Best road bike under £1000: get really serious performance at a seriously low price in 2020

The best road bikes under £1,000 offer fast frames, featherweight forks and consistent components. Why pay more?

Best road bike under £1000

The best road bike under £1,000 – so long as it's only just under £1,000 as most of these are – is a thing to aspire to these days. Like microchip technology and standing a safe distance away from people, things have moved on at great pace in the cycling world over the past ten years. Comparatively cheap road bikes are no longer hopelessly scaled back. In fact, what was once the preserve of bikes costing £5,000+ is now available to you for £999.99 or less. 

Carbon forks, ultra-light alloy frames and drivetrains that once featured on the crème de la crème of road cycling machines should all be on the shopping list of those with a grand burning a whole in the collective back pockets.

On top of this, there has been an explosion in brilliant road bikes since the launch of the popular Cycle to Work scheme, which allows most employees to spend as much as they like on a bicycle, spread the cost over a year, and get very large savings thanks to the taxman. Hoorah for the taxman! 

As a result, it is a fiercely contested marketplace and most major manufacturers now have an entry-level model for the money that pinches technology and components from more expensive bikes in the range.

What's more, it takes a keen eye to detect those newer models that have scrimped on kit compared to the bikes they replace. This is a clever trick employed by the mass produced bike-making community but it doesn't get past us.

We've collated a list of our favourite bikes that we feel offer the best mix of performance and value for money; drawing upon the numerous hours in the saddle we've collectively spent taking these weapons for a spin.

Best road bikes for under £1000: what to look out for

As we said in our list of brilliant steeds for under £500, there will be a compromise in quality when shopping on this tight budget. That doesn't necessarily mean the bikes are going to be rubbish, it just means swathes of carbon fibre, electric gear shifting and other premium touches are going to be out of reach.

Instead, it's best to focus on a solid frame, keeping in mind that it's very easy to upgrade things like wheel sets, seats and finishing kits if the mood takes and you feel flush enough.

Look out for frames with reinforced tubing, often referred to as double of triple-butted tubing, as this will improve overall stiffness, responsiveness and speed, as well as ensure it is strong and durable.

There has been a vast improvement in materials over recent years, meaning that fancy alloys and lightweight aluminium is no longer the heavy, sluggish sibling of carbon fibre. Alloy frames can prove equally sharp to ride if the geometry is right.

Secondly, many bikes on this list offer a full carbon fibre fork, which is great because it reduces overall weight and gets rid of some of the vibration through the front end that is experienced on all aluminium bikes.

However, bear in mind that when manufacturers spend big on the frame, it usually comes at the detriment of things like brakes, gears and saddles, which are all very important if you plan to tackle the odd sportive or high mileage ride.

The best road bikes under £1000 in order of preference

Vitus Zenium Carbon Disc 2020

(Image credit: Vitus/Wiggle)

1. Vitus Zenium Carbon Disc

A drop-dead gorgeous bike with a serious performance punch

Specifications
Weight: 9.6kg
Frame: T700 Carbon
Forks: UD Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Wheels: Vitus KT Custom
Reasons to buy
+An absolute bargain carbon frame+Stunning looks+Sharp handling
Reasons to avoid
-Tiagra not 105 gearing

• Buy Vitus Zenium (2020 model) for £999.99 at Chain Reaction Cycles

It is amazing that such specs can be purchased for a mere £1000, as it would take a bit of a bike boffin to realise this isn't some sort of bank loan brute that you'd see rolling up to the start line of a professional road cycling race.

The sleek carbon fibre frame looks the part and keeps overall weight down to 9.6kg (they shaved a teeny bit off the old model), which is ridiculously light but perhaps not as featherweight as we have come to expect from this high-tech material.

Still, it is extremely stiff and the power transfer through the Shimano Tiagra drivetrain is excellent. Although, we would love to see some 105 action on there in order to keep the shifting precision and overall reliability levels up.

Last year's model opted for a middling Shimano wheel set but Vitus now has its own line, which is light and strong. They are also now shod in rather cool Vee Road Runner tyres with Roubaix-esque white walls. 

A little refresh of the eye-catching silver and black paint means it now looks the part too, making the  Zenium an almighty machine out on the open road. The addition of punchy disc brakes and a generally excellent finishing kit (the saddle is comfortable and sporty) makes this a two-wheeled weapon that anyone will enjoy riding fast. 

  

Boardman SLR 8.9c 

2. Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon Grey

Tuned in a wind tunnel but it doesn't cost the earth

Specifications
Weight: 9.05kg
Frame: Carbon
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Wheels: Boardman
Reasons to buy
+Pro spec geometry +Integrated seat clamp+Super aero
Reasons to avoid
-Sluggish wheels-Scrimps on gearing

Buy Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon Grey direct from Boardman Bikes

Boardman has been hitting the jackpot year after year with its sub-£1000 bicycles and its latest full carbon-framed SLR 8.9c is another absolute belter. In fact, we'd happily stick this in joint first place it wasn't for our editor's twitchy OCD getting the better of us.

Much like the Vitus, the money buys bags of carbon fibre that has been tested to within an inch of its life inside Chris Boardman's very own wind tunnel, which means you get very similar innovations to those found on the top of the range Boardman bikes for a fraction of the price.

Of course, there has to be a some compromise and this comes in the form of slightly naff Tektro R315 brakes and Shimano's Tiagra gearing, which is pretty good but not quite as sharp as 105 or the range-topping Ultegra (but you'll never get that at this price bracket).

Regardless, this is a rapid bicycle that would be as happy punishing the daily commute as it would be goading more expensive bikes during the weekend competitive ride.

(Image credit: Ribble)

3. Ribble Endurance AL Disc

Tough, comfortable with just enough performance

Specifications
Weight: 9.7kg
Frame: 6061 Alloy
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Wheels: Mavic Aksium
Reasons to buy
+Hardy, durable frame+Quality wheelset+Powerful disc brakes
Reasons to avoid
-Tiagra gearing is temperamental-Relatively heavy

Buy the Ribble Endurance AL Disc direct from Ribble for £999.99

The ability to specify the exact Ribble you require via its excellent online configurator is a neat touch, meaning you can essentially grab yourself this model with wildly upgraded wheels, saddles, seat posts and the like but let's stick to the most basic machine.

It looks exceedingly good straight out of the box, with its glossy white paint job and subtle flashes of red ensuring it punches well above its weight in terms of premium appeal. The Mavic Aksium wheel choice also looks pro, the angled rims and flat spokes rolling well over a variety of road surfaces.

Disc brakes at this price can be a bit hit and miss, often leading to more headaches than they are worth, but the Tektro MD510 proved powerful and free from irritating rubbing noises during our time with the bike.

It feels solid to ride yet remains comfortable over longer distances. Granted, this isn't as pointy or responsive as some of Ribble's speedy carbon numbers, but it's a damn sight easier on the derriere, with bumps and small potholes soaked up by the frame and fork pretty well.

The only bugbear is the Shimano Tiagra groupset that, despite Ribble's rigorous pre-delivery inspections and tuning, proves unpredictable and doesn't offer the crisp shifting that's required by those entering sportives or enjoying longer rides. It will often skip a sprocket or require on-the-fly tuning to avoid those unwanted spitting noises from the rear cassette. 

That said, Ribble offer exactly the same frame with a Shimano 105 groupset for £1,299 - well worth the extra expense in our humble opinion. 

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105

(Image credit: Cannondale)

4. Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105

One of the lightest alloy frames in this price bracket

Specifications
Weight: 8.8kg
Frame: Lightweight aluminium
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: RS 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Handsome steed+Quality components
Reasons to avoid
-The wheels are lower quality

Buy Cannondale CAAD Optimo direct from Evans Cycles

Created using Cannondale's Tube Flow Modelling design process, the CAAD Optimo’s SmartForm C2 Aluminium construction is lighter and offers the rider more feel through the bars than other similarly priced premium alloy offerings. It is sharp, fast and responsive to inputs.

This comes as little surprise, seeing as Cannondale have long been at the forefront of professional bike racing, but the  geometry is similar to the much more expensive SuperSix EVO model and offers proper performance without sacrificing comfort. 

Although the excellent Shimano 105 groupset is here, Tektro R741 caliper rim brakes feel a little stingy and the styling (you get the choice of red or black and a bit of red) might be a little plain for some, but the money mainly goes towards the aluminium frame, which is one of the sweetest available. 

According to its maker, new for 2020 is an even lighter carbon fibre fork, although the overall mass doesn't seem to have changed much from previous generations.  

Cube Attain Race Disc 2020

(Image credit: Cube Bikes)

5. Cube Attain Race Disc

Cut-price version of a flagship road bike

Specifications
Weight: 9.8kg
Frame: 6061 Alloy**
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Wheels: Cube RA 0.8 Aero Disc
Reasons to buy
+Serious looks+Comfortable ride
Reasons to avoid
-Only 2x10-speed gearing-Comparatively weighty

Buy the Cube Attain Race 2020 direct from Evans Cycles

There is no denying the Cube Attain Race looks like it wants to go fast, but does it have the muscle to back it up? Hell yeah! Over-sized tubes and a beefy bottom bracket ensure this is a stiff and purposeful ride, but it somehow manages to remain pretty comfortable.

There is now a full carbon front fork added to this entry-level Attain, which reduces weight somewhat, while the finishing kit has been revisited for 2020 and now includes some top quality FSA bits and, quite generously at this price, disc brakes. 

I know we sound like a broken record, but Shimano's Tiagra 10 speed transmission feels a bit cheap when bolted to a frame of this stature, but then Cube wants you to part with a little extra cash if you are fussy about such things. Overall, it's a great road bike that ticks plenty of boxes. Especially the one that's marked "do I look like I know what I'm doing?"

Bianchi Via Nirone

(Image credit: Bianchi)

6. Bianchi Via Nirone

An Italian stallion for sub-£1000

Specifications
Weight: N/A
Frame: Aluminium
Forks: Carbon/Kevlar
Groupset: Shimano Claris
Wheels: Tec
Reasons to buy
+A beautiful Italian frame+Lightweight forks+Bianchi build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Cut price groupset-Basic wheels

Buy the Bianchi Via Nirone exclusively at Evans Cycles

Bianchi has long been a big player in the professional cycling world and its Italian-made frames are coveted by cyclists across the globe. In fact, the Bianchi Via Nirone 7 is a nod to Edoardo Bianchi's first workshop in Milan, the address being 7 Via Nirone. We are talking Ferrari levels of fandom here.

That said, this green speed machine is designed very much to be an entry into this world, so don't expect too many high ends features. Caron fibre is replaced with a strong 6061 aluminium frame, while Shimano's entry level Claris is selected for the gearing. The wheels are pretty basic, too.

That said, the clever carbon forks are interwoven with kevlar, which is said to reduce vibrations and make it more comfortable for the rider. Fast and comfortable over the longer slogs, while bearing a badge to be proud of - this is a bit of a steal.