How much should you spend on a road bike?

The price range for road bikes is huge. We've grouped it into five brackets, so you know what to expect for your budget.

Clock09:00, Wednesday 27th December 2023

Ask a cyclist how much you should spend on a road bike, and they’ll probably give some unhelpful response like ‘how long is a piece of string?’. It’s true, the range of road bike prices is enormous, and there’s no right answer to the question of how much to spend. Nonetheless, it’s good to know what kind of quality you should expect at different price points.

Read more: How to spend your money wisely

To make things as clear and simple as possible, we’ve broken down the range of bikes available into five price categories. The trends we’ve identified in each category won’t apply to every bike from every brand, but it’ll give you a good overall sense of what you should expect from a bike at any given price.

Read more: How to buy your first road bike

Budget bikes: £500/$650/€550 or less

In this price bracket, you should expect every component on the bike to be the lowest spec available. For manufacturers to produce bikes this cheap, they have to use the cheapest materials, the simplest production methods, and the cheapest components.

Bikes in this price range will almost always be made from low grade aluminium, usually with a steel or aluminium fork. The frames will be designed as simply as possible, with simple welds and heavy construction.

The wheels will be heavy aluminium wheels, with simple hub bearings that probably won’t stand up well to bad weather. The gears will be basic – perhaps with seven or eight sprockets at the back and two or three chainrings on the front. Shifting will be laborious and clunky.

Most bikes in this price point will have low end rim brakes, but some will have cable disc brakes. Whether disc or rim, the braking will be sluggish compared to high end machines..

Since all the components will be decided on based on cost, these bikes are normally very heavy, which can make them less fun to ride and slower up hills. But perhaps more importantly, the very cheapest components don’t have the same reliability and durability as higher grade components. Cheaper bearings and parts will break down with regular riding, which may mean more costs in repairs and replacements down the line.

There are some good bikes in this price bracket, but the majority will be low quality and unpleasant to ride. If your budget will only stretch this far, have a look at the second-hand market instead, where you may be able to get a better-manufactured bike at a lower price point.

Entry level: £500-£1,500 / $650-$1,950 / €550-€1,750

As a starting point for new cyclists, bikes in this price bracket are fantastic. In fact, most people ride bikes that are in this category. You can expect an aluminium frame, equipped with heavy but dependable parts, and possibly a carbon fibre fork.

At this price point, bikes will have simple but reliable aluminium wheels, with a sturdy construction and sealed bearings.

Most bikes in this price range have low end Shimano parts like Shimano Tourney, Shimano Claris, Shimano Sora and Tiagra. Expect 8, 9, 10 or 11 gears on the rear cassette, depending on which end of this price range you’re looking at, and two chainrings up front. Shifting will be crisp and reliable, and the parts will be designed with longevity and reliability in mind.

For braking, most bikes in this bracket will still have rim brakes, but they will perform far better than the cheap ones on the sub-£500 bikes. Some bikes in this price range will even have disc brakes, but these are not created equal. Disc brakes are available with cable actuation or hydraulic actuation, and there is a big discrepancy between the two. Cable actuated rim brakes are the cheaper option, and while they might look similar to hydraulic brakes, the performance is considerably worse. Firstly, friction in the cable makes these brakes harder to pull. Secondly, cable disc brakes usually only push from one direction, so the wear on the brake pads is accelerated on one side. If you’re looking at a bike with disc brakes, make note of whether it has cable-actuated (referred to as ‘mechanical’) or hydraulic disc brakes.

Entry-level bikes usually have relaxed geometry, which is ideal for people who are new to cycling. This geometry makes the front end of the bike a little higher, and makes the reach from the saddle to the bars a little shorter. The handling will be confidence-inspiring and stable. You’ll still be able to get aerodynamic and go fast, but you won’t be able to get into a super aero position like you see the pros doing. For most of us, this kind of geometry is perfect, but if you’re after a race bike, you might need to look a little further to get the fit you need.

Mid-range: £1,500-£4,000 / $1,950-$5,300 / €1,750-€4,700

If you go along to your local club ride, most people are going to be riding bikes in this price range. At the lower end, you can expect a good quality aluminium frame paired with a carbon fibre fork, but most bikes in this price range will have a carbon frame and fork. Although the carbon frames in this price bracket look just like the top-end ones, manufacturers will usually use a lower-grade carbon, requiring thicker frame walls and increased weight over their top spec counterparts.

Most bikes in this price range have hydraulic disc brakes – they give the best performance, the best modularity, and have the smoothest lever action. But some people still prefer rim brakes for their simplicity, reduced weight and aesthetics.

You’ll have the mid-range of components available to you. Bikes in this range will usually be equipped with Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival, but some higher end models will have Shimano Ultegra, SRAM Force, or Campagnolo Chorus. Electronic gears are becoming increasingly common for mid-range bikes, so keep an eye out for this detail when comparing bikes. Electronic gears might seem overly complicated, but they are surprisingly easy to look after. If you want to future-proof your bike, electronic gears are worth considering.

In this mid-range price bracket, your options for brands will be enormous. Almost every bike company addresses this section of the market, so you’ll have loads of choices. Big name, premium brands that tend to skip the lower end of the market will crop up, giving you the chance to get your hands on a bike that feels really high-end.

Since a lot of serious riders opt for this price bracket, the geometry options will be broad. Whether you want something relaxed and stable for Sunday cafe rides or something long and low for racing, you’ll be covered. Check geometry charts when buying to make sure the bike you buy suits your riding style.

Especially at the lower end of this price range, the wheels on these bikes will be slightly under-spec compared to the rest of the bike. They’ll still be great wheels that will keep you rolling smoothly for thousands of miles, but they might not be particularly light or aero. Wheels are one of the first things that many riders upgrade, and bike manufacturers know it. So, they put their time and resources into getting the frame and gears right, and find wheels that are good enough, but nothing special. If you can’t see yourself upgrading your wheels anytime soon, it’s worth checking out the different wheels that bikes come with, and making sure you’re happy with the ones that your bike is equipped with.

High end: £4,000-£8,000 / $5,300-$10,600 / €4700-€9300

Now we’re getting into the really serious bikes. Bikes in this price range are going to be high quality, with high-end components and lightweight and aero parts. Expect high-end carbon fibre frames and forks throughout this price range. For many brands, this will represent the very best bike they produce. For higher end brands, you might not be able to get the absolute pinnacle of carbon fibre layups, but certainly these frames will be very similar to the best ones on offer.

For most bikes in this category, carbon fibre wheels come as standard. Carbon wheels are lighter, stiffer, and usually, more aerodynamic.

Groupset-wise, most bikes in this range have second-tier groupsets. So, Shimano Ultegra, SRAM Force, or Campagnolo Chorus. These are fantastic groupsets that are virtually indistinguishable from the absolute best. Shifting will be flawless, and parts will be lightweight.

Almost every new bike in this price range will come with electronic gears, and the vast majority will come with hydraulic disc brakes. Again some riders prefer rim brakes due to their marginally lighter weight and traditional aesthetics.

For this kind of price, you can choose frames with advanced technology. Many will incorporate shock absorbers to reduce road buzz and increase comfort.

Equally, racers will have plenty of options in this price range. Most bikes in this category are designed with speed and racing in mind, so they are stiff, aerodynamic and lightweight. But crucially, many of them have the kind of aggressive racing geometry that serious riders are looking for.

Superbike: £8,000+ / $10,600+ / €9300+

This is the realm of zero compromise, high performance bikes. In this price range, the brief is pretty clear: no holds barred, no expense spared. As standard, bikes in this price range will come with the best of everything. These are the kind of bikes that Tour de France riders dance up alpine climbs with. They are the bikes that the world’s best sprinters mash between their legs as they push for the finish. They are the pinnacle of engineering and the product of millions of dollars of research and development, not to mention countless hours of design and craftsmanship.

The finest carbon fibre is reserved for these bikes, and they are produced laboriously, by hand to be as lightweight, stiff and aerodynamic as possible. They come equipped with the best components available – Shimano Dura Ace, SRAM eTap, Campagnolo Super Record – and the latest technological advancements in cycling. Expect fully internal cable routing, right through the bars and stem, high-end carbon wheels from big-name brands like Zipp or Hunt, and even a power meter.

These are the bikes of the pro peloton, so expect stiff, aerodynamic designs, with aggressive race geometry. For most non-professional riders, they will be pretty uncomfortable, so make sure you choose a bike that’s suitable for you and your riding style.

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