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road.cc £1,000 & Under Bike of the Year 2020/21

Here are the best budget bikes that we've reviewed over the past year; find out which one wins

If you’re in the market for a bike with a top price of £1,000, here are the best ones that we've reviewed over the past year.

Every bike priced £1,000 and under that we tested on road.cc and off.road.cc in 2020 was eligible for this category: road bikes, gravel/adventure bikes, urban/commuter bikes, the lot. The fact that we include different genres means that we have a diverse bunch of bikes here. All of these models also feature in other award categories based on bike type, as opposed to price point.

Just to make it super-clear: only bikes we reviewed in 2020 were considered (reviews from before 2020 that were republished last year don't count). If a company didn't send us their bike, we weren't able to evaluate it and it can't go in. Simple!

The bikes you can get for £1,000 and under 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.

An issue this year could be getting hold of bikes in this price category. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to huge demand from people looking to stay off public transport and/or trying to stay fit and healthy with a new form of exercise. With the supply chain also disrupted, many models are in short supply or even completely sold out.   

In the past, this has been the road.cc Sub-£1000 Bike of the Year category. However, one of 2020's leading bikes has a price tag of exactly £1,000. It seemed a bit harsh not to consider it for the sake of 1p, so we've renamed the category "£1,000 & Under Bike of the Year ". It doesn't trip off the tongue quite as nicely, but there you go.

We don't always go with top 10s in our category awards, by the way. We include the bikes that we think deserving of a place in our round-ups up to a maximum of, and in this case there are eight of them.

Last year's Sub-£1,000 Bike of the Year winner was the £529 Triban RC 500 Disc. Let's find out what takes the honours this time around.

8. Merida Scultura 300 £950

2020 Merida Scultura 300 - riding 3.jpg

The Merida Scultura 300 goes to prove that you don't need to spend a fortune to own a capable and comfortable performance road bike that'll give you a grin from ear to ear. At its heart is a very good aluminium alloy frame, plus a full carbon fork, rim brakes and a smattering of decent kit.

It's not the lightest bike out there, but its 9.26kg (20.4lb) doesn't really hold the 300 back on anything but the steepest of climbs, and gives it a planted feel on the road. It never feels flighty when you hit a section of rough tarmac at speed, and on descents it brings an extra level of confidence.

Handling-wise, things are well balanced. The front end is quite aggressive in terms of the head angle, but the steering comes across as quite neutral without being boring.

Known as Scultura Lite, the frame is constructed from triple-butted 6066 grade aluminium alloy. At the front end you are getting a tapered head tube, 1 1/8in at the top and 1 1/2in at the bottom. Beneath that is a full carbon fibre fork which is painted to match the frame. Reviewer Stu Kerton was impressed with its stiffness under heavy braking and steering at speed.

The 300 is based primarily around a Shimano Tiagra groupset. Merida has gone for a 50/34-tooth chainset paired up with a 12-28 cassette: not the lowest gearing out there, but it sits well with the performance the Scultura is designed to deliver.

Merida’s Comp SL rims are quite old school with their 17mm inner width. The majority of modern wheels are around 19mm to 21mm internally for road use; what it means here is that the 25mm tyres keep to their standard width when mounted. 

The wheels add quite a bit of weight, but are solid and durable, so are worth hanging on to even if you are only going to use them for winter use after treating yourself to a pair of lighter race/summer wheels.

The Scultura 300 has a very good frameset that delivers a great balance of stiffness and comfort. If you are new to riding, this is definitely a bike that could grow with you as your aspirations, fitness and talent take off.

Why it’s here The Scultura offers a great ride, with a very comfortable yet stiff frameset that's eminently upgradable.
Buy it here
Read our review

7. Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon £1,000

2021 Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon - riding 1.jpg

The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon offers an excellent frameset bedecked with a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset. It provides great versatility and is ripe for longterm upgrades.

The Boardman's tube profiles have been dictated by CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and wind tunnel testing. Each tube flows from one to the other and the internal cable routing means that surface stays smooth and clean.

Boardman's C7 frame and fork use the same geometry as more expensive models in the SLR range, albeit with a different grade of carbon fibre. This sacrifices a tiny bit of stiffness around the bottom bracket, although you're only really going to notice when you're absolutely smashing the pedals in a sprint or taking on a power climb.

It's a comfortable frameset. There’s no harshness to speak of, and you can get into a relatively stretched aero position, with a decent – but not extreme – drop from the saddle to the handlebar.

This makes it quick and efficient. Technical descents can be taken at speed, not only because of the planted feel, but also thanks to the stiff fork and rigid, tapered head tube and steerer.

The majority of the frame is quite boxy and chunky for stiffness, but the dropped seatstays are pencil-thin – a big help with comfort. 

The rim brake callipers mean that the maximum tyre width is limited to 28mm. If you want to use the (discreet) mudguard mounts, you can get away with 25s – the 8.9 is pretty versatile. This is a bike that works very well as a fast winter trainer or year-round quick commuter/club run steed.

For 2021, the SLR 8.9 jumps up a groupset level from Shimano's 10-speed Tiagra to 11-speed 105, albeit mated to an FSA Gossamer chainset. The cassette with its extra sprocket now offers an 11-30T spread, which gives you a little bit extra at both ends of the range. Shifting is crisp and precise; 105 is one of the best groupsets out there for performance versus cost.

To facilitate the mudguards, Boardman has fitted Tektro R315 long arm brake callipers. They don't have quite the bite of 105s, but they still do a decent job.

Boardman’s own SLR rims laced to Formula hubs don’t constitute the lightest wheels ever, so you might want to upgrade eventually to something lighter, or to something with an aero edge.

The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon is a top-level contender for bikes around the £1,000 mark, especially with with its upgraded groupset. The frameset is high upgradable too, pleasingly aero and also very versatile.

Why it’s here Fast and fun thanks thanks to a great frameset and impressive spec list – especially for the money.
Buy it here
Read the review 

6. Merida Speeder 200 £775

2021 Merida Speeder 200 - riding 5.jpg

The Merida Speeder 200 flat-barred road bike comes with a raft of up-to-date features including comfort-maximising 32mm tyres (and room for wider ones) and high-quality hydraulic disc brakes. The combination of the stiff and well-finished aluminium frame and tapered carbon fork offers a dynamic, controlled ride that's equally at home on fleet-footed fitness rides and urban/suburban commutes.

It might weigh over 10.6kg (small/medium size) but that does nothing to dent the lively quality of the Speeder's ride, apart from on the steepest hills and initial acceleration. If you want it for hard training sessions you can get out of the saddle and crank it up, the stiff frame rewarding your pedalling efforts impressively. This makes the Speeder 200 a more-than-decent training machine with a low-enough bottom gear for climbing most hills in the saddle.

If anything, descending is even more impressive with pinpoint steering accuracy and perfectly controlled stopping from the hydraulic brakes.

Control is excellent at slower speeds, making it a good choice for urban commuting and longer rides when comfort is more important than speed. It'll take you nimbly through low-speed city traffic, but hit the bike paths and open road and you can spin along easily, freely, and comfortably.

The Speeder 200's frame is made from 6066 aluminium and the tapered fork is carbon. Unlike some similar bikes around this price, Merida has stuck with quick-release axles which may look a little old-school, but wheel changes are quick and easy and there’s no obvious reduction in braking performance even when trying to induce brake rub. All the cabling is neatly routed through the frame.

For a bike that's very well suited to commuting, the absence of rear rack mounts at the top of the seatstays is surprising. It's not a game changer, though, as you could use P-clips for a four-point fixing, in conjunction with the seatstays' lower mudguard-cum-rack threads. We’d still prefer rear rack bosses, but this is our only real criticism of the Speeder's frameset.

Shimano's 9-speed Sora comprises most of the Merida's drivetrain and gearing – providing quick and accurate shifting. Sora is good to see on a bike at this price and is at the upper end of what you might expect.

The Shimano MT200 hydraulic brakes and 160mm rotors are absolutely great. You get a light single-finger action, unparalleled stopping power and pinpoint control.

Why it’s here A lovely bike – great fun, versatile, practical and with predominantly good components.
Buy it here
Read the review

5. Specialized Allez £649

2020 Specialized Allez - riding 1.jpg

The entry level to Specialized Allez ownership in 2020 was one of the best sub-grand bikes out there, getting it straight on to our list of the best. There is a return to full mudguard eyelets on the fork, too, although clearance is tight if you want year-round usage. 

The first time reviewer Stu went out for a ride on the Allez, it was just going to be a quick blast around the block to make sure everything was set up right... 20 miles or so and back home. It was so comfortable and fun to ride, though, that he was out for three times that, and he rolled home with a massive grin on his face. It's simple to ride and easy to control, so you can focus on the scenery and just enjoy the experience!

The Allez uses Specialized's own-spec E5 Premium aluminium alloy tubing in various shapes and diameters, finished off with decently smooth welds. The overall weight is 9.66kg which for a sub-£700 bike is pretty good. It climbs well and acceleration doesn't really feel like it’s hampered too much.

Specialized has dropped the seatstays lower for aerodynamics; it's not a major concern for this type of bike but hey, every second counts. They are thin, too, which brings a little bit more comfort to the rear end. They also feature rack mounts.

Claris sits towards the bottom of Shimano's groupset hierarchy but you're getting the same looks, shifting and feel as you'll find with higher level Sora and Tiagra, although it's only 8-speed.

Specialized has specced Tektro dual pivot brakes and they do a decent job. They aren't the best out there, but they offer a degree of power and feel that isn't scary if you find yourself braking consistently in traffic.

The Axis Sport wheels use a 20-spoke pattern at the front, and a 24-spoke setup at the rear. They aren't the lightest, but they didn't hamper the ride at all and stayed true throughout testing.

The tyres are provided by Specialized: its Espoir Sport models in a 700x25mm size. They are wire beaded so quite heavy and a change to something folding and lighter would make a big impact, although no need to be in a massive rush. Grip is decent enough, wet and dry, and rolling resistance is okay too.

Overall, the Allez is a much better bike than any spec list or set of scales will have you believe. It left a big impression on us, even when put up next to bikes much, much more expensive.

The most affordable Allez in Specialized's 2021 range is £799. ​

Why it’s here Massive performance on a minimal budget, although we would like to see a bit more clearance at the front.
Buy it here
Read the review

4. Dawes Discovery 201 £369.99

Dawes Discovery 201 - riding 1.jpg

Don't judge a bike by its marketplace – this might be an affordable hybrid from family cycling expert Dawes, but the aluminium Discovery 201 will inspire a smile on your commute or weekend potter.

Even in wet weather and headwinds, this is a fun and 'enthusiastic' bike to pedal. Power transfer isn't compromised and while overall weight at 12.5kg is good enough at this point in the market, the Disco actually rides as sprightly as a lighter hybrid. Acceleration from a standstill is easy and there's a definite satisfaction to be had as you spin up to higher speeds.

Steering and control match this positive power delivery, and although the Discovery 201 is certainly happy at a cruise, it's most fun when being put through more active tests. The direct front end combines well with good overall balance to make handling surefooted, even in wet conditions. Weaving through traffic is no problem although it's worth noting that the Disco encourages a fairly head-down position, and keeping your head up doesn't feel quite as natural as on some urban bikes.

With such effective dynamic performance, it's tempting to expect comfort to take a hit, but the Discovery 201 fares surprisingly well here. Of course, there's only so much a compact alloy frame can do to insulate you from road shocks, but it's easy to settle back into the saddle and assume a more laidback rhythm, even if one eye does have to keep alert for road bumps.

The handlebars are a little narrow at 620mm but it’s nice being a little more streamlined and these offer slightly more lively control. Fitted with Velo grips these are comfortable but supportive palm rests.

Very sensible gearing is one reason for the Discovery 201's enthusiastic ride performance. By using a 1x system with an 8-speed cassette, Dawes is able to bring down weight, cost and maintenance while also adopting an in-vogue spec choice.

You’ll need to swap out the included rubber surfaced pedals as these are slippy in wet weather and it’s adjustable quill stem is a veritable siren of cost-consciousness. The two-bolt faceplate and slightly low-rent nature instantly reminds you that, however good the ride quality, there are limits to the Discovery's intended uses.

But for a dependable and really well-rounded commuting and leisure bike that won't break the bank, Dawes has a little gem here which is why it had to be one of our top picks.

Why it’s here Fab general use leisure and commuting bike that proves price isn't always an indication of performance.
Buy it here
Read the review

3. Claud Butler Primal £529.99

2020 Claud Butler Primal.jpg

For a mere £529.99 Claud Butler's Primal is just about the cheapest gravel bike we've encountered, but anybody with limited funds won't feel short-changed as it provides an impressive ride experience across a wide range of terrain. 

Boasting a fairly solid-looking aluminium frame, it should come as no surprise that power delivery is decent. It can't rival high-performance road bikes but, as a jack-of-all trades, there's enough reward for your effort to keep you enthusiastic, whether climbing or sprinting on asphalt, or even tackling roots and rocks off it.

That enthusiasm is heightened by excellent overall control and stability, and there's a very reassuring quality to the bike's handling. Reviewer Matt Lamy tested the Primal on roads and rather lumpy but dry trails, and he never felt like it was ever going to come unstuck. It's a more relaxed proposition than the kind of pinpoint precision of a top-end sports bike, but it nevertheless instils in you a confidence that the bike is always going to head where you point it. Even when you're bumping along, balance is exemplary.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is comfort. The combination of moderately chunky 38mm tyres and a perfect position in the saddle for Matt meant the Primal felt great to ride. Over rough surfaces, very few things felt too hard or jarring, and on a long, smooth road cruise, the Primal is a veritable drop-bar armchair.

Use of internal cable routing and the undersized rear triangle also keep the Primal up to date with most contemporary frame design expectations, although it does miss out on a tapered head tube.

The fork is something of a slightly compromised hero because, although it helps keep the front end on course and contributes to the surefooted control, it can clunk and crash a little with big hits and feels just a little less sophisticated than the rest of the frameset.

The wheels roll very nicely and, despite being classed by Claud Butler as road rims, never felt overly fragile even when twigs and gravel were pinging off them.

With rear rack mounts, the Primal could be a decent tourer or commuter, although it’s a bit of a shame that the fork doesn’t feature low riders mounts. 

It's fun, sufficiently quick, comfortable and boasts great manners both on and off road. For those limited to around £500, the Primal will do almost any job you ask of it with some aplomb.

Why it’s here Excellent budget gravel bike that offers fun times on road, track or even the commute.
Buy it here
Read our review

2. Ribble Endurance AL Disc £999

2021 Ribble Endurance AL Disc - riding 1.jpg

With the Endurance AL Disc, Ribble has created a bike for the masses. It's ideal for winter training, commuting, club runs, short blasts or long rides – it's even quick enough for entry-level racing. The balanced, neutral handling works for the beginner, without feeling overly relaxed for the seasoned roadie. 

The geometry is more relaxed than the majority of race machines, with a slightly shorter top tube and taller head tube for a slightly more upright position. The head angle is a touch slacker too, which takes the edge off of the steering speed, while the longer wheelbase (there to allow the frameset to accept mudguards) adds to the stability. It still focuses on performance though, and by slamming the stem it’s possible to get a good saddle-to-bar drop when you want to get a shift on.

It’s steering is quick enough to be fun in the twisty bits without stepping over the line and becoming a handful, which is perfect if you're new to road riding or when heading into bad weather.

While its 10.03kg weight can hamper things under acceleration, it also gives a real feeling of confidence when gravity is giving you a nudge. The decent spread of gears helps you up the steeper slopes, and to be fair, the Ribble is plenty stiff enough for out of the saddle shenanigans when the going gets tough.

The frame uses 6061-T6 aluminium alloy tubing which is double-butted (it has different wall thicknesses in different areas) to reduce weight and increase comfort by balancing stiffness levels. The head tube is tapered, growing as it meets the large D-section down tube. This tube hides the cables and hoses inside until they exit at the bottom bracket (BB).

The fork is full carbon fibre and, like the frame, comes with flat mounts for the calipers and a 12mm thru-axle. It offers plenty of stiffness and reviewer Stu Kerton never found any flex when cornering or braking hard.

Even though the Endurance AL is disc-equipped, Ribble has kept the chainstay and seatstay bridges there to make fitting mudguards easier. 

Rim width of its Mavic Aksium wheels is a bit 'old school' at just 17mm so they won't work too well if you want to exploit the Ribble's 32mm max tyre clearance, although they're fine with the 25mm maximum when mudguards are fitted.

This Ribble is a loveable bike. It's just fun and quick to ride, plus so easy to live with.

Why it's here Very capable and versatile road bike that doesn't break the bank.
Buy it here
Read the review

1. Triban RC520 Women’s Disc Road Bike £749

BOTY-20-21-sub1k-TribanRC520Womens

The Triban RC 520 Women's Disc road bike is incredibly versatile, offers a comfortable ride on our increasingly rough roads and is quite simply serious value for money. If you're looking for a bike that can handle the daily commute as well as take on some gravel trails and a bit of touring, the Triban is definitely worth considering.

On the medium size, which reviewer Emma Silversides tested, the effective top tube is 51.5cm and the head tube almost 160mm, which makes for a more compact and upright riding position than a low, race position.

It's aluminium frame is well up to dealing with the roughest roads, and comes with a lifetime guarantee (as do the bar and stem). The fork blades are carbon, while the crown and steerer are aluminium. The fork is stiff enough, and the 28mm tyres, run at a lower pressure provide some cushioning, though going tubeless and running the tyres at even lower pressures helps even more.

The Shimano 105 R7000 gear on the Triban really does make it an outstanding investment as a bike. The 105 derailleurs, combined with 105 levers, give a crisp, smooth and efficient shifting system. The levers share the same ergonomics as Ultegra and Dura-Ace, and just feel 'right' in the hands. Even though the chainset is a non-series RS510 model, it doesn't look like a cheap substitute and certainly doesn't reduce performance. It has considerate gearing for hills, thanks to a compact 50/34-tooth chainset and an 11-32-tooth Microshift cassette.

The wheels falls in line with the Triban frame – they're heavy, but reliable and well up to the job. And weight-wise, you wouldn't be expecting much less at this price. With 28 crossed steel spokes, 6106-T6 (24mm) aluminium rims and sealed cartridge bearings, it's a 2kg pair of wheels that roll smoothly, are pretty rigid and certainly up to handling what you are likely to throw at them. They are also tubeless ready. 

The Triban RC 520 is well specced, versatile and affordable. Emma did have a few gripes—issues with fitting mudguards and that the welding isn’t the tidiest—but in the grand scheme of things these are very trivial when you consider what you are getting for your money.

The Triban RC520 Women’s Disc Road Bike has been extremely popular and isn't available in Decathlon stores at the time or writing, but it hasn't gone forever. It should be available to customers again from 26th January 2021. If you're interested, we'd advise you to get in there quickly. 

When we last checked, the standard Triban RC520 Disc Road Bike (£799.99) was available in most sizes.

Why it wins Commuter, tourer, even a bit of gravel... this is a hell of a lot of bike for the money.
Buy it here
Read the review

Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.

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