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 massively.
And 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.
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However, 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 price point 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. These are far easier to replace — and typically last longer — than many varieties of press fit systems found on more expensive bikes could ever hope to be.
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 come down in price massively and sourcing replacement parts shouldn't pose any problems for you or your wallet.
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Updated April 2018
B'Twin Triban 520
- 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.
2017 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.
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.
- Good all-round performer
- Spritely ride quality
The Merlin PR7 was recently refreshed, resulting in a more modern looking bike that holds its own against options from brands many times its size.
The Sora groupset warrants no complaints and the 34/30 low-end gear should get most up any hill. The wheels are a bit heavy for the category, but are an easy upgrade you can aim for in the future.
The Merlin has since been discontinued, but if you can pick up one of these in good used condition, it comes highly recommended.
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.