These are the best aluminium frame road bikes as tested by BikeRadar for the year 2020.
Aluminium remains a great material for making bicycle frames. At the entry-level of the road bike market, aluminium frames are almost ubiquitous. That’s because, generally speaking, aluminium frames combine a desirable stiffness level with low overall weight and relatively cheap production costs.
Bikes such as the Triban RC120 and Vitus Razor Claris prove that a quality road bike can still be had for under £500. Spend a little more and you’ll realise mid-range bikes and the prevalence of aluminium thins out in favour of cheaper carbon fibre bikes, but it’s often the aluminium bikes at this price point that still offer considerably better value and sometimes a better ride too.
Fans of the pro peloton may have seen alloy come and go as the material of choice for the world’s fastest racers, but that does not mean alloy frames have plateaued in terms of development.
Spend well into four figures and you’ll get access to the likes of Cannondale’s CAAD13 – a showcase for the latest aluminium frame tech that can fight it out with all but the absolute best carbon fibre road bikes.
In order to be included in this list, a bike must have scored more than 4 stars during our testing.
The best aluminium road bikes, in order of score
- Triban RC120
- Cannondale CAAD13 Force eTap AXS
- Canyon Endurace AL 8.0 Disc
- Canyon Endurace AL 7.0
- Giant Contend SL1
- Rose Pro SL 105
- Specialized Allez
- Specialized Allez Elite
- Triban RC120 Disc
- Triban RC520 Disc
- Boardman SLR 8.6
- Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105
- GT GTR Sport
- Kinesis 4S Disc
- Merlin PR7 Sora
- Pinnacle Pyrolite 1
- Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc
- Trek Emonda ALR
- Triban RC 500 Disc
- Vitus Razor Claris
The RC120 is now our go-to recommendation when it comes to entry-level road bikes. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
- Our favourite entry-level road bike
- Capable as a fast commuter
This is the cheapest bike in this list and yet it is one that is fully deserving of its five-star rating. The RC120 should be the go-to bike for roadies with a modest budget thanks to its superbly considered kit and impressive ride.
Whether you’re looking for a companion on long days out or an urban commuter that can accept rack and mudguards, the RC120 will do it without difficulty.
Cannondale CAAD13 Force eTap AXS
The CAAD13 perfectly showcases the capability of top-end aluminium frames. Robert Smith
- Stunning handling
- The pinnacle of metal frames
If you want to experience the pinnacle of performance when it comes to aluminium frames then look no further than the CAAD13. With its stunning handling and smooth ride quality, this bike can match the performance of the best carbon machines.
Only the luckiest of riders will find themselves on this spendy eTap AXS model Warren tested at the end of last year, but the CAAD13 frame is available for considerably less with builds starting with Shimano’s 105 groupset.
Canyon Endurace AL 8.0 Disc
For those who want disc braking on their Endurace then this bike hits a real sweet spot in terms of value. Canyon
- Great specification
- Powerful, all-weather braking
If you’re after an endurance road bike then the chances are you will already be aware of Canyon’s superb Endurace range, and this particular alloy model with disc brakes hits a real sweet spot in terms of value.
The complete Ultegra disc groupset, tubeless-ready wheels and tyres from Mavic, and sorted own-brand finishing kit make for an enviable spec sheet, but it’s the composed comfort and ride characteristic of this bike that truly shine.
Canyon Endurace AL 7.0
The rim brake Endurace is also a brilliant bike. Canyon
- Class-leading spec sheet
- Efficient yet comfortable frame
The second Endurace in this list is once again here thanks to its outstanding value and ride quality. It’s light at 8.26kg for a size medium and has the most impressive spec sheet in its class. Component highlights include Shimano’s superb R7000 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels with quality Continental tyres.
We had to dig pretty deep in order to criticise this model, but not everyone will appreciate its understated looks.
Giant Contend SL1
The Contend is a supremely versatile choice thanks to clever spec choices. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- 34-tooth lowest gear will help you up the steepest of climbs
- Comfy 28mm tyres
The Giant Contend SL1 impressed us a lot during testing, narrowly missing full marks.
For 2019 this model gained 28mm tyres that enhanced comfort and a 34t cassette to keep you in the saddle for as long as possible on climbs.
Its sporty geometry always feels assured with a great sense of poise and precision.
The front and rear mudguard fittings and rack compatibility make this a superb commuting choice too.
Rose Pro SL 105
This model was a category award winner at our annual Bike of the Year awards in 2019. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- £998 / €1,099
- Complete 105 R7000 groupset
- A wide range of sizes
The Pro SL 105 was crowned the best road bike under £1,000 in our most recent Bike of the Year awards. We loved its lively, dynamic ride, strikingly lightweight frame and superb kit for the money.
It’s great to see a complete Shimano 105 groupset at this price, complete with a useful 32t crawler cog at the cassette and the best rim brakes in its class.
It’s not the plushest ride among its peers though, so if out and out comfort is your thing then you’ll be better off elsewhere.
With an impressive nine frame sizes available there’s a Pro SL for almost anyone, plus a dedicated women’s version that’s similarly excellent.
- £630 / €799 / $840
- Surprisingly good looks
- Rack and mudguard mounts
The longstanding Allez remains a perfect introduction to road bikes thanks to top performance, sharp looks and keen pricing.
Its recently revised geometry makes it an ideal training and fitness tool and it’s pretty much perfect for sportives and longer rides.
Rear rack mounts and neat mudguard fittings make accessorising the Allez an easy process.
Specialized Allez Elite
Allez models cannot quite match the value offered by direct sale brands. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- £1,050 / €1,299 / $1,350
- An impressive all-rounder
- Practical and versatile
The Allez remains a brilliant choice for riders spending considerably more than the entry-level models ask for, as is the case with this excellent Elite spec bike.
You’ll still get better overall value from direct sale models, from the likes of Canyon and Rose, but with the Specialized you get the advantage of a physical shop to support you through the purchase.
It looks good, offers fine performance and excellent versatility.
Triban RC120 Disc
The RC120 Disc is a pleasingly comfortable endurance-biased ride that’s good mile after mile. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- Great for longer rides
- A little on the hefty side
Just five years ago, it would have been difficult to fathom that a bicycle as well equipped as this Triban would be available for such a modest outlay. The geometry of the alloy frame sides towards endurance making this a great choice for longer rides.
Spec highlights include a carbon fork, tubeless-ready wheels with 28mm tyres and mechanical disc brakes – it really is superb value for money. Don’t be worried about the Microshift gears either, we were pleasantly surprised by these. The compromise comes in the form of weight with a size medium example coming in at a portly 11.3kg.
Triban RC520 Disc
The Triban RC520 Disc has a really impressive spec for the price Decathlon
- Exceptionally well equipped
- For those who favour comfort over speed
The RC520 disc astonishes in terms of value with its carbon fork, mostly Shimano 105 drivetrain and TRP’s mechanically-actuated hydraulic disc brakes. The geometry is noticeably more relaxed than the likes of Specialized’s Allez meaning this is no racer, but for commuting, training or even, touring purposes it’s an excellent choice.
The standard fit 28mm rubber already makes for a plush ride, though there’s room for up to 36mm tyres and the stock rims are also tubeless-ready should you want to open up gravel capabilities.
Boardman SLR 8.6
Boardman’s SLR 8.6 has an all-new and very neatly finished 7005 aluminium frame. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- Tubeless-ready wheels
- Plenty of comfort
We recognise Boardman’s SLR 8.6 as one of the best budget road bikes out there due to its lovely all-round ride and general practicality.
A notable spec highlight and something that’s still rare at this price point is the tubeless-ready wheelset. The gearing is taller than some of its competitors though, so you may find yourself out of the saddle sooner on the climbs.
The chassis of this bike is easily good enough to justify significant component upgrades, making this a bike that can really develop with you.
Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105
The CAAD Optimo’s weight and geometry combine to deliver a fast, fun and feisty ride. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- Ideal for those who favour speed over comfort
- Aggressive geometry
The CAAD is a great choice for those who like to travel at speed thanks to geometry that’s leaning towards the racier end for its category. It’s not firm enough to ruin all-day rides but the CAAD is far from the most comfortable bike in its category.
The overall weight is reasonable rather than exceptional but the CAAD still climbs well and is very good when it comes to descents.
If you like things firm and fast then this could be just the ticket, but it’s simply not as good of an all-rounder as several other bikes on this list.
GT GTR Sport
The GTR Sport combines a quality alloy frame and a full-carbon fork. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- Comfortable ride
- Future-proof spec
With its disc brakes, thru-axles and tubeless-ready 28mm tyres, the GTR is a thoroughly modern road bike. Its alloy frame design boasts the classic GT triple triangle like so many before it, though this one goes without welds between the seatstay and seat tube to allow for some comfort-enhancing flex.
It’s hard to attribute exactly how much of that flex is noticeable, but this is definitely a comfortable bike.
The spec sheet didn’t blow us away and the lack of rear rack mounts was a disappointment but this is, overall, a decent all-rounder.
Kinesis 4S Disc
The 4S Disc from Kinesis is about as versatile as road bikes get. Robert Smith
- A bike for all occasions
- Supremely versatile
The 4S Disc from Kinesis does a great job of being a bike for all occasions, so if you’re willing to snub the n+1 phenomenon then this could be the buy for you. Available in road and gravel build options, the road-going version we tested goes without the flared handlebars and wider tyres of its sibling.
Despite this, the 4S Disc is loads of fun and is incredibly versatile, and we know it can work for year-round commuting, training, touring or bike-packing. If you’re not feeling quite so pink then there’s a more subtle blue colour available.
Merlin PR7 Sora
The Merlin PR7 Sora is a great package if you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of road riding. Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
- Top choice for beginner sportive riders
- Decent Shimano Sora transmission
If you are looking for an affordable sportive bike then the PR7 takes some beating. The triple-butted frame delivers sharp handling thanks to relatively aggressive geometry yet the ride manages not to be too harsh despite somewhat outdated 25mm tyres.
Thankfully, the PR7 frame will accept wider 28mm rubber once you wear out the stock items, so that’s an easy and worthwhile upgrade.
The Shimano Sora groupset offers great performance at this price, even if the Tektro brakes can’t quite keep up.
Pinnacle Pyrolite 1
Pinnacle’s Pyrolite is a real wildcard choice. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- Wildcard choice
- Plush yet durable 650b wheel and 47mm tyre combo
Bridging the gap between a gravel bike and endurance road bike, the Pyrolite uses smaller 650b size wheels that are usually found on mountain bikes, as well as chunky 47mm tyres. The result is a supremely comfortable if slightly left-field choice that smooths out the worst of roads.
The clear drawback of this bike is its 11kg weight, and the fact the Sora transmission components are a level or so lower than we would usually see at this price.
Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc
The Allez Sprint Comp Disc offers peerless handling and enormous speed potential. Courtesy
- £1,900 / €2,299 / $2,200
- Stiff frame with exemplary response
- Ripe for upgrades
As Specialized’s most advanced alloy chassis, the Allez Comp Disc is known for its efficient power transfer and responsive ride. It really is a treat for the criterium racers and riders out there who want to sacrifice minimal watts. It’s also a stunning looking bike.
Specialized proudly states that this bike is not only the stiffest it has ever made, but it’s also the stiffest alloy bike it’s tested from any manufacturer.
All that stiffness means this is not a great choice for all-day rides though, and the bike’s overall performance is blunted somewhat by the standard-fit and weighty DT Swiss wheelset.
Trek Emonda ALR
The Emonda ALR is remarkably light for a metal-framed bike. Matthew Allen / Immediate Media
- Frameset from £800, complete builds from £1,200
- A natural climber
- Elegant and light
The handsome Emonda ALR stands as a more affordable version of Trek’s lightweight road racer.
In terms of its ride, the Emonda is born for climbing and that’s really where it shines, but in general it’s a light and lively bike that punches well above its weight.
BikeRadar’s Matthew Loveridge was lucky enough to build his own dream-spec Emonda ALR starting with a frameset, but several complete builds are available as well as the option to have disc brakes.
Triban RC 500 Disc
Decathlon’s Triban RC 500 Disc is a great choice for those who want disc braking on a budget. Courtesy
- Confident all-weather stopping
- Generously specced
The RC 500 Disc is one of the best sub-£600 disc brake road bikes that we’ve tested. Naturally, the RC 500 carries a weight penalty over a rim-brake bike at this price, but the Shimano Sora transmission components it uses are still commonplace on bikes costing a lot more.
It provides an engaging, comfortable and reassuring ride that’s ideal for commuting or general road riding.
Vitus Razor Claris
The Vitus is every inch a ‘proper’ bike with a similar frame to the Sora Disc. Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
- Comfortable 28mm tyres
- Proven geometry
The Razor Claris from Chain Reaction Cycles’ own brand Vitus is a top value first road bike or year-round training tool. Simplicity is key at this price point and Vitus didn’t stray from what it knows works well.
The alloy frame of the Razor inherited its dialled geometry from more expensive bikes in the Vitus line-up and the 28mm tyres it’s fitted with mean plenty of comfort.
The frame and carbon fork are ready to accept mudguards but not racks. Like the other bikes at this price, it’s pretty weighty but that’s par for the course.
Common misconceptions that surround aluminium/alloy bikes
Aluminium or alloy?
It can be misleading to call an aluminium alloy bike frame ‘alloy’, after all both steel, titanium and aluminium frame bikes will be made from metals that are alloys. Despite this, calling a bike with an aluminium frame an alloy bike is still considered the norm.
Aluminium bikes being excessively stiff
One common misconception that surrounds aluminium alloy frames is that they provide a ride character that is excessively stiff.
It’s true that some early aluminium frames were brutally stiff but those days of experimentation have long since passed.
In truth, a frame’s stiffness is dictated by far more than just the material it is made from with sizing, tube shapes and material grade being some of many other crucial variables.