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Best cheap road bikes under £1,000

A rundown of the best road bikes under £1,000 plus buyer's guide with sizing advice, essential accessories and FAQ

What constitutes a cheap road bike? There’ll always be some disagreement over the definition of ‘cheap’, but with the advent of the Cycle to Work Scheme and other similar purchase offers, most really serious road bikes kick off at around £1,000.

We took a quick straw poll in the office and when most of us took our first proper steps towards becoming cyclists, we each spent around £500 on our first bikes.

Some researched their purchase for months, others went straight out to their local bike shop and asked the staff for their advice. But time and time again the ballpark figure was somewhere between £500 and £1,000.

It's here that road bikes begin to look like serious racers: the gear shifters are combined with the brake levers so your hands can stay in one comfy position and the frames are made of lighter materials such as butted aluminium or perhaps even carbon fibre.

You can pick up bikes for less than £500 but often they're heavy, inefficient and will grumble if you really up the mileage. They might be fine for fair-weather weekend riding, but start training for a sportive and their shortcomings will soon show.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of what we consider to be the best road bikes under £1,000.

Plus further down you can find a buying guide to help you with sizing, the right questions to ask when deciding what you need, what accessories to buy, and how to go about planning your first big ride.

Here are the best cheap bikes up to £1,000

Pinnacle Laterite 3, £700: The best on a tight budget

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £725


Key features: Low cost, Shimano 105 parts, decent tyres 

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £725

Evans's house brand Pinnacle offers top value. This is the poshest of its Laterite models. Spending top-money sees the bike's compact 6061-T6 heat-treated aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork hung with a Shimano 105 groupset. A treat usually reserved for much pricier bikes. 

The crankset might not be Shimano but is decent nonetheless. The brakes are acceptable, and the Continental Ultrasport tyres quick enough. With space for mudguards and a rear rack, it’s a great introduction to drop bar riding.

Giant Contend 2, £750: The best compact budget road bike

Buy the Giant Contend from Tredz for £750

Key Features: Fairly light for its price, sporty geometry, carbon fork for comfort

Buy the Giant Contend from Tredz for £750

By some distance the largest bike maker company in the world, Giant is pretty handy at creating fab bicycles regardless of how much you have to spend.

One of its cheaper machines, the Contend 2 is nevertheless impressively light, managing as it does to scrape under the 10kg mark. At the same time, its geometry is quite nippy for a more budget road bike, meaning that you'll still get proper racing bike pizzaz out of the Contend if you push it. Tempering its ride slightly, Giant has also employed a D-Fuse seatpost for a gentler ride.

Yet, at the same time as being nicely racy, the Contend is also versatile. This means there's still space for wide 32mm tyres and attachments for mudguards and racks making it an able commuter or touring bike as well.

Triban RC520, £850: The best for versatility

Buy now from Decathlon for £850

Key features: Versatility, disc brakes, adaptability for commuting or touring

Buy now from Decathlon for £850

Part of an updated range offered by European sports warehouse Decathlon, the Triban RC 520 represents incredible value. With a short top tube and upright front end, its frame and carbon fork are designed for endurance.

However, it’s the superlative 11-speed Shimano 105 R7000 groupset and hybrid mechanical/hydraulic brake callipers that really set it apart. Backed up by lightweight wheels with cartridge bearings and tubeless-ready tyres, it's also ripe for future upgrading.

There's an even cheaper model and a gravel-spec edition also in the range, and both are equally good value.

Read our first ride of the Triban RC 520

Trek Domane AL 2 Disc: The best endurance bike

Buy it now from Evans Cycles for £895

Key Features: Go-anywhere ability, highly adaptable

Buy it now from Evans Cycles for £895

Trek's Domane is a name to conjure with, and a pleasing amount of the tech from the range's top-flight machines has found its way down into this budget version of its Domane platform. Aimed at riders after comfort over long distances, the AL 2 Disc provides this via a relaxed geometry and 28c tyres.

With both frame and fork including robust bolt-through axles, this is a bike unafraid of being pointed at rough surfaces. In fact, depending on how you define the term, it’ll even cope with light off-road work.

With handling that’s less skittish than more aggressive designs, the Domane is a versatile machine that can take mudguards and racks for touring or commuting, yet is equally happy to tackle a speedy weekend century ride.

Fitted out with a full Shimano 2x8-speed Claris groupset, in both looks and operation it could easily be mistaken for a more expensive bike.

Specialized Allez E5: The best all-rounder

Buy it now from Rutland Cycling for £789.99

Key features: Light frame and fork, wide range of gears, racy geometry

Buy it now from Rutland Cycling for £789.99

A light aluminium frame, full carbon fork, minimalist wheels and a cool paint job... what more could you ask for from a bike costing £800? Even if stock scarcity and exchange rates have added another £150 onto this versus last year's model, it's still solid value.

Made by one of the giants of the bike business, Specialized's legendary Allez is a top pick for entry-level bikes.

Thin-walled aluminium tubes contribute to a class-leading frame weight and a sprightly ride for an entry-level bike.

It is fitted with Shimano’s Claris groupset, which is much improved over previous versions, looking from a distance much like its more expensive stablemates. Gearing may be limited to a 2x 8-speed setup, but the wide 11-32 cassette range should provide confidence when heading into the hills.

Ribble Endurance AL Disc Tiagra, £999: The best for customisation

Buy now from Ribble for £999

Key features: Endurance geometry, customisable spec, Tiagra groupset

Buy now from Ribble for £999

At the heart of the Ribble Endurance's appeal is a frame that’s designed for comfort over the long haul. This is then fitted with a customisable assortment of components – none of which look remotely like a weak link.

Available at different price points dependent on the groupset, we think this Shimano Tiagra-equipped model hits the sweet spot. Giving you a 2x 10-speed drivetrain to play with, the ratios provided can be chosen at checkout, perfect for tailoring it to your nearby terrain.

Fixed in place via stiff bolt-through axles, the Ribble’s Mavic Aksium Disc wheels are tough and infinitely serviceable. With Tektro MD510 mechanical disc brakes taking care of the stopping, a sub-10kg weight is respectable for such a bulletproof build.

Using what was formerly Ribble’s audax geometry, the Endurance is happy to take a rack or panniers, making it good for light touring or winter use. At the same time, it’s still easily sporty enough for sportives or club runs.

Read our review of the 105-equipped version here

Fuji Sportif 2.1, £899.99: The best for climbing

Buy it now from Wiggle for £899.99

Key features: All-day comfort, wide-ratio gearing

Buy it now from Wiggle for £899.99

Possessing a geometry that balances speed and endurance, the Fuji Sportif is made from a lightweight aluminium frame and carbon fork with a taller head tube and longer chainstays for maximum comfort.

Built with internal cable routing and wave seatstays that minimise vibrations from the road and bring vertical flex, it's primed for riding all day long. It also has mudguard and rack mounts making it suitable for commuting, all-weather riding and even a bit of adventuring.

Employing an Alex alloy wheelset and wider 30c Vittoria Zaffiro V tyres, the bike is fast to get rolling, while keeping it moving is Shimano’s reliable 9-speed Sora drivetrain. Its combination of compact chainset and 11-34t cassette means you're unlikely to run out of gears on even the most fearsome of hills.

Cannondale Synapse AL Sora, £1,000: the best for long-haul rides

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £1,000

Key features: Versatile, comfortable, great looks

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £1,000

Okay so it's not below £1,000 but what's that extra pound, especially when for us, this is one of the best looking bikes you’ll find for anything like this kind of money.

The Cannondale Synapse isn’t just a pretty frame. Its geometry means it is comfortable over long distances while a light frame and entirely carbon fork do nothing to sandbag its progress, providing top-drawer handling on top.

It is fitted with a Shimano Sora 2x 9-speed drivetrain, giving you a decent range of gears for climbing and with clearance for up to 32c tyres as well as Save Micro-Suspension flex zones at the back it's extra comfortable on rougher roads, making it as versatile as they come. 

Genesis Flyer, £649.99: The best road bike for commuters

Buy it now from Tredz for £649.99

Key Features: Wide tyres, disc brakes, single-speed

Buy it now from Tredz for £649.99

For stop-start and all-weather riding, the Genesis Flyer is designed to provide maximum comfort with minimum fuss.

It's a single-speed, so might not be the best if you need to navigate big hills, but for inner city cycling, what more do you need? Plus as a result it's also a whole lot easier to maintain when heavy usage would normally require plenty of adjustment and cleaning.

On top of that it has Promax disc brakes to make sharp stopping easy, which is especially handy when dealing with unpredictable traffic, unpredictable weather and the variables of traffic lights.

The Flyer also allows for comfort on rough surfaces and tough terrain thanks to big 37c tyres that are sure to have you... flying. 

Getting the perfect fit

Getting the right frame size is one of the most important aspects of buying a new bike and one of many reasons to visit, support and buy from your local bike shop and eschew the temptation to buy online.

With a wide range of sizes available, often with small jumps between them (2cm in most cases), finding the right size from an online chart can be a daunting – often impossible – task.

Fortunately, a good bike shop will take care of you. A word of warning, though: be careful when referring to bikes by their frame sizes. Some manufacturers measure things differently.

The main two things to worry about are saddle height and reach. There are lots of different methods to work out your correct saddle height, but as a general rule, when your foot is at its lowest point your knee should have a 30-degree bend, as that’s the angle that gets your big glute muscles firing.

The reach is something that you need to get a feel for, but if you’ve never ridden a road bike with dropped bars before, the appropriate reach can actually feel quite stretched at first and will take some getting used to.

It’s almost always the case that when your saddle is the correct height, you won’t be able to remain sat on it and have both feet flat on the floor, since in reality never really have to do this while cycling. If you’re nervous about it, plan ahead for your stops so you can pull up at a kerb and rest your foot on that.

Choosing your pedals

A lot of new bikes don’t come with pedals, so your first big decision is whether to go for flat pedals or clipless. Flat pedals may be more versatile (because you can use them wearing regular shoes), but they’re inefficient. Trainers flex a lot at the sole, so you lose a lot of pedalling power wearing them – it’s like trying to knock in a nail with a rubber hammer.

Clipless pedals (so-called because they replaced traditional toeclips and straps) work by binding to a cleat that’s screwed onto the sole of the shoe. The shoes that go with clipless pedals have far stiffer soles to make pedalling more efficient and a lot more comfortable.

There are two distinct patterns of clipless pedal – two-bolt (Shimano SPD) and three-bolt (including Shimano SPD-SL or Look) pedals.

Two-bolt cleats are usually recessed into the sole of the shoe to make walking easier – these are favoured by mountain bikers, gravel riders and commuters, since there is typically more walking involved. Walking is possible in three-bolt cleats, but you may look like a penguin. Also check that your shoes are compatible with your pedals – the shop will be able help with this.

With a little perseverance, once you’ve got the hang of clipless pedals, you’ll be able to release your foot far quicker than you could pull your shoes out of old-fashioned toeclips.

Ask the right questions

Before you go and take a look at what your local bike shop has to offer, it pays to do your research and have a good think about what you want from your purchase. Mudguards and a rack? Rim or disc brakes?

Is the bike going to be used mainly for commuting or leisure riding? There are so many different models to choose from, that if you don’t have a good idea of what you need from it, you’ll likely end up totally bewildered. It also helps the shop, as they'll then know what they can safely recommend, rather than relying purely on guesswork.

Most shops will include a servicing package to help keep your bike in good shape and will probably offer a discount on accessories. If you’d like to swap some parts on the bike straight out the box, ask – but don’t count on the shop doing it free of charge. If it’s an own-brand stem, they might not have one in stock, but things like cassettes or tyres are normally done for the cost difference.

Sale bikes can be great, but don’t compromise on getting the correct size for a groupset upgrade. You’ll be much happier – and faster – on a bike that’s comfortable. Buying a second-hand bikes can net you a bargain but equally can be a minefield: unless you know the pitfalls to avoid, we’d recommend steering clear.

Essential extras

When buying a new bike you’ll have to reserve a portion of your budget for essential kit. Luckily, most shops will cut you a deal if you buy these at the same time. Expect to spend a minimum of £50 for a decent helmet, and try several makes and models to find the best fit.

Whether you’re planning to ride on your own or with friends, you’ll need enough small tools to be self-sufficient. You will get a puncture at some point, so practise changing an inner tube at home until you’re confident you’ll be able to do it on the road when all your friends are watching (and heckling).

The minimum kit we’d recommend would include a set of tyre levers (Topeak Shuttle levers, £5.99, extrauk.co.uk), two spare inner tubes (around £5 each; ensure you get the correct type – road bikes use Presta valves), a pack of glueless patches (Park Tool Super Patch, £3.49, madison.co.uk), and last but not least, a mini pump (Lezyne Gauge Drive HP, £40, upgradebikes.co.uk).

Some big brands such as Bontrager and Specialized produce kits that includes all these items, and a saddlebag to stow them in. Buy yourself a multitool – look for something that includes 3, 4 and 5mm allen keys (Topeak Mini 20 Pro, £29, extrauk.co.uk). We'd also recommend getting a bottle cage and bottle, too.

Plan your first ride

Once you’ve got the bike all and your kit together, you’ll be keen to get riding, but it pays to spend some time planning your first outing to avoid potential problems that may arise. Assuming it doesn't interfere with any restrictions that might be in place, we'd say 20 miles is a good distance to start with – you don’t want to risk running out of food, water and energy, or discovering a fault in your bike when you’re a long way from home.

If you don’t know the best roads for cycling in your area, the Strava website is useful – it has a great ride-planning tool that makes route suggestions based on their popularity with other cyclists. You can then use the Strava app on your smartphone to navigate, while recording your journey. We'd also recommend komoot for its route-planning tools and ride recommondations from other cyclists.

During your first ride, pay particular attention to how the bike feels. Is the saddle a little low? Get your multitool out and shift it up a little. Short test rides are good for working out any small adjustments like this you may need to make.

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