Cheap road bikes need not be bad road bikes. Not by any means. In fact, the best road bike under £1,000 is a thing to aspire to these days. The best 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. There are even a few cheaper models on our guide to the best road bikes at any price.
In this guide we are looking at cheap road bikes under £1,000 and very cheap. road bikes under £500. Of course, I would love for you to spend more and get an even better bike but these are the best we can find at low price points. Coming from reputable brands and retailers they're safe, fun to ride and won't let anyone down.
What do you get for your money when it comes to shopping for a road bike? Carbon forks, light-alloy frames and premium drivetrains should all be on the shopping list of those with a grand burning a hole in the collective back pockets.
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!
We've collated a list of our favourite bikes that we feel offer the best mix of performance and value for money; drawing upon numerous hours in the saddle.
Best cheap road bikes under £1000 to buy in 2022
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 my humble opinion.
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 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.
Here is proof that entry into the Lycra-clad roadie club needn't be a drain on the wallet and this no-frills freedom machine is arguably one of the cheapest ways of getting out onto the blacktop.
Based around a solid 6061 alloy frame, the all-black Brand-X features a combination of groupset and finishing kit that have been selected for reliability and affordability, rather than fancy features.
With that said, the Shimano Tourney gearing is among some of the cheapest money can buy, so don't expect laser precise shifting or the forgiving, maintenance free ownership experience of, say, Shimano's high-end Di2 electronic set-up.
So yeah, it's a pretty basic set-up, but we think the black finish belies its generous price tag and the solid frame is likely to outlast many a hobbyist's road cycling 'phase'.
With a carbon fork, light weight and 16-speed Shimano gears, you're getting a bargain here. Boardman bikes may be exclusive to Halfords but they are well worth the pain of going to Halfords, and they will throw in 'unlimited lifetime safety checks' and a 'lifetime guarantee on the frame and forks', subject to certain terms and conditions.
Above all else, Boardman manages to sneak in some really high end components, despite the bargain price tag. A FSA bottom bracket, FSA headset and decent Vittoria tyres are just a few examples but there is some compromise.
The Tektro brakes are perfectly adequate but nothing to write home about, while the Shimano Claris groupset doesn't quite cut the mustard like the marginally more expensive 105 set-up.
However, the alloy frame and carbon forks are a lovely touch, it looks great and this is the nearest thing here to a 'proper' road bike, so we recommend spending the extra 50 quid.
The Razor from Vitus is not a cheap option but prices from Wiggle often fluctuate throughout the year, so keep an eye out for bargains. Although expensive, we listed it here purely because the brand bases this extremely affordable bike around a brilliant aluminium frame, which is both light and extremely durable.
At just 10.3kg, it's slightly heavier than the carbon-clad beauties found for around the £1,000 mark, but it's still no porker and that lack of heft will make things a lot easier when it comes to tackling the big climbs. Overall geometry is also fairly forgiving, placing comfort over all-out performance.
Granted, Shimano's Claris 8-speed doesn't offer the widest spread of gearing, but the technology is proven to be robust and reliable, which means maintenance should be fairly easy.
Perhaps the icing on the cake is that this road warrior comes with carbon fibre forks, which is extremely generous at this price point.
You see this a lot with road bikes, where an older model seemingly comes with much better spec for the same or cheaper price than the new bike. Carrera's Vanquish is one such example, as it now eschews disc brakes for cheaper Tektro pivot models.
A sub-£500 budget isn't quite enough to stretch to something from the more lavishly appointed Boardman range, but the Vanquish comes with a 16-speed groupset that features some of Shimano's most popular oily bits. At £375, it's a bargain buy and it doesn't half look good, but we can't help thinking that some of those components will give up the ghost before the buzz of fast road work wears off.
Although many of the components are similar to other, cheaper machines on this list, the additional money is ploughed into Trek's expertise in creating fast frame shapes. The geometry employed in its entry level Domane is geared towards those who want to increase the pace of longer rides, while the addition of branded Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite 700 wheels raises this machine slightly above rivals listed here.
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.
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?"
Best cheap road bikes: what to look out for
There will inevitably be compromises in quality when road bike shopping on a tighter 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.