easily allow the fitting of wider tyres.
There’s a mix of rim and disc brakes as well, and both have their advantages - discs are generally better in bad weather but heavier and pricier, rim brakes are lighter and cheaper but not as good in the wet. Most manufacturers offer a choice but at this price rim brake bikes still offer the best value for money. Those bikes with disc brakes will be mechanical disc brakes, which are good but not as powerful or reliable as hydraulic disc brakes, but you're going to have to spend more to get a sportive bike with hydraulics.
The Merida Scultura Disc 200 may look like it is an entry-level machine on paper but the frame and fork are absolutely top notch and massively upgradable. It's yet another example of just how good alloy frames are right now, offering a very comfortable ride and plenty of stiffness to boot.
The Scultura Lite-BSA Disc frame has a very enjoyable ride feel; there is no harshness or irritating amounts of road buzz coming through to your contact points, even with the 25mm tyres pumped up to my preferred high pressures. This makes the Scultura a fun bike to ride and you can really cover some miles tapping away on the pedals while taking in the scenery.
Specialized made the Allez a slightly gentler bike in 2018, changing it from the previous eyeballs-out race bike to something more suitable for long rides. It's still quick, but its previous razor-sharp handling has been calmed a touch, and the new version even has eyelets for mudguards and a rack in acknowledgement of the Allez's status as a popular fast commuter for Cycle To Work Scheme buyers.
Nevertheless, the Allez Elite still feels tight under hard cornering and braking and that it hasn't come at the cost of comfort. The entire frame manages to take out the worst of the road buzz and tester Stu never once felt like he'd taken a battering.
The Allez Elite has recently gone up in price, but if you can find another £50 it's still worth a look.
Trek's 2019 aluminium Domane bikes lack the bump-absorbing IsoSpeed seat tube joint of the carbon fibre models, but that means you now get a better spec for your money. The Domane AL 4's light, endurance-geometry aluminium frame has hiddeen mudguard mounts for year-round versatility and is hung with Shimano's 10-speed Tiagra group, with a wide-range 11-32 cassette and 50/34 chainrings for battling hills.
British brand Genesis Bikes is probably best known for its steel road bikes like the Equilibrium or Volare, and increasingly its carbon fibre offerings like the Datum and Zero, but snuck away at the back of the range is this aluminium model, the Delta. It’s pegged as a comfortable and practical road bike with some nice details, like the provision for mudguards. It’s well equipped with the Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset and 25mm wide CST tyres.
Even with Canyon’s aggressive prices, you won’t quite get a carbon fibre Endurace (the Endurace CF 7.0 costs £1,349) but you can get the Endurace AL 7.0 for £999. It trades the carbon for an aluminium frame but it shares many of the same features including the relaxed riding position and pencil thin seat stays. Canyon specs a Shimano 150 groupset R7000 - a full groupset including the chainset and brakes - with high-quality Continental Grand Prix SL 25mm tyres on Mavic Aksium wheels.
Giant’s Contend models are what the company terms road all-rounders and that makes them perfect all-day bikes. The Contend SL 1 features a frame made using Giant’s own ALUXX SL aluminium with shared features like an OverDrive headtube and PowerCore bottom bracket to provide a stiff frame, but most importantly the D-Fuse seatpost is borrowed from the Defy to keep the ride smooth and comfortable. A Shimano 105 groupset with a compact chainset and Giant’s own tubeless-ready wheels, tyres and finishing kit complete the package.
The Synapse has been a popular choice for cyclists seeking comfort for long distance rides for a good few years. The frame is designed to smooth rough roads and it's a comfortable ride thanks to a skinny 25.4mm seatpost and a geometry that places you in a more upright position. This aluminium version is equipped with Promax Render R mechanical disc brakes and a Shimano Tiagra/FSA groupset. Tyres are Schwalbe Lugano in a 28mm width. It's not quite as well specced as the Merida, Giant or Canyon but you are getting disc brakes which offer better braking in all conditions.
The 2019 version gets an upgrade to an all-carbon fork.
Merida's previous Ride endurance bikes are no more, replaced by new Silex platform, a more versatile design intended for everything from sportives to exploring dirt roads and easier trails. The range opens with the £1,000 Silex 200 (above) which is built up with a 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset and Promax Decode R mechanical disc brakes. You get some very low gears via the 48/32-tooth chainset and 11-32 cassette.
While the Sora components aren't quite as nice as the Tiagra you usually find in this category, the 6066 aluminium frame and full carbon fork offer loads of upgrade potential down the line. Merida uses the same Silex Lite aluminium frame for the £2,100 Shimano Ultegra-equipped Silex 700.
Cube’s Attain combines an aluminium frame with a relaxed and upright riding position and it’s one of the few bikes here with disc brakes. It’s packed with modern details like internal cable routing, a carbon fork, thru-axles and mounts for mudguards, increasing its versatility if you want to use it for commuting as well as weekend sportives. A Shimano Tiagra groupset with 28mm wide Continental tyres are equipment highlights.
Decathlon’s Van Rysel RR 900 AF is a popular road bike because you get a really good parts package for the price, backed up with a decent frame that offers a fine ride. This model features a complete Shimano 105 groupset including chainset and direct-mount brakes and Mavic Aksium wheels with Mavic Yksion tyres. Those parts are all hanging off an aluminium frame with a claimed weight of 1,400g in a size M and carbon fibre fork.
The Laterite range is a popular choice for sportive cyclists and with rack and mudguard mounts it’s also a good option for commuting and daily riding. A 6061 aluminium frame with triple butted tubes to save weight and a carbon fibre fork are fitted with Shimano 105 R7000 components and 25mm wide Continental Ultra Sport tyres for increased comfort. This is a bike built to cope with British road conditions, with geometry pitched between an aggressive race position and a more upright classic sportive one, so basically a modern performance endurance bike. It will take mudguards and is definitely a bike we’d view as having upgrade potential as parts wear out. There is also a women’s specific version of the Pinnacle Laterite 3 too.
The successor to the popular Boardman Team Carbon is based on the more expensive SLR 9.8 frameset so you’re getting some top-notch design, with the sort of comfort that will look after you on longer rides. Despite the carbon fibre frame Boardman hasn’t skimped on the equipment, with a Shimano Tiagra, FSA Gossamer and Tektro R540 groupset ensuring it puts in a solid and reliable performance.
The most significant upgrade from the previous model is the change to tubeless-ready tyres so you can ditch the inner tubes and switch to tyres with sealant to fend off minor punctures. Boardman Bikes have a habit of producing really good bikes at a competitive price and this one looks to continue that theme.
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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.