Road Cycling

Best cheap road bike under £1000: get serious performance at a lower price in 2019 – T3

Like microchip technology and space travel, things have moved on at great pace in the cycling world over the past ten years. Cheap road bikes are no longer hopelessly scaled back; what was once the reserve of the £10,000+ road bike is now available to you for less than £1000. 

Carbon forks, ultra-light alloy frames and drivetrains that once featured on the crème de la crème of road cycling machines should all be on the shopping list of those with a grand burning a whole in the collective back pockets.

On top of this, there has been an explosion in brilliant road bikes since the launch of the popular Cycle to Work scheme, which allows most employees to spend up to £1,000 on a bike tax-free (and enjoying savings of around 40 per cent on some models).

As a result, it is a fiercely contested marketplace and most major manufacturers now have an entry-level model for the money that pinches technology and components from more expensive bikes in the range.

We’ve collated a list of our favourite bikes that we feel offer the best mix of performance and value for money; drawing upon the numerous riding hours we’ve collectively spent taking these weapons for a spin.

As we said in our list of brilliant steeds for under £500, there will be a compromise in quality when shopping on this tight budget. That doesn’t necessarily mean the bikes are going to be rubbish, it just means swathes of carbon fibre, electric gear shifting and other premium touches are going to be out of reach.

Instead, it’s best to focus on a solid frame, keeping in mind that it’s very easy to upgrade things like wheel sets and finishing kits if the mood takes and you feel flush enough.

Look out for frames with reinforced tubing, often referred to as double of triple-butted tubing, as this will improve overall stiffness, responsiveness and speed, as well as ensure it is strong and durable.

Secondly, many bikes on this list offer a full carbon fibre fork, which is great because it reduces overall weight and gets rid of some of the vibration through the front end that is experienced on all aluminium bikes.

However, bear in mind that when manufacturers spend big on the frame, it usually comes at the detriment of things like brakes, gears and saddles, which are all very important if you plan to tackle the odd sportive or high mileage ride.

Vitus Zenium Carbon Disc

1. Vitus Zenium Carbon Disc

A drop-dead gorgeous bike with a serious performance punch


Weight: 9.7kg

Frame: T700 Carbon

Forks: Carbon

Groupset: Shimano Tiagra

Wheels: Shimano RS170

Reasons to buy

+An absolute bargain carbon frame+Stunning looks+Sharp handling

Reasons to avoid

-Tiagra not 105 gearing

It is amazing that such specs can be purchased for a mere £1000, as it would take a bit of a bike boffin to realise this isn’t some sort of bank loan brute that you’d see rolling up to the start line of a professional road cycling race.

The sleek carbon fibre frame looks the part and keeps overall weight down to 9.7kg, which is ridiculously light but perhaps not as featherweight as we have come to expect from this high-tech material.

Still, it is extremely stiff and the power transfer through the Shimano Tiagra drivetrain is excellent. Although, we would love to see some 105 action on there in order to keep the shifting precision and overall reliability levels up.

But this is generally nitpicking, because the Vitus Zenium is an almighty machine out on the open road and the addition of punchy disc brakes and a generally excellent finishing kit (the saddle is brilliantly adjustable) makes this a two-wheeled weapon that anyone will enjoy riding fast. 

Boardman SLR 8.9c 

2. Boardman SLR 8.9c

Tuned in a wind tunnel but it doesn’t cost the earth


Weight: 9.05kg

Frame: Carbon

Forks: Carbon

Groupset: Shimano Tiagra

Wheels: Boardman

Reasons to buy

+Pro spec geometry +Integrated seat clamp+Super aero

Reasons to avoid

-Sluggish wheels-Scrimps on gearing

Boardman has been hitting the jackpot year after year with its sub-£1000 bicycles and its latest full carbon-framed SLR 8.9c is another absolute belter. In fact, we’d happily stick this in joint first place it wasn’t for our editor’s twitchy OCD getting the better of us.

Much like the Vitus, the money buys bags of carbon fibre that has been tested to within an inch of its life inside Chris Boardman’s very own wind tunnel, which means you get very similar innovations to those found on the top of the range Boardman bikes for a fraction of the price.

Of course, there has to be a some compromise and this comes in the form of slightly naff Tektro R315 brakes and Shimano’s Tiagra gearing, which is pretty good but not quite as sharp as 105 or Ultegra.

Regardless, this is a rapid bicycle that would be as happy punishing the daily commute as it would be goading more expensive bikes during the weekend competitive ride.

Van Rysel RR 900 AF

3. Van Rysel RR 900 AF

Great specification bolted to a battle-ready frame


Weight: 8.9kg

Frame: Aluminium

Forks: Carbon

Groupset: Shimano 105

Wheels: Mavic Aksium

Reasons to buy

+Great value+Generous spec

Reasons to avoid

-Not sure about the colour

French sporting goods supermarket Decathlon might not be your first port of call when looking for a sharp new road bike, but its range tickles the £4,000 mark and packs the sort of technology the professionals rely on to win major competitions.

At the lower end of the spectrum, buyers forgo the gorgeous carbon fibre frames of the other bicycles mentioned here and instead plump for a solid aluminium unit with neatly integrated cabling.

It’s a good looking machine and the move away from carbon means you get a hell of a lot more in terms of finishing kit. Ultra-reliable Shimano 105 shifting, Mavic rims and Shimano’s 105 brakes make it a very tempting proposition indeed.  

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105

4. Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105

One of the lightest alloy frames in this price bracket


Weight: 8.8kg

Frame: Lightweight aluminium

Forks: Carbon

Groupset: Shimano 105

Wheels: RS 2.0

Reasons to buy

+Handsome steed+Quality components

Reasons to avoid

-The wheels are lower quality

Created using Cannondale’s Tube Flow Modelling design process, the CAAD Optimo’s SmartForm C2 Aluminium construction is lighter and offers more ride-feel than other similarly priced premium alloy offerings.

This comes as little surprise, seeing as Cannondale have long been at the forefront of professional bike racing, but the  geometry is similar to the much more expensive SuperSix EVO model and offers proper performance without sacrificing comfort. 

Tektro R741 caliper rim brakes feel a little stingy here and the styling might be a little plain for some, but the money mainly goes towards the aluminium frame, which is one of the sweetest available. 

Cube Attain Race Disc

5. Cube Attain Race Disc

The Tesco Value of the road bike world


Weight: 10.1kg

Frame: 6061 Alloy**

Forks: Carbon

Groupset: Shimano Tiagra

Wheels: Cube RA 0.8 Aero Disc

Reasons to buy

+Serious looks+Comfortable ride

Reasons to avoid

-10-speed gearing-Weight

There is no denying the Cube Attain Race looks like it wants to go fast, but does it have the muscle to back it up? Hell yeah! Over-sized tubes and a beefy bottom bracket ensure this is a stiff and purposeful ride, but it somehow manages to remain pretty comfortable.

There is now a full carbon front fork added to this entry-level Attain, which reduces weight somewhat, but the finishing kit isn’t anywhere near as generous as Decathlon’s Van Rysel. 

Shimano’s Tiagra 10 speed transmission and TRP Spyre brakes feel a bit cheap when bolted to a frame of this stature, but then Cube wants you to part with a little extra cash if you are fussy about such things. 

Overall, it’s a great road bike that ticks plenty of boxes. Especially the one that’s marked “do I look like I know what I’m doing?”