Road bikes that cost between $800 and $1,500 are easily capable of getting you started in riding with your friends or doing big events like gran fondos or centuries. They also make great bikes for beating the traffic, and getting a training session in before and after work.
There are a few considerations for buying a bike in this price range, the main one being whether to get a more compliant carbon frame, or an aluminum frame with better parts but a slightly harsher ride. We've put together this video and the guide below to tell you everything you need to look out for.
Once you've read and watched it, take a look at our Best Road Bikes for $1,000 story for a guide on what to buy.
Video: Buyer's guide to road bikes for $80 to $1,500
A bike that fits you properly is a comfortable bike. Take advice from your local bike shop on the right size bike for you.
Ask your local bike shop to adjust the handlebar and saddle position to suit your build. Some will offer this as part of the purchase.
Where to buy
If this is your first road bike, we'd recommend buying from a shop with an on-site mechanic, so you can take advantage of the staff's advice. There are some good deals to be found online though.
Frame vs components
You will find some carbon frames at the top end of this price bracket. Most riders find carbon frames more comfortable to ride than aluminum frames, but carbon frames cost more to make, so you'll generally find a better component spec on an equivalently priced metal frame.
Most models of bike frame are available in a range of specifications for different prices. If you're on a budget, but think you might want to upgrade your bike in the long-term, than we'd recommend buying a cheaper configuration of a higher-end frame, rather than a maxed-out version of a more basic chassis.
There's almost no limit to how much you can spend on aftermarket parts, so get the best frame you can afford, and it'll serve you well for future upgrades.
As a rule of thumb, we'd advise going to a better frame with cheaper parts, rather than a lesser frame with higher-end parts
In this price range, you should be able to find bikes as light as 17lb, but anything up to 22lb is perfectly acceptable. Most of the extra weight will come from cheaper, heavier components, so the bike will become lighter as you upgrade its parts. A good, lighter wheelset, for instance, can make a big difference when accelerating or climbing, and is often the first thing that riders think about upgrading.
Component manufacturers package various drivetrain and brake parts at various price points into matched collections known as groupsets. Some bikes come with parts from one groupset, others mix and match to keep costs down in certain areas. On bikes between $800 and $1,500, you'll most commonly see the following groupsets: Shimano Claris, Sora, Tiagra and 105, and SRAM Apex, Rival and Force.
Look for compact double or triple cranks – they make climbing much easiser. Wondering what this is? Read our explanation: What is a compact crank?
You won't find exotic carbon wheelsets at this price point, but you will get name-brand wheels from the likes of Mavic or Shimano, or generally respectable sets that bear the same brand name as the bike.
Pedals and shoes
You may find your $800 to $1,500 road bike doesn't come with pedals, so you'll need to buy some. We'd recommend buying SPD-style clipless pedals, as well as a pair of compatible shoes. Remember to factor the cost of these into your budget, and don't be afraid to ask the shop to do you a deal if you're buying them at the same time as your bike.