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BUYER'S GUIDE

5 of the best cheap carbon fibre road bikes — composite bikes for under £1,200

Got your heart set on a carbon fibre road bike? You don't have to spend a fortune

Cheap carbon fibre road bikes — which we're defining as under £1,200 — are fairly rare so to save you scouring the web, we've rounded them up for you. Advances in carbon fibre manufacturing and the economies of scale have meant that carbon road bikes are now far more affordable than they were just 10 or so years ago, but inflation and a plunging pound have reduced the number of carbon fibre road bikes under £1,200. Here are all the ones we can find.

  • Why carbon fibre? Even on a bike under £1,200 you can get carbon fibre's mixture of power transfer and a slightly 'soft' ride

  • Nevertheless, a carbon fibre frame may not be lighter than an equivalent aluminium frame; but if weight matters that much to you, you'll probably want to spend a bit more

  • All these carbon fibre road bikes are retailer own brands; cutting out a layer of distribution helps keep the price down

  • Rim brakes still rule in this category, with only two of our five boasting discs

  • Want more options? Check our guide to the best road bikes for under £1,000

5 of the best carbon fibre road bikes under £1,200 for 2021

Most bikes at this price normally feature aluminium frames. That’s because it costs less to make a frame out of aluminium than carbon fibre. There’s nothing wrong with aluminium, we’re fans of the material especially with the advances that have been made recently.

Carbon costs more than aluminium so you will typically sacrifice the quality of the components, with a lower tier groupset, wheels and finishing kit common. A carbon frame is likely to be lighter and stiffer than aluminium, though and does offer good upgrade potential so you could replace parts as they wear out.

Recent rises in the prices of anything purchased by suppliers in dollars (which is basically everything in the bike industry) has pushed up the price of even the best bargains in carbon bikes, but there are still a few out there.

Ribble R872 Disc Tiagra — £1,199

Ribble R872 Disc.jpg

The Ribble R872 Disc Tiagra is a carbon fibre road bike that's built to a sportive-friendly geometry and it offers a much higher performance than you've a right to expect at this price. Plus, there's the bonus that you can tweak the spec to suit your taste and budget.

Tester Mat writes: "The feature that surprised me most about the Ribble R872 Disc's ride is the front end stiffness. In this respect it feels like a bike costing way more than this. Haul on the alloy handlebar and everything is absolutely rock solid. You might not pull out your best Mark Cavendish sprint all that often but you'll appreciate the rigidity when climbing out of the saddle and also when cornering hard – you can really chuck this bike through the bends.

"The frame is almost as stiff elsewhere, giving the feeling that none of your energy is going to waste. It really is hugely impressive for the money, made with T700 carbon fibre and boasting a tapered head tube, and neat internal cable routing and compatibility. The fork is full carbon too."

Read our review of the Ribble R872 Disc Tiagra

Boardman SLR 8.9 2021 — £1,100

2021 Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon - riding 4.jpg

The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon retains its excellent frameset for 2021, but it's now bedecked with an even better groupset for a wider, 11-gear spread. It only boosts the already great versatility, and it's ripe for longterm upgrades.

Tester Stu writes: "Mat tested the previous version of this bike back in 2018 and was very impressed, and now I've ridden the 2021 version I can see why. It's brilliant!

"I did a couple of long rides – four hours or so – on the 8.9 and it's a smooth ride. There's no harshness to speak of, and I found the riding position well thought out.

"It's a quick and efficient bike to ride, especially as the front end geometry is on the lively side of neutral. Technical descents can be taken at speed, not only because of the planted feel, but also thanks to the stiff fork and rigid, tapered head tube and steerer."

Read our review of the Boardman SLR 8.9 2021

Read more: Boardman Bikes release 2021 road bikes

Vitus Zenium 2021 — £1,099.99

2021 Vitus Zenium

This is the budget version of Vitus' carbon-fibre road platform, which had something of an overhaul in 2021 with room in the frame for tyres up to 30mm. In keeping with the trend for lower gears to make life easier on the hills, this 2021 version has a 50/34 chainset and 11-32 sprockets. The Tiagra groupset is solid, dependable stuff and while the brakes are cable-actuated on this model, it wouldn't be absurd to upgrade them to partially or fully hydraulic stoppers down the track.

Ribble R872 Tiagra — £1,099

Ribble r872 tiagra caliper

Pick a Shimano Tiagra groupset and the cheapest wheels and stem on Ribble's bike builder and you can put together Ribble's all-carbon endurance bike for a little over four figures. This is a well-liked frame that's worth upgrading when budget allows.

Merlin Cordite 105 — £1,099

Merlin Cordite 105

It's always worth checking out Merlin Cycles for keenly-priced own-brand bikes, and the Cordite looks like another bargain from the Chorley mail order specialist.

Your £1,099 gets you a full high modulus carbon fibre frame and fork and a Shimano 105 groupset including the chainset, a part many bike makers swap for the cheaper 'non-series' equivalent.

The Cordite rolls on Merlin's own RA-1 wheels and has a decent Controltech finishing set.

The only downside is that you're going to have to be a smaller rider — the only size Merlin's currently listing is 49cm.

Explore the complete archive of reviews of road bikes on road.cc

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

John 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 founder 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. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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