Here are nine of the best cheap road bikes that cost under £650 that we’ve reviewed, and that you can buy in 2021.
As groupsets have become ever more affordable and more direct-sales brands have entered the market, the ride quality and value for money of entry-level road bikes has increased hugely.
If you’re looking for a road bike for serious riding, training or just commuting, £600 is about the price point at which you will get a solid ride that, given due care and attention, will serve you well for years to come.
Have you got a little bit more to spend? Make sure you check out our list of the best road bikes under £1,000 too.
The best cheap road bikes 2020
- Triban RC120: £379.99
- Triban RC120 Disc: £420
- Giant Contend 2: £625
- Boardman SLR 8.6: £600
- Decathlon Triban RC500 Disc: £549.99
- Merlin PR7: RRP£650, now £475
- Pinnacle Laterite 1: £430
- Vitus Razor Claris: £549.99
- Brand-X Road Bike: £300
Decathlon Triban RC120
- Buy now from Decathlon
- Ludicrous value for money
- Generous wide-range gearing
- Carbon fork
It’s hard to exaggerate how good the Triban RC120 is, especially when you consider the price – you could easily be fooled into thinking you’re riding a bike that costs much more.
If you’re looking to make your first move into road cycling, or perhaps want to encourage a partner or friend, the Triban RC120 comes highly recommended.
Decathlon Triban RC120 Disc
- Buy now from Decathlon
- Well thought out spec choices
- Comfortable all-round geometry
- Great value for money
The disc version of the RC120 performs similarly well, with a very well thought out spec and the same comfortable geometry that’s good for long days in the saddle.
Mechanical discs will never have the outright power of hydraulic brakes, but they still provide more consistent wet weather braking than conventional rim brakes.
Giant Contend 2
- Versatile frameset
- Sporty and comfortable ride
- Competitive weight
For an entry level alloy bike costing a little over £600, the Giant Contend 2 weighs in at a competitively light 9.56kg – a full 900g lighter than the Merlin PR7, also on this list.
While this may not sound like a lot, it represents a 10 per cent difference in weight, which you can really feel on the bike.
Like most bikes in this price range, the Contend 2 is outfitted with a Shimano Claris groupset. There’s also a full complement of mudguard and rack mounts, so the Contend 2 is an ideal option for those looking for a true all-rounder that doesn’t compromise on ride quality.
Boardman SLR 8.6
- Buy now from Halfords
- Great value for money build
- Carbon fork and tubeless-ready rims set it apart
- Lovely all-round ride
If you’re looking to upgrade from your very first, super-cheap road bike to something a little more premium from a recognisable brand name, then Boardman’s SLR 8.6 should be one of the bikes to consider.
Boardman’s SLR 8.6 has an all-new and very neatly finished 7005 aluminium frame, which features aero-optimised tube forming. This is matched to a full carbon fork, which is a real bonus at this price.
Decathlon Triban RC500 Disc review
- Buy now from Decathlon
- Comfortable frameset
- The best disc-equipped road bike under £600 that we’ve tested
- Heaps of versatility
With the exception of the Microshift cassette and the Promax calipers, the bike features a full Shimano Sora groupset.
While mechanical calipers will never be able to match the power of hydraulic discs, these certainly don’t disappoint, with heaps of modulation and power on tap.
The mudguard and pannier mounts coupled with generous tyre clearances make this a truly competent all-rounder.
If you can stump up the extra cash, we’d definitely recommend opting for this over the RC120 Disc.
- Buy now from Merlin Cycles
- RRP£650, now £475
- Generous low-end gear
- Good all-round performer
- Sprightly ride quality
The Merlin PR7 is a modern looking bike that holds its own against options from brands many times its size.
The current version gets the latest R3000 Sora groupset which warrants no complaints and the 34/30 low-end gear should get most riders up any hill.
The wheels are a bit heavy, but the bike rides well and offers a lot for the money.
Pinnacle Laterite 1
- Decent frame makes for a good all-round ride
- Latest version gets new-style Claris shifters
- A few small upgrades would make the bike great
At this price level you can expect compromises, but the Laterite is decently specced and rides well.
It’s not too heavy and while we’d replace the cheap, one-piece brake pads, there isn’t much else to complain about. It’s even versatile thanks to rack and mudguard mounts, and there are both men’s and women’s versions available.
Vitus Razor Claris
- Wide tyres give a super comfortable ride
- Smooth and accurate shifting from Shimano Claris
- Modern geometry
Vitus’s affordable Razor road bike scored well in our testing. The bike is supplied with generous 28mm wide Vittoria Zaffiro tyres that actually measure closer to 30mm wide on the broad own-brand rims.
That means comfy ride quality on poor roads and a complete package that’s hard to fault, apart from slightly budget brake pads that make stopping a little ‘grabby’.
Unisex and a women’s-specific models are available.
Brand-X Road Bike
- Ludicrously low price
- Surprisingly comfortable ride quality
- Shimano Tourney groupset works well
Strictly speaking, the curiously unnamed Brand-X Road Bike from Chain Reaction Cycles / Wiggle doesn’t belong in this list – only bikes that score four stars or above are usually included in our best lists.
However, at just £300, which is a full £80 less (a big margin at this price point) than the second-cheapest bike on this list, we can still wholeheartedly recommend this bike for commuting, riding for fitness or the occasional longer ride.
Of course, compromises have to be made somewhere at such a low price, but even when adding on a select few cheap upgrades, this bike still represents tremendous value for money.
- Alloy frame with a full carbon fork
- Shimano Claris 8-speed components
- Revamped design with slightly more relaxed geometry
Also strictly not belonging to this list because it’s slightly over budget, the Allez has long been a benchmark for affordable bikes.
The design was revamped for 2018 with an all-new frameset and the focus has shifted slightly, with the new bike offering a more relaxed riding position as well as rack/mudguard mounts for practicality.
It’s also lighter than before, and the low gearing is very beginner-friendly. Claris 8-speed gearing is basic but functional and the brakes are dual pivot with cartridge pads.
How much should I spend on a cheap road bike?
Cheaper bikes aren’t just for beginners, they can also be the ideal, easy-to-maintain platform to create the an all-weather year-round training bike.
Most bikes around the £600 mark will be outfitted with an 8- or 9-speed groupset. The number of speeds tells you how many sprockets the cassette has attached to the back wheel.
Most entry-level road bikes still come with either double or triple cranks (with two or three sprockets at the front), giving you a large range of gears.
As 11-speed – and even 12-speed – groupsets have become the norm for more expensive bikes, 8- and 9-speed parts have become very affordable, and sourcing replacement parts shouldn’t pose any problems for you or your wallet.
For a full explainer on road bike groupsets, check out our comprehensive guide.
Most bikes at this level will also use external cable routing. This means the cables run on the outside of the tubes and are held in place with brazed- or welded-on ‘stops’.
Although not as neat looking as internal cable routing – which, as the name suggests, routes the cables inside the frame – it is far easier to live with and doesn’t require any special tools to service.
Nearly all bikes at this price point will also use a threaded bottom bracket, which is easier to replace and often longer lasting than many varieties of press fit systems found on more expensive bikes.