Best bike under £500: budget rides from fixies to a sub-£400 road bike

All sorts of people like cycling, whether they're turning sharply to the left or the right. Now they can all get a decent, brand new bicycle without spending thousands

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Cycling isn't just for MAMILs, despite what our other bike buying guides may imply. People from all walks of life enjoy mounting up and taking to the open road, enjoying the friendly screams of taxi drivers and the generally excellent condition of Britain's roads.

Cycling fans from Boris Johnson to Jeremy Corbyn feel the importance of keeping costs down, and know that a decent ride can be had for under £500. We've picked out the best, from low-riding urban cruisers to 'achingly hip' fixies (the word 'fixie', by law, must always be prefixed with the term 'achingly hip') to proper road and trail bikes that won't attract outright derision from the aforementioned MAMILs. 

Bargain bike buying: what you need to know

The freshest chain-driven champions can be yours for chump change: under £500 is the entry level we've gone for. Amazingly, that comparatively diminutive outlay actually goes a long way, with an array of mountain bikes, fixed-gear machines and speedy road bikes currently on offer for the same price as a cheap package holiday or a particularly desperate afternoon in Top Man/Topshop.

Naturally, the best value bikes are going to be the least complicated, meaning the barebones fixie racers on this list will likely offer the best value for money –
and the least potential for mechanical mishaps.

That said, improvements in technology means previously out of reach road racing machines now fall into this category, albeit with budget groupsets, relatively heavy frames and cheaper finishing kits thrown into the mix.

My advice would be to think of a sub-£500 non-fixie (ie: any bike with gears and proper brakes) as a base that, over time, you can add better components to. If you are getting a fixed-gear bike, remember it needs a mechanical front brake to be road legal. And on another safety note, whatever you get, shove some lights on it, please. I keep getting nearly run over by people riding at night with no front light.

The best bikes under £500 in T3's order of coolness

1. Wiggle Road Bike

Best road bike under £500

Specifications
Style: Road
Frame: Alloy
Weight: 11.5kg
Gears: Shimano Tourney 7 Speed
Reasons to buy
+Racy frame+Solid Shimano gearing
Reasons to avoid
-Only 7-speed-Cheap finishing kit

What this budget offering lacks in premium flourishes it more than makes up for with a tempting price tag and the promise of consumer fulfilment. It's like the Waitrose Essentials of bicycles.

Your minimal outlay secures a relatively lightweight alloy frame, complete with racy geometry, as well as Shimano's introductory Tourney gear system, Tektro brake calipers and an alloy QR wheelset that has been built to withstand the lumps and bumps of road cycling.

Its bland styling and budget components may attract disapproving side eye from the local Lycra warriors and you'll have to put up with having the Wiggle web address plastered across the chainstay. However, it's a good starting point at a great price.

2. Felt Verza Speed 40

Best sub-£500 commuter bike

Specifications
Style: Hybrid
Frame: Aluminium
Weight: 10.97kg
Gears: Shimano Altus/Acera 8-speed
Reasons to buy
+Sweet styling+Rugged frame+Comfortable ride
Reasons to avoid
-Ropey gear system

There's no denying Felt's stab at an urban commuter cycle is a handsome one, with neat whitewall Vittoria Zaffiro tyres and a comfy Selle Look saddle resplendent on the basic but stylish aluminium frame.

Designed to offer maximum rideability no matter the conditions, the Verza Speed 40 offers less of the speed and more of the sure-footedness, with flat handlebars and an upright riding position rather than a full on, Froome-during-a-time-trial road bike contortion.

Felt's own finishing kit is of excellent quality but the Verza Speed 40 loses a couple of points for its gear system, which is basic to say the least. But hey, at this price, you can't really complain.

3. Viking Urban Myth Fixie

Best fixie under £500

Specifications
Style: Fixed gear/single speed
Frame: Steel
Weight: 15kg
Gears: None
Reasons to buy
+Clean lines+Eye-catching chrome design+Easy to maintain
Reasons to avoid
-Cheap wheels-Single speed's not for everyone

Viking might not be an immediately recognisable name in the world of cycling but it' another disruptor brand offering very solid bikes at bargain basement prices, largely via Halfords.

The Urban Myth is a neat take on the Quella-style hybrid/fixie design and features a bling-tastic all-chrome frame, stylish faux-leather saddle and grips, and aero-style rims. It scores over the Quella by placing its brake levers in a position where they can actually be reached.

It can either be ridden as a true fixed-gear machine or the rear wheel can be flipped if you prefer not to be thrown over the handlebars every time you pull up to some traffic lights. If you're used to a bike with gears, it's advisable to practice in a park for a while before hitting the road on a fixed gear.

4. Trek Marlin 6

Best trail bike for under £500

Specifications
Style: Mountain
Frame: Aluminium
Weight: 14.5kg
Gears: Shimano Tourney 8 Speed
Reasons to buy
+Good 29-inch wheels+Hydraulic brakes+Front suspension
Reasons to avoid
-Again, cheap gears-Basic frame

Fully refreshed for 2017, the popular Trek Marling mountain bike has undergone a number of physical and design changes to ensure it remains competitive both on and off road.

The 29-inch wheels offer a smoother ride over rough terrain, while RST Gila front suspension with a coil spring, preload mechanical lockout function, makes it easy to flick between shock dampening and locked-out straight-line performance as you move from rural to urban, or from pothole minefield to fresh blacktop.

A Bontrager finishing kit keeps the price down but doesn't scrimp on quality, although the Shimano Tourney shifters feel a little cheap for a bike of this nature. But then, to be scrupulously fair, the Trek Marling is cheap for a bike of this nature.

5. Electra Cruiser 1

Best cruiser bike under £500, for the more chilled cyclist

Specifications
Style: Cruiser
Frame: Steel
Weight: 16kg
Gears: Single speed
Reasons to buy
+Cool cruiser styling+A very easy riderNot the most flexible machine
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Imagine relaxed rides along the beachfront, slow cruises through the park and chilled-out runs to the artisan coffee shop. These are the scenarios in which the Electra Cruiser excels.

The Cruiser 1 is about as basic as bikes get, with a vintage American pedal-backwards-to-stop braking system, single speed and bullhorn style handlebars, it isn't exactly the most versatile machine but it's inexpensive and looks cool. Sometimes, that's all that really matters, dude.

Granted, it's likely to be absolutely hammering it down and blowing a gale when you decide to go for the maiden ride but that shouldn't prevent you from California dreaming.

6. Fuji Feather

Best track/urban bike under £500

Specifications
Style: Fixed gear/single speed
Frame: Chromoly Steel
Weight: 9.85kg
Gears: None
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous details+Fast frame+Light weight
Reasons to avoid
-Can you be too cool?

From the ridiculously hip metal brake cable clasps to the embossed head tube badging, this old-school, race-ready Fuji is more akin to a moving piece of art than it is daily transport.

However, the speedy geometry and lightweight chromoly steel frame material make for a slick everyday town hack, especially if ridden in true fixed gear style –
there's a flop hub for wimps, though.

It's relatively expensive in fixie terms but it's worth it for the small details, like the FSA, sealed cartridge bearings in the bottom bracket and Vera Corsa DPM27 rims with smooth-rolling track hubs. Mmm, smooth.