Searching for the best road bikes under £2000? We outline what you need to look for, and highlight some of the best models
When you walk into a bike shop with two grand in your pocket, you’re justified in expecting to exchange that cash for a bike that will see you dancing up the hills and racing to the town signs for years to come.
The majority of riders selecting a bike at this price point are looking for carbon as their chosen frame material, and if you’re buying a pre-built machine you can usually get one fitted out with Shimano Ultegra when you’re shelling out this sort of cash.
However, carbon isn’t the only option – aluminium has its merits – bringing with it a lively ride feel and resilience that will be a comfort for those looking to race crits where robustness might well trump weight concerns.
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At the £2000 mark, a road bike’s wheels will often be the key let-down, and are usually the first upgrade we’d suggest. However, there are exceptions to this rule where you’ll find race ready quality there, too.
Here’s our pick of the best road bikes under £2000 for 2018
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Giant TCR Advanced 1 road bike
Nestled within the ‘Competition’ category of Giant’s ranges, the Advanced is at the lower end of the scale but shares the same carbon frame as more expensive Advanced Pro models (albeit with an aluminium steerer instead of a full carbon fork). This model comes with Shimano Ultegra throughout excluding the cassette.
At just 7.76kg, it’s a lightweight machine. The frame is strong, performance grade stuff and the front end is constructed from one single piece, coupled with Giant’s OverDrive steerer this creates a stiffer ride quality and better handling.
Giant uses its Compact Road Design, which features a sloping top tube to allow more riders to find the perfect fit; plus more seat post is exposed which provides greater compliance via more flex.
You get Giant’s own brand wheels, which are tubeless ready – a major drive for the brand which is keen to encourage more riders to go tubeless.
Our tester found the bike’s balance of handling, compliance and punchy ride quality to be in perfect harmony – awarding the machine a perfect 10/10.
Tifosi Auriga road bike
An aero road bike from the house brand of Chicken CycleKit (UK distributor for iconic brands including Campagnolo and Cinelli) this is a frame that’s been redeveloped for 2018 based on feedback from the Spirit Tifosi UK elite race team.
The carbon frame has been wind-tunnel-tested, and nods to the resistance cheating intentions include an enormous down tube with a flat-backed Kamm tail profile, dropped seatstays, hidden rear brake and aero seat post with a down tube mounted clamp. Stiffness comes from a tapered head tube and beefed up bottom bracket shell.
The geo, however, seemed to our tester to be more endurance focused – perhaps widening the appeal outside of the race team remit. We slammed the stem and noticed the team riders used lowered, negative-rise stems.
The bike comes with Shimano Ultregra R8000, Miche DX2 direct mount brakes and 28mm Michelin Power Endurance tyres, and weighs 7.8kg in a size large.
Aboard this machine, we found plenty of stiffness, plus speed – whilst the endurance geo meant we could ride it all day.
Specialized Tarmac SL4 Elite
The Tarmac is a longstanding favourite in the pro peloton and on club runs alike, and for 2018 it’s seen a major redesign across the model family.
The SL4 doesn’t quite match the top end models with their dropped seatstays, but it carries many of the same characteristics, utilising slightly lower level FACT 9r carbon which brilliantly marries comfort and stiffness.
The model uses predominantly Shimano Ultegra R8000, with a few replacements such as a Shimano 105 cassette though this isn’t out of the ordinary (the Giant above does the same), plus 23c Specialized Espoir Elite tyres and DT Swiss R460 hoops.
On the ride, we found this bike carried all the performance characteristics we wanted, with an agressive geo that let us hug the corners whilst still offering enough comfort for day-long adventures.
Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra road bike
The frame has been developed using ‘Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design’ – which means engineers ran through thousands of options virtually to find the perfect combination of strength, stiffness and compliance. The Resulting 6069 aluminium alloy frame, paired with a carbon fork (the same as you’d see on the SuperSix Evo) is a joy to ride.
The model tips the scales at 7.6kg (size 52cm) and comes with Shimano Ultegra R800 shifting, Mavic Aksium hoops and Cannondale’s own HollowGram cranks.
The ride quality is less compliant that you’d expect from a carbon machine – but we didn’t find it uncomfortable, instead discovering a chassis that was sprightly and fast. The geo is much the same as that of the agressive Cannondale SuperSix Evo.
We didn’t love the use of the 42cm handlebar, or the specced Yksion WTS 25c, but other than that there were few faults; we reckon at present you’ll struggle to find a better aluminium race bike.
So which is the best sub £2000 bike?
The Tifosi Auriga impressed us no end thanks to the watts and grams saved by the wind-cheating features and lightweight carbon frame; we tested a ‘large’ compared to a small in the Cannondale and Giant and a 56 in the Specialized, but weight wide they were neck and neck.
The Tarmac Elite SL4 is a perfect example of trickle down technology – you’re pretty much getting last year’s pro-level S-Works for a fraction of the price, though with slightly heavier carbon. The Tarmac is one of the most enduringly successful bikes in the pro peloton and there’s really nothing to criticise here.
The Cannondale CAAD12 proves what modern technology can do with aluminium, which should by rights belong in the 20th century as a material for lightweight race bikes. You can still build a great race bike out of aluminium if you know what you’re doing and Cannondale with all its experience sure does.
So we were all set to award the Cannondale ‘best on test’ but we wonder whether at just under £2K it really is a better bike than the Giant, which is £100 cheaper, carbon-fibre and weighs more or less the same.
The Giant wins hands down in terms of compliance and comfort over the CAAD12 and we suspect that’s down to the limitations of aluminium compared to a good quality carbon laid up by a company that is literally a giant in carbon-fibre bike production.
The Giant was super comfortable ridden back to back against the Cannondale but it still had all the excitement and more. We gave them both perfect 10s, but the TCR Advanced 1 wins it by a (tubeless) tyre’s breadth.
Other bikes under £2000 we’ve tested
Of course, over the years we’ve tested plenty more bikes in this price bracket, many of which will have seen only slight alterations for the new season.
Click on the links for full reviews of models around the £2000 price point that are still available on the market:
- KTM Revelator 4000 road bike review
- Boardman Elite Endurance SLR 9.2 road bike review
- Merlin Nitro Aero road bike review
- Trek Emonda ALR 6 road bike review
- Cervelo R2 Road Bike review
- Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 road bike review
Bikes under £2000: frame material
The vast majority of £2000 road bikes will come with a carbon frame.
Carbon is light, compliant – and it’s perfectly achievable to pitch for one at this price point. However, if you’re after resilience – for example you expect to be racing the bike in criterium races and want to know it can take a battering, you might want to look towards the high-specced aluminum market.
You might find some titanium and steel at this point – both good options if you’re seeking springy comfort and perhaps a ‘bike for life’.
At this magical £2000 price point, many of the bikes you’ll be looking at will share almost exact replicas frames with those you see the pros riding – with lower end wheels and groupsets. This means that, in theory at least, you could be buying a ride experience not a million miles away from a bike of double the cost.
However this doesn’t mean that all bikes of this price point are built to be racy. If you’re after a bike that will be great to ride all day over rough British road surfaces then it’ll be worth checking out the geometry chart and looking for a bike with a taller head tube and shorter top tube for a more relaxed and comfortable fit.
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Bikes under £2000: groupset
Trickle down technology means you can easily get a Shimano Ultegra equipped bike for under £2000 now.
You will find models with less glamourous groupsets such as Shimano 105, and these shouldn’t be overlooked – it could be that you’re getting a superior frame that you can easily upgrade over time.
With the apparently unstoppable march towards electronic components it would also be worthwhile checking that the bike you buy has internal cable routing, in order to gracefully accommodate electronic upgrades.
While the shifters, derailleurs and chainset are probably the most important parts of any groupset, it’s worth looking at the full spec to see if you’re getting full bang for your buck. While a lower end chain or cassette shouldn’t have too much of a negative effect, many manufacturers will hit a price point by fitting budget brakes which won’t match up when it comes to braking modulation. See if you can find a bike with brakes that match the rest of the groupset.
Bikes under £2000: wheels
The wheels are often the weakest part of a lot of new bikes, wherever they sit in the market, and the story’s no different for plenty of £2000 road bikes. While the frame might be at a World Tour level, the supplied wheels are most likely to be better suited to duties as sturdy training wheels.
This could well be one of the first places to look when it comes to upgrading your bike further down the line. A lighter or more aerodynamic pair of wheels will really help you make the most of a great frame.
Warranty on bikes under £2000
Hopefully you won’t need it, but particularly with carbon frames it can be worth having one eye on what sort of warranty the manufacturer can offer. The standard warranty is around two to three years, although some manufacturers such as Specialized and Canyon go as far as offering lifetime warranties on frames.