Everyone loves a bargain and out of all the bikes, parts and accessories that made it into road.cc Recommends over the past 12 months, here are the ones that offer you the best value for money.
Every year we review several hundred products on road.cc – and our sister sites off.road.cc and ebiketips – and select the best of them for road.cc Recommends. This area of the site is devoted to products that not only scored highly but which also stand out as special. Our only selection criterion is: do we think it’s REALLY good.
Now we’ve been back to road.cc Recommends and selected the products that offer you the best value for money. We’re not saying that everything you’ll see here is cheap, but it all provides a big bang for your buck.
In our other end-of-year features we’ve given three types of awards – Editor’s Choice, Money No Object, and Bargain Buy. Those awards aren't relevant here because everything is a bargain, but we will announce an overall road.cc Recommends Bargain Buy of the Year 2022/23 winner at the bottom.
The first item that stands out in terms of value is the Specialized Align II helmet which is a sleeker, sportier, more modern-looking helmet than its predecessor. It's actually a little more expensive than before, but you now get Mips (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) included.
Mips is designed to help protect against rotational forces caused by angled impacts, and the Align II has earned a 5-Star Virginia Tech Helmet Rating from the well-respected Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. This is one of the cheaper Mips-equipped helmets out there.
Adjusting on the move via Specialized’s Headset SX dial is easy while the chin strap is simple and works really well, too. An elastic piece keeps any excess strap tidied out of the way.
The Tri-Fix web splitter section under each ear connects the helmet straps to the chin strap without the need to adjust anything.
The Align II does feel a little larger on your head than some sportier models, but it’s not a concern once you get riding, while Specialized's 4th Dimension Cooling System offers plenty of ventilation to keep you feeling comfortable.
The Align II is designed for more relaxed rides although the sporty looks make it suitable for pretty much anything.
The only disadvantage is that the 369g weight might make itself felt on longer rides. More expensive helmets tend to be lighter. Despite this, the Specialized Align II is a great-value lid.
This wide and ergonomic Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL handlebar is an excellent choice for long days, rough trails and wide luggage. With extremely comfortable drops, it is a hugely appealing option, especially when you consider the price – hence its inclusion in our compilation of bargain buys.
When it comes to handlebars for cycling fast on rough surfaces, wider is generally better, and measuring 615mm at the drops, the Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL is one of the widest drop bars around.
It comes in the one XL size of 52cm, as measured at the hoods. But never mind the width, feel the flare – that's a whopping 24° of drops angle here. This means it's comfortable to sit with your hands on the drops.
Speaking of the drops, they're shallow – just over 10cm deep – so it's easy to get down to them. You'll appreciate that during long days in the saddle.
A benefit of this width is that there’s loads of space to carry luggage, – drybags, tents, whatever.
If you're after loads of control, super-comfortable handholds, plenty of luggage space and a sharp price, the Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL could be the answer.
The Vredestein Aventura is a low-weight gravel tyre that provides impressive grip on a range of surfaces despite its minimal tread. It’s also fast, smooth and quiet, and a very decent price.
The Aventura is currently Vredestein’s only gravel tyre and it comes in three sizes: two 700C widths – 38 and 44mm – and a 50mm 650B version.
All three models use the same 120tpi carcass and triple compound technology. At 450g, the 38mm Vredestein Aventura is lightweight, even for a relatively narrow tyre.
The Aventura delivers a swift, smooth and quiet ride on the road and excellent grip on hardpacked trails, rarely losing grip even on the steepest climbs and fastest corners.
The only time reviewer Matt Page felt a slight loss of traction in dry conditions was from the rear tyre when unweighted while braking hard. The Aventura struggles in deep, sloppy mud too, but you'd expect that of a tyre with a tight and low-profile tread pattern.
It's difficult to fault the Vredestein Aventura. Okay, the 38mm size won’t suit everyone but you can go for a wider option if your bike offers enough clearance. Even the 38mm model offers a level of grip that exceeded our expectations. For such a light and smooth-rolling tyre, it’s certainly enjoyable to ride.
The Van Rysel Men’s Mid-Season Long-Sleeved Road Cycling Jersey Racer is a top choice for autumn and spring – and it's even useful for winter riding if you team it up with other layers of clothing. It’s well-made and well-detailed, and the price is stunning too. As long as you're happy with a slim fit, this is a fabulous choice.
This jersey is at its best for those rides where it’s a bit too cool for a short sleeve summer top but too warm for a full-on winter jersey. We’d say it’s ideal for temperatures from about 8°C to 15°C, though pairing it with a thicker base layer and/or a gilet will extend its usability when the temperature dips lower.
The fabric used here is thicker than you'll find on most short sleeve summer jerseys, with thinner panels along the armpits, sides and back for efficient wicking. Even in the mid-teens Celcius, moisture management is very good, helped by the ventilated panels.
Reviewer Shaun Audane wasn’t expecting a DWR (durable water repellent) coating at this price but found that it certainly helped in damp, misty conditions.
Raglan sleeves and a stretchy fabric help provide a close fit without any annoying flutter – although those self-conscious about body size might want to look elsewhere. Close-fitting cuffs ensure a useful seal between glove and sleeve, preventing any cold from getting inside. You also get flat seams for comfort.
Around the back, you get the classic three pockets with elasticated tops, plus a zippered ’end terrace’ for valuables. The main three are generous, with a decent amount of give so you can get plenty inside.
For those who like the slim cut, this jersey is hard to fault for the money.
JACK The Bike Rack is brilliant. This is a front handlebar-mounted hanging rack that fits quickly without any tools, providing almost all types of bike with a cargo platform, and it works superbly well.
JACK is a no-frills system that comprises the JACK Rack itself, adaptors to fit the handlebar diameter you use, and two straps.
It's made from steel rod and fitting takes under a minute. It slots either side of your stem with a snap-on fit, and then you strap it in place. The JACK rack is designed to carry loads up to 5kg.
Once fitted, you barely the JACK in place. It feels solid and there are no issues whether you’re riding in the saddle or standing up. Reviewer Patrick Joscelyne reported that he just forgot about the rack even when it was fully loaded and he was riding rutted towpaths and lung-busting hills, and that has to be a strong recommendation.
There is a minimum height requirement of 225mm between the tops of your bars and the top of your tyre, and we did find changing to an adaptor for 25.4mm bars difficult, but this is a winner if you want a front rack that can carry decent range of kit, and that fits most bikes without need for tools or brackets.
The only downside is that the company behind the JACK is currently supplying to its Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers so you need to sign up to be notified when and where you can purchase the JACK.
The Zwift Hub trainer isn't just a good trainer for the money, it's a good trainer full stop. It’s very easy to set up and if you're not racing at a high level then it's likely to be all the trainer you need. This is an excellent way to get into smart training.
For your £449, you get a direct-drive smart trainer with a claimed accuracy of +/-2.5%. It has a maximum resistance of 1800W and can simulate a gradient of 16%. For the money, those are very good numbers. It's got a 4.7kg flywheel and is ANT+ FEC and Bluetooth FTMS controllable so it will work with pretty much anything you can run Zwift on.
The Hub trainer comes with a cassette installed. You can choose anything from an 8-speed to a 12-speed cassette.
In terms of ride feel, the trainer is really good. It is quick to react to changes in gradient, and the flywheel is heavy enough to keep your pedal action smooth as the resistance alters over the terrain. It's a very quiet trainer, too.
If you want to get into smart training on Zwift without racking up a huge bill then the Zwift Hub smart trainer is ideal, and if Zwifting suits you it's good enough to cope with a decent training load at a fairly high level.
If you bought one and got hooked you might think about upgrading later, but it’s plenty good enough to be an everyday trainer for most of us. The Zwift Hub is the one to recommend right now in terms of bang for your buck for the vast majority of people training indoors.
The Carrera Intercity Disc 9-Speed might not boast the engineering genius of more famous folding rivals, but with very enthusiastic road manners and an excellent specification, this is a folder with significant appeal beyond traditional commuters. Oh, and the fact that it's priced at just £450 adds to the attraction.
The Intercity Disc 9 is a very pleasurable bike to pedal and especially to get up to speed. If you’re new to folding bikes, you’ll be surprised by its brisk turn of pace and ability to transfer power into forward motion.
With exciting handling and excellent power transfer, you might worry that comfort could be a problem but that's not the case. Even with its small (20in wheels), little knocks the Intercity Disc 9 off its stride. It breezes over rough country roads, potholes included.
This is a fun bike. As well as being an A-to-B transport tool, the Intercity Disc 9 will tempt you to detour off on longer rides. It's cool that you can get your head down for stable high-speed cruising, but then sit up a bit for more ducking and diving in city traffic.
The Intercity Disc 9’s frame comes with a main locking hinge in the middle so that it can fold in half, and another hinge where the stem meets the head tube, so the front end can fold down. Halfords says it takes 30 seconds to fold or unfold but you’ll probably manage it quicker when you get the hang of things.
The frame and the fork are aluminium and the 12.5kg weight is fine at this price. There's also a bottle cage mount on the top of the main tube, and mounts for mudguards and a rear rack.
As well as mild city slopes, the Intercity Disc 9 is happy to take on proper hills and the Tektro M275 hydraulic brakeset offers decent feel, although the all-out power might be a little lacking.
The Intercity Disc 9’s only real negative – for some – is the saddle height. It’s said to be suitable for riders up to 6ft 3in but we’d suggest you try before you buy if you’re close to 6ft.
That said, if you’re looking for a folding bike, you want a surprisingly rewarding ride with good quality components, and you don't want to spend Brompton money, the Intercity Disc 9 is way more fun than you'd ever expect.
The Vitus Razor Disc Claris comes with an aluminium frame and a carbon/aluminium fork, and a glance at the Shimano Claris-based build might not blow you away... which demonstrates why you shouldn’t judge a bike by its spec sheet because this is a lot of bike for £699.
Vitus has a reputation for offering exceptional value for money and that’s certainly the case here. Climb aboard the Razor Disc Claris and you’ll soon discover that the frame and fork could form the basis of a much more expensive bike.
The Razor's double-butted 6061-T6 aluminium alloy-tubed frame delivers a high-quality ride and the bike as a whole is responsive despite a 10kg weight. Reviewer Stu Kerton said that even seasoned roadies looking for a second bike for training, commuting or winter riding would find plenty to enjoy here.
The Razor’s geometry is a little more relaxed than that of a race bike but the ride position isn’t overly upright and it feels nimble while still being able to accommodate full-length mudguards.
With its 50/34 chainrings and 11-32 cassette, our review bike had a wide enough range of gears for most kinds of road riding and riders of various fitness levels. The Tektro MD-C310 callipers are cable-operated rather than hydraulic but they work well enough and the Vitus-branded wheels are durable and caused no stress.
If you're looking to get into road riding and want a bike that can grow with you in terms of ability and performance, the Vitus Razor is a great buy.
Hunt's 36 Carbon Wide Aero wheelset is outstanding, adding extra performance to your rim brake bike without costing a fortune.
The 36mm-deep rims measure 27mm wide externally and 19mm wide internally – close to the maximum width you can get away with on a rim brake road bike. The wheels come tubeless-ready with rim tape fitted and Hunt claims that the Griptec Basalt Ceramic brake track produces extra friction for improved performance.
There’s no doubt that this wheelset is impressive out on the road. Its light weight (1,430g on the road.cc scales) brings with it the ability to power up steeper climbs. Coupled with a fast-engaging freehub, this means that as soon as you choose your moment you get incredibly direct and satisfying reactions.
Even when whipping the bike side to side in a full gas effort over a steep rise, there’s no lack of lateral stiffness here. They remain resolutely firm whatever you throw in their direction.
You get a very stable performance on flat terrain and descents. Loads of confidence comes from a blend of the shallower, rounded profile that easily shakes off wind gusts and the width of the rim itself, maximising the tyre profile for improved grip.
The freehub is pretty noisy. You might like that, or you might not. Anyone you're riding draughting behind will certainly know when you're not pedalling.
If you're looking for a high bang-for-buck wheelset for your rim brake bike, Hunt's 36 Carbon Wide Aero is up with the best. These wheels are perfect if you prioritise light weight and stability over the aerodynamic benefit of a deeper rim, and are especially great if you want to make the most of climbing.
The Tenways CGO600 is a slick single-speed city electric bike that comes at a super-competitive price. You really do get a lot for your money here.
The Tenways boasts a lightweight alloy frame that has a rear hub motor with a diameter as small as that of an 8-speed hub gear. The 250Wh battery that lives inside the down tube features Samsung cells. There are two frame sizes (medium and large) currently on offer and Tenways say an XL size will be added to provide options for a suggested height range of 1.65m to 1.95m.
There's just the right amount of power from the Mivice M070 motor at each of the three preset levels and it's all perfectly married to the double-sided torque sensor (one that makes the motor respond to pressure from both sides of the crank). The harder you push, the more power you get. It really is a very sophisticated ride feel.
Level one gives a small but perfectly proportionate surge of power, while levels two and three give nicely graduated increases, the latter providing a real boost that's useful up steeper hills.
As for the range, you’ll get over 30 miles of stop-start riding over moderately rolling terrain using level one. On a much hillier ride with plenty of 10%+ gradients and a 15kg load, and using levels two and three more regularly, 20 miles is more realistic.
The Tenways might not get you up ultra-steep hills but it’s quick on more moderate climbs. In general, it's a bike that rewards a bit more human input than many other electric options out there, as is the case with most single-speeds.
The Tenways is nice to ride without the power on too and the Gates belt drive doesn't feel too different from a regular chain drive. The hydraulic disc brakes perform very well and the hardwired LED front light gives good visibility at night.
ebiketips editor Alex Bowden says: "With its small but wonderfully performing motor and low-maintenance Gates belt drive, this is a no-nonsense, simple-to-operate single-speed at a great price. It won't suit those living in the hilliest areas, but with no gears and no chain, it is low maintenance and ideal for commuting moderate distances."
This aluminium option is an absolute belter. It’s fun and engaging on the fast stuff, it's comfortable enough for those longer days in the saddle, and it offers great value, which is why we're featuring it here.
This is one of those bikes where you just have to ignore the spec sheet and the scales. At 10.87kg the Monsal sounds on the weighty side, but it’s anything but sluggish, feeling lively and responsive when you get out of the saddle for a short sharp climb or a sprint. In fact, that bit of extra weight adds to the composure.
The geometry has a racy edge, putting you into a position that’s aggressive enough to help get the power down. It offers quick handling on the rough stuff without ever feeling twitchy or out of its depth.
The front end is low enough for tackling a headwind or descent but not so extreme that you can't sit with your hands on the hoods for many miles at a time.
For epic jaunts, comfort is key and this is where the Monsal excels. The tubing delivers a quality steel frame feel. It has a smoothness to it, taking the edge off any buzz and rattling that would otherwise come through from the road/track surface. You get enough feedback to know exactly what’s going on beneath your tyres but without the chatter.
Stiffness hasn’t been sacrificed to provide that comfort. The Monsal is tight around the bottom bracket area, helped by the oversized down tube and beefy chainstays.
Up front things are also taut thanks to the tapered head tube and the stiffness of the carbon fibre fork that copes well with the loads from steering and heavy braking.
The Monsal doesn’t come with quite as many mounting points as some gravel bikes, but it’ll take a couple of water bottle cages, mudguards and a rear rack.
The frame and fork provide plenty of space for the 45mm tyres that come as standard, and if you’re worried about creaks after riding in the wet or dust, the fact that it is specced a threaded bottom bracket should allay your fears.
The Monsal 1 uses a Sram Apex 1x groupset that provides crisp and clean shifting across the cassette, and the tall hoods on the shift-brake controls give you plenty of purchase at speed on rough terrain.
“Forme has absolutely nailed the ‘affordable gravel bike’ with the Monsal 1," says reviewer Stu Kerton.
"The ride quality, feel and feedback are all at levels normally found on much higher-end bikes – and I’m including frames of all materials here – while the geometry is beautifully balanced and just works regardless of the terrain and the speed you want to ride.
You could equip the Monsal with the blingest components out there and it wouldn’t be out of its depth – that is simply how good a bike this is.”
Our overall road.cc Recommends Bargain Buy of the Year 2022/23 award goes to the Carrera Subway All Weather Edition from Halfords, a mountain bike-styled urban warrior that comes out of the box with some very useful winter-riding accessories and an excellent spec for the money. We don't know of a better bike for less than £500.
This is a fun, easy ride thanks to gears, brakes and tyres that are all very good when you consider the price. Even the saddle – the downfall of many affordable bikes – is decent.
Three features make this an ‘all-weather’ bike: it comes with mudguards; it has heated grips to keep your hands warm in winter; and you get a pair of LED lights to get you seen on dark evenings. Granted, the mudguards and lights are basic, but the GloGrips heated grips are marvellous. We measured them at 40°C, which is plenty to help fight the chill.
The Subway AWE’s ride is quite firm thanks to a beefy aluminium frame and rigid steel fork, and the handling is on the quick side. The ride feel is easily softened by running the tyres at lower pressures than usual.
Carrera offers a 46/30 chainset combined with an 11-36 cassette for a 502% gear range. There are plenty of low gears, so you can comfortably get up just about anything a UK city is likely to throw at you. More bikes should be geared like this. The Shimano Altus shifting is better than you have a right to expect on a bike of this price too.
The Clarks Clout disc brakes provide plenty of easily controlled stopping power, which is why they’re widely considered the best inexpensive brakes by the mountain bike community. They have a reach adjuster so they work well with small hands, and are among the best things about this bike.
The most unusual aspect of the Subway line of bikes is the 650B wheels – a little smaller than the more common 700C. On a hybrid, 650B wheels provide the ability to fit a wide range of tyres. Swap them for 700C wheels with lighter tyres and the Subway would make a great flat-bar tourer and countryside explorer.
The Vee Tire Co Speedster puncture-resistant tyres are grippy and comfortable across a range of surfaces. While the light tread would be defeated by serious mud, they're good for easy, dry trails, so if the Subway’s mountain bike styling tempts you to a little light off-roading, fill your boots.
The Carrera Subway AWE is an excellent flat-bar bike for round-town and recreational riding, handily straddling the gap between a classic hybrid and a rigid mountain bike. It boasts well-thought-out features like a wide, low gear range and very good brakes, and the winter-friendly features are the icing on the cake.
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 over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.