10 of the best road bikes you can buy for under £1,000
In the market for a road bike but on a budget? Here are the best tarmac-taming machines you can currently buy that will leave you with change from a grand.
Despite what you might have heard, there’s no need to spend a fortune on a road bike. In fact, if you know what you’re looking for, it’s possible to get a high-quality, lightweight build and still have some money left over from £1,000.
At the sub-£1,000 price point, bikes don’t tend to include anything new or flashy – instead, they benefit from a drip down of technology and features that have previously appeared on slightly older, more expensive models and componentry ranges. That doesn’t mean they’re out of date though – instead, it makes it possible to get a great spec bike for a fraction of the price all that tech would have cost just a year or two before.
Most also boast mudguard and rack compatibility, meaning they’re versatile enough to be used for everything from sportives to daily commuting, and are ideal if you’re taking up cycling for the first time, or stepping up from your first road bike and want to get into cycling a lot more regularly. But what should you look out for when buying a road bike under £1,000?
Frame and fork materials
Carbon fibre is the pinnacle of bicycle frame technology. It is light, easy to manipulate and allows more design freedom. It is also expensive, and therefore isn’t generally a feature of sub-£1,000 bikes’ frames.
Most will be made from aluminium – a lightweight and stiff material that is excellent for bicycle frames and is relatively affordable. Many (including all those featured below) will still include some carbon fibre in the form of a fork – not only to save weight, but also because it provides sharp, crisp steering and a bit of vibration dampening on those rougher country roads.
Geometry (the angles and measurements of the bicycle frame and fork) determines how a bike will ride. Releases in this price range fall into two categories: race- and endurance-focused. Race bikes are designed to be snappy and agile and best at high speed. Endurance bikes are intended to be more relaxed and stable, so better for long-distance (think sportives, cycling club weekend spins, bikepacking) where comfort is a priority. Most sub-£1,000 bikes lean towards endurance as the laidback handling and riding position is more accessible for new cyclists.
There are two braking systems used by modern road bikes – rim and disc. Despite their use in mountain biking for decades, the latter is still relatively new to the road bike world so the technology is still the more expensive option of the two. That’s not to say that they can’t be found on cheaper bikes, but the inclusion of disc brakes can impact (read: lower) the specification elsewhere on the bicycle. By and large, although disc brakes offer more reliable braking power in a wider range of conditions, rim brakes are lighter on the scales and most set-ups offer more than enough braking power for the majority of riders.
While there are alternatives (SRAM and Campagnolo spring to mind), Shimano is the dominant groupset manufacturer – not just in this price range, but across the entire road bike spectrum. It makes excellent groupsets (the collection of components used for changing gears and braking) that provide intuitive and easy gear shifting with superb durability.
On sub-£1,000 bikes, you can expect Sora and Tiagra (Shimano's second- and third-tier respectively) to be two main choices, with 105 (the Japanese brand’s first ‘performance’ line) appearing the closer you get to £1,000. The most noticeable difference to the novice cyclist is that Sora is 9-speed (nine gears on the rear cassette), Tiagra is 10 and 105 is 11. Regardless of the speed, the main thing to look for is a compact (50/34t) chainset and wide range cassette (11-32 or thereabouts) to ensure plenty of capacity on steep climbs.
Now you know what to look out for, here are some of the best road bikes you can buy for under £1,000 in 2020…
1. B’Twin Triban RC120 Disc
Proving you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a very well designed and capable road bike, the B’Twin Triban RC120 Disc from French sports superstore Decathlon is an easy bike to recommend. For just £430, you get va ery modern bike that features the likes of disc brakes for easy stopping in all conditions, and a carbon fibre fork affixed to the lightweight aluminium frame. The geometry is designed to provide a relaxed fit, making it ideal for a first bike or long summer rides as well as the demands of daily commuting, where the addition of rack and mudguard mounts add extra versatility.
If you’re on an even tighter budget, it’s also worth consider the rim brake version, which saves you an extra £50.
2. Giant Contend 2
Giant’s entry-level Contend is a very good looking bike with a sensible design and solid specification for the money. The aluminium frame is designed around a relaxed geometry for easy handling on climbs and descents, and there’s a carbon fork for responsive steering in the corners. The D-shaped seatpost and space for 32mm wide tyres will ensure the Contend is a comfortable ride too, whether on the daily commute or embarking on your first century. The addition of rack and mudguard mounts and compact gearing increases the functionality, while the sub-10kg weight (9.9kg in a medium) is lighter than a typical bike in this price range too.
3. Vitus Razor Disc VR
The Vitus Razor Disc VR combines a sporty aluminium frame with compact geometry and lightweight carbon fibre fork to deliver a comfortable and engaging ride. It’s packed with modern details like disc brakes, 12mm thru-axles instead of a quick-release set-up and full internal cable routing for clean lines, while a tapered head tube ensures direct steering responses. Shimano’s Sora groupset offers easy gear changes and disc brakes give ample control, while 28mm wide tyres help to soak up the road buzz whether you’re doing the daily commute or a long-distance challenge.
4. Trek Domane AL 3
The Domane is Trek’s comfort-focused road bike and the frame design, geometry and components are tailored towards providing comfortable, stable and capable handling. The crisp aluminium frame is fitted with a unique IsoSpeed carbon fork designed to smooth the bumps so you won’t get tired so quickly, and the geometry promotes comfort on longer rides you might want to challenge yourself to. You can also fit mudguards, racks and the company’s own Blendr lights clip directly to the bike so no fiddly mounts needed.
5. Specialized Allez Sport
If you want to go fast, the Allez Sport from Specialized has a lot going for it. It packs a lot of performance into the aluminium frame with a compact design providing excellent stiffness and low weight. The FACT carbon fork is the same as high-end bikes in the Specialized range to ensure excellent high-speed handling control. It’s not just for dipping your toe in racing through – the inclusion of compact gearing and mudguard eyelets make it as suitable to commuting as it is to your local criterium. Geometry is designed to provide a friendly fit for a wide range of cyclists and it’s just as capable of tackling sportives as it is your first road race, making it an ideal gateway to the world of cycling.
6. Canyon Endurace AL 6.0
The Endurace AL 6.0 is Canyon’s most affordable road bike, and is a great entry into its range and a good step up for you first serious road bike. The Endurace name owes to the endurance-focused design, with a relaxed geometry for easy handling and comfort on long rides. The aluminium frame and carbon fork keep the weight low for an 8.58kg weight, making it lighter than most bikes at this price. The frame gets modern details like internal cable routing, mudguard eyelets and wide tyre clearance and the Shimano Tiagra groupset ensures easy gear changes and proven reliability.
7. Scott Speedster 20 Disc
The Speedster is Scott’s endurance bike and is a highly impressive package thanks to a lightweight double-butted aluminium frame packed with modern details. Shimano’s excellent Tiagra groupset provides a wide range of gear ratios with an emphasis on helping you up steep hills. Disc brakes are rarely seen at this price making the Speedster a good choice if you want the extra braking power they provide. Combined with plush 32mm-wide tyres, you’re left with a highly capable bike that will look after you on your first century or epic sportive.
8. Cube Attain Race
Renowned for offering very good value for money, Cube joins this list with the Attain Race. It’s an aluminium frame with a carbon fibre fork and a geometry that leans towards long-distance comfort and stable handling, but it’s quick enough for fast-paced riding when the fancy takes you. It’s one of the few bikes at the price to offer disc brakes, which are great for extra braking power in all conditions, and Shimano’s Tiagra groupset provides a wide range of high and low gears with easy usability.
9. Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105
Okay, this bike might fail the 'sub-£1,000' criteria, but as it's only 1p more expensive, it's worth including anyway.
Cannondale forged its reputation with high-quality aluminium frames and the CAAD Optimo is one of the very best – an entry-level race bike packing a lot of technology and equipment in for its price. A smooth looking aluminium frame provides a stiff and responsive ride, a carbon fork lowers the weight and Shimano’s excellent 105 groupset provides slick gear changes and a wide range of ratios for tackling the steepest climbs. The bike is equipped with rack and mudguard mounts too for added versatility, whether commuting or staying dry on wet roads.
10. Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon
Another that sneaks into the list despite falling into the four-figure category, this release from Boardman simply had to be included.
If you must have carbon, look no further. While the majority of bikes in this price range use aluminium, the Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon offers a full carbon fibre frame and fork. It’s no dud either, with all the modern details you’d expect on a bike costing a lot more. Internal cable routing and aerodynamic tubes cut down on drag while mudguard mounts ensure it’s at home on the daily commute. There’s also space for wide tyres and the 2021 model even packs a Shimano 105 groupset – reaffirming again what a steal this machine is.