The tech in the best road bikes has improved at such a rate, and cycling has become so much more popular that previously out-of-reach carbon speed machines and pro-spec peloton punishers are now available at prices that aren't cheap but are also not punishingly expensive.
If you have flirted with road cycling and want to give it a go, now is the time, especially with the Cycle to Work scheme making these bikes much more affordable in the UK. Even if you don't want to venture out, you can still keep training with the best turbo trainers.
On a budget? There are cheaper bikes on this list, but you could also browse our best cheap road bikes guide – they're not too bad. We also have a list of the best electric bikes for those who prefer to be assisted when riding uphill. Those searching for further education should read mistakes every cyclist makes and how to buy the best road bike for you – breaking it down, component by component.
The best road bikes to buy right now
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With its latest iteration of the Ultimate road bike, Canyon has tried to make everyone happy, producing a model to suit all skill levels, sizes and budgets. In that respect, the bewildering model range can be daunting to pick through. However, select the suitable model, like the Canyon CF SLX 8 Di2 you see here, and you’ll be in for a treat. The lightweight design bristles with a dazzling array of top components, and it’s a bike that can be pushed to its limits without fear of failure.
The fit and finish of this bike are largely excellent, with the Iced Berry paint finish adding a touch of pizazz to the proceedings. And, going back to the components list, you should be more than content with the collection found on the Canyon CF SLX 8 Di2, with DT Swiss ARC 1400 50/50 rims, shod with Schwalbe Pro One Skin rubber. The Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow saddle is a treat when you’re on it, too, while the shifting comes from Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 groupset, which, as it turns out, is one of the highlights here.
Read our full Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review
Ribble really is the final word in value for money, and its Endurance AL Disc machine is arguably the best example of this yet. A sturdy but surprisingly lightweight aluminium frame is made even better by the addition of Mavic Aksium wheels and a lovely finishing kit from Level 1.
Granted, to keep things below the £1,000 threshold, you will have to put up with Shimano Tiagra gearing, which can be a little wayward and doesn't feel like the sharpest set-up around, but an extra £300 upgrades to Shimano 105.
It looks great, too; wearing a neat gloss white and vibrant red paint job, this feels like a bike that has been designed to last but one that offers a fast and comfortable ride that belies its affordable price tag. If you can't quite afford this model, consider the cheaper Ribble Endurance SL.
Read our full Ribble Endurance AL review.
The Boardman range at Halfords isn't as deep nor as high end as it used to be, as founder Mr Boardman has started to push the more expensive models through his own website.
That said, much of the frame technology and expertise can still be found on the few remaining road bikes that can be picked up from any Halfords store or online. The SLR 8.8 is the pick of the bunch for us, simply because it is dirt cheap and its aluminium frame is light, strong and very durable.
At £750, the gearing is limited to Shimano Tiagra, which certainly isn't the worst option out there but it is likely to frustrate more experienced riders. The wheelset also lets the side down a bit here, but otherwise, the bike is beautifully designed, rides well and offers a full carbon fork and disc brakes where others in this price bracket certainly do not.
Read our full Boardman SLR 8.8 review
Another year and another Specialized ride scoops the Best Road Bike gong at the T3 Awards 2021. This might give you a sense of déja-vu, as the more affordable Roubaix Sport – the very next entry on this list, as it happens – won last year. Clearly, this is not a bike built for pottering around on. Sure, you could use it to commute – if you like to commute at very high speed – but really this is a serious road bike for serious weekend high-jinks.
For those who want to push themselves and take on everything the roads can throw at them, the SL7 is as good as it gets, without paying an absolutely profane amount of money. It's incredibly rigid, aerodynamically more akin to an eel than a lump of metal and carbon, and yet surprisingly forgiving on rougher terrain. Almost, dare we say it, comfortable to ride – so long as you don't mind the very aggressive on-bike position that it demands.
Read our full Specialized Tarmac SL7 review
The Venturi EVO 105 road bike is the scaled-down version of ORRO's top-tier STC range and rides the fine line of being affordable without compromising too much on specs. Sure, you won't find the top of the line Shimano Dura-Ace groupset included here – that's overkill for most non-competitive riders anyway – but for a not-so-extreme price, you'll get a full carbon frame and fork, Fulcrum R800 DB wheels, Continental tyres and even an SRAM 11-speed cassette.
The carbon/aero frame might not be to everyone's taste, but yet again, the Venturi EVO 105 makes this work by using a semi-integrated cable design that's flexible to be easily upgraded to a fully integrated system.
Better still, the Vetruri EVO 105 features flat-mount disc brakes and 12mm thru-axles that utilise ORRO's switch lever design. The removable lever and hollow axle are lightweight; removing the lever once tightened also "makes them more aerodynamic and adds extra security for your wheels", as ORRO explains. Lightweight, affordable and extremely cool; that's the ORRO Venturi EVO 105 promise.
Canyon's updated Aeroad CF SL is one of the raciest, sharpest and fastest machines on this list - fusing the latest aero-tested frame geometry with a full carbon integrated cockpit for fighter jet levels of on-road performance. New for this year is Shimano's laser-sharp Ultegra R8000 drivetrain, which pinches learnings from the top-spec Dura-Ace collection and filters it down into something mere mortals can (sort of) afford.
The Ultegra RT800 disc brake rotors are present, as well as some of the most tactile levers on the planet. Feathering those powerful brakes is enough to scrub speed off at an impressive rate, while minor adjustments are made possible by the high levels of control and feedback. Alas, these are minor gripes and issues that hardcore riders (let's face it, this bike is aimed at them) won't even consider. Canyon Aeroad CF SL 8.0 is an absolute weapon.
Read our Canyon Aeroad CF SL Disc 8.0 review
Cube has craftily picked accessories and kit typically found on more expensive race bikes and hung it all on a more affordable but arguably more durable lightweight aluminium frame to keep the costs down here.
That means disc brakes and a carbon front fork come as standard, while Cube's attempt at an entry-level aero rim is wrapped in Conti Ultra Sport 3 tyres. Disc brakes at this price can sometimes be troublesome but the TRP Spyre mechanical units found here are tried and tested. Above all else, the geometry of this frame has been styled and fairly aggressive racers, so expect a speedy ride with exceptional strength and durability.
Named after the infamously gruelling Paris to Roubaix Challenge, this road bike features a Future Shock 1.5 cartridge, which gives a staggering 20mm of vertical stem and bar movement to soak up bumps. It's also now better integrated into the seat post for a smarter look.
The addition of tried-and-tested DT R470 wheels means it remains a fast ride and that Fact10r frame is stiff and pointy, nicely transferring power through the wheels. Of course, those with bicycle Spider senses will likely argue that the additional damping affects power transfer and handling but we struggled to find those flaws.
Also, the Shimano 105 gearing and brakes are a bit stingy for a bike at this price point, but you're really paying for that brilliantly clever frame. In our humble opinion, it's a race bike that doesn't punish the spine, wrists and arse like its carbon fibre brethren. And that's a very good thing.
Read our full Specialized Roubaix review
If you’re looking for your first proper foray into endurance riding and road racing the Ribble Endurance SL Disc 105 is ideal. It’s light, fast and stops brilliantly too while the handling is everything you’d expect from a carbon-framed beauty like this. Customise the specification to suit your cycling wants list and get it painted to suit your taste and you’ve got a top-value winning road bike on your hands.
A lot of the appeal of the Ribble Endurance SL Disc 105 is centred around the Shimano 105 R7000 2 x 11-speed groupset, complimented by Shimano 105 R7020 11-speed hydraulic shifters. There’s a Shimano 105 R7000, 50-34T chainset, Shimano BB-R60 BSA bottom bracket, Shimano R7000 11-Speed 11-32T cassette aided and abetted by Shimano 105 R7000 derailleurs.
Wheels are 12x100F/12x142R Level DB40 Sport Carbon’s shod with some very cool Continental Grand Prix 700x28c rubber. Stopping power comes thanks to more Shimano components, in the shape of 105 R7070 Flat Mount hydraulic discs. Add it all together and you’ve got a bike that looks and feels the part, without a doubt.
Read our full Ribble Endurance SL Disc 105 review
How to choose the best road bike for you
Road cycling can be pretty daunting if your usual jaunt is a pedal along a flat cycle path to the local pub. The terrain can make the ride uncomfortable, and quite frankly, the old road bike in the back of your shed isn't going to cut it in today's world of wind tunnel-tested carbon fibre rockets and lightweight aluminium frames.
The frame material is the main reason for this, but be warned: we have found that as frame technology has improved over the years (particularly those of the carbon fibre variety), the finishing kit that completes the bike (gears, wheels, brakes, saddles etc.) has suffered.
You need to look at the whole package. If you opt for a more expensive carbon, be sure to check out the wheels, groupset (gears and brakes) and the finishing kit (saddle, bar tape and cabling), as often manufacturers will balance the books by scrimping on these fittings.
The same can be said for wheelsets. Ideally, the lighter and stiffer the wheel, the better for speed and handling. But don't forget this will typically mean a compromise in comfort and budget.
Similarly, the geometry of a frame and its construction will greatly affect the way it performs and handles. A racy geometry (the angles of the tubes that make up the frame) can be a pain on longer rides, despite performance gains. A fact that's well worth considering if you're simply looking to add a little swag to your daily commute.
In short, that ultra, super-lightweight frame that has been tested in a wind tunnel to within an inch of its life might sound like a good idea, but the overall package may not represent good value.
You also need to think about whether a carbon frame road bike is even the best for you. Most cheaper road bikes use carbon fibre, but do note that cheaper carbon tends to flex under load and can also be less comfortable and more brittle than their steel or aluminium-framed counterparts.
How we test the best road bikes
There is only one way to test road bikes: by taking them out on the road, which is precisely what we do when reviewing them. We use the best internal and external freelancers and riders in the industry to ensure the most capable people review all bikes.
All road bikes are tested for at least a couple of weeks (and a couple of hundred miles), so we can determine each model's strengths and weaknesses. We put in the work and ask all the questions from the manufacturer's engineers so that we can recommend each bike to the people who benefit from riding them the most.