Looking for a quality road bike and want to spend less than £500? There are some models out there that will have you smiling for miles
Contrary to what might seem to be the case when you step into your average bike shop, it is possible to get a good road bike for under £500 – indeed we’ve reviewed cheaper road bikes from as little as £260 and been really impressed.
We won’t lie: spending more is likely to provide you with a bike that will keep you going without the need for upgrades for much longer. However, if you’re new to cycling, or just don’t want to spend a huge chunk of cash on your new set of wheels, then we’re here to help you get the best deal on something cheaper.
The key difference between a bike for under £500 and a more expensive version will be the overall weight, the speed and crispness with which the gears shift between cogs and the urgency with which the brakes react. The frame is likely to lack a little stiffness compared with a top-end model, and the handling might be a bit less sharp.
All of the above sacrificed attributes dwell largely in the realm of ‘performance cycling’ – they make riding a bike a little more fast paced, but they’re far from essential. For £500, you’re well and truly right to expect to purchase a bike that’s more than adequate for commutes, weekend rides, sportives and club runs.
Shop around, and you’ll get a bike that’s light enough and has enough gears to take you over the hills and far away while being more than reliable enough to get you from A to B.
Looking for something else? Check out:
- The best road bikes under £1000
- The best road bikes under £1500
- The best road bikes under £2000
- The best women’s road bikes
- Cycling Weekly Bike of the Year
Trickle-down technology on cheap road bikes under £500
One of the great strengths of the bike trade is ‘trickle down’ technology: the idea that what might be currently found on only premium products will one day be available on even entry-level bikes.
History has proven this idea again and again — relatively low-cost road bikes today include technology that would once have been unthinkable at that price.
Component brands are particularly adept at this – passing innovations down through the road bike groupsets in following seasons. Take Shimano, for example. Whenever the Japanese giant brings out a new version of the Tiagra groupset it tends to bear an uncanny likeness to the older version of the higher-end 105 groupset.
Meanwhile, public demand for carbon-fibre bikes has pushed down aluminium in people’s estimations. This means that some extraordinarily well-engineered and beautifully designed aluminium frames are now on sale at staggeringly low prices.
That all combines to produce a great situation for the canny bike buyer: if you’re not obsessed with composite frames, brand names, or posing, there are a huge number of incredibly able, high-performing bikes available below £500.
Our pick of the best cheap road bikes under £500 for 2018
We’ve outlined exactly what you can expect to get for your money at this crucial price point further down this page – but first here’s a look at some of the best entry-level bikes…
Boardman Road Sport – £500
Read the review: Boardman Road Sport
Boardman is a brand well known for creating great-value road bikes. The Road Sport has a triple-butted aluminium frame which means it’s stiff where it needs to be but the material is made lighter where possible. Coupled with an alloy steerer and carbon fork (which also reduces bumps from the road) the overall weight is 9.9kg.
Shifting is provided with a Shimano Claris groupset, and Boardman keeps the cost lower by speccing its own alloy handlebar, stem, seatpin and saddle – which means it can spend more on the frame development.
The tyres are Vittoria Zaffiro 700x25c, a reliable, fairly puncture-resistant option, though we did feel the bike would be improved if the Mavic CXP22N wheels were replaced eventually.
B’Twin Triban 500 Flat Bar road bike – £260
If you want a bike that rolls speedily along the tarmac, but the idea of drop bars is off-putting, then a flat bar road bike (much like a hybrid bike) could really suit you.
B’Twin has always provided astounding value drop-bar bikes, so it’s great to see the French retailer continue that with its flat bar bikes.
The frame is stiff and fast, the brakes are good and for the price, it’s frankly astonishing. The overall weight is 10.6kg – the main frame being aluminium, with a steel fork.
Vitus Razor road bike – £449.99
Vitus is the in-house brand at Chain Reaction Cycles and we felt this bike had a lot to give an entry-level rider.
With a butted aluminium alloy frame and carbon fork it came in at 9.93kg when we checked the size 54. There’s a Shimano Claris groupset and a compact 50/34 chainset alongside an 11-28 cassette – which is a little closer-ratio than others included here but offers plenty of choice.
The geometry is much racier than many other options at this price point, so it’s one to consider if you’re looking to take your riding to a competitive level, or just like to ride fast.
B’Twin Triban 520 road bike – £499.99
This bike sets out what a decent entry level road bike should be. It’s got a quality frame with a lifetime warranty.
This is matched by its versatility. Whether it’s long distance or short commutes, the Triban will devour it all.
It’s capable of taking tyres up to 32c (though the bike comes with 25c Michelin Dynamic Sport) if you want more cushioning for bumpy roads, and comes with Shimano Sora shifters for a triple chainset and a wide-range cassette on the back – this means there’s lots of gears to help out when the road goes up.
The brakes are Shimano and we felt they could have been a little better – but at this price you’re getting a pretty good deal.
The frame is aluminium with a carbon fork and aluminium steerer, with a weight of 9.9kg overall.
13 Intuition Lambda Women’s Road Bike – £500
Coming from the in-house brand at Halfords, the retailer is able to use its buying power to create a bargain in the Intuition Lambda.
For bang on £500, you get a lightweight triple butted aluminium frame, carbon fork and a Shimano Tiagra groupset – which is one up from the Claris seen elsewhere.
The brakes come from TRP, and the wheels are the brand’s own deep-section build. The tyres are puncture-resistant Vittoria Zaffiro Pro folding in 23c – a pretty narrow option that will feel fast, though we are big fans of the 25c versions when it comes to cornering confidence and extra comfort.
There’s plenty of gearing with a compact chainset and 12-28 cassette and the overall weight is 10kg.
Raleigh Criterium road bike – £500
Anyone with a bit of a memory on them might recognise this as the bike Jeremy Corbyn said he was lusting over in 2016.
And with good reason. The Criterium comes in at £500 (though you’ll find models reduced to about £450 at time of writing), with a double-butted aluminium frame and carbon fork.
The geometry is ‘endurance race’, so should feel speedy without being full-on, head-down agressive.
You get Shimano Claris shifting paired with a compact chainset and 11-32 cassette, plus Tektro brakes and 26c Kenda Kontender tyres, which will cope well with rutted roads and day to day commuting duties.
Merlin Performance PR7 Road Bike – £450
Firstly – please check your size before you get too excited – currently this bike is only available in a 50cm, 53cm or 59cm frame size: the most common (56cm) is out of stock. However, that’s bound to change when new models come in, and the sale price is from £349.99, down from the RRP of £450.
Here, you get a racy-looking aluminum frame with a carbon fork and alloy steerer. The wheels are Mavic’s CXP22 with 25c tyres ideal for comfortable riding on the road.
The chainset comes from FSA, with 34/50 compact chainrings and an 11-30 cassette controlled by Shimano Claris shifting.
Handlebar, seatpin and saddle all come from Merlin and the weight is 10.4kg.
What to consider when buying a sub £500 road bike
The first question to ask yourself is, what do I want the bike for? This is important because the geometries of road bike frames fall broadly into two categories: racing and sportive bikes
Racing bikes have lower handlebars and are generally lower, encouraging the rider to adopt an aggressive position. Professionals are often seen riding with a flat back in an aggressive and aerodynamic position, but for the vast majority of us this isn’t sustainable for long periods. It takes a while to develop the core strength and flexibility to ride in such an aggressive position.
Some bikes feature more relaxed geometry and are known as sportive or endurance bikes. The handlebars are higher and closer to you, as the top tube is shorter. This means you can sit more upright in a more relaxed position. For the majority of riders and people new to cycling, this is a more comfortable option.
Frame and fork material
One key area to consider is frame and fork material, as this has a significant impact on the way the bike rides. Most entry-level road bikes come with an aluminium alloy frame, and if your budget allows it is worth looking for a model with a carbon fork.
The basic rule is the more carbon the better; this is because this high-tech aerospace material is light, strong, and also offers beneficial ride characteristics such as vibration dampening.
The next thing to pay attention to is the groupset. For those new to cycling, the groupset is a collective term for the gears, levers, brakes and chainset. Road bikes will typically have groupsets from the manufactures Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo, but other makes exist. Each have various ranges of price, quality, weight and performance.
For more information on the different groupsets and their hierarchy see our complete buyer’s guide to road bike groupsets.
What to expect on a bike under £500
• A total weight of around 10kg
• A modern aluminium frame
• Shimano Claris or Shimano Sora gears, although some brands fit MicroShift components at this price
• Sturdy wheels
• Unbranded dual-caliper brakes or Tektro products on higher-quality bikes
• Own-brand bars, stem and saddle
• Steel fork at low end; carbon fork nearer £500
If you find a bike in a sale, or under a special offer, it may have a specification higher than what is described here.