Bicycle Buyer's Guide: road bikes between £600 and £1,000

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Bicycle Buyer’s Guide: road bikes between £600 and £1,000

A budget of £1,000 has assumed great significance as the threshold for the Cycle To Work Scheme.

The government-backed initiative to encourage people to commute on two-wheels allows would-be cyclists to ‘hire’ the bicycle from their employer over the course of a year, repaying the cost of the machine in monthly installments deducted from gross salary, offering an average saving on the cost of the bike of 32 per cent.

Here’s a look at what we think you should be getting for £1,000.

The Boardman Team road bike, with triple butted aluminium frame, entry-level Mavic wheels, and Shimano 105 shifters and mechs, is a popular sub-£1,000 bike

Frameset

A carbon frameset (frame and fork) is an increasingly common find at this price point, but be warned: carbon may be the latest material to sweep the bicycle world, and the choice of the professional peloton, but, like all materials, will come in varying qualities. The weight and ride quality of a carbon frame (its stiffness or compliance in certain areas of the frame) is governed by the tensile strength and layup of the fibres. Cheaper carbon frames i.e. those at this price, will have thicker tube walls than found on more expensive frames, weigh more, and are susceptible to voids (typically at tube junctions, where they are filled with resin, increasing weight).

So what other options exist at the £1,000 mark? As well as cheaper carbon frames, good quality aluminium frames are now available at this price. Cannondale’s CAAD8 is a popular example. Look for butted tubes: those that are manipulated to become progressively thinner, and so lighter, in the middle, away from the tube junctions where strength is required. A triple butted tube is three-times the thickness at the tube junction than at its centre. The Boardman Team is a popular, triple butted frame.

Hydroforming is another popular technology on aluminium frames. High-pressure fluid jets are used to shape the tubes, enhancing rigidity, and creating smooth, attractive shapes. Tubes should also be seamless at this price i.e. extruded from a single block of aluminium rather than rolled and welded at the join.

Whether you choose an aluminium or carbon frame, the fork at this price will almost certainly be carbon. Its weight and ability to absorb feedback from the road make it superior to an aluminium equivalent. At this price, it’s likely only the fork blades will be carbon. More expensive units will also have a carbon steerer (described as a ‘full carbon’ fork).

Components

Componentry here will come from any of the three big manufacturers: Shimano (Sora, Tiagra, or perhaps even a smattering of 105), SRAM (Apex), or Campagnolo (Xenon, Veloce). Each has a slightly different mechanism for gear shifting and opinion on each is based largely on personal preference. Braking and shifting will be controlled by STI levers, operating front and rear derailleurs (‘mechs’) and dual pivot brake calipers (designed to pull evenly from both sides).

Wheels

Wheels will use alloy for the rim and hub. They are likely to be lighter than the alloy wheels supplied on entry-level machines and may include branded hubs, perhaps even with cartridge bearings, as opposed to the ball bearing units supplied with more affordable machines. Tyres might also be superior to those found on an entry-level bike, perhaps with a lighter, foldable bead (as opposed to steel) and a higher thread count, making them more supple.

Finishing kit

Finishing kit (the saddle, seat post, handlebar and handlebar stem) will almost certainly be alloy, possibly from a specialist, third party manufacturer  (Ritchey or Easton, perhaps), but more likely generic and branded with the name of the bicycle manufacturer. It may include a carbon seat post, which will replicate the absorbency of a carbon fork.

End of year bargains

The bicycle model year changes around the end of summer (late August, early September). While new models might not become widely available until November, the traditional late summer unveiling of new stock tends to trigger reductions on previous models i.e. the existing year.

Five entry-level road bikes between £600 and £1,000

Here are five entry-level bikes, priced between £600 (our entry-level threshold) and £1,000. The list is by no means exhaustive, and is intended purely to provide an outline of what is available in this price bracket. The RCUK Forum is a popular hub for people seeking advice on specific machines. Check out the New To Road Riding thread for advice from a well-informed community of experienced cyclists.

Boardman Team

Cannondale CAAD8 7 Sora

Carerra Virago

Felt Z85

Ribble Sportive Bianco

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