Got £2,000 to £3,000 to spend? Here are your best options
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It’s 2020 and the best road bikes under £3,000 are insanely good. Where once this price range was the sole preserve of racers, you now have a huge choice that includes sportive and endurance bikes, disc brakes (or not), and race bikes too. Read on for our round-up of the best bikes under £3,000.
The best bikes in this category tend to be the all-rounders that can take a decent stab at everything. Think lightweight frames that offer all-day comfort for those sportive riders chasing fast times, but that will also hold their own on your local chaingang.
These are bikes that aim for the sweet spot between stiffness, comfort and weight while keeping prices within reach of the enthusiast.
Most of the contenders at this level have carbon frames.Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
More specialist models such as featherweight climbing machines or aero-optimised rigs feature, but the compromises made to bring them into this price range will usually be bigger than the small advantages their specialisation can bestow.
Also, bear in mind that the type of riding the term ‘all-rounder’ encompasses is widening with the emergence of gravel/all-road bikes.
And for this price you can expect to find bikes carrying a lot of worthwhile kit, including thru-axles and quality hydraulic disc brakes in many cases.
Disc brakes and thru-axles are now a common sight on bikes in this price range.Matthew Allen / Immediate Media
Whichever bike you choose, the good news is that if you’re spending this sort of money you’re unlikely to be disappointed with your purchase.
You could certainly spend a lot more on a bike if the urge takes you, but over £3,000 the margins for improvement get smaller and smaller while the prices get a lot bigger.
So-called ‘halo’ bikes from the major manufacturers now routinely exceed £10,000, but unless you absolutely have to have the latest top-spec model, that kind of outlay is very hard to justify.
Editor’s note: this buyer’s guide only includes bikes that scored at least 4.5 out of 5 stars when they were reviewed by our team of expert testers. Certain bikes may also slightly exceed the nominal budget of this list due to recent price increases, but we continue to feature them as they remain relevant to riders shopping around this price point.
Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0
5.0 out of 5 star rating
The Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0 is near enough perfect.Canyon
Stiff responsive frameset is comfy thanks to flexy VCLS seatpost
Canyon offers both a class-leading spec and a seriously good ride with the Ultimate, and there’s a women’s-specific version as well as a unisex model.
Canyon shuffled its model names back in 2018 and the current Ultegra-level bike is called the Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 (it used to be the 9.0). It now gets the latest Ultegra R8020 hydraulic groupset and a slightly different (but equivalent) set of DT Swiss wheels.
The cheapest Izalco Max Disc generates speed for fun, but it also generates a near-constant whistle.Courtesy
Aero redesign of a lightweight racer
Shimano 105 disc groupset plus carbon wheels
While the old Izalco Max was a purely weight-focussed machine, the current model adds aero to the mix and features a bang up-to-date frame design with dropped stays and truncated aerofoil tube profiles.
Focus gives you a full 105 hydraulic groupset and 45mm deep Alexrims carbon clinchers.
The Izalco isn’t the lightest bike in its class but it’s no heavyweight and it offers a racy ride. The only real niggle we had with the bike was an odd whistling noise present at normal riding speeds.
There’s enough stiffness to give the Kinesis RTD true race bike speed and responsive handling.David Caudery / Immediate Media
£850 frameset, £2,250 as tested
Racy aluminium with all-weather capability
Kinesis has long been a go-to for practical everyday bikes designed for the realities of UK riding. The RTD is no exception, offering racy handling plus disc brakes and the ability to fit full mudguards.
Like other bikes from the brand, the RTD is sold as a frameset, so you can build it up to suit your budget.
Ribble Endurance SL Ultegra and Endurance SL Ultegra Disc
4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Ribble is light, fast and fun.David Caudery / Immediate Media
Aero bike with a juicy spec
Mudguard mounts add practicality
Despite the name, the Endurance SL is a racy machine, one that’s very on-trend with aero tube profiles throughout, dropped seatstays, and an integrated aero cockpit. Despite all this, the bike has rim brakes, although there’s also a disc version if you prefer.
Ribble gives you a full Shimano Ultegra groupset at this price plus a set of own-brand carbon clinchers. A range of alternative builds starting at around £1,600 are also available.
As one of the last bastions of the humble rim brake, this black beauty offers performance and value that very, very few bikes can match.Immediate Media
£2,677 as tested, now £2,722 (varies with exchange rate)
Good value and a great ride
If you’re still a fan of rim brakes then the X-Lite Four is a great buy (there’s a disc version too if you prefer), offering an excellent all-round ride and a big spec for the money, with full Shimano Ultegra Di2.
The X-Lite is on the firm and sporty side of things but has a taller front end than some pure race bikes. It’s available in a variety of specs to suit different tastes and budgets, and you can’t go too far wrong with any of them.
The Tarmac is a benchmark all-round race bike for good reason.Specialized
Ultegra disc groupset plus DT Swiss alloy wheels
Lightweight, racy carbon
The Specialized Tarmac is a fine machine in virtually all its incarnations and the mid-level Comp spec doesn’t leave you wanting for much, unless you’re itching for carbon wheels.
The latest SL6-generation Tarmacs have abandoned the classic looks and gone with the trend for dropped seatstays. The result is a fairly comfy and delightfully responsive race bike, one that’s well suited to big days out as well as smashing round your local crit course.
There are better value bikes out there in terms of spec, but you really can’t go wrong with a Tarmac.
The Specialized Roubaix is built for big miles.Specialized
£2,500 as tested, now £2,600 for the equivalent Roubaix Sport
Super comfy endurance ride with Future Shock front suspension and elastomer seatpost
105 shifting with hydraulic discs
The Roubaix is something of a benchmark in endurance road bikes and the 2017 model was our Bike of the Year winner thanks to its exceptional ride quality, earning a full five stars. While the current model isn’t as good value and scored lower as a result, we think the Roubaix deserves to be on your radar all the same.
The Future Shock front suspension effectively suspends the rider, while dropped seatstays and an elastomer-equipped seatpost add comfort to the rear end.
Specialized keeps juggling its model names but the 2020 equivalent to the old Roubaix Comp is the Roubaix Sport, which gets a Shimano 105 disc groupset with Praxis Alba cranks
Matthew Loveridge (formerly Allen) is an experienced mechanic and an expert on bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. Originally a roadie, he likes bikes and kit of every stripe, and he's tested a huge variety of both over the years for BikeRadar, Cycling Plus and others. For a long time Matthew's heart belonged to the Scott Addict, but he's currently enjoying Specialized's sublime Roubaix Expert and having a torrid affair with a Giant Trance e-MTB. At 174cm tall and 53kg, he looks like he should be better at cycling than he actually is, and he's ok with that.