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 are not cheap but are also not punishingly expensive.
The handling of these commute-to-sportive road bicycles more than justifies their cost. We've picked bikes that'll get you to work without leaving you aching, and that'll go at speed and take on hills, without endangering newcomers to the road bike world.
If you have flirted with the idea of 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. Even if you don't want to venture out, you can still keep in training with the best turbo trainers and the likes of Zwift. They're a great way to stay in shape and avoid weight gain at home.
To get yourself off to the best possible start, you'll want to think about investing in a high-quality machine. We're here to help you find the best road bike for you, so whilst you may not have spotted all of these on previous Tour de France outings they're the best road bikes that offer close to pro spec, at a price that's affordable.
On a budget? There are cheaper bikes in this list, but you could also browse our best cheap road bikes guide – they're really not too bad. For those who prefer to be assisted when riding uphill, we also have a list of the best electric bikes.
Those in search of further education should read Mistakes every cyclist makes, as well as how to buy the best road bike for you – breaking it down, component by component – and Should you buy a cheap road bike? What do you get when you spend more, and what do you miss out on when you spend less?
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The best road bikes we've ridden
With its latest iteration of the Ultimate road bike, Canyon has tried to make everyone happy, especially when it comes to producing a model to suit all skill levels, sizes and budget. In that respect, the bewildering model range can be daunting to pick through. However, select the right 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 is largely excellent, with the Iced Berry paint finish really adding a touch of pizazz to 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, and that as it turns out is one of the highlights here.
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. Read our full Ribble Endurance AL review and, for those on a slightly bigger budget, our Ribble Endurance SL review.
Read our full Boardman SLR 8.8 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 Specialized Tarmac SL7 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.
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.
Read our Canyon Aeroad CF SL Disc 8.0 review
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.
That also means 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.
The front and rear rim profiles have also been cleverly devised for aerodynamically efficient high-speed cycling, with a 58mmx19mm at the front and a wider 62mmx21mm Reynolds AR58 carbon unit at the back funnelling air across the frame's sharp profile for a direct, effortless ride. Side winds can be a pain, mind.
Canyon's H36 integrated cockpit is now famous in cycling circles, as its 400g mass helps to keep overall bike heft down to just 7.83kg and it's just as slippery as the rest of the set-up. But its shape means there are only a couple of grip positions, forcing the rider to adopt a full-on tucked up riding style. On top of this, bike computer users will have to buy a special "out front" mount in order to use them.
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.
Canyon is the German meister of packing as much bike as possible into as small a price and box as possible – their mail-order packaging is a masterclass in ruthless German efficiency when it comes to use of space, allied to speed and ease of setup.
Now, the more astute among you will have noted that there's something rather odd about this 'road bike' and that's because technically it isn't one; it's what is called a 'fitness bike'. However, that is a very stupid and un-catchy name for what is essentially a road bike with flat pedals (by default; obviously you can fit it with whatever you like) and flat bars. And it is fantastiche, as the Germans say.
For riding in town, I literally can't think of anything better than this bike. The riding position, forgiving frame and Fizik saddle give you great awareness and comfort but when you need to put the hammer down, it will accelerate in a way that is not unlike a road bike.
As well as very well-judged geometry, you get a carbon frame, Shimano Ultegra components, disk brakes and a DT Swiss E 1800 wheelset that's built to be speedy yet highly durable. Shipping is also included in the price, and takes under a week.
Canyon has ridiculously exacting standards for the component sourcing and manufacture of its bikes, and even employs Bluetooth torque wrenches in its factory in Koblenz.
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.
We highlighted a bit of Eddy Merckx in our Tour de France bikes you can actually buy feature, purely because there are very few experts on the subject with the winning pedigree of Merckx... if anyone knows how to build a high-performance bike, it's The Cannibal.
However, the slick Strada harks back to the golden years of racing with a frame that is fashioned from premium Columbus Steel, giving riders a ridiculously durable machine that features enough flex for long-ride comfort, yet a power transfer that is akin to the stiffest carbon bikes.
The components are of racing pedigree, too, with Shimano's excellent Ultegra gearing and brakes, as well as Fulcrum's free-rolling Racing wheels. It might feel slightly old school but the geometry and kit are more than up to today's highly competitive standards. This is a really interesting and subtly cool alternative to the flashy carbon clan.
Read our full Specialized Roubaix review
Named after the infamously gruelling Paris to Roubaix Challenge, this intelligent road bike features the marque's new 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 frame and headset are chunky but it doesn't feel like a particularly heavy bike and those oversized elements are only put in place to house the clever suspension system. Although discreet, there's a noticeable difference in the way the handlebars and stem miraculously iron over imperfections in the road, while the squishy seatpost makes arduously long sportives slightly less painful.
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. Little wonder this high-tech ride has now won the T3 Award for best road bike two years running…
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.
How to choose the best road bike for your needs
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.
Having a decent road bike will help make the ride easier and more comfortable, and as we mentioned, now is a great time to pick up a pretty good road bike for £2,000 or less.
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 finishing kit (saddle, bar tape and cabling), as often manufacturers will balance the books by scrimping on these fittings.
For example, an entry-level groupset such as Shimano's Tiagra or Comapagnolo's Veloce may not endure the punishment of a long sportive or timed weekend ride as well as other brands, but for those simply looking to rack up the miles on gentler rides or take it easy during a friendly competition, this may not be such an issue.
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.
With all this in mind, we've collated a list of brilliant road bikes that represent excellent value across the board - from their tyres to their top tubes. Ultimately, it pays to do some research, and our countdown of the best bikes for around the £2,000 mark (some may be slightly more) is the ideal starting point. If we say so ourselves.
For those serious cyclist who like to dress properly for their cycling sessions, we recommend getting a cycling helmet, a pair of cycling sunglasses, a cycling jersey, cycling shorts, a pair of cycling shoes and you'll definitely need bike front light and bike rear lights, not to mention a bike lock. Only the essential stuff, ya'know.