The Brand-X Road Bike is one of the cheapest road bikes on the market and for commuting, riding for fitness and the occasional longer ride, it represents superb value for money.
Unless you include the notorious ‘bike-shaped objects’ available from some supermarkets, garages and other places from which it may not be so prudent to buy a bike, this really is one of the cheapest road bikes out there.
The alloy frame is paired with a slim straight-legged steel fork. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
So cheap is the bike that Brand-X couldn’t even afford to come up with a name for it — the fittingly all-black unnamed road bike has a 6061 aluminium frame with a slim, straight steel fork.
The bike is sold exclusively through Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, so there is at least a bit of cycling experience behind the name. The group also uses the Brand-X name for components and frames, though this is its only complete bike.
The bike is built around Shimano’s 7-speed Tourney groupset. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The Brand-X Road Bike is largely built around Shimano’s 7-speed Tourney components, plus a ProWheel crankset.
The shifting works slightly differently to Shimano’s other groupsets. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Unlike Shimano’s more expensive groupsets, Tourney’s gear cables aren’t routed beneath the handlebar tape. The gear shifting is also different too — there are thumb shifters, like those found on older Shimano Sora groupsets, on the inside of the brake hoods.
Tourney isn’t as smooth as Shimano’s higher-level systems but it is accurate and effective, and you can also trim the front derailleur — shifting it a small amount at a time — to avoid chain rub.
My only issue with the gearing is the limited range.
I can forgive the larger than average gaps between the gears and the low number of them — after all, generations of Tour de France cyclists and amateurs survived on fewer — but for today, the 50×14 top-end gear is okay, but the 34×28 bottom gear is much more of a challenge on my local double-digit inclines.
The gearing on the bike is a touch limited. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Other 2019/2020 entry-level road bikes such as Triban’s RC120 or Pinnacle’s Laterite Zero come with low-end gears of 34×34 or 34×32, and I’d like to see similar here.
It’s worth noting that the Brand-X Road Bike also has an old-tech freewheel rather than the more usual cassette, though I had no issues with it.
As is typical for bikes of this price, the Tektro caliper brakes have non-cartridge brake blocks. The braking was still pretty decent with no sketchy moments, but upgrading to cartridge brake pads would make a significant difference.
The Brand-X comes with 25mm tyres with room for mudguards, and it also has fittings for front and rear mudguards/fenders.
The saddle is surprisingly comfortable. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Brand-X recommends tyres no wider than 25mm but, that said, the bike proved a comfortable enough performer, helped by an unobtrusive saddle from the experts at Velo.
A shade under £300 ($444.99 / €348.49 / AU$560.99) isn’t that much money for a genuine road bike, even if it’s not quite the best out there at around this sort of money.
The £369.99 Triban RC120 edges the Brand-X Road Bike out for the quality of its kit and there’s other competition — in the UK at least — from Evans Cycles’ Pinnacle range; its 6061-framed, carbon-forked Laterite Zero, currently priced at £320, also comes with Shimano Tourney.
Regardless, I found the Brand-X to be a surprisingly pleasing ride on the days I spent on it — it handled my 16.5-mile commute with ease. Its just-over-11kg weight was also only really noticeable on my local steep climbs, which are plentiful in my neck of the woods.
The handling is very light, the braking better than expected — though I’d still upgrade to cartridge blocks — and for budget aluminium, the comfort is more than just adequate.
The geometry makes it more all-rounder than racer, but few of us buying this bike are likely to be hitting our local crits.
The Brand-X road bike is a great option for commuting or occasional use. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Instead, the Brand-X Road Bike is more likely to be used for commuting, fitness, day-to-day and leisure riding, and perhaps for the occasional longer ride. For those purposes, it’s practical, comfortable and presents very impressive value.