Best road bike under £500: the best cheap road bikes to ride out on in 2020

Punish the climbs, dominate group rides or simply explore the open road for less than a disappointing package holiday to Magaluf

The explosion in popularity of road cycling means there is now a speed-focussed two-wheel machine to suit most budgets.

Of course, you could go out and blow the deposit for a home on a carbon, wind tunnel-tested rocket that wouldn't look out of place in a professional peloton, but for most mere mortals, that's simply unfeasible.

The truth is, there are plenty of good bikes out there that can be picked up for under £500 but still boast a number of attributes that will ensure your cycling progresses from the occasional hack to the local shop to more serious rides.

Of course, there is some compromise when looking at the lower end of the budget scale, but all of the bicycles recommended here are absolutely perfect for road cycling beginners or those looking to jump on a sporty steed from a different ride.  

Best road bikes for under £500: what to look out for

Clearly there will be some compromise when looking at entry-level road bikes and these conciliations tend to come in the form of the groupset (the gearing, chain and crankset fitted to the bike) and the finishing kit, which are elements like the handlebars and saddle.

On top of this, the frame is most probably going to be fashioned from aluminium, rather than high performance carbon fibre, which means it will be heavier than more expensive rivals.

But this is no bad thing, as carbon fibre is very easily damaged and it takes a fairly tuned-in roadie to notice the benefits of using such an advanced material.

Finally, bikes at the cheaper end of the spectrum probably haven't spent hours in the wind tunnel, nor have they been aerodynamically fine tuned for peak performance, so responsiveness, handling and power transfer through the cranks isn't going to be up there with pricier machines.

But that said, much of the high-end technology that was once pioneering on ludicrously expensive models is now slowly filtering down into more affordable bikes.

Don't be surprised if your £500 budget stretches to carbon fibre forks, or disc brakes, for example. 

The best road bikes under £500 in order of preference

B'Twin Triban 520

1. B'Twin Triban 520

Hands down the best package for the money

Weight: 9.9kg
Frame: 6061 Alloy
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Sora R3000, Shimano brakes
Wheels: B'Twin Sport
Reasons to buy
+Excellent lightweight frame +Solid components+Looks cool
Reasons to avoid
-Brand isn't desirable

• Buy direct from B'Twin owner Decathlon

Like Halfords, excellent all-round French sports store Decathlon takes advantages of its economies of scale (or should that be économies d'échelle?) and fully loads its entry-level cycles, while keeping costs down for the inquisitive road cyclist.

The Triban 520 is a superb machine for the money, boasting a solid 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset, lightweight carbon fibre forks and a thoughtfully crafted, short geometry aluminium frame (the angles of the frame's tubes) that manages to offer a degree of responsiveness and performance that would shame more expensive cycles.

Some will likely turn their noses up at the decals on the frame, but this is one extremely good looking bike, with touches like the branded white stem and razor sharp racing saddle lending it an air of the pro peloton.

At just £499, it just about hits budget, but this is pound-for-pound the best entry-level road bike we've seen in a long time.  

Vitus Razor

Vitus Razor

2. Vitus Razor

Great value, great brand

Weight: 10.3kg
Frame: 6061 Alloy**
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Claris 8 Speed, Tektro brakes
Wheels: Jalco
Reasons to buy
+It looks great+Carbon forks+Solid groupset
Reasons to avoid
-Rubbish wheels

The Razor from Vitus gives the B'Twin number above a run for its money, 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 Triban 520, 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.

Carrera Vanquish Disc

Carrera Vanquish Disc

3. Carrera Vanquish Disc

Disc brakes at this price point are a rare sight

Weight: 11kg
Frame: Alloy**
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Claris 16 Speed, mechanical disc brakes
Wheels: Carrera
Reasons to buy
+Powerful brakes+Nice colour scheme
Reasons to avoid
-Comparatively heavy

• Buy direct from Halfords

Once again, Halfords manages to deliver on the bang-for-your-buck element, with the generously appointed Carrera Vanquish.

Unfortunately, a sub-£500 budget isn't quite enough to stretch to something from the more lavishly appointed Boardman range, but the Vanquish comes with niceties that include carbon fibre forks, disc brakes and a 16-speed groupset that features some of Shimano's most popular oily bits.

At £425, it's an absolute steal and it doesn't half look good, but we can't help thinking more advanced technology, such as the disc brakes, aren't going to be particularly impressive at this price. 

4. Boardman Comp

Arguably the best road bike under £500 for purists

Weight: 10kg
Frame: Lightweight aluminium
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Sora and FSA
Wheels: Zaffiro
Reasons to buy
+Handsome steed+Quality components
Reasons to avoid
-The wheels are lower quality

Disk brakes are a pain to maintain but then so is a broken neck, and we'd sooner have the former. Add a solid groupset and this bike is a winner, even if the wheels leave a bit to be desired.

This Halfords exclusive might sit at the very cheapest price point in the extensive Boardman range but that is no reason to dismiss this good looking bike.

The designers have kept things extremely simple here, which ironically lends the Comp a more professional silhouette than some of the more thought-through bikes on this list, while the addition of FSA components adds a layer of durability.

We question the reliability and precision of the TRP Spyre Performance Road Disc Brakes at this money, as cheaper offerings can be a nightmare to maintain, but they will provide superior stopping power to standard calipers.

At just 10kg, this is also one of the lightest bikes on the list and its sharp, racy geometry should prove a great, inexpensive introduction to the fast paced world of road cycling. 

Brand-X Road Bike

Brand-X Road Bike

5. Brand-X Road Bike

The Tesco Value of the road bike world

Weight: 12kg
Frame: 6061 Alloy**
Forks: Alloy
Groupset: Shimano 14 Speed, Tektro brakes
Wheels: Alloy QR
Reasons to buy
+Cheap as chips+Basic but solid+Looks cool in black
Reasons to avoid
-No-frills format

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, rather than fancy features.

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'.

Merlin PR7

Merlin PR7

6. Merlin PR7 Sora Alloy

A solid all-rounder for the price

Weight: N/A
Frame: 6061 Alloy**
Forks: Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Sora R3000, Merlin brakes
Wheels: Mavic CXP-22
Reasons to buy
+Good wheels+Generous groupset
Reasons to avoid
-Who the hell are Merlin?

• Buy direct from Merlin

Wheels are an often-overlooked part of the bicycle-buying process, but they are the elements that connect the bike to the road and as such, it's important to have a set that is both strong and rolls smoothly.

The Merlin PR7 is the only bike on the list to feature a branded set of Mavic wheels, which are a little bit heavy, but they are extremely robust and won't melt at the first sign of a pothole.

Thankfully, the rest of the offering is fairly tempting, with Shimano Sora gearing and the brand's own brakes making for an enticing package.