Choose one of the best road bikes under £350 and you're buying the fastest and most fun way of getting around under your own power, zooming you to the office during the week and taking you out to explore the lanes at the weekends — on a budget.
What if you're dying to join the cycling revolution, but can't afford the four-figure price tags of those featherweight carbon creations in your local bike shop? We've combed the catalogues for a selection of the best road bikes under £300 that'll get you started without breaking the bank.
Decent-quality drop-bar road bikes under £350 are now rare and there are a lot of 'bicycle-shaped objects' in this category. Caveat emptor.
Look for an aluminium alloy frame and components from Shimano
Avoid buying an unassembled bike — putting a bike together is not trivial and if you don't know what you're doing it's easy to end up with a death trap
Got a little bit more to spend? Check out our guide to road bikes for under £500
Fortunately almost every bike out there meets what we'd consider the rock-bottom minimum spec for a bike to be safe and pleasant to ride. Horrors such as hard-to-repair cottered cranks and steel rims with useless wet-weather braking are things of the past, or at least things to avoid on second-hand bikes. Most of these bikes have efficient, easy-to-use gears from Japanese firm Shimano, the world's biggest maker of bike components.
We've looked for bikes with drop handlebars — the defining feature of a road bike — indexed gears that click into place to make changing easier and a decent range of gears for riding up and down hills.
All that said, in the last couple of years the pickings in the sub-£350 category have become slimmer. All bike prices have risen 10-20% since the Brexit vote crashed the pound, which has pushed quite a few bikes that were previously in this category out of reach. The survivors, as it were, mostly come from companies with huge buying power that get their own-brand bikes directly from bike factories: Halfords and Decathlon.
If you want to know more, we've an in-depth article about choosing and buying your first road bike. Go have a thorough read, we'll wait here.
If your budget is this tight looking for a second hand bargain is something you should seriously consider (see below for more), but if it has to be new if you shop around for discount bargains during the winter you might find something.
It's arguably a bit basic, but the Paradox from Halfords brand Apollo is as much bike as you can reasonably expect for £200 and boasts an aluminium frame, Shimano gears and 28mm tyres. It's available in three sizes and if you pick it up from the store Halfords will assemble it for you at no extra cost.
For a penny under £230 from Argos, this basic road bike looks to have a decent spec: aluminium frame, MicroShift brake/shift levers and 50/34 compact chainset. The link above goes to the 58cm bike; it's also available with a a 54cm frame.
You'll have to do some assembly to get the Challenge on the road. If this is your first road bike and you're unfamiliar with setting up bikes, we suggest getting a mechanically inclined friend to help.
The cheapest drop-bar bike 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.
WiggleCRC's own-brand range of basic cycling gear includes this entry-level road bike, which looks pretty decent, on paper at least. It has an aluminium alloy frame with 14-speed Shimano gearing and combined brake/gear levers for easy shifting. It's decent value at £300, and a very good deal at the discounted price here.
It's usually available in five sizes, so you should be able to get one that fits well unless you're very tall or short. However, Wiggle and CRC are showing it as out of stock at the moment; we're hoping there's more on the way.
There are plenty of bikes costing under £350 at Halfords, and pick of the bunch is this Carrera Zelos. In normal times, it's often discounted, but with bikes still in high demand as people look for covid-safe transport you could wait for a long time before the price drops.. It features an aluminium frame built up with a 14-speed Shimano groupset and Tektro MD-C400 disc brakes.
If you've got champagne — or maybe prosecco — tastes but only a beer budget, there are bargains to be had in the secondhand market.
Gumtree has a good guide to staying safe and not getting scammed or lumbered with a stolen bike, and eBay has a thorough guide to the intricacies of buying safely through its auction system.
Explore the complete archive of reviews of bikes on road.cc
The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.
Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product in a if we think it's one of the best of its kind.
As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.