Got £2,000 to £3,000 to spend? Here are your best options as tested by the BikeRadar team
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It’s 2020 and the best road bikes under £3,000 are really 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.
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Carbon Disc Ultegra
5.0 out of 5 star rating
The Cannondale SuperSix EVO Carbon Disc Ultegra is a race thoroughbred that punches far above its weight for its reasonable price.David Caudery / Immediate Media
Cannondale took a big risk in reinventing the traditional formula of the SuperSix EVO, and though the new looks may divide opinion, there’s no denying the performance gains have been substantial.
So much so, in fact, that this bike is our 2020 Bike of the Year. The new frameset takes the original’s legendary handling and puts it in a form that shows off the best of modern carbon road bike design.
It may have gained a little weight thanks to the addition of more aero features, but when it comes to speed, aero generally trumps weight, so we think it’s worth it. And, when you take into account the quality wheels, we also think it represents pretty great value too.
There’s also a women’s specific version available in addition to this unisex model.
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-focused 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.
Handling is smooth and stable, so you get super-aero speeds for less cash.Robert Smith / Immediate Media
Aero focussed bike with racy riding position
Good value and clearance for 28mm tyres
Orro might not yet have the history or social status of an established WorldTour brand, but it more than makes up for that by offering fast, smooth bikes that offer excellent value for money.
If you want a racy aero bike that offers a smooth ride, even on British roads, and is rapid on undulating courses, then Orro’s Venturi Evo 105 could be right up your street.
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.
More concerned with comfort and style than chasing every last watt? The All-City Zig Zag could be your new best friend.David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Zig Zag combines an old-school steel frame with the best of modern tech, such as a carbon fork, hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless wheels and tyres as stock, and clearance for up to 35mm tyres.
All things considered, it’s great fun to ride. It handles very confidently and feels faster than its 9.71kg weight and steel tubing would suggest.
There’s no denying All-City’s wonderfully stylish steel bikes are a little pricier and heavier than your equivalent carbon road bike, but we’d also argue it has a lot more character. You’ll be getting great Instagram content out of this thing for years to come.
The Synapse is a supremely comfortable and versatile road bike.Felix Smith
BikeRadar Videographer Felix Smith has been testing this as his long-term review bike for 2020. He found that if comfort and versatility are the main things you’re looking for, you can’t go far wrong with Cannondale’s Synapse Disc.
Thanks to its generous 32mm tyre clearance and smart, shock absorbing SAVE technology, it’s a very smooth ride. It’s also capable of taking on a wide variety of terrain, from smooth European roads to gravel tracks.
At close to 9kg as stock, it’s by no means a featherweight climber, but this is a bike for cosseting you over long distances rather than helping you to take KOMs/QOMs.
The only real negatives are that the excellent frameset could use a wheel upgrade to really make the bike sing, and the stock cable routing could do with being tidied up.
As with the SuperSix, Cannondale also makes a female specific version of the Synapse.
The TCR has finally gone aero for 2021 and the addition of more generous tyre clearance is also very welcome.Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
Having held out for years while the rest of the market moved on, the latest update to Giant’s legendary all-round road platform finally incorporates aerodynamic efficiency as an integral design feature.
That, combined with excellent handling, clearance for up to 32mm tyres and a very solid spec makes this an attractive proposition. Some may sniff at Shimano 105 on a £3,000 road bike, but it works just as well as its pricier siblings and the overall bike weight is still kept down to 7.87kg for a size M/L.
Our only quibbles are that the hookless rims and 1 1/4in steerer tube currently limit aftermarket upgradability somewhat, but there’s little else to fault.
The women’s specific Langma Advanced Pro Disc fills a similar performance niche to the TCR for Giant’s sister brand, Liv.
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.