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road.cc Bike of the Year 2019/20: Best under £1000

The 10 best bikes for under a grand that we've reviewed over the past year – there's something here for all as we count down to number 1

If you’re looking for a great bike for under a grand, here are the best that we reviewed during 2019.

Every bike costing under £1,000 that we've tested on road.cc or off.road.cc during the past 12 months is up for consideration in this category. Just to make it clear: only bikes we've reviewed are eligible. If a brand hasn't sent us their killer value £999 bike, it doesn't go in.

The genre doesn't matter here, which is why we have such a disparate bunch in our top 10: road bikes, gravel/adventure bikes and urban/hybrid bikes. Many of these models also feature in awards categories based on bike type, as opposed to price point.

Today’s sub-£1,000 bikes are the best they’ve ever been thanks to lightweight frames, reliable components and a competitive market that keeps prices low. 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.

Last year this category was won by the Triban RC 520 Disc, a superb value, fully competent workhorse road bike with plenty of practicality thrown in. Read on to find out what takes over this time around. 

10. Triban RC 520 Gravel £849.99

Buy it here 

If you're tempted to try adventure riding, the Triban RC 520 Gravel is a really good place to start. The bike is confident on loose terrain and fun to ride thanks to a decent weight and some quality components.

The RC 520 Gravel is easy to live with on the road thanks to the relaxed geometry, making it ideal for long distance rides or for those new to the sport. The neutral handling and its ability to cruise along at moderate speeds are also highlights.​

Helped by the lengthy wheelbase, the Triban doesn't feel like a handful on the trails. If the tyres break traction, the bike is easily controlled with just a slight shift in body weight and it really doesn't deliver any surprises.

On the technical sections the Triban isn't quite as sharp as more race-inspired gravel bikes, and at 10.3kg it isn't the most flickable either to change course around tree roots, potholes or large rocks...

Comfort is pretty good too with little vibration or buzz coming from the surface below.

The frame is made of 6061-T6 aluminium alloy and comes with a lifetime warranty, while the fork is carbon legged with an alloy steerer. For a bike that could be used for adventure riding or even a bit of canal path commuting, it's great to see a full complement of mudguard and rack mounts. 

You get a mostly Shimano 105 groupset with a 50/34 chainset paired to an 11-32 cassette, which could be a bit on the high side for this type of bike and the sort of riders likely to be buying it.

The TRP Hy/Rd brakes are cable-operated at the lever although hydraulics take over at the calliper. These provide a braking performance somewhere between a standard cable system and full hydraulic. They offer decent power and have a fair amount of modulation too.

Overall, the Triban is a good all-rounder, whether on the road or off it, ideal for that short blast around the lanes or an all-day adventure.

It offers most of what you'd want from an entry-level bike of this kind, all for a very good price, plus its weight is similar to bikes we are seeing at £500-£600 more. If you want one bike to do a little bit of everything – touring, gravel, commuting, adventure, rides with the family – then it is definitely worth considering.

Why it's here A great entry-level gravel/adventure bike that is fun and easy to ride off road
Read the review 

9. Merida Scultura Disc 200 £900

Buy it here 

The Merida Scultura Disc 200 may look like an entry-level machine on paper but the frame and fork are absolutely top notch and they're massively upgradable. It's an example of just how good alloy frames are right now, offering a very comfortable ride and plenty of stiffness.

The Scultura Lite-BSA Disc frame has a very enjoyable ride feel; there is no harshness or irritating road buzz coming through to your contact points, even with the 25mm tyres pumped up to high pressures. This makes the Scultura a fun bike to ride and you can really cover some miles tapping away on the pedals while taking in the scenery. Well, if your route is relatively flat that is.

Its overall 9.96kg (21.95lb) weight is quite noticeable, and if you are out in rolling terrain or find yourself in town keeping up with the ebb and flow of urban traffic, the extra effort required can tire you.

The handling is pleasingly neutral, which is reassuring for those new to road riding. The Scultura is, after all, priced at £900, which places it nicely in that 'first proper road bike' category.

The Lite frame is made from 6066 grade aluminium alloy and the tubing is triple butted. The quality is high throughout although some people might be put off by the fact that the Merida can only take a maximum of 25mm wide tyres. 

The levers and derailleurs are 9-speed Shimano Sora and the shifting is very good; for the money you can't really knock it. The chainset is from FSA, its Omega model, and Merida has sensibly gone for a compact 50/34-tooth setup. 

When it comes to the braking, the Scultura 200 uses Promax Decode R callipers. They are cable operated and decidedly average in performance.

Despite that, the Scultura earns its place here largely thanks to the highly upgradable frame. If you don't want the hassle of upgrading over time, check out the Scultura Disc 300 (£1,300) and 400 (£1,600), each of which comes with a higher level spec.

Why it's here An excellent frameset with a comfortable ride, although it could do with a few component tweaks
Read the review 

8. Merlin ROC Disc 105 £999

Buy it here 

Merlin is offering a good package here – a triple-butted aluminium frame, carbon-bladed fork, hydraulic discs and a Shimano 105 groupset, all for less than a grand. Yeah, it's a bit on the weighty side (10.7kg) but it offers a very good ride quality to offset that.

It's a comfortable setup. Okay, there is little buzz from the road surface but on the whole it is a pleasant place to be. When you hit the hills, the weight can take the edge off and sprinting is not a particular strength, but that isn't really what the ROC is all about. 

It makes for a decent commuter or day-long tourer. It has that kind of 'unflustered' style about it – just get on it and pedal and it'll carry you for miles with little demand for concentration, you can just enjoy the scenery.

That's not to say the Merlin can't deliver a bit of fun when required. You can get down in the drops and power along out of the wind, and the steering is on the nervy side of neutral. Combined with that surefooted feeling from the overall weight, this means you can carry quite a bit of speed through the bends without the bike feeling skittish if the surface is less than ideal.

The frame itself is nothing flash but it's nicely put together and you get mudguard mounts front and rear. Without mudguards, the ROC can take a mid-sized gravel tyre, around 35mm to 38mm depending on the profile, so you can take to the stony tracks and hardcore byways, where the handling doesn't feel overly twitchy. Fit mudguards and you can still get a 30mm tyre into there quite comfortably. There are rack mounting points on the seatstays, too, if you want to fit one for commuting or a spot of touring.

Our test model came with the 5800 series of Shimano 105 rather than the latest R7000 version, with a non-series 50/34 chainset and an 11-32t cassette, which offers a decent spread of gears for most, especially on the road, though it might be a touch high if you use the Merlin consistently on gravel tracks.

The Merlin ROC Disc is a decent all-round workhorse at an attractive price. Hydraulic braking is very impressive to see, and despite its weight it is still a quick, fun bike to ride.

Why it's here A versatile all-weather road machine with a very pleasant ride feel that is just as happy off the beaten track
Read the review 

7. Pearson Once More Unto The Breach £839.99 

Buy it here 

Pearson's Once More Unto The Breach is a singlespeed/fixed aluminium road bike that's ideal for commutes or winter training. While its price tag looks a little on the high side, there is enough potential in its relatively simple ingredients to offer more cycling excitement and performance than you might expect.

Power delivery is superb: what you lose out on in gear choice you (almost) make up for with the ability to make every ounce of effort count. In fact, the Once More Unto the Breach will cope with bigger hills than you might expect. 

Because of this impressive stiffness at the back end, it's quite a surprise to find comfort is not just acceptable but actually very good. Only surfaces that resemble a cheese grater really knock this bike off its stride. Of course, potholes and speed bumps are noticed, but on the vast majority of city roads it's an enjoyably smooth ride.

This is partly because of the carbon-bladed fork, which also keeps the Pearson tracking nicely. Despite the frame's fairly traditional shape and long wheelbase, the Once More Unto the Breach is a lively bike in terms of control – it's not flighty, but it is definitely fun. In terms of the big three ride characteristics – comfort, control and efficiency – it's very hard to fault.

You get a classy aluminium frame with quite nice retro touches, not least the almost level top tube, combined with a carbon-bladed fork.

There are also eyelets for a rear rack and, as on our test bike, front and rear mudguards (a £40 option). In all, it's a smart if not striking bike, but the real magic is more in the hidden details that contribute to the ride experience.

The gearing comprises a 48-tooth chainset allied to an 18t rear sprocket, which comes in both freewheel and fixed form. Simply take out the rear wheel and turn it round to suit your preference.

Braking comes courtesy of TRP Ergo levers matched with unbranded calliper rim brakes. In truth, they're not great for emergency stopping duties but fine for scrubbing off speed. A change of brake pad would improve matters.

On flat terrain, the Pearson is a swift, efficient and delightfully pure way to get around. Add in the simplicity of the singlespeed gearing and an overall package that has been put together by people who know what they're doing – and which seems to work in all-round harmony – and you've got a fast commuting or road training bike that, at its best, feels like undiluted cycling pleasure.

If you're an easygoing leisure rider or you regularly take on seriously big climbs, a singlespeed might not be right for you. But for people wanting to enhance their riding ability, or get superfit, or give a regular commute or training ride a little bit of a boost, the Pearson Once More Unto The Breach offers more than you might expect.

Why it's here A really fantastic singlespeed/fixed bike that will suit a lot of commuters and winter roadies; not cheap, but very good
Read the review 

6. Van Rysel RR 900 AF £849.99 

Buy it here

This is the full package: a proper race bike at a competitive price. The RR 900 AF is the second-tier machine in the aluminium line-up from Decathlon's Van Rysel brand, and it puts in a great performance.

While many bikes at this price point have an endurance bias when it comes to geometry, the RR 900 AF is more race-focused. With steep angles, a lengthy top tube and reasonably short head tube, this is a bike for getting long and low on.

It's responsive too. There is plenty of stiffness around the bottom bracket and the front end feels tight in the bends. It's definitely a bike that likes to be ridden hard.

It also feels planted. It's surefooted, which gives you confidence especially when the road surface is wet and greasy. Some of that is down to the weight – 8.98kg (19.8lb) isn't that svelte for a bike with this kit level, though it doesn't feel sluggish in any way. Most of it comes from the fact that the frame and fork damp a lot of the road buzz. 

This is a great bike if you want to get out for an hour-long blast. Chuck a leg over, smash it about a bit and you'll return home with a grin on your face and a feeling of a job well done.

You can point this bike into a tight bend and know you are going to come out the other side without much issue. The front end tracks nicely and is backed up by the feedback from the fork, so you know exactly what is going on with the front tyre. The steering has a direct feeling to it, which allows you to push hard into the bends.

Should you go in a little deep, the Van Rysel responds well to your input whether that is a shift in bodyweight or a dab of the brakes. On the whole, the handling is nicely weighted, just on the right side of twitchy.

If you want to head out for longer rides then the RR 900 AF delivers on the comfort front too. Ride for three or four hours and you won't home feeling battered.

The RR 900 AF uses Van Rysel's Ultra RCR frame, with butted tubes to create comfort and reduce weight. The welding is neat and tidy enough for the money, and the paint finish is certainly hardwearing. You also get a lifetime warranty on the frame, and two years for the fork.

Another impressive thing is that the cabling is fully internal with the rear derailleur cable running right though the chainstay. 

The fork is a mix of carbon fibre for the legs, with an aluminium alloy tapered steerer, and although 25mm tyres are fitted as standard, there is plenty of room for 28s.

The Van Rysel is very well specced for the money. While many brands at this price scrimp on the brake callipers or the chainset to save money, Decathlon has gone for a full Shimano 105 R7000 groupset. The gearing comprises a semi-compact 52/36 chainset and an 11-28 cassette, which is pretty much spot on for the type of riding this bike is designed for. Decathlon has specced a long cage rear derailleur, which means you can easily swap to a cassette with a 32-tooth large sprocket.

It's when it comes to value that Van Rysel delivers its killer blow. The RR 900 AF could easily be twice the price and still be considered good value for the money.

The Van Rysel offers a great ride, comes with an impressive spec list and the frame is ripe for upgrading as you make gains in performance and grow in confidence.

Why it's here Quality frameset with an impressive spec list that also delivers in performance
Read the review 

5. Saracen Levarg FB £899.99

Buy it here 

This is a flat-bar conversion of a drop-bar gravel bike with 650B wheels and a 1x groupset, designed for urban adventures. Despite that rather convoluted genesis, it fulfils its brief exceedingly well. With impressively accurate control, the first sensation you notice when riding it – even on flat, smooth tarmac – is that this is really quite fun.

The combination of rigid carbon fork with very large volume rubber is an interesting mix that works better than expected, especially for general 'about town' riding. There's no escaping the fact that road imperfections do make their way to you up through the front of the bike, albeit significantly cushioned by the vast 47mm WTB ByWay tyre, but the flipside is that the front tyre's grip, allied with the direct nature of the carbon fork, tapered head tube and stiff, smaller diameter wheels, means the bike goes exactly where you want it.

The Levarg moves far more swiftly than you might imagine. It's easy to get in a rhythm when climbing in the saddle, and while this isn't the kind of bike that's going to win any race from the lights, it's not averse to being manhandled a little. Indeed, as you'd expect with such expansive contact patches, stability and road holding is very secure, meaning you can throw the Levarg around to your heart's content.

The frame is the same as that found on Saracen's Levarg range of drop-bar adventure bikes, and it does a very effective job at being a fast and fun commuter. It's also nicely finished, with its 6061 aluminium tubes accommodating internal routing for rear mech and rear brake, and in-fork routing for the front disc.

Saracen says the FB is the Levarg range's commuting option, and that's a fair summary. One of the great joys of the Levarg's ride experience is being able to fling the bike around a bit, so weaving through traffic, with the insurance of that wide rubber, comes as a real delight.

With that rigid fork, this is certainly no mountain bike. With those huge tyres and wide, flat bar, it's not a long-distance mile-muncher. And there are better general use leisure hybrids out there (not least Saracen's own Urban Cross 3). But if you're a city dweller looking for some urban thrills, or a commuter wanting a bike that will bring you to work with a smile, look no further.

Why it's here A fantastic urban bike that will leave you smiling
Read the review 

4. Forme Longcliffe 2 £650

Buy it here 

The Forme Longcliffe 2 delivers a very good ride indeed, and don't pay much attention to the 10.5kg overall weight – on all but the steepest of hills it feels nippy and surprisingly agile for a bike of its type. If you are looking for your first road machine for fun and fitness or you want a budget winter machine, then it is definitely worth considering.

Not only is the Longcliffe 2 a good-looking bike, it delivers a much better ride than you might expect. Forme hasn't gone over the top with the tube diameters and profiles, though it has gone down the hydroforming route, where moulds and fluid pressure dictate the shape, curves and wall thickness of the aluminium tubes. The technology has been around a while, but seeing it on bikes at this price is a bonus and it really affects the ride, in a good way.

The bike is quite responsive when accelerating and climbing, which allows it to hide its 10.5kg overall weight. The Longcliffe 2 has a bit of a excitement about it, feeling like a race bike but without the associated quick or twitchy handling, which makes it absolutely perfect for those new to road riding or for use in dodgy winter road conditions.

The Forme has quite a comfortable ride too. It's in no way harsh, absorbing much of the road buzz.

It has a longer wheelbase than a race bike, giving a stable ride that is confidence-inspiring. On rough descents or when your speed is pretty high, it never gets unsettled by rough road surfaces and feels properly planted.

The full carbon fork (yep, full carbon on a bike at this price) offers plenty of stiffness and really adds to the confident feeling you get from the Forme.

Suiting the style of riding the Longcliffe is aimed at, you get a 50/34t chainset paired with an 11-32 cassette. It's a decent set of ratios, the only drawback being some quite large jumps between sprocket sizes. 

Tektro provides the callipers for braking and they aren't bad. They certainly perform better than the cheaper cable disc brake options out there.

The Forme offers quality, comfort and versatility. It shows that you really don't need to spend a fortune for a fun day in the saddle.

Why it's here Great ride quality and sorted geometry make the Forme a fun choice, especially when conditions aren't brilliant
Read the review 

3. Triban RC120 Disc £399.99

Buy it here

With almost faultless ride manners, a perfectly practical spec and the extra incentive of enhanced stopping power through mechanical disc brakes, the RC120 Disc has more potential as a high-mileage road machine than its price might suggest.

Hopping aboard the Triban RC120 Disc feels like reconnecting with an old friend. That's great news for the new or lapsed road cyclists who this entry-level bike is aimed at. Handling is absolutely secure with very little upsetting the Triban's progress. It's comfortable too, both in terms of position and in its ability to filter out the worst of your route's road surfaces.

That bump isolation doesn't come at the cost of efficiency. Start turning up the wick a little and power delivery is decent: keeping a high cruising tempo is a particularly satisfying pleasure. Fast flat sections or moderate climbs are handled with ease and even more testing challenges benefit from the RC120 Disc's stable ride, which allows out-of-the-saddle efforts to be handled without drama. It is pretty much exactly what anybody wanting a friendly, benign road bike would hope for.

The frame is 6061 T6 aluminium while the fork is carbon-bladed. It is effective at taking the sting out of the road and even features front rack mounts should you want to turn this into an ultra-fast tourer.

When it comes to performance, the Triban exceeds expectations and the relatively low-rent componentry has a secure feel. Connoisseurs won't confuse the Microshift front derailleurs and shifters with Mr Shimano's finest – they're not as smooth or quiet in operation – but gear changes are positive. The Shimano Tourney compact (50/34) chainset, combined with the 8-speed 11-34t Microshift cassette, offers a really broad range of gear ratios. 

The Promax mechanical disc brakes are quietly impressive too. Modulation is definitely better than the typical cheapo calliper brakes found at this point in the market, outright power is good and they retain their ability in the rain.

The own-brand aluminium rims roll smoothly on sealed hubs and give you the option of going tubeless if you fit the right tyres in future. 

For relatively inexperienced riders, the Triban RC120 Disc offers a very safe welcome to the world of fast drop-bar bikes. With rack mounts front and back, it could also be a high-speed commuter, and for more experienced hands it could make for a surprisingly effective aluminium winter training bike too.

It also unquestionably upholds its forebears' honour as an entry-level option that offers a real road-bike ride experience. If you prefer long-ride comfort, stability and efficiency to occasional short blasts, it would be hard to better the Triban RC120 Disc at this price.

Why it's here Fast, stable and ultra-reliable entry-level road bike that forgoes fireworks for long-term and long-distance enjoyment
Read the review 

2. B’Twin Riverside 920 £599.99

Buy it here 

Another bike from Decathlon! Like Triban and Van Rysel (above), B'Twin is a brand that belongs to the French sports superstore retailer.

Who could imagine a big old lump of a hybrid – with 38mm tyres and a suspension fork and weighing north of 13kg – being any fun to cycle? Anybody riding something like that is in for a slog, right? Thankfully, nobody told those crazy French cats about accepted wisdom because in the B'Twin Riverside 920 they've managed to put together an incredible bike that combines all the practicalities of a hybrid, with a fun and enthusiastic ride and almost unlimited potential.

The first thing that hits you about B'Twin's Riverside 920 is just how reactive it is. For a big and relatively heavy bike, you can get it up to speed without any real effort, and weaving in and around parked cars or street furniture is exciting and direct. Even if the Riverside 920 isn't necessarily quicker than other bikes, it at least feels lively and willing. This is a really rewarding bike to ride.

When you're suffering on a climb, there's a reassuring sense that all your effort is going into forward motion. A great deal of credit for the ride experience also has to go to the front end. Although you sit relatively high, you never feel estranged from the front wheel, even with the suspension in operation. Placing the bike exactly where you want is so certain and direct that you can quickly go looking for excitement.

None of this direct power delivery and control comes at the expense of comfort. While both ends of the bike feel stiff when it counts, the overall ride is rather refined. The suspension fork helps smooth out vibrations coming through to your upper body, while the rear triangle still has give to keep things smooth. As a complete design, everything just feels fully resolved.

The Riverside 920's aluminium frame comes with a lifetime warranty and a really great riding position that errs on the side of upright. That gives you a good view ahead and commanding road presence in urban environments. 

Up front, the 63mm Suntour NCX air-sprung fork takes the sting out of road imperfections, potholes and sleeping policemen, and features a handy remote lockout. 

While the bike's weight is hefty, such is its enthusiastic character – and its sensible gearing – that you really don't notice the mass.

The classy NX 36-tooth chainset is teamed with a wide-ranging 11-42t cassette, which really does provide all the gear ratios you'll need to enjoy (or at least conquer) everything from tough climbs to long descents.

The Riverside 920 is almost faultless in terms of ability and ride quality, while the underlying potential of the frame and package is unquestionable. 

Why it's here Agile and exciting ride makes the Riverside 920 an unexpected treasure
Read the review 

1. Triban RC 500 Disc £529

Buy it here 

Quelle surprise! It's Decathlon yet again, taking each of the top three places in this year's Sub-£1,000 Bike of the Year awards, and five of the top 10. 

We thought about whether it was right that anyone should dominate a category in this way – there will doubtless be those who cry foul – but it wouldn't be right to mix things up just to give more brands a look in. We're not going to cook the books in order to sidestep accusations of favouritism. Decathlon offers some fabulous bikes in this price band – road, gravel and urban/hybrid bikes – and our awards reflect that. Plus, of course, they sent them in for review – other brands please take note!

With a 6061 T6 aluminium frame and a carbon-bladed fork, the remarkable Triban RC 500 is better than any £500 bike has any right to be. Unless you have serious go-faster ambitions, it's hard to see why you'd buy any other drop-handlebar bike in its price range.

The Triban RC 500 is a bike that's reassuring, welcoming and accessible to ride. It bowls merrily along when you feed it even relatively modest effort. It has a pleasant, floaty feeling, demanding very little in the way of concentration even at significant downhill speeds, and cruising uphill with aplomb.

The upright riding position inspires a generally unhurried attitude; this is very much a bike for sitting up and admiring the scenery. The position on the drops is deep enough to be useful for fighting a headwind or getting down to bomb a descent, but it's by no means a Mark Cavendish flat-back super-tuck, even with the stem slammed. It forces you to relax and smell the flowers!

The RC 500 gets Shimano's 9-speed Sora shifting and an 11-32 cassette. We do think Decathlon missed a trick in not fitting 11-34 for a lower bottom gear. All Shimano 9-speed components are interchangeable, so if you want an easier gear you can fit a £14 12-36 cassette and a £26 Alivio rear derailleur.

The Triban RC 500 has cable-operated Promax DSK-300R disc brakes with semi-metallic pads. They have a firm feel, plenty of power and a very decent ability to bring the bike's speed under control. They're not better than good rim brakes, but they are a whole lot better than many of the rim brakes on £500 bikes, especially if those bikes have room for wide tyres and mudguards. And they're completely silent: no rubbing, no brake noise.

The RC 500 is a very, very good bike for £530. It has an approachable ride, decent brakes, and a usefully wide gear range. The best thing about it is its versatility. Mounts for mudguards and racks, and plenty of room around the tyres mean it'll make a brilliant year-round commuter, and a great light tourer. It's an easy bike to cover distance on too, so if you're not in a screaming hurry it'll happily take you from your first long-ish rides to 100-milers and more.

Its spec makes the RC 500 superb value for money, but that wouldn't count for much if it was no fun to ride. Fortunately, that's far from the case. This is a deeply enjoyable bike, made more so by the fact that as you ride you can allow yourself a little frisson of smugness at how little you've spent on it.

Why it wins Excellent commuter and all-day cruiser that's amazing value for money
Read the review 

Next up: we'll be revealing our Gravel &Adventure Bike of the Year tomorrow

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, 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 winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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