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The 5 best sub-£1,000 bikes we've reviewed over the past 12 months, but only one can take the top spot

If you’re looking for a great bike that doesn't cost more than £1,000, here are the best of those we’ve reviewed on road.cc over the past year.

Today’s sub-£1,000 bikes are the best they’ve ever been thanks to lightweight frames, reliable components and an incredibly competitive market that drives prices down. Bikes in this price category benefit hugely from trickledown technology – design features originally found on higher priced models that have gradually filtered down through the ranges – so if you’re looking for the best value you’re in the right place.

Bike of the year 2017/18 - all the other award categories + winners

Most tax exempt Cycle to Work schemes have a bike price cap of £1,000, so if you want to take advantage of such an initiative, these bikes are certainly ones to consider. 

Whatever type of riding you’re into, you can get yourself something that performs superbly if you arm yourself with the right information and shop intelligently.

We need to mention that the Specialized Allez Elite that we reviewed in November would have made it onto our list but the brand has announced a complete halt to the sale of its 2018 model year Allez, Allez Sport and Allez Elite road bikes due to a fork crown manufacturing defect. Sales will be resumed at a later date.

As in all our other categories, only bikes reviewed on road.cc during 2017 are eligible for consideration.

5. Pinnacle Dolomite Singlespeed £525

Buy it here

Pinnacle Dolomite Singlespeed - riding 2.jpg

The Pinnacle Dolomite Singlespeed is one of a very small number of disc brake-equipped singlespeed road bikes on the market, and it puts in a very good performance, proving amply capable of eating up winter training miles with the minimum of things to go wrong. It has predictable handling and decent brakes, and while the wheels and finishing kit are unexceptional they keep the bike affordable.

This being a disc-braked bike you don't get the option of flipping the hub over from singlespeed to fixed, so it's supplied as a singlespeed, with an 18-tooth freewheel. You could swap the freewheel for a fixed cog if you wanted, it's just not as simple as flipping the wheel over.

The bike comes with a 46T Samox chainset and an 18T freewheel, giving a 67.5in gear on the 26mm tyres. That's a decent compromise gear that's low enough to get up some steep climbs without spinning out too quickly on the flat. If you live somewhere where hills aren't a big thing it'll probably be a bit low, but it's an easy swap.

The aluminium frame is neatly made with an eccentric bottom bracket to tension the chain.  It would have been nice to see a carbon-bladed fork, but since the bike has space for 32mm tyres (or 28s with mudguards) to take the sting out of the ride, it's not a deal-breaker.

The ride position is reasonably high – at the comfort-sportive end of the road bike spectrum – but it's aggressive enough for a decent amount of speed when required.

The wheels are heavy, and that's reflected in the bike's 10.1kg overall weight, but reliability before you think about light weight.

The TRP Spyres are about the best mechanical disc brakes out there. They don't have the top-end power of some of the other options, but because they have two moving pads instead of one moving and one static, they're a whole lot simpler to set up and adjust. 

The Dolomite Singlespeed is a solid choice for a no-fuss winter trainer or a low-maintenance work bike, and the frame is ready to take some mudguards and a rack. You get a well-made frame and well-chosen components, and the ride is good.

Why it’s here: Good quality singlespeed for winter training or fuss-free commuting on the flat

Read our review here. 

4. Dolan L’Etape 105 £949.98

Buy it here

Dolan L Etape - riding 1.jpg

For a – relatively speaking – piffling £950, the Dolan L'Etape 105 is a full carbon fibre road bike with a Shimano 105 groupset 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.

You won't find many cheaper carbon road bikes as well specced as this. There's no suggestion that the performance offered by L'Etape is anything but first rate.

It's sprightly and energetic, with a really good turn of pace when you apply the power. Steering is well balanced with enough stability to make descending at speed a joyous experience. It's comfortable, too, adequately ironing out all but the roughest roads. Though not the lightest bike in the world, it's not going to hold you back massively on the climbs and the compact chainset helps when the gradient kicks up.

Although the Dolan is named after the iconic L'Etape du Tour cyclosportive, the geometry isn't what you'd expect of a modern bike built for comfort and distance, it’s more like that of a race bike.

The frame features all the modern details you'd expect much higher up the sliding scale of price. Cables are fully internally routed, producing clean lines, and there’s no rattling from the cables inside the frame. Contributing to the sharp and responsive ride is the tapered head tube with a large 1 1/2in lower bearing. The fork isn't full carbon fibre – the steerer tube is aluminium – but the only real negative is the increased weight.

The Dolan comes with a full, no shortcuts, Shimano 105 mechanical groupset. The shifting performance is excellent with light gear shifts and quiet operation. The brakes are solid and reliable. You can choose between a racy 53/39-tooth chainset or a compact 50/34-tooth version when you buy the bike, which is a nice touch. The stem length and handlebar width are also customisable. The Mavic Aksium One wheels aren’t superlight but what they lack in zipp and fizz they make up for in reliability and durability.

If you really crave a carbon fibre road bike but don't want to spend more than a grand, this is a commendable choice. Better yet, it doesn't ask that you make any massive compromises, with the performance of a level you’d expect on a much more expensive bike.

Why it’s here: Entry-level price, top-level performance

Read our review here.

3. Boardman Road Team Carbon £1,000

Buy it here

Boardman Road Team Carbon - riding 1.jpg

The Road Team Carbon continues the theme of fun and exhilarating bikes delivered by Boardman that also manage to offer excellent value for money. You can't argue with the performance or kit from this entry-level racer, and the frame is so good it'll be well worth upgrading the parts as and when you can.

The Road Team Carbon feels buzzy and exciting because you are involved with everything: the feeling of the changing road surface underneath you, or the way it skips over the bumps, leaving the ground slightly under really heavy braking on a rough descent... It all adds to the feeling of being at one with the bike. You want to keep pushing it harder and harder to find the limit so you then know how far you can push it next time.

The handling is quick but never twitchy, so should your tyres break traction slightly front or rear it's really easy to keep control. It's very reassuring, especially if you aren't the most confident of bike handlers and find yourself in a bit of trouble.

The Road Team Carbon isn't quite as racy as its big brother in Boardman's performance range, the Pro Carbon SLR, which was our bike of the year a couple of years back, but consider it as a stepping stone, something to hone your skills on before you maybe consider racing.

The Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset is lovely kit, basically a 10-speed version of Shimano 105 5800. With a 12-28 cassette you get a decent spread of gears when matched to the 50/34 chainset up front. It’s a shame not to see a Tiagra chainset for a complete look, but Boardman has gone with the FSA Gossamer because it is BB30, which means it uses a 30mm axle for added stiffness over the 24mm axle that Shimano uses. 

Overall the Boardman Team is a decent build with a very good frameset at its heart. With a lighter set of wheels and probably an upgrade to those brakes you could easily race this bike right up through the ranks.

Why it’s here: A decently specced semi-race bike with a very good frameset at its heart

Read our review here. 

2. Giant Contend SL1 £999

Buy it here

Giant Contend SL 1 - riding 3.jpg

The Giant Contend SL 1 is an absolutely spot-on all-day ride. It's a comfortable and versatile sportive/endurance bike with a dependable feel that encourages you to keep going and just do those extra few miles.

It takes whatever it encounters in its stride with an unflappable assurance that's just what you want in a bike for long rides, handling everything from twisty descents on smooth surfaces to tatty dirt roads, Belgian cobbles and even singletrack trails with equal aplomb.

The Contend SL 1 is a steady, efficient climber. Sit down, hunker into the Giant own-brand short-reach bar and it carries you uphill with calm focus. This isn't a superlight, mountain-conquering race bike, urging you to whiz frantically uphill like you're chasing a Tour podium rival, but it gets the job done without fuss. 

When the road surface gets crummy the Contend SL 1's Giant P-SL 1 tyres come into their own. They're fast, thanks to a smooth tread pattern, grippy on everything from smooth tarmac to packed-down soil, and confident, with plenty of cushioning and suppleness to keep the bike on track. They're not fat enough to isolate you fully from cobbles and the bigger lumps and bumps but they certainly make rough roads a lot more fun than 23mm rubber. There's just about enough room to fit 28mm tyres if you like.

The Contend SL 1's only slight weakness is that its high-speed handling isn't quite as precise as that of a pure race bike. The Contend's not a bad descender, it's just not a corners-on-rails 50mph thriller.

If you've a grand to spend and you want a bike that was born to tap out 20mph all day long, this could be the right bike for you.

Why it’s here: Balanced and assured aluminium endurance bike equally suited to long rides at pace and commuter pothole-bashing

Read our review here. 

1. Raleigh Criterium Sport £800

Buy it here

Raleigh Criterium Sport - riding 2

The £800 Raleigh Criterium Sport is proof that you don't need to spend a huge amount of money to get a great road bike. It offers a well designed aluminium frame, a carbon fibre fork and a full Shimano Tiagra groupset, which all comes together to provide a brilliant ride. This is a cracking bike for the money, and one that isn't easily embarrassed by more expensive rivals.

The first thing that strikes you is how smooth the ride is. It's very compliant over any sort of road surface, and doesn't deteriorate into harshness on really gravelly roads. In fact, it has a more composed ride than many more expensive carbon fibre bikes.

The Raleigh isn't the dynamic masterclass you'd expect if it were a UCI-weight-limit-challenging bike, but it's still a very involving and exciting ride. The weight is noticeable at lower speeds and stunts acceleration a little, but get it up to speed and it sails through country lanes or congested city streets with plenty of pace.

It's a much more involving ride than many at this price. The geometry is well judged and the carbon fork and aluminium frame come together to give a good level of agility; it'll suit wannabe racers as much as sportive challengers. If you like to really throw your bike around the road, powering out of the saddle to sprint over rises and belting through corners as fast as you dare, the Criterium Sport indulges.

The Tiagra groupset is a delight to use, mimicking the ergonomics and functionality of Shimano's more expensive groupsets. It's great that Raleigh has used the full groupset – no shortcuts here. The gear shifters feel heavier than those on 105 and above, and the brakes aren’t as powerful, but as the miles pass by these tiny niggles fade away.

It's a good looking groupset, too, particularly the chainset. In fact the whole bike has a really slick appearance which lifts it against similar priced rivals. 

Best of all, the ride is as classy as its appearance – there's substance to back up the style. And when you've tired of chasing segment times or your mates, the Raleigh provides enough refinement over long distance rides.

If you're buying your first road bike, or upgrading, the Raleigh Criterium Sport will definitely ensure you fall in love with cycling.

Why it’s here: This is a cracking bike for the money, and one that isn't easily embarrassed by more expensive rivals

Read our review here. 

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.

6 comments

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OrangeRidley [34 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

It's a shame you haven't reviewed any Planet X's. I'd be interested to see if they are as good value for money as they seem.

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RoubaixCube [92 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes

Surprised non of the Triban's from Decathlon made this list. They are normally given rave reviews on almost every website

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kil0ran [1190 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
RoubaixCube wrote:

Surprised non of the Triban's from Decathlon made this list. They are normally given rave reviews on almost every website

Don't recall them reviewing any Tribans in 2017. A shame as there are potentially three bikes that would make this list (100, 500, & the 700-series CF bike. Also the two Gran Fondo bikes although only the Sora version is under a grand

Avatar
ChrisB200SX [861 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

Dolan is now £999.99 with RS010 wheels... Lots of frame colour choices and quite customisable.

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BehindTheBikesheds [2603 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes

The '17 Contend SL 1 is now available for £780 in all sizes at De Vere cycles, absolute bargain! The SL2 is £600 in a couple of sizes.

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ibr17xvii [365 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes

The link you've provided to the Raleigh is to a store selling it for £449.99.

Is that too good to be true?

EDIT: I think this might be a link to a lower model.