If you are buying your first road bike, there can be a lot to take in. All the different types, frames and components can be confusing. Here we present a simple guide to tell you what to look for and what you can expect for the price when trying to find the best road bikes under £500.
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 handle bars and are generally lower, encouraging the rider to adopt an aggressive position. Professionals like Sir Bradley Wiggins 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 bikes. The handle bars 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 look for to find the best road bikes 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.
Our pick of the best road bikes under £500
You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.
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Bike size and fit
It’s important to get a bike that fits you properly. Everyone is different and in our experience it is not as simple as matching your height to a size chart. The best thing to do is sit on some and if possible ride some too. Local bike shops can often help with this. As a general rule, if you have too little or too much seat post exposed, it probably isn’t the right size frame for you.
In order to experience the freedom, fun and fitness cycling can bring you need not spend the earth. An entry level road bike will be ideal for those wanting a speedy commuter, something to do sportives on, or their first triathlon. I completed the brutal Fred Whitton Challenge on a Shimano Sora Equipped Giant I bought second hand for £250!
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