If you’ve got £1,000 to spend on a road bike – whether you’re buying your first machine or upgrading – then you’re spoilt for choice. The sub-grand market is very competitive and that means you can get a lot for your money in 2018. We’ve picked out the best road bikes under £1,000 below, but first what should you be looking out for to ensure you get the best value for money?
While, of course, you can spend much, much more on a bike, by our reckoning it’s at around the £1,000 mark that you’re looking at getting a really good machine, and one thoroughly capable of handling a range of riding from the daily commute to the club run, or 100-mile sportive to your first crit race.
What will £1,000 get me?
What can you expect if you want the best road bike for less than £1,000? Firstly, not all of the bikes we’ve featured here are right on the money at a £1,000 – the cheapest is £699, and they rise right up to the £1k threshold.
Aluminium frames dominate at this price point and for good reason. Aluminium is significantly cheaper than carbon fibre and modern manufacturing techniques mean bike brands can put together an alloy frame which is relatively light, stiff and, certainly by old standards, comfortable – a combination which, in many cases, more than matches entry-level carbon fibre. However, it is possible to get a carbon-framed road bike for less than £1,000 and we’ve included three options here.
Not all frames are equal and when buying a bike you should have a careful think about what you want out of it. Key considerations should be versatility and geometry. What type of geometry will suit your riding style? Something race-focused and aggressive, or a more relaxed, sportive-style position also generally better suited to new riders? In reality, almost all bikes at this price point are likely to be geared towards the latter. Otherwise, do you want a four-seasons bike with mudguard (and perhaps rack) mounts and wide tyre clearance?
Then it’s on to the spec and, first up, the groupset – essentially the gears and brakes. Shimano dominates the groupset market, particularly at this level, and you can expect to see Tiagra, which sits fourth in the Japanese firm’s groupset hierarchy, on plenty of bikes, though some manufacturers manage to spec the third-tier 105 groupset, which represents excellent value and will save some weight, as well as offer a small performance benefit.
Tiagra, however, is now a very good gruppo in its own right thanks to an update which saw it borrow technology found further up the Shimano range. Look out for bikes with a complete groupset, rather than mis-matched components (the chainset is the most common part of the groupset to be switched) to save money, but it needn’t be a deal breaker. Bike brands face a balancing act to spec a bike at a competitive price – some place more emphasis on the quality of the frame, some on the spec, and some try to hit the middle ground between the two.
However, it’s with the wheels that manufacturers will typically look to save money to keep the price under control, so don’t expect anything to set the world alight. What you should expect are robust, reliable wheels which will serve you well for general riding, but in the long term you may want to upgrade. Tyres are an easier, more immediate upgrade opportunity, and one which can transform a ride, particularly if the types specced on the bike are hard and sluggish, and you swap in something more supple and faster. Finally, many brands will use in-house finishing kit (handlebar, stem, seatpost, saddle) to complete the spec. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s likely to be solid, reliable kit, and, once again, keeps a lid on the price you pay.
That’s a quick overview of what you might get for your money, so now let’s take a look at 13 bikes under £1,000 which have caught our eye.