It would have been weird a few years ago to suggest that even the best road bike under £500 was worthy of your attention, but times – in case you hadn't noticed – have changed. The explosion in popularity of road cycling, both pre- and post-lockdown – means there is now a speed-focussed two-wheel machine to suit almost any budget.
If you step up to the best road bike under £1000 you'll get something way more impressive. However, if your budget is lower, and/or you're just starting out, there are some perfectly good road bikes out there that can be picked up for under £500. They won't intimidate hardened MAMILs at the traffic lights, but they do boast a number of speedy attributes. In no time, your cycling will progress from the occasional hack to the local shop to more serious rides. They're also great for public transport-free commuting, of course.
All of the best road bikes under £500 recommended here are ideal for road cycling beginners, or those looking to jump on a sporty steed from a more sedate type of the best bike.
We've also had a good look at stock and availability, prioritising those bikes that you can actually buy now, rather than joining a waiting list of over six months before getting bored and eventually taking up another hobby in the meantime.
With that in mind, some of the bikes featured on this list might boast an RRP that tips over the £500 mark, but ageing stock and handy sales means you can now pick them up without busting the budget.
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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 slightly heavier than more expensive rivals. This is not entirely a bad thing, however, as carbon fibre is easily damaged. It also 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.
Arguably the most irritating thing about a £500 bike for anyone thinking of taking their cycling to the next level will be the quality of the components, with gearing that will occasionally misfire or randomly jump out of tune mid-ride. Granted, this is mildly irksome on a casual 5-mile ride but it doesn't get very tedious when stepping up to longer challenges or races.
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
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'.
Okay, cheating slightly here as this is actually £550, but 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.
Argos, yes Argos, now has a line of decent road bike thanks to the experts at Cycling Plus and Bikeradar, who were drafted in to consult on the best quality components and work up a bespoke frame design.
The result is a surprisingly handsome bike for the money, so long as you don't mind a bit of Argos blue splashed across your frame. There is a full carbon front fork, 16-speed Shimano Claris gearing and unbranded caliper brakes stopping the double-wall aluminium wheels.
It looks the part and the components have been selected for durability, rather than outright performance, making this a solid choice for someone who wants to dip a toe in the world of road cycling, without breaking the bank.
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.
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 a previous year's 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.
The downside is that Evans Cycles currently has the 2020 model listed for £595, but that price rapidly plummets as soon as the latest model is unleashed, so keep your eye out for bargains in the near future.