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 even 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. If you've got a little bit more to spend, take a look at our best road bikes under £1,000 for 2018.
The best cheap road bikes for 2018
In any case, cheaper bikes need not just be for beginners, they can also be the ideal, easy-to-maintain platform to create the perfect all-weather training bike.
Most bikes at this level will use external cable routing, which although not as neat looking, is far easier to live with than potentially faff-ridden internal routing. 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.
Most bikes around the £600 mark will also be outfitted with an 8- or 9-speed groupset. As 11-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.
The number of speeds tells you how many sprockets the cassette attached to the back wheel has. 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.
- Best best: our buyer's guide to which bicycle type you should buy
- Best road bike: how to choose the right one for you
- Road bike groupsets: everything you need to know
This article was updated in November 2018.
B'Twin Triban 520
- Buy the men's B'Twin Triban 520 now from Decathlon / Buy the women's B'Twin Triban 520 now from Decathlon
- The best entry-level road bike you can buy for £500
- Great transmission for the money
B'Twin is the house brand of French outdoors supermarket Decathlon and is well known for producing a range of incredibly competitively priced bikes. The Triban 520 is no exception; unlike most options in this price bracket, the bike comes with a full 9-speed Sora groupset, including the cranks and brakes.
The spec isn't the only thing that sets the Triban 520 apart, it's ride quality is the best in class and the versatility afforded by full mudguard and pannier mounts means it can be turned to pretty much any task.
The bike is available in men's/unisex and women's versions, the latter coming with women's-specific finishing kit.
Giant Contend 2
- Sporty and comfortable ride
- Competitive weight
For an alloy bike costing less than £600, the Giant Contend 2 weighs in at a competitively light 9.56kg — a full 900g lighter than the Merlin PR7. While this may not sound like a lot, it represents a 10 percent 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 with a third party — FSA in this case — supplying the cranks. The 2018 model has been upgraded to the latest version of Claris, which looks a little more up to date.
With a full complement of mudguard and rack mounts, the Contend 2 is an ideal option for those looking for a true all-rounder that doesn't compromise on ride quality.
- Racy alloy frame with a full carbon fork
- Shimano Claris 8-speed components
- Revamped design with slightly more relaxed geometry
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.
- Updated frame with a full carbon fork, both of which take decent sized tyres
- Latest Shimano Claris components
The Razor was updated for 2018 with an all-new frame and fork, albeit one that looks somewhat traditional.
It’s got mudguard mounts and clearance for good sized tyres. Vitus supplies the bike with 28s that 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.
- Good all-round performer
- Spritely ride quality
The Merlin PR7 was refreshed in 2016, resulting in a more 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 R2000 shifters
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.
- Lively and responsive frameset
- So-so spec for the money, with underwhelming tyres
Raleigh can’t quite keep up on the value for money front, but the Criterium appeals if you want a bike that’s racier than most of those available at this price level.
A lively frame and generous gearing mean it’s well suited to attacking climbs, and riding hard.
Our only real complaint is that the tyres aren’t great, but they can always be upgraded when they wear out.
Reid Cycles Granite
- All-road versatility
- Confidence inspiring disc brakes are rare at this price point
Adventure, gravel or all-road bikes are an increasingly popular option for those who prefer to ride off the beaten track.
Utilising fatter, often treaded tyres and a more confidence inspiring upright riding position than a regular road bike, adventure bikes are also a great option for those that spend lots of time riding on rough or otherwise poorly maintained roads.
The Reid Cycles Granite is one of the best value for money adventure bikes we've tested so far and think it's a great option for those that aren't afforded the luxury of glass-smooth asphalt.
For £600, you get a seriously classy looking hydroformed alloy frameset that — rather impressively given the pricepoint — is paired with a carbon fork.
Reid, an Australian direct sales brand, doesn't have a huge presence yet in the UK so you may need to shop around a little to find a store that can order one in for you.
These bikes didn't score highly enough to make the list, but are still worth a look, particularly if you can pick one up at a hefty discount.