Many people frown when they hear the term ‘cheap road bikes’, mainly because of vanity. I do not see anything wrong with them if they are well-built. They are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to break the bank and spend too much, but still, want to get a good idea of what cycling is and make their first steps in this rewarding sport/hobby.
I had a lot of bikes in my lifetime and the one I loved and rode the most was my very first bicycle. It was a cheap $300 beginner road bike bought online, but that didn’t stop me from riding thousands of miles on it. Most importantly, it was because of this bicycle that I became hooked on cycling and started leading a healthier lifestyle.
Because of that, I wanted to create an overview of the best beginner road bikes since I understand their value. You probably won’t be able to compete on a cheap road bike, but it will be fun to ride, and with proper care, it will last for years.
All of the bikes on this list can be easily found online or in your local bike shop, so they are just ordinary road bicycles for beginners, accessible to anyone.
Buying online is of course much more convenient, but it all boils down to your personal preferences.
I decided not to put these bikes in any particular order from ‘best to worst’ because all of them are worth buying in my opinion. What you’ll choose in the end depends on your needs and wishes, but you won’t go wrong or regret your decision whatever you choose.
Best Entry Level Road Bikes – What to Expect?
As I mentioned earlier, you probably wouldn’t be able to win Tour de France on an entry level road bike. These bikes are intended for light, occasional training, and casual rides on the weekend.
If you want to get a bicycle just to stay fit, to commute from time to time, or simply have fun now and then, there are many entry level road bikes under $500 that would make you perfectly happy.
Their components are not as durable as those on high-end bicycles, so they require more care. However, as long as you are mindful of the most crucial parts, you can rest assured that your entry level road bike will last you for many years.
Best Road Bikes Under $500
Even though entry level road bikes do not have carbon and titanium components, they will still show you what cycling is all about, and you’ll be able to decide whether you like it or not.
These bikes and components are not ultralight, but that’s not something a beginner cyclist should worry about. As long as you do not abuse the bike and take it through more than it can handle, you’ll be happy with it for a long time.
Merax Finiss RX 5.0
Has anyone told you that it was impossible to find a real road bike for under $300? Well, I plan to prove you otherwise with Merax Finiss.
Merax Finiss has an aluminum frame and Shimano components, which keeps the weight to a reasonable number, and Shimano parts are generally durable and of decent quality.
For those who worry about looks as well, Merax Finiss can be ordered from Amazon in three different colors: Gray/Yellow, Green/Black, and Red/White.
All three look fantastic, and at first glance, people might think that you’re riding a much more expensive bike.
Best Road Bike Under $300
Merax Finiss is one of the best-selling entry-level road bikes on Amazon right now, with great user reviews.
Most comments by people who bought it confirm how good-looking this bike is. Even though the components are entry-level, they can be fine-tuned to do exactly what they’re supposed to do.
I mentioned Merax Finiss has Shimano components, so let’s explain more about that. Both derailleurs are built by Shimano – the front one is Shimano TZ-31, and the rear one is Shimano RD-TZ50.
The brakes are aluminum calipers, and the tires are 700x28c, which is great width for a comfortable and a fast ride.
With the bike, you’ll also get a free frame bag, a water bottle cage, and it comes already 85% assembled, so you can start riding it in no time.
Therefore, if you want the best inexpensive road bike that looks expensive, to make your first steps in cycling, feel free to buy the Merax Finiss.
Poseidon Triton is an enthusiast level bicycle which you can get at an entry-level price. It’s one of the best road bikes under $500 for several very good reasons.
Poseidon didn’t save money on the essentials to offer Triton at a low price.
I was amazed when I say that it had a carbon fork and a lightweight aluminum frame, which are often seen on much more expensive road bikes.
Best Pick with a Carbon Fork
Apart from the carbon fork that significantly reduces the weight, another thing that caught my eye are the Shimano Claris derailleurs. You’d usually need to pay a couple of hundred dollars more to get them, but this time they come on a road bike under $500.
Poseidon Triton is available in light blue color with orange details, or in black with golden details. The light blue looks stunning, but the black model is great as well.
Like all road bikes that are meant to be fast, Poseidon Triton comes with rim brakes, with upgraded brake calipers that are much more powerful than on the previous version of this bike.
The geometry of the bike is more upright and comfortable, and the gears support this kind of riding as well. You’ll have 16 speeds available on a 2×8 drivetrain, so you won’t find yourself lacking gears, that’s for sure!
I’d recommend Poseidon Triton to anyone who wants one of the best beginner road bikes under $500, to start training more and riding longer miles regularly.
Cannondale Quick 7
Cannondale Quick 7 is one of my personal favorites this time (even though I love all of these bikes) because of how simple it is, yet how good it rides.
Quick 7 doesn’t have the recognizable drop bars that you’re used to seeing on road bikes but comes with flat bars. However, it has all other characteristics of a great road bike, and you can always easily add drop bars if they matter to you!
Best Cheap Road Bike with Flat Bars
Cannondale Quick 7 has a lightweight aluminum frame and an incredibly comfortable steel fork. The steel fork won’t increase weight too much, but it makes all the difference in smoothness on imperfect roads.
Kenda’s 700x35c tires are wide enough to tackle even bumpier roads, so if you live somewhere like this, it’s a great choice for you.
I like picturing this bike in the hands of someone who rides in a hilly area since there are 24 speeds at disposal on the Quick 7. The Shimano derailleurs will shift up and down these 24 gears without a problem. The front derailleur is a Shimano Altus, and the rear one is a Shimano Acera.
The Shimano Easy Fire brake levers and Cannondale aluminum V-brake work in perfect symbiosis to deliver some serious stopping power.
Fitness riders who would like to step up their training or just get around the city much faster than before will love the Cannondale Quick 7, but it’s a good starter road bike as well!
Are you ready for some original Italian design? Yes, bikes should be utilitarian, but there’s nothing wrong if they are a fashion statement at the same time.
Tommaso Fascino meets both of these criteria, which is why I had no doubts to include it as one of the best beginner road bikes under $500. It’s light, it’s customizable, it’s painted a sexy shade of black – it has all that you need!
A Rare Find with Full Shimano Components
Let’s make it clear, I have nothing against so-called Frankenbikes which mix components from different manufacturers. If done right, they can be awesome. However, it’s nice to see a bike with matching components throughout.
Tommaso Fascino promises exactly that – it comes with a full Shimano drivetrain, Shimano derailleurs, as well as Shimano brake levers. This means that all of the parts are guaranteed to be compatible and to work seamlessly together.
Apart from that, this is a lightweight bicycle made 100% from aluminum, which is the best material for a beginner road bike.
I also need to mention that you’ll be shifting through 21 gears on the Tommaso Fascino, which is plenty even for more experienced riders. The lightweight Tommaso TC-20 wheels and Kenda 700x25c tires are easy to get going and increase your speed threshold.
Even though Tommaso Fascino is a good beginner road bike, it’s built for those who plan to ride more and more and need a bicycle that would support their growing fitness demands.
Best Road Bikes Under $1,000
If you have already owned a good road bike under $500, but you started training more often and progressing fast, you might need a more powerful two-wheeler. Even if you’re buying your first bike, but you are already enthusiastic about cycling, it’s a good idea to invest more since you can have more frequent and more serious cycling workouts.
Road bikes under $1,000 usually have an aluminum frame and fork, and some of them even have a carbon fork. The components are usually entry to mid-level, which can take more abuse and last for a longer time. Take a look below to see what my favorites in this category are!
Specialized Allez Sport
Specialized is one of the biggest, if not the biggest road bike manufacturers nowadays. Some of the most successful elite road racers ride Specialized bikes, such as Peter Sagan, one of the biggest names in cycling right now!
The Specialized Allez Sport is super-lightweight due to an E5 Premium Aluminum frame and a Specialized FACT carbon fork. It’s one of the top picks on the list!
A Great Mix of Components
The biggest difference between a $500 road bike and a $1,000 road bike is seen in the components. With the Specialized Allez Sport, you get a nice improvement.
While most beginner road bikes have Shimano Claris components, this model comes with Shimano Sora, which is a higher-quality groupset.
There are 18 speeds in total, on a 2×9 drivetrain, which is also one of the characteristics of more expensive road bike models. There are 11-32T on the cassette, so you’ll be able to keep your cadence up no matter what.
Aluminum Axis wheels and 25mm tires will give you an idea of what riding a real road bicycle feels like. The tires are puncture-proof, so they will last for a long time.
Finally, what’s worth mentioning are the Tektro Axis brake calipers, which give an average braking experience, but with the right adjustment, they’ll stop when you need them to.
The bottom point is, if you want to start training more seriously and have longer and more arduous rides, the Specialized Allez Sport is one of the best road bikes under $1,000 for you!
Giant Contend 3 2018
No matter if you’re an absolute beginner or a pro, you must have heard about Giant. If you haven’t heard about their Contend 3 model, it’s time for me to tell you more about it!
It’s one of the best deals in this category, as it costs way under $1,000. On Giant’s website, you can get it for around $630, and for that money, you’ll buy yourself a lightweight road bike that looks great, comes in two color-combinations, and will ride for years to come!
The Best Starter Road Bike
Since the Giant Contend 3 has slightly less sophisticated components compared to the bikes closer to the $1,000 mark, it’s a great choice for those who are taking baby steps in cycling.
It’s equipped with entry-level Shimano Claris derailleurs, but I have ridden them plenty of times, and I personally like them. You get 16 well spread out gears, and there is no doubt that they will shift perfectly through them.
What I also love seeing on any bike is the custom-built parts. The Giant Contend 3 rolls on Giant SR-3 wheels and Giant SR-4 tires, developed by in-house engineers. This guarantees compatibility, so you know that your bike is built to last and not give you headaches.
When you need to brake, squeeze the Shimano Claris brake levers which will engage the Tektro rim brakes, and you’ll stop moving before you realize it.
So, if you’re enthusiastic about road cycling and you do not want to spend all of your savings, the Giant Contend 3 is a very good starter road bike for you!
Guess what? I’m taking you back to Italy for this one because you need to find out about the Tommaso Imola road bike! Tommaso Imola is built on simple perfection, which can first be seen in the paint job – you can choose between the black/white or the white/black model.
The fact that Tommaso is not such a big celebrity in the cycling world, we are able to get their bike at a much more affordable price. You’re not buying a brand, but paying for the components.
Recognizable Italian design
The Tommaso Imola costs only $600, so it comes with an Aluminum frame and a steel fork. However, the steer tube on the fork is aluminum, which keeps the weight down.
As always, Tommaso doesn’t mix different manufacturers, so you’ll get full Shimano components with the Tommaso Imola. I’m blown away by the fact that the whole drivetrain, including the bottom bracket and the derailleurs, are Shimano Claris. That’s a big plus in my opinion.
There are 24 speeds in total, but that’s rarely an issue since all modern bikes have plenty of gears nowadays.
The brakes are also Shimano Claris calipers which reduce the weight and go well together with other components.
Finally, the wheelset is built by Tommaso, and the tires are Kenda’s 700x25c. Practically, the only two names you’ll see on this bike are Tommaso and Shimano.
If you want to pay as little as possible, but get Italian design and Shimano craftsmanship for your regular training sessions, you won’t be wrong with the Tommaso Imola!
Diamondback Century 2
Last but not least, we come to the Diamondback Century 2. We’ve kept the best thing for the end of this category, so read carefully, because Diamondback moved the limits of the money-value ratio with this model.
Built around a DB lightweight custom fully butted aluminum frame is a bicycle that looks like a million dollars, but costs less than $1,000. Century 2 is available in an elegant dark green color and with mid-range Shimano components, so it will be hard to resist riding it every day.
The Best DB Road Bike Under $1,000
This is a fantastic road bicycle for beginners who know they will not stay beginners for much longer.
The Shimano Sora derailleurs are built to withstand much more force than you can serve it with a couple of weekly rides. You can ride intervals or hills on the Century 2 because the Shimano drivetrain has not problems withstanding higher wattage.
Plenty of gears always come in handy for me when I’m tackling high hills or attacking a KOM on Strava, so it’s good to know that Century 2 has 18 of them!
But, you need to get down somehow as well, so the Tektro Lyra mechanical brakes will take care of your safety on the downhills. The rims and tires are produced by Diamondback themselves, so don’t be afraid to corner as hard as you can!
The Diamondback Century 2 is the best road bike under $1,000 for anyone who doesn’t feel like an absolute beginner anymore and wants to take their fitness to the next level.
Best WOMEN’S Road Bikes for Beginners
A good road bike review would not be complete without touching upon several women’s road bikes for beginners.
NOTE: However, there’s no reason why women can’t ride men’s bikes as well. The only difference is usually in the type of the saddle and the length of the top tube and stem. Once the saddle is changed, and a shorter stem is installed, the bike is perfectly suitable for ladies as well.
However, below I’ve listed my two favorite women-specific models, which will be perfect for all female beginner riders.
Specialized is one of the best bicycle manufacturers today partly because it takes very good care both of their male and female riders. This is evident in the Specialized Dolce model, which has everything a lady might want in a beginner road bike.
The Specialized Dolce comes in two colors – Satin gloss cool gray/Acid pink and Black/Mint. Even though I’m a guy, I love both of them!
Premium Looks with Shimano Components
The Specialized Dolce uses a combination of aluminum and carbon for the frame and fork, which decrease weight but increase stiffness and responsiveness. The fork comes with Zertz inserts which absorb road vibrations, so you’ll feel like riding with suspension.
What makes this beginner road bike women-specific is the women’s Myth Sport thin saddle, 155mm wide, and the 3D forged stem created by Specialized.
Shimano took care of the shifting with their trusty Claris groupset, which is seen on most models you can get at this price. Unfortunately, the brakes are not Shimano as well, but these Tektro calipers are a dual pivot, which means you’ll have a more sensitive braking experience and the calipers with the last longer.
The Specialized Dolce has flat pedals included, so you can ride it as soon as you get it. However, if you want to train more seriously, I always recommend clipless pedals.
The Specialized Dolce is the best looking women’s road bike for beginners for ladies who care about looks and styles but are also cycling and fitness enthusiasts.
Co-Op Cycles ARD 1.1W
The ARD 1.1W comes from REI’s bicycle brand the Co-Op cycles which is taking over the market with both entry-level and high-end bicycles.
The ARD 1.1W is a women’s road bike for beginners with mid-range components, aluminum and carbon parts, and many women-specific elements. If you’re a fan of simplicity in design and Shimano in mechanics, you’ll like what I’ll show you next.
Best Women’s Road Bike with a Carbon Fork
The Co-Op Cycles is powered by a Shimano Claris drivetrain, including Shimano Claris front and rear derailleurs. The engineers at the Co-Op Cycles have put 16 speeds at your disposal, which is more than enough for entry-level riders who ride just to stay fit or to run errands around the city.
A big difference between the ARD 1.1W and the Specialized Dolce is in the brakes. The Co-Op Cycle’s model comes with powerful dual piston mechanical disc brakes which will stop on a dime any time you need them to, come rain or shine.
The saddle is branded by Co-Op Cycles and designed to fit female anatomy. It looks sporty, and the reviews we could find online state that it is comfortable on longer rides. That coupled with the comfortable upright geometry means that you can ride centuries on the ARD 1.1W without any problems.
Finally, the Co-Op Cycles is a mid-range women’s road bike for beginners and all ladies who are enthusiastic about road cycling. Ride it to stay fit, break personal records, and perfect your cycling technique.
My idea with this article was to show everyone that cycling is not a crazy expensive sport that most people think it is. Sure, you can spend over $10,000 on a bicycle, but you certainly do not need to.
All of the bikes on this list are good starter road bikes that, with proper care and maintenance, will last for years and years of regular riding. They are all a very good buy, so it’s up to you to make up your mind and choose the one that created the biggest spark in your eyes.
If your excuse for not cycling was that you couldn’t afford it, I hope that I’ve eliminated it and proved you wrong.
So, ride more, stay fit, look good, join a group ride, and become a cyclist with one of these beginner road bikes!