10 of the best cheap road bikes you can buy in 2020
After for a road bike but don't fancy remortgaging the house? There are plenty of great value drop-bar bikes that are ideal for first timers but not all are made equal. Here are the best of the bunch.
To a budget-conscious newcomer, the world of road cycling can feel like a rather daunting place. A preliminary browse of your average bike shop’s selection is unlikely to yield much for less than £1,000 and it’s not uncommon to see a sub-£2,500 option hailed by the cycling mags as 'wallet-friendly'.
Wallet-friendly for who, though? The likes of Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome, perhaps. But for casual cyclists, hobbyists and beginners, anything over a few hundred quid likely represents a sizable – and quite possibly completely unrealistic – investment.
Thankfully, there is a small selection of highly capable machines out there that won’t require you to remortgage your house. The difficult part is separating them from the ocean of badly built, poorly specced and unreliable budget options.
Below you’ll find a selection of the best budget road bikes on the market right now and why they’re worthy of your consideration.
1. Triban RC100
For those dipping their toes into road cycling for the first time, simplicity and affordability are likely to be the biggest requirements in a bike. Decathlon’s in-house bike brand, Triban’s (formerly B’Twin) entry-level road bike – the RC100 – has been specifically designed with the help of beginner cyclists, for beginner cyclists.
The single chainring means there’s one less lever to wrap your head around and the upright geometry is ideal for those unaccustomed to riding drop-handlebar bikes. The 7-speed Shimano shifter is attached in such a way that means gears can be changed without having to let go of the top of the handlebars (where beginners are usually most comfortable) and with change from £300, you should have some money left for kit and accessories.
2. Triban RC120
Triban features again in the second spot on this list and that’s because it’s renowned for producing well-specced bikes at highly competitive prices. Sadly, that means they’re often in short supply, but those patient enough to wait for one of the frequent restocks of the popular Triban RC120 will be rewarded well.
For a shade under £400, this surprisingly sleek alloy machine comes equipped with a carbon fork, mounting points for racks and panniers and a lifetime guarantee on the frame, stem, handlebar and fork to boot. The slightly upright endurance position makes it perfect for beginners, while the use of spacers below the stem means there’s always the option to switch to a more aggressive position as you progress with your riding.
3. Carrera Vanquish
A Shimano groupset, disc brakes and a carbon-fibre fork for £400 may sound like a tall order but that’s exactly what you can expect from the Carrera Vanquish. This budget-friendly burgundy option features smooth shifting courtesy of a 16-speed Shimano Claris drivetrain, Tektro mechanical disc brakes for controlled stopping power and dropped seat stays, which aside from being bang on-trend, also make for a more comfortable ride.
Plus, Halfords provides a free bike-build service to keep head scratching to a minimum and a built-in lifetime frame guarantee means you can buy with absolute peace of mind.
4. Boardman SLR 8.6
Designed with the help of three-time Tour de France stage winner and Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman, Boardman Bikes has a well-earned reputation as being superb value for money.
The SLR 8.6 is the brand’s entry-level road option and boasts everything you’d want from a first drop-bar bike. The aluminium frame is sleek and modern, with skinny dropped seat stays and square-profile toptube and downtube – design cues borrowed from bikes much further up the Boardman range. Further south, there’s a Shimano Claris drivetrain and some surprisingly light own-brand tubeless-ready wheels that add to the bike’s nimble handling.
5. Triban RC500
Triban describes its award-winning RC500 endurance road bike as 'the most comfortable bike we’ve ever designed'. It’s got everything a budding cyclist could need for their first 10-mile ride to their first century, including a Shimano Sora groupset, mechanical disc brakes and a versatile alloy frame with options for mounting mudguards and racks. There’s also a carbon fork and reassuringly plump 28mm tyres, with enough clearance for anything up to 32mm if the gravel starts calling your name.
All in all, you’d be hard pushed to find a better bike around the £500 price point without buying secondhand, and even then you might struggle.
6. Vitus Razor Claris
Maybe it's the tan-wall tyres or perhaps it's that tastefully executed two-tone paint job but the Vitus Razor Claris is certainly one of the better looking bikes around the £500 mark. Best suited as a first road bike or just for training and commuting, it features Tektro rim brakes, Shimano Claris shifting and a full carbon fork to reduce weight and absorb chatter.
All in all, a reliable, no-frills option that could happily go toe to toe with bikes twice its price in the looks department.
7. Voodoo Nakisi
If you're thinking of adding a gravel bike to your fleet but need to keep costs to a minimum, then the Voodoo Nakisi could be just what you're looking for. Built with off-road adventures in mind, this modestly priced gravel machine features a slack 71-degree head angle and flared drop handlebars for maximum stability on the rough stuff.
Smooth and reliable shifting comes courtesy of Shimano Sora and the 40mm Veetireco Speedster tyres are more than capable of eating up all but the very gnarliest of backcountry terrain. If you were under the impression that £550 couldn't buy you a proper gravel bike, it might be time to think again.
8. Liv Avail 2
As far as female-specific bikes go, Giant’s sister company, Liv, pretty much has the monopoly. The Avail is the brand’s all-round endurance model, featuring comfortable geometry for longer rides and a frame specifically engineered to meet the needs of female riders.
Buyers can expect to pay anywhere between £3,000 and £5,000 for the top-tier versions, but this highly capable budget option offers up the same award-winning design in a slightly more affordable package. Shimano Claris components deliver reliable shifting while Liv’s Advanced-grade carbon fork absorbs and dampens uncomfortable road buzz for a smooth, enjoyable ride.
9. Giant Contend 2
Built with progressing cyclists in mind, Giant’s Contend 2 is a solid option for those looking to ditch the hybrid or MTB and venture out for some longer rides on the tarmac. The £625 price tag does admittedly put it at the upper end of the ‘budget’ spectrum, but that’s what you pay to bag a bike from one of the best-established and most reputable cycle manufacturers in the world.
The aluminium frame is designed to be comfortable while remaining nippy and Giant’s ‘D-Fuse’ seatpost reduces vibrations for a smooth road feel. Then there’s the internal cable routing, seldom found on bikes in this price range, which makes for a cleaner, more streamlined look. In fact, there are plenty of bikes twice the price that don’t look half as pro.
10. Trek Domane AL2
For first-time road bike buyers, one of the biggest questions is often, “Am I going to outgrow this entry-level bike too quickly?”. In the case of Trek’s Domane AL2, the answer is a resounding no. Yes, it’s designed as a gateway to the road bike world, but it’s more than capable of carrying you past your first long-ish trundles and onto bigger, better and faster things.
Shimano Claris-equipped, a frame with endurance geometry and tubeless-ready wheels, it’s sturdy, light, fast and easy to upgrade as you progress with your cycling. Plus, when you buy from a name like Trek, you can hand over your hard-earned cash with a certain degree of confidence... which is nice.