If you want a bike that doesn't cost a fortune, this is the category for you.
Lighter weights, improved finishes and higher quality components mean that today’s sub-£1,000 bikes are way better than ever before and you can bag yourself something that performs beautifully for well under a grand if you shop carefully.
Bikes in this category benefit massively from technology that trickles down from higher price points, and we’ve reviewed some seriously impressive budget bikes on road.cc over the past 12 months. These are the best.
If you want a slammed, stretched-out and responsive entry-level race machine but you still want a forgiving ride you should take a serious look at the Reparto Corse Duello from Italian brand Bottecchia. Whether you're racing competitively or just out for a spin on the club run, the Duello is a blast.
This Duello is an example of just how good aluminium frames have become. It easily puts to bed all of those myths about finger tingling and bone shaking rides and feedback. It doesn't crash through potholes or resonate over rough surfaces, it's smooth and even rather plush.
The top tube is curved and creates quite a compact frame shape, which in turn means you have a lot of seatpost exposed, adding comfort.
That doesn't make it a soft option; the Bottecchia will lay the power down when you ask it to in a very precise manner. It's efficient, and you never feel like you're wasting energy.
It's a capable sprinter or climber, responding to your input with a bit of a surge as you stamp on the pedals. The only thing stopping the Duello from reaching its full potential is the wheelset. A common theme on bikes around the grand mark, but the Fulcrum Racing Sport's 1.9kg weight just takes the edge off the performance.
Overall, the Duello is a really capable bike that’s fun to ride hard and fast. Its masterstroke is how well it smooths out that ride so you can continue to pedal hard and fast for longer.
Why it’s here Excellent alloy frame draped in functional components and ideal for racing or just blasting about
The Reid Blacktop is a well-built and easy-to-ride city bike with durable components and an engaging ride.
It's a fun bike. At 11.7kg it's hardly a lightweight but it's still good to punch away from the lights and the steering is on the lively side of neutral, which makes it good for flicking through traffic. It's not twitchy, though, and 40mph descents don't require any more than the usual amount of care.
The aluminium frame and fork are stiff, and the wheels are solidly built too. That's mitigated by the 35mm tyres and the decent saddle and grips, and the overall package is a bike that feels firm without being uncomfortable.
The position of the bike is just right: not too racy, but not too sat up either. It fits the nature of the bike.
If you like to spin the pedals fast and you have plenty of hills to do, you might find the range of the 3-speed Shimano Nexus internally geared hub restricting, but if you live somewhere less bumpy the gear range will be dandy.
There are frame mounts for a rack and mudguards. Those accessories aren't included but you could add them to make the Reid into an all-weather, four-season commuter.
If you're after a simple and durable workhorse bike for not much cash, this is certainly one to consider.
Why it’s here This is a simple and durable city bike that's fun to ride and easy to winterise
Whether you're planning that first step on the road bike ladder or looking for a capable, well-priced mudguard wearer to get you through the year-round commute, the Vitus Razor VR is worth more than a passing glance. With an alloy frame, carbon fork and Shimano Sora groupset, it's a capable machine for its £599.99 price tag (the 2017 version is £549.99).
The Razor is responsive with a great frame and carbon fork, while one of Shimano's Sora groupset has become 9-speed and very much refined.
This is a sporty little number.T he handling is neutral, ideal for beginners, but still has that edge to engage the more experienced rider. This makes it great as a winter commuter no matter your skill level.
For its weight the Vitus responds well to rider input. Acceleration and climbing are slightly better than expected of a 9.5kg bike, especially if it's already rolling – pushing off from a standing start can be a bit of a grind.
Through the bends, the Razor is confident – maybe not as sharp in the corners as a pure race bike, but you won't be left wanting.
Why it’s here Ideal first road bike, and with the ability to use mudguards it would make a great quick commuter too
The Verenti Technique Tiagra may look like a nineties throwback thanks to its paintjob but the spec list is bang up to date with a hydroformed alloy frameset, tapered head tube, full carbon fibre fork and Shimano's latest Tiagra 4700 groupset. You can even bung full mudguards on it too, and all for 650 quid.
Verenti is an in-house brand of online retailer Wiggle and, as we've often found in the past, their bikes come with an excellent specification for the money thanks to their massive buying power.
Out on the road it is very easy to ride, tracking well and offering no surprises or twitchiness – exactly how it should be for a novice rider. But don't go thinking it's boring to ride if you've got a bit more experience in the saddle.
Push the pace and the Verenti has an engaging ride. It's not as sharp at the steering as some but you can actually 'ride' it to get a response instead of just being a passenger turning the pedals. High speed descents are dealt with in an unflustered manner and as long as you don't go flying into the turns like an animal you'll come out the other side unscathed.
Why it’s here Excellent value for money first road bike, audax machine or year-round commuter
2. Mango Bikes Point R £849.99 (currently on sale for £699)
The Mango Bikes Point R is aimed at those new to cycling but it's far from being a beginner's bike. With great comfort levels, exciting handling and good looks, the Point R has just as much to offer the seasoned roadie as those new to life on two wheels. The top level model now comes with a full Shimano 105 drivetrain, plus upgraded brakes and tyres.
This model weighs in at 9.38kg (20.76lb), which at face value is a bit on the heavy side, but the weight never really seems to matter. Okay, it's a touch laboured if you're in town and constantly stop-starting at traffic lights, but out on the open road you really don't notice it. The Point R is a spirited climber too.
You might have heard that alloy frames can be harsh to ride but the Mango is one of the most comfortable alloy bikes we’ve reviewed.
It really is an easy bike to ride and great for tapping out the miles. Thanks to how comfortable it is, you can really cover a lot of ground without feeling fatigued from vibration over rough road surfaces.
We’d happily jump aboard the Point R for a day out rather than something lighter and stiffer, purely because it is so easy to live with. For everything bar racing, the Mango is hard to knock.
Why it’s here An impressive take on the beginner's bike, and shows that weight has little to do with all-out performance
The BTwin Triban 540 is a real joy to ride, with an incredible spec at a price point that’s so low it had us double-checking that we’d got it right.
With a triple-butted aluminium frame it feels fast, comfortable and responsive, without much of the buzzy feeling you sometimes get from aluminium. The carbon fork also effectively absorbs bumps in the road. There's little to complain about, comfort-wise. It has front and rear rack and mudguard mounts, so you can load it up for weekend tours or all-year-round commuting.
The Triban 540 is a pleasure to pilot, whether you're on smooth new tarmac, decaying and rough road surfaces or even over cobbles.
BTwin hasn't gone down the route of oversizing the bottom bracket junction, but the frame doesn't lack anything because of it.
The slim seatstays offer some flex, and while steering feels easy and relaxed when you're cruising, it's responsive when you need it to be.
Decathlon's own-brand dual-pivot rim brakes performed well, including for sudden stops – no complaints there. Although the 540 is marketed as having a Shimano 105 spec, BTwin has reduced costs by putting a Tiagra 12-28 cassette and Prowheel Ounce 721 compact 50/34 chainset on the frame; gear changing was easy, if not totally effortless.
The Mavic Aksium One wheels are fitted with 25mm Hutchinson Equinox tyres which roll well and offer a decent amount of grip. When they do wear out, the frame has enough clearance for 32mm tyres (without mudguards) – which would increase comfort further.
Overall, this is a great buy for those new to road bikes and those looking to their next cycling challenge. And Decathlon offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, fork, stem and handlebar.
Why it wins This bike is a pleasure to ride whatever the road surface, with an excellent spec for the money
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.