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Best road bike: Start racking up the miles from £530

Edward Munn Joseph Delves
23 Jan 2020
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Looking to hit the road and put in some serious miles? We've rounded up the best road bikes available

If you’re looking for the fastest way to get about on two wheels – without the help of a motor – then you need to get yourself a road bike. Road bikes prioritise speed to cover serious distances efficiently. But while most road bikes look similar, subtle differences in the components and geometry help tailor them for specific roles and riders. Whether you’re looking to ride for sport, leisure or the daily commute, our guide will help you find the best one for you.

How to choose the best road bike for you

What type of road bike should I buy?

Searching for a new road bike can be a challenging proposition, depending on your knowledge and level of experience. Despite the similar looks, there’s actually quite some variety among road bikes.

Some have a more relaxed geometry, letting the rider sit more upright to give a more comfortable ride, especially for endurance outings. Other bikes can be super-stiff with an aggressive riding position – great for competitive riders and racers, but not ideal for everyone if you’re looking to spend hours in the saddle. Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve compiled a good mix so you can find what you need.

Which features should I look out for?

All road bikes are light – and the lighter the better, as this helps you accelerate and get up hills. Even the cheapest bikes are now made of low-weight aluminium; spend more and you’ll start to see carbon fibre too – first in the fork, then as a frame material.

Carbon has a near monopoly on the top of the market as it’s light and can be worked into complex shapes to make it stiff or flexible as needed. You will however still find the odd high-end bike made from steel, on account of its durability and unique ride characteristics.

Most road bikes have a wide range of gears to ease your progress. Expensive bikes tend to have more individual gears, meaning the jumps between are smaller and it’s easier to find one exactly matching the terrain.

Disc brakes are a recent addition. These use the hub as the braking surface, rather than the wheel rim, and provide more powerful and consistent deceleration than traditional calipers, particularly in the wet. The downside is added cost and weight.

A final feature worth looking out for is tubeless tyres. These can be filled with sealant to easily heal minor punctures before the tyre goes flat.

How much do I need to spend?

A bike doesn’t need to be expensive. The cheapest model on our list below is £299, and it will get you to all the same places as a much more expensive ride. It’s just slightly heavier and clunkier, and requires a little bit more effort to keep rolling.

If you’re looking for a competitive advantage, £500-800 will get you a lighter aluminium bike sporting a couple more gears. With features and looks aping more expensive machines, durability will also be seriously improved. Around the thousand-pound mark, you’ll start to see carbon frames, which means weight drops significantly. Alternatively, you can stick with aluminium and spend the money on better quality components. From around £1,500 everything will be carbon; beyond this point, refinements to the frame and components become less pronounced.

READ NEXT: How to choose the perfect cyclocross bike

The best road bikes to buy

1. Triban RC500 Road Bike: The best value road bike

Price: £530 | Buy now from Decathlon

As versatile as you want it to be, there’s not a weak link to be found on the RC500. Built around a comfort-focused aluminium frame and carbon fork, a full Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset and lightweight wheels give the RC500 a license to fly.

It’s easy to get up to speed, and just as quick to bring to a halt thanks to its mechanical disc brakes. These not only improve stopping power but also aid consistency in poor weather. Happy to go wherever it’s pointed, the ability to fit front and rear racks and mudguards along with wider tyres means it’s adaptable to everything from touring to club riding.

Suited to newbie road riders, or experienced hands looking for something a little more relaxed, its geometry is stable and easy to fit yourself around, regardless of your level of flexibility. At the same time, the RC500 remains engaging to ride.

With its modern features, full Shimano groupset and classy looks, the Triban equals, if not betters, the value offered by direct-to-consumer brands. Yet, in being available through Decathlon, it remains easy to try before you buy.

Key specs – Frame material: 6061 T6 aluminium; Fork: Carbon bladed; Weight: 10.6kg; Gearing: Shimano 9-speed Sora 50/34t 11-32t; Wheels: Triban tubeless-ready; Brakes: Promax mechanical disc; Additional features: n/a

Buy now from Decathlon


2. Pinnacle Arkose D1 Adventure Bike: An off-road capable exploration sledge

Price: £825 | Buy now from Evans Cycles

We’ve gone a little off-road with this one. As capable of hitting up gravel tracks as it is traversing more traditional Tarmac, the Arkose earns itself a place on this list on account of its excellent kit selection and splendid looks. Extremely versatile, the Arkose D1 isn’t a bike you’ll ever feel limited riding. With wide, knobbly tyres and powerful disc brakes, it’s happy in the rough stuff, despite the fact its upright geometry and stable handling are also a boon when touring or commuting.

Compatible with trendy, smaller 650b wheels, it comes fitted with more traditional 700c hoops as standard. Decked out with WTB Riddler Comp tyres, which feature gorgeous tan sidewalls, the wheels are secured using ultra-stiff bolt-thru axles, which is a rarity at this price point. With multiple mounting points for racks or holsters, it’s easy to equip for long-range expeditions, or just for riding to work.

Many of its other features are also more ‘premium’ than you’d have reason to expect. These include its flat-mount disc callipers, skinny bridgeless seat stays, staunch carbon fork, adventure-specific gearing, and metallic paint job. All in, it’s a top-value traveller.

Key specs – Frame material: 6013-T6 aluminium; Fork: Carbon with alloy steerer; Weight: n/a; Gearing: Shimano 9-speed Sora, FSA 48/34t 11-32t; Wheels: WTB ST i21 tubeless-ready; Brakes: TRP Spyre Mechanical Discs; Additional features: n/a

Buy now from Evans Cycles


3. Canyon Endurace AL 7.0: The best mid-price bike for endurance riding

Price: £909 | Buy now from Canyon

With this bike, it’s all in the name – endurance. A relaxed geometry on the stiff, all-round frame makes it comfortable to ride for hours, while the carbon fork absorbs shocks at the front. The Shimano 105 groupset comes from the mid-range of its Japanese manufacturer’s line-up, and is a super-reliable and solid option. The compact chainset and wide-ranging cassette means you’ll be good to go on all terrains from the off.

Canyon’s direct-to-customer sales model keeps the price low when you consider the quality of the frame and components. Usually, less weight means more money, but this is among the lightest bikes you can get at this price.

However, due to the nature of the sales and delivery model, you will need to assemble it yourself. It’s just the bars, seatpost, pedals and front wheel, though, so it’s not too challenging.

Key specs – Frame material: Aluminium; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 8.2kg; Gearing: Shimano 105 50-34t, 11/34t 11-speed; Wheels: Mavic Aksium; Brakes: Shimano 105; Additional features: Includes tool case

Buy now from Canyon


4. Ribble Endurance SL 105: The perfect customisable road bike

Price: From £1,499 | Buy now from Ribble

Ribble’s online configuration tool makes it possible to customise every aspect of the Endurance SL, upgrading whatever you see fit. However, even in its basic form, this bike is a belter. As you’d expect given the name, its geometry tends towards all-day comfort. Helping achieve this is a raised front end and a frame and fork featuring tube profiles that are both aerodynamic and designed to boost the bike’s vibration-dampening qualities.

Combined with a stout, tapered headtube, the result is excellent stiffness at a low weight, which helps retain purposeful acceleration and handling. With dropped seat stays and aerodynamic-looking integration between frame and fork, this high-end aesthetic is enhanced by neat cable routing and subtle graphics.

The components are just as impressive. The Shimano 105 gear set isn’t a top-of-the-line choice, but it looks and feels great. You also get very good Mavic Aksium wheels, Continental tyres, and a carbon seatpost. Thanks to the Ribble Bikebuilder, though, all of these components and more are easily customisable.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 8.2kg; Gearing: Shimano 105 50/34t, 11-28t 11-speed; Wheels: Mavic Aksium; Brakes: Shimano 105; Additional features: Fully customisable

Buy now from Ribble


5. Cannondale SuperSix Carbon Disc 105: A fast racing bike at a middle-market price

Price: £2,300 | Buy now from Hargroves Cycles

Newly made-over, the SuperSix retains its racey character, while becoming more comfy and aerodynamic. With flat profiled tubes, a tucked-in rear wheel, and a nose cone that overhangs the fork, its aerodynamic accoutrements are easy to spot.

Less obvious are the efforts that have been made to render this perennial racers’ favourite a little more forgiving. Lots of this is down to the new, ‘BallisTec’ carbon construction, while the skinny and low slung rear seat stays also playing a part. Although it arrives with standard 25c tyres, another new feature is the bike’s ability to fit tyres up to 30c wide to further boost comfort and grip if needed.

With conventional callipers now banished to cheaper price points, we reckon it’s worth spending money on a disc brake system like the one shown here. Not only will you get better stopping power, but the whole package is significantly slicker-looking. Unlocking neat features like tidy semi-integrated cable routing and quick-to-release thru-axles for stiffness, the finishing kit also includes a trendy truncated Prologo Nago saddle.

Fitted with Shimano’s 105 groupset, the shifting is excellent and the brakes consistent. With a pro compact Cannondale crankset providing 52t and 36t chainrings, this aggressive combination is tempered somewhat by the wide 11-30t 11-speed cassette. Which in English means it’ll go fast, yet take you up the hills too.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 7.9kg; Gearing: Shimano 105 & Cannondale 52/36t, 11-30t 11-speed; Wheels: Fulcrum Racing Sport; Brakes: Shimano 105; Additional features: None

Buy now from Hargroves Cycles


6. Giant TCR Advanced 1 Disc: A formidable bike you can take anywhere

Price: £2,099 | Buy now from Tredz

Giant’s sporty TCR provides an excellent frame, top-tier Ultegra parts, and hydraulic braking - all at a price that should make its competitors blush. The unusually long and low geometry puts the rider into a stretched, race-ready position, while the smoothly integrated aerodynamic carbon seatpost extends high above the frame, where it can flex to add comfort.

The ultra-rigid headtube and downtube resist twisting, and handling is kept tight by the robust through-axle system that secures the wheels and braces the chassis. Giant’s Conduct hydraulic disc brakes are easily worth the extra weight, outperforming conventional callipers, especially in the wet. Meanwhile, Giant’s house-brand wheels feature a semi-aero profile and wide rims to support robust tyres (which can be set up tubeless if required).

The TCR is ready to explore the mountains too, thanks to Shimano’s superb Ultegra derailleurs and crankset. Formerly a weak point, the recently-upgraded shifters now match the rest of the Ultegra parts. Slimline in both look and feel they complete a package that’s exceptional value.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 8.6kg; Gearing: Shimano Ultegra 36/52t, 11-30t 11-speed; Wheels: Giant PR 2; Brakes: Giant Conduct; Additional features: Tubeless-ready, thru-axle wheels

Buy now from Tredz


7. Specialized Tarmac SL6 Comp Disc: The ultimate road bike for uncompromising riders

Price: £2,900 | Buy now from Tredz

The ultra-racy Tarmac will go as fast as you like, thanks to a light and aggressive frame. It slows down just as forcefully, too, thanks to powerful hydraulic disc brakes. The recently-revised frame uses the same geometry as has won multiple Grand Tours, and the tight back end ensures there’s little give, with short chainstays helping it to cut close around corners. The lowish front end requires some flexibility to get to grips with but doesn’t push the point too far.

Despite the pedigree, the Tarmac does a good job of insulating the average rider from the worst road chatter, thanks partly to the tall and thin carbon seatpost. At the same time, the reliable DT Swiss wheels do little to sandbag the bike’s progress. The Ultegra chainset is light and stiff and combines with the matching derailleurs to provide the high gears needed on a bike this quick. And then there are those disc brakes – using high-end R8070 Ultegra callipers, they do little to compromise the look or weight of the bike.

Like most bikes, the Tarmac is available in a selection of sizes but, unusually, each frameset is proportionally identical, rather than simply being put together using shorter tubes, so whichever size you choose, performance should be impeccable. All frames also come with an all-matt black paint job that looks very, very cool.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 8.4kg; Gearing: Shimano Ultegra 52/36t, 11-30t 11-speed; Wheels: DT Swiss R470; Brakes: Shimano RS8070 disc; Additional features: n/a

Buy now from Tredz


8. BMC Teammachine SLR02 Disc Two: Electronically geared big-money disc racer

Price: £4,799 | Buy now from Evans Cycles

You only need to glance at the Teammachine to discern that it’s a fast bike. With angular looks, tapered tubes and aggressive geometry, it’s one for pure racing. And it’s not just in the looks either; that geometry, coupled with a super-stiff frame allows for a rapid and responsive ride. It’s stable at speed, quick to change direction and good on the steep stuff.

This year it’s also gone electric. Shimano’s motorised Di2 Ultegra is the manufacturer’s secondary groupset, being a quality offering that’s just as good as Dura-Ace, albeit with a few added grams. Like the brand’s top-end offering, it provides a wide range of gears capable of both sprinting on the flat or climbing in the mountains, and its hydraulic disc brakes offer second-to-none stopping power and superior modulation.

An elite-level bike rolling on entry-level hoops, the stock wheels on the BMC are reliable, if a little dull, Mavic Aksium Elite models. To get the best out of the bike, you might want to swap them for something racier.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 8.3kg; Gearing: Shimano Di2 Ultegra 52/36t, 11-30t 11-speed; Wheels: Mavic Aksium Elite UST Disc; Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc; Additional features: Computer and camera stem mount

Buy now from Evans Cycles


9. Pinarello Prince Ultegra Disc: A Pinarello for the people?

Price: £3,800 | Buy now from Sigma Sport

For certain people, life will have been wasted if they don’t at some point own a Jag. For many cyclists, the same goes for a Pinarello.

Ridden by the all-crushing team Ineos, the brand’s much lusted-after top-end bikes cost in excess of £10,000. Yet this cheaper model provides much the same pizzazz. For one, Pinarello’s unique design features are all present, like the asymmetric rear triangle that balances pedalling forces, flat-back aerodynamic tubing profiles for improved aerodynamics, and distinctive wavy Onda fork.

Yet at the same time, the Prince doesn’t push its racing heritage too far. Its geometry is actually quite relaxed, being more sports-tourer, that out-and-out racer. That idea is reinforced by the temperate gearing provided by its compact chainset.

Equipped with Shimano’s superb Ultegra disc groupset, and rolling on decent Fulcrum Racing 500 wheels, the Prince is also surprisingly good value. The result is a package that’s fast enough for living out your Team Ineos fan-boy fantasies, yet comfy and cheap enough to save your back and bank account from serious damage.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: n/a kg; Gearing: Shimano Ultegra 50/34t, 11-30t 11-speed; Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 500; Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc; Additional features: n/a

Buy now from Sigma Sport


10. Madone SLR 6 Disc: Full speed combined with full comfort

Price: £5,950 | Buy now from Trek

Featuring a broad, flat-sided profile, the razor-like Madone looks fast. And with radical Kammtail tube shapes and an aggressive position reinforcing this idea, you might reasonably imagine it’d be harsh to ride.

Not so. Separating the frame at the seat cluster, Trek’s near-magical IsoSpeed decoupler allows the Madone a degree of tunable vertical compliance. This is despite the bike remaining laterally stiff enough to have won the finishing sprint at this year’s World Championship.

Serving speed and comfort, it’s a clever bit of kit that will draw envious glances from any aspiring racer. This SLR version gives you all the design’s best bits, employing Trek’s lightest 700 Series OCLV carbon fibre, plus fully integrated cockpit components. Less flash, but just as crucial, it also uses the brand’s H1.5 geometry which is tailored to competitive riding.

Running Shimano’s benchmark mechanical Ultegra R8000 groupset, in practical terms, this also gives privateer racers little reason to hanker after anything more expensive. Finished with one of three lustrous paint jobs, plus stinkingly quick deep-section Bontrager Aeolus carbon wheels, it’s a real racer’s bike.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Weight: 8.38kg; Gearing: Shimano Ultegra 50/34t, 11-28t 11-speed; Wheels: Bontrager Aeolus Comp 5; Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc; Additional features: Integrated cockpit, IsoSpeed decoupler

Buy now from Trek

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