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.
Trek Émonda ALR 4
Trek's lightweight Émonda bike can be seen on the UCI WorldTour under the likes of Bauke Mollema and Jarlinson Pantano at Trek-Segafredo, and the Émonda ALR 4 is the aluminium equivalent.
It first launched back in 2015, and continues to promise to be the lightest road bike in its class, with a frame made from size-specific hydroformed ‘300 Series Alpha Aluminium’ tubing. Trek's ‘Invisible Weld Technology’ ensures it's a tidy-looking machine, while also apparently increasing strength and reducing weight. A 56cm Émonda ALR 4 tips the scales at 8.89kg all in.
Bontrager supply all the finishing kit, as you would expect with Trek, including tubeless-ready alloy hoops and the brand's R1 Hard-Case Lite tyres. Fully dressed in Shimano Tiagra, the Émonda is a lightweight racing machine promising superb performance for your money.
Cube Attain SL
The Attain has been German brand Cube's endurance-focused machine since it replaced the popular entry-level Peloton range in 2016.
There are a handful of models down the range which dip under the £1,000-mark, but we've chosen the Shimano 105-equipped Attain SL, complete with rim brakes. If you want disc brakes, the 105 equivalent is £1,299, while you can stay under £1,000 if you downgrade to Sora.
Crafted from a 6061 alloy, the Attain nods to comfort with skinny, cross-ovalised aero seat stays and a carbon fibre fork. Cube have kept costs down with in-house components – with the exception of an FSA headset and Conti tyres – which means they're able to dress the Attain SL in full Shimano 105 and still come in a shade under the £1,000 mark.
Canyon Endurace AL 7.0
Canyon’s Endurace bikes are available with either an aluminium or carbon fibre frame, with a disc-equipped Endurace CF SLX chassis. Either way, the Endurance is designed to bridge the gap between an endurance bike and race bike. Both the alloy and carbon frames share a relatively relaxed geometry, which places the rider in a more upright position than Canyon's all-out race frames, like the Aeroad.
The Endurace AL 7.0 is the second-top alloy build and, as we've come to expect from Canyon, is incredibly well-specced for the money with Shimano 105, Mavic Aksium wheels and 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4000S II tyres (with room for 28mm rubber if you desire). There's also a women's-specific version.
Boardman Road Team Carbon
Where once you would never find a carbon fibre bike for less than £1,000, the black stuff is no longer the preserve of cyclists with big budgets. Take the Boardman Team Carbon, for example, which is built around the brand’s SLR Endurance C7 carbon fibre frame and fork.
We snuck the Team Carbon out for a first ride at the launch of Boardman’s 2016 Performance range and, while it might lack the aesthetic appeal of the more expensive Pro Carbon, we found it had plenty in its favour; stiff enough to ignite on a climb, but with enough comfort to spend long hours in the saddle, and a lot of bike for its £1,000 price tag. Specced with ten-speed Shimano Tiagra and Tektro dual pivot brakes, you won’t find many better carbon bikes for £1,000 or less.
Website: Boardman Bikes
Merida Scultura 300
Another brand to offer alloy alternatives to the top-spec race bikes you can spot on the WorldTour is Merida, who even offer the alloy Scultura 300 in Bahrain-Merida's dark blue/red/gold colourway.
The Scultura Lite frame is crafted from triple-butted 6066-aluminium with claims of excellent stiffness-to-weight ratios. Paired with a carbon seat post and full carbon fork, it is about as high-spec as you're going to find on a sub-£1,000 bike. Throw in the aero tube profiles and slimmed-down seatstays and this is a bike built for performance, which does not forget about comfort either.
A Shimano Tiagro groupset (with KMC chain), Merida finishing kit and Maxxis Dolemites tyres complete the set-up.
Website: Merida Bikes
Focus Izalco Race AL 105
From the same stable as Focus' Izalco Max racing machines, the Izalco Race still has racing at its heart but with a slightly more relaxed geometry. The Izalco Race AL is the entry-level alloy version of that frame.
Alongside the Shimano 105-equipped version featured here, you can also save a further £200 if you pick the AL Sora. Both are built around a 6061-grade alloy frame, which Focus say offers a perfect blend of rigidity, low weight and fair price.
Cannondale Synapse Alloy Disc Tiagra
Alongside the range-topping iteration, which you will see taking on the bone-shaking cobbles of Paris-Roubaix under the EF-Drapac riders this year, Cannondale also produces an entry-level, alloy version of their Synapse endurance road bike.
The range was updated in 2018, and the Tiagra-equipped (with Promax brakes and FSA Omega crankset) model here sneaks in under the £1,000 range. Cannondale supply the bulk of the componentry, alongside their new Synapse Disc frame.
Crafted from SmartForm C2 Alloy, the frame boasts an asymmetric construction to account for the mismatched disc-brake forces; it's paired with a carbon Synapse Disc Asymmetric fork. Cannondale bill the Synapse as suitable for anything 'from fast group rides to daily commutes' and at less than £1,000 for a pro-tested endurance geometry you can't go far wrong.
Specialized Allez Elite
Specialized set the standard in sub-£1,000 alloy road bikes with the Allez - an inaugural RCUK 100 inductee back in 2014 - and have made the bold decision of updating the geometry for 2018. A more relaxed approach has been taken, with a taller headtube and longer wheelbase to help appeal to first-time buyers.
There are three options under £1,000 - a Shimano Claris/Tektro spec for £599, a Sora/Axis version for £200 more and this Shimano 105/Tektro Axis Specialized Allez Elite for £999.
Don't be fooled by the more relaxed geometry either. This still has performance at its heart: it's 450g lighter than the previous Allez thanks to revised tube profiles and a new carbon fork. One important point; that fork is currently subject to a recall - however, once Specialized have resolved that issue, the Allez should be on your shortlist. We loved the Allez Elite when we had it in for review.
Giant Contend SL 2 Disc
Giant's alloy road bike range, the Contend, features two aluminium frames - the standard ALUXX is crafted from 6061 alloy, while the ALUXX SL, as featured here, ups the stiffness-to-weight ratio with double-butted 6011 alloy tubing.
The set-up largely mirrors the endurance-focussed Defy range, with Giant's compact road geometry on show and a D-Fuse seatpost for added comfort. A carbon-composite fork, with alloy OverDrive steerer, features up front.
Giant's own-brand SR-2 Disc wheelset and P-SL1 tyres keep the cost down, while they've also used their own Conduct hydraulic disc brakes alongside Shimano's ten-speed Tiagra groupset on this Contend SL 2 Disc version. If you prefer rim brakes, there's a 105/Tektro-equipped Contend SL 1 for the same price.
BTwin Triban 560
If you want a carbon road bike at true entry-level prices then you can't go wrong with Decathlon-owned brand B'Twin. Featuring a full carbon frame with a claimed weight of 1,080g (medium size) and a 580g carbon fork, this is not the lightest carbon machine around but for less than £700, with a good spec to boot, you can't complain. Plus, stiffness and handling compensates for the heavy weight.
The slightly racy geometry hints at the Triban 560's intentions, while the Shimano Tiagra groupset ensures the bike gives plenty of value for money. At this price point, you would expect savings to be found in the groupset, but B'Twin have offered as good as you're going to get (better, arguably) for a carbon race bike at a true bargain price.
Ribble Sportive Racing
One of the few sub-£1,000 carbon bikes featured here, along with the BTwin above and Boardman Team Carbon, Ribble's Sportive Racing offers value-for-money and fully customisable specs. The frame is made from a blend of T700 and T800 Toray carbon fibre and, according to Ribble, is designed to combine the performance of a race frame with the more relaxed position of a sportive bike.
Ribble's bike builder let's you point together your own spec and the cheapest is £899 with Shimano Tiagra and Fulcrum Racing Sport wheels, like the machine pictured here. Of course, if you've got more than a grand to spend, then you can go the whole hog, all the way up to a Campagnolo Super Record EPS gruppo.
Price: from £899
Website: Ribble Cycles
Genesis Equilibrium 10
It’s not just about carbon and aluminium when it comes to quality bikes for £1,000 or less – take the Genesis Equilibrium, for example. Not only is it a steel bike, but the classic styling will really please cycling purists. The Equilibrium is popular, long-standing model in the Genesis range and has eyelets for full mudguards and a well-honed geometry, making it a great four-season all-rounder, though it's among the heavier bikes here.
The Equilibrium 10 frame is made from chromoly steel and is paired with a carbon fork. For a penny under £1,000 you get Shinamo’s new ten-speed Tiagra groupset and tubeless-ready wheels.
Website: Genesis Bikes
Forme Longcliffe 0
Derbyshire-based Forme have always packed plenty into their value-packed bikes, and the Longcliffe 0 is no different. A modern take on their long-standing frame, this is their first to feature disc brakes.
Elsewhere you get a Shimano 105 groupset and the build is completed by finishing kit from Belgian firm 4ZA and Mavic’s CXP22 rims, all packaged together for a round £1,000.
Website: Forme Bikes