Many people frown when they hear the term ‘best entry-level road bikes’, mainly because of vanity. I do not see anything wrong with them if they are well-built.
These cheap road bikes 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 entry level road bike for $300 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 budget 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 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.
Features: Lightweight aluminum frame, three paint jobs, Shimano components, 700c tires…
Has anyone told you that it was impossible to find a real road bike for under $300? Well, I plan to prove to you otherwise with Vilano R2.
Vilano R2 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, Vilano R2 can be ordered from Amazon in a striking Green/Black color scheme.
All three look fantastic, and at first glance, people might think that you’re riding a much more expensive bike.
Vilano R2 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 Vilano R2 has Shimano components, so let’s explain more about that. Both derailleurs are built by Shimano – both the front and the rear one are Shimano Tourney.
The brakes are aluminum calipers, and the tires are 700x25c, which is great width for a comfortable and a fast ride.
The Vilano R2 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 Vilano R2.
- Ships 85% assembled
- Fast-rolling tires
- Great looks
- Entry-level components
- Bar-end shifters
Best Pick with a Carbon Fork
MSRP: See On Amazon
Features: Lightweight aluminum frame, carbon fork, Shimano Claris components, rim brakes…
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.
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 entry-level 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 entry level road bikes under $500, to start training more and riding longer miles regularly.
- Carbon fork
- Good-looking colors
- 2x8 Drivetrain
- Shimano Claris derailleurs
- No disc brakes
- Tires could be better
Cannondale Quick Disc 3 - 2020
Best Cheap Road Bike with Flat Bars
Features: Flat bars, aluminum frame, steel fork, 35c tires, 18 gears, disc-brakes…
Cannondale Quick Disc 3 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 Disc 3 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!
Cannondale Quick Disc 3 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.
Schwalbe Spicer 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 Disc 3. The Shimano derailleurs will shift up and down these 18 gears without a problem. The front derailleur is a Shimano Acera, and the rear one is a Shimano Altus.
The Tektro levers and hydraulic disc brakes with 160/140mm rotors 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 Disc 3, but it’s a good starter road bike as well!
- Lightweight carbon fork
- Comfortable 35c tires
- Quality Shimano components
Giant Contend AR 3 (2020)Giant
A Great Mix of Components
Features: Lightweight aluminum frame, carbon fork, Shimano Sora components, 18 gears, 32 mm tires, mechanical disc brakes…
Giant is one of the biggest, if not the biggest road bike manufacturers nowadays. Some of the most successful elite road racers ride Giant bikes, such as the CCC Team, one of the biggest names in cycling right now!
The Giant Contend AR 3 is super-lightweight due to the ALUXX-Grade Aluminum frame and the Advanced-Grade Composite raw carbon fork. It’s one of the top picks on the list!
Related: Full Giant Brand Overview
The biggest difference between a $500 road bike and a $1,000 road bike is seen in the components. With the Giant Contend AR 3, you get a nice improvement.
While most best entry-level road bikes have Shimano Tourney 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 11-34T on the cassette, so you’ll be able to keep your cadence up no matter what.
The Giant S-R2 Disc wheelset and 32mm 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. They are also quite comfy due to their width.
Finally, what’s worth mentioning are the Tektro mechanical disc brakes, which will provide you with a decent braking experience, more than enough for most riders snooping in this price category.
The bottom point is, if you want to start training more seriously and have longer and more arduous rides, the Giant Contend AR 3 is one of the best entry-level road bikes for you!
- Quality Shimano Sora components
- Carbon fork
- Lightweight 2x9 drivetrain
- Puncture-proof tires
- Some riders might dislike wider tires
Features: Shimano components, aluminum frame and fork, 21 gears, Tommaso TC-20 wheels, 700x25c tires…
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. It’s light, it’s customizable, it’s painted a sexy shade of black – it has all that you need!
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.
Related: What To Think About Tommaso Bikes?
Apart from that, this is a lightweight bicycle made 100% from aluminum, which is the best material for a entry-level 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 entry level 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.
- Full Shimano groupset
- Fast, slick tires
- Affordable price
- All-black paint job
- No internal cable routing
- Entry-level 3x7 drivetrain
Pure Cycles Gravel Bike
Features: Two color schemes, Shimano Claris derailleurs, 16 gears
No matter if you’re an absolute beginner or a pro, you must have heard about Pure Cycles. If you haven’t heard about their Gravel Bike, it’s time for me to tell you more about it! The Best Starter Gravel Bike
It’s one of the best deals in this category, as it costs way under $1,000. On Pure Cycles’ website, you can get it for around $799, 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! That’s definitely one great entry-level gravel bike.
Since the Pure Cycles Gravel Bike 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 Pure Cycles Gravel Bike rolls on WTB STP i23 wheels and Hutchinson Overdrive 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 Pure Cycles Gravel Bike is a very good starter gravel bike for you!
- Lightweight aluminum frame
- Great money to value ratio
- Nice design
- Entry-level Shimano components
Recognizable Italian design
Features: Attractive Italian design, Aluminum frame, steel fork, Shimano drivetrain, 24 gears, 700x25c tires…
Guess what? I’m taking you back to Italy for this one because you need to find out about the Tommaso Imola entry-level 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 enables us to get their bikes at a much more affordable price. You’re not buying a brand, but paying for the components. That’s why we included it as one of the best budget road bikes.
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.
- Full Shimano groupset
- Lightweight frame
- Wide-range gearing
- Beautiful design
- Steel fork
Diamondback Century 2
The best DB below $1,000 mark
Features: Aluminum frame, Shimano components, 18 gears, mechanical disc brakes…
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.
This is a fantastic road bicycle for beginners who know they will not stay on entry level road cycling 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.
- Custom DB Aluminum frame
- Shimano Sora derailleurs
- Attractive paint job
- Tektro Lyra mechanical disc brakes
- Adjustments required upon assembly
- No internal cable routing
Raleigh Merit 1
Premium Looks with Shimano Components
Features: Aluminum frame, women-specific saddle, Shimano claris groupset, dual-pivot brake calipers…
Raleigh is one of the best bicycle manufacturers today partly because it takes very good care of both of its male and female riders. This is evident in the Raleigh Merit 1 model, which has everything a lady might want in a beginner road bike.
The Raleigh Merit 1 comes in an attractive Black/Red color scheme that makes for an eye-catching design.
The Raleigh Merit 1 uses a custom formed and butted AL-6061 Heat Treated Aluminum frame and alloy fork, which provides a comfortable and strong ride on any terrain.
What makes this entry-level road bike women-specific is the wide range of sizes available, all the way down to 52 CM to fit someone 5’4″ – 5’7″.
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 Raleigh Merit 1 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 Raleigh Merit 1 is the best looking women’s road bike for beginners who care about looks and styles but are also cycling and fitness enthusiasts.
- Lightweight aluminum frame
- Women-specific sizes
- Shimano groupset
- 16 gears
- Some low-spec parts
How Much Should You Pay?
If you have already owned a budget 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!
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.
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 budget road bikes!