It's 2018 and the best road bikes under £2,500 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 £2,500.
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Finding the right bike for you
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 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.
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.
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 £2,500 the margins for improvement get smaller and smaller while the prices get a lot bigger.
This article was updated in June 2018.
Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0 / 8.0
- Disc racer offering huge value for money
- 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.
Canyon shuffled its model names for 2018 and the current Ultegra-level bike is called the Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0. It now gets the latest Ultegra R8020 hydraulic groupset and a slightly different (but equivalent) set of DT Swiss wheels.
Specialized Roubaix Comp / Elite
- Buy the 2018 Specialized Roubaix Elite now from Evans Cycles (was £2,600, NOW £2,080)
- Super comfy endurance ride with Future Shock front suspension and elastomer seatpost
- 105 shifting with RS505 levers
The Roubaix is something of a benchmark in endurance road bikes and the 2017 model was our Bike of the Year thanks to its exceptional ride quality.
The Future Shock front suspension effectively suspends the rider, while dropped seatstays and an elastomer-equipped seatpost add comfort to the rear end.
Specialized juggled its models for 2018 and the current Elite model is equivalent to the old Comp, albeit at a slightly higher price.
Trek Domane SL 6
- Buy the 2018 Trek Domane SL 6 now from Evans Cycles (out of stock)
- Big mile endurance bike with front and rear IsoSpeed comfort tech
- Ultegra shifting, in-house everything else
The original Domane shook up the world of endurance bikes with its funky IsoSpeed rear decoupler, and the latest Domanes get IsoSpeed up front too.
The SL 6 might seem old school with rim brakes, but it’s a seriously effective machine for big rides.
The 2018 model is £100 more expensive, but gets the latest Ultegra R8000 bits plus highly effective Bontrager brakes.
BMC Roadmachine RM02 105 / Three
- Buy the 2018 BMC Roadmachine 02 Three now from Evans Cycles (was £2,650, NOW £1,850)
- Performance all-rounder is half racer, half endurance machine
- Brilliant ride means we can forgive the so-so spec and unremarkable weight
It’s a speedy road-going thing with bigger tyre clearances than a conventional race bike, and mounts for mudguards too.
The weight is on the high side for the money and the lumpy RS505 levers won’t be to all tastes, but the Roadmachine more than makes up for it with a brilliant ride and geometry that’s spot-on.
Boardman Elite Endurance SLR Disc 9.2
- Buy the Boardman Elite Endurance SLR Disc 9.2 now from Cycle Republic (was £2,299, NOW £1,799)
- Racy disc-equipped carbon that’s fit for long distances
- Big spec mixes Shimano Dura-Ace, FSA and non-series hydraulics
Boardman always scores highly for value, and the Endurance SLR is no exception with a full carbon frameset matched to some choice components.
Shifting is from Shimano’s outgoing (but still brilliant) Dura-Ace 9000 derailleurs, matched to very nice non-series RS685 levers.
The cranks are super-light FSA items, while the wheels are middling own-brand ones.
The Boardman offers a great balance between stiffness and suppleness, and it’s pretty light too.
Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Ultegra
- Classy looks and comfortable ride
- Shimano Ultegra drivetrain and hydraulic brakes
- Instant response to pedalling and steering inputs
The CAAD12 is up there with the best alloy frames and it looks very tidy in its disc incarnation.
Despite the metal frame, the CAAD12 is lighter than some of the carbon competition and it’s on par in ride quality terms too, offering fantastic all-round performance.
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Disc Ultegra
- Buy the 2018 bike from Evans Cycles (new version slightly exceeds this list's budget)
- Disc version of Cannondale’s second-tier racer is super stiff and composed
- Ultegra shifting and Mavic Aksium Disc wheels
We love Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO HiMod, but the regular EVO offers a very similar ride for a lot less cash.
This is a bike that loves to go fast thanks to super sharp, rock-steady handling.
It’s definitely a racer, but clever frame design and a super skinny seatpost absorb road vibrations effectively.
The 2017 spec was on par with the competition, with Shimano Ultegra 6800 derailleurs, non-series RS685 levers, Cannondale’s own cranks and decent Mavic Aksium Disc wheels.
The latest 2018 model gets Shimano’s updated Ultegra R8020 hydraulic groupset.
Dolan Titanium ADX
- £2,198 (as reviewed)
- Titanium endurance machine with a massive, customisable spec
- Lively ride with added practicality
Titanium has a timeless quality to it and the Dolan puts this premium metal to particularly good use.
The ADX is an outstanding all-rounder that manages to be exciting and lively, but not overly aggressive.
It’s practical too, with mudguard mounts as standard.
We reviewed the ADX with Ultegra 6800, but the latest version of the bike gets Shimano’s latest Ultegra R8000 groupset, along with internal cabling.
Specs can be customised to some extent, or you can roll your own with a frameset. There’s even a disc version...
Genesis Datum 20
- Big clearance, all-weather road bike with discs
- Carbon frame, 105 shifting plus equivalent hydraulics
Genesis’ all-rounder isn’t the lightest bike around nor the best specced for the money, but it makes up for it with excellent ride quality and versatility.
It’s got hidden mudguard mounts and room to run 33mm tyres with guards fitted.
The build is a solid one with 105 shifting and groupset equivalent RS505 hydraulics. The wheels are nondescript, but the chunky Clement Strada USH tyres are a welcome choice that works well both on road and off.
Lapierre Xelius SL600
- Buy the 2018 Lapierre Xelius SL 600 now from Tredz (was £2,699, NOW £2,269)
- Pro-ridden, lightweight frame with head-turning looks
- Springy rear end
- Smart component selection that includes Zipp, Fizik and Mavic parts
Lapierre’s outlandish looking Xelius is a proper racer with all the modern trimmings (apart from discs!).
The funky rear-end adds a huge amount of compliance and while stiffness isn’t exceptional, the all-round balance is extremely likeable.
With Shimano Ultegra and Mavic Ksyrium wheels, the spec is hard to fault too. Better yet, the 2018 bike gets Shimano's latest Ultegra R8000 groupset.
Merida Scultura Disc 6000
- Buy the 2018 Scultura Disc 6000 from Tredz (was £2,750, NOW £2,199)
- Speedy endurance bike with discs and thru-axles
- Latest version costs more, but gets new Ultegra R8000
The Scultura Disc offers a smooth and speedy ride with geometry that’s taller than that of a pure racer, but which is well suited to long rides at speed.
It’s not the lightest bike despite a sub-1,000g frame, but the Merida manages to feel very lively thanks to a stiff frameset and wheels.
Where the 2017 bike got Ultegra-equivalent hydraulics, the 2018 model has proper Ultegra R8000 levers and brakes along with the rest of the groupset. Unfortunately the price has increased by £350 at the same time, but that's consistent with the rest of the industry.
Ribble R872 Ultegra Di2
- Customisable spec offers big value for money
- Slightly firm but snappy ride
Ribble’s bikes always get the nod for value, and the R872 continues the tradition with a competitive spec for the price.
Although the frame is not as accomplished as some of the big brand competition, it’s stiff and racy enough to reward.
You can customise the spec to your heart’s content, but in this guise with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Mavic Ksyrium wheels, it’s hard to fault.
- Buy the 2018 Whyte Wessex from Rutland Cycling (out of stock)
- Buy the 2018 Whyte Wessex from J E James Cycling (now £2,020)
- Carbon disc road machine designed for all weathers and rough roads
- Fat tyres plus the option to run guards
The Wessex is aimed squarely at the typical UK road rider, with clearances for big rubber by road standards and the option to run proper mudguards.
It’s not a particularly light bike, but it’s a smooth ride with direct power transfer that rewards hard efforts.
Cube Litening C:62 Disc
- Buy the 2018 Cube Litening C:62 Race Disc now from Tredz (was £2,499, NOW £1,911)
- Hard-edged disc racer that delights on smooth tarmac
- Ultegra-based build, plus RS685 levers and Mavic Aksium wheels
Cube’s Litening takes no prisoners with a hard ride and an unapologetically aggressive position, but if that suits you it’s a compelling choice with a solid spec.
The 2017 Litening got Ultegra shifting, top-notch non-series RS685 levers and those ubiquitous Mavic Aksium Disc wheels. The 2018 bike is significantly more expensive, but it gets an upgrade Shimano's latest Ultegra R8070 hydraulic Di2 groupset along with other spec changes.
Focus Paralane Carbon 105
- Buy the Focus Paralane Carbon 105 now from Evans Cycles (was £2,199, NOW £1,979)
- Springy all-weather endurance ride is great for putting in big miles
- 105-equivalent hydraulic discs, plus rattly mudguards
Focus’ Paralane is a capable endurance machine that’s well suited to the UK’s endlessly potholed roads.
It’s comfy and lively, and this carbon version is built around a frame that claims to weigh less than a kilo, which isn’t the norm in its category.
Annoyingly, Focus hasn’t sorted out the rattly mudguards which we also experienced on the 2017 alloy version, but it’s still worthy of consideration.
GT Grade Carbon 105 / Expert
- Buy the 2018 GT Grade Carbon Expert now from Tredz (out of stock)
- Buy the 2018 GT Grade Carbon Expert now from Wiggle (was £2,199, NOW £1,599)
- Fast on the road and fun when you venture off it
- Great components
- Flared bars allow maximum control
The quirky Grade is more all-road than road bike, with features that make it suitable for rougher surfaces than more conventional machines.
Flared bars offer lots of control on bumpy descents, while spindly stays soak up vibration.
The spec is a little less generous than some bikes at this price point, but the Grade opens up new realms of riding and rarely fails to reward.
Ridley Fenix SL Ultegra
- Buy the 2017 Ridley Fenix now from Tredz (out of stock)
- Buy the 2018 Ridley Fenix now from Tredz (out of stock)
- Buy the 2018 Ridley Fenix now from Merlin Cycles (was £2,399, NOW £1,399)
- Assertive ride is firm but smooth
- Super stiff chassis rewards powerful riders
Meant for crushing cobbles at speed, the Fenix SL doesn’t cosset you like some endurance bikes, but it does manage to be impressively smooth.
Ridley gives you Ultegra components and modest Fulcrum Racing 7 clinchers, a good, if not exceptional spec. The 2018 bike gets Rotor cranks in place of the groupset-matching Ultegra unit.
Ridley Helium X 105
- More affordable version of the top-end Helium SLX
- Underwhelming spec for the money, but still a great ride
Ridley’s super-light Helium SLX has long been a favourite, and the more affordable X version offers a similar riding experience.
The frameset is stiff and exciting, but never harsh, and our tester called it “one of the stars of 2018”.
All the same, the spec is not generous for the money — you don’t even get a complete 105 groupset as various parts are substituted for cheaper third party alternatives.
Rose Xeon CWX-3000
- Aero meets discs in an eye-catching package
- Rapid and racy, but firm ride
With TT-bike looks and hydraulic discs, the Xeon is meant for both going and stopping quickly.
It’s a firm but communicative ride with a great all-round spec that gets the small stuff (bars, tyres) right alongside the big ticket items.
Unusually, the 2018 bike gets an upgrade to the latest Ultegra R8000 groupset and is also quite a bit cheaper than its predecessor.
Sensa Giulia Evo Ultegra
- Buy the Sensa Giulia Evo now from Merlin Cycles (out of stock)
- Speedy Dutch aero racer
- Ultegra plus modest alloy clinchers
Dutch brand Sensa rivals the likes of Rose and Canyon when it comes to spec, and the Giulia Evo has a lot going for it.
It’s got an up-to-date aero frame and the latest Ultegra components, including brilliant direct mount brakes, the next best thing to discs.
The Sensa is best enjoyed at higher speeds but it’s not a harsh ride.
Sensa Giulia G2 Disc
- Solid Ultegra and hydraulic spec for the money
- Super stiff carbon frame offers great power transfer, but firmish ride
- 2018 bike costs more, but gets Ultegra R8000
The Giulia G2 Disc gets a generous Ultegra-based spec along with decent DT Swiss R24 Spline db wheels.
An ultra-stiff frame makes for efficient pedalling. It’s not a buzzy ride, but the Giulia is best suited to smoother roads where it doesn’t skitter around.
The 2018 bike is a good chunk more expensive, but it gets an upgrade to Shimano’s latest Ultegra R8000 groupset.