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BUYER'S GUIDE

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

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

Carbon fibre road bikes 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

  • Almost 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 eight six boasting discs

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

6 of the best carbon fibre road bikes under £1,200 for 2020

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.

The feature that surprised us 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 — £1,000

2021 Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon blue

Boardman currently wears the crown for the least expensive carbon fibre bike with the SLR 8.9 105. It's an absolute steal with a Shimano 105 transmission and long-drop brakes providing room for 25mm tyres with mudguards (and 28mm tyres without). As a lightweight all-rounder it's hard to beat for the price.

Read more: Boardman Bikes release 2021 road bikes

Dolan l'Étape Campag Centaur — £1,099.99

2020 Dolan l'Etape Campag Centaur

For a – relatively speaking – piffling £1,100, the Dolan L'Etape is a full carbon fibre road bike that offers excellent road manners and sporty handling. If you really crave a carbon fibre bike but don't want to spend a fortune, this is one of the best affordable carbon bikes you are likely to find anywhere.

Like many budget carbon fibre bikes the Dolan l'Étape is available with a Shimano 105 groupset, but if you want something a little less run-of-the-mill, consider this option with Campagnolo's Centaur components.

Read our review of the Dolan l'Étape

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 disc

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, but it's worth keeping an eye on Ribble's site for specials with a better spec. Either way, this is a well-liked frame that's worth upgrading when budget allows.

Holdsworth Super Professional SRAM Rival 22 — £1,099.99

Holdsworth Super Professional SRAM Rival 22

It's always worth checking out the offerings from direct-selling bazaar Planet X and this is their current cheapest carbon bike, in the livery of heritage brand Holdsworth which they resurrected a few years ago. Note that it actually comes with Fulcrum Racing 900 wheels, not the ones pictured.

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.

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.

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