Reviewed: 8 Great, Entry Level Road Bikes | $1000 & Under

Sunny road bicycle ride
Photo Credit: 
Bob Mical

Eight of the Best Quality Road Bikes Below $1000

It wasn’t that long ago that spending less than $1000 on a road bike was the domain of commuters looking to find a cheap ride into work. The market has changed dramatically since, and the $1000 range is now becoming a very competitive price point.

There’s a lot of value to be found. This piece is written to help you find a good road bike at or below $1000. We’ll be reviewing each one, mentioning the style of riding it’s suited for, and any other concerns worth noting.

This article is part of a series on entry level road bikes. Stay tuned for the next piece, which will explore the $1500 price range!


What to Look for in a $1000 Road Bike

Fancy Frame or Components?

At this price point there are a number of approaches manufacturers seem to be selling us. There’s the ‘great frame’ approach, (meant to wow customers with a bike that looks far more expensive than it actually is but warrant upgrades on componentry over time.) Some manufacturers concentrate on an overall package which will often represent great value to the consumer. Others simply find a cheap frameset and build a high specification around that.

If you want something that will visually wow your friends and work colleagues, consider the great frame option. However, if you’re after a bike for the long term, a more rounded package will offer the best longevity.

Carbon Fibre?

While carbon is often seen at the high end of the market it hasn’t quite filtered its way down to this price point. Carbon forks are the only exception with them almost coming as standard on road bikes around the $1000 price point.

What About Disc Brakes?

A recent development for road bikes has been the inclusion of disc brakes. These offer enhanced braking over traditional callipers, while adding a small amount of additional weight. Their performance is much better in wet conditions although they can be an expensive addition to a road bike. Their prominence is increasing although they’re mostly seen on cyclocross bikes (which offer a rider more riding options for dirt roads and the occasional excursion across grass or mud.) Cyclocross tires offer some speed on the roads although it’s an easy job to change them over to road tires should you wish for more speed.

At present many national federations do not allow disc brake equipped bikes for road racing. If you’re looking at buying with the hope of maybe entering a few race events, it’s best to steer clear for now.

Above all, the most important thing in any bike, whether it’s $99 or $999, is to get the fit right for you. We’re going to take a look at 8 good quality road bicycles that cost around $1000 or less.

We’ve organized the article into two sections, road and gravel, depending on your riding style. Gravel road bikes (or cyclocross) have wider tires with beefier tread.


Road


Mekk Pinerolo 2.0: A great all round package for road riding



British company Mekk is relatively new on the bike scene but their Pinerolo 2.0 benefits from their extensive experience in both racing and production.

The Pinerolo 2.0 features a well-rounded build focused around a lightweight, stiff triple butted aluminium frame and carbon fork. It would happily allow you to start road racing or get you over the high passes of a sportive.

Mekk’s Pinerolo range features a selection of budget friendly road bikes. The base model 1.0 features Shimano’s reliable Sora group for smooth shifting at recession busting prices. The 2.0 takes the shifting to a higher level with a fantastic compact Shimano Tiagra groupset coupled with Shimano’s ever dependable R500 wheelset.

Tires are performance orientated Continental Ultra Sport IIs, which will not leave a rider wanting for more grip on a bike at this price range. Overall the Mekk Pinerolo offers a fantastic all-round road bike for under $1000.

With comfortable yet fast road handling and a great overall package the Mekk Pinerolo offers a rider great value for money. Whilst there may be bikes out there at the price point which will score highly on individual aspects the Mekk is a well thought-out bike that’s a pleasure to ride.

Pros: Tiagra groupset, great tires, stiff frame, very well-rounded. Well suited to entry level cyclists.

Cons: Not outstanding in any one area.


Nashbar 105: A fantastic “no middle-man” road bicycle for less than $1000



Online retailer Nashbar has a real knack of putting together some great bike packages. By taking out the middle-man they can pass the savings on to us. Their 105 road bike is no exception and will have your friends asking if you’ve been handling stolen property for how much you paid.

11 speeds have now filtered down to Shimano’s 105 groupset (the Nashbar features almost a full 105 groupset.) A FSA Omega chainset and reliable yet cost-efficient Tektro brakes detract only minimally from their 105 counterparts. The groupset allows for a more affordable entry level road bike without leaving it lagging behind.

A stiff, light and responsive aluminium frame with a tapered steerer and carbon fork are standard offering at this price point. That said, the Nashbar excels with a race ready Shimano RS10 wheelset which offers performance and reliability barely seen at this price point.

The Nashbar 105 is a bike that would be as happy in the middle of a peloton for an improving cyclist as it would be simply to get you the few miles to work and back. It’s certainly a bike to put a smile on your face.

If you time it right Nashbar often have 20% off flash sales so you could get a fantastic further saving on an already excellent specification bike that would make an ideal first racing bike.

Either way, it’s a serious and affordable road bike and a great choice for beginner riders on a budget.

Pros: Shimano 105 components, RS10 wheelset is outstanding, great price tag.

Cons: Not a full 105 groupset. Very basic, stealth frame.


Diamondback Century 2: A good road bike for long distance rides

If you’re looking for a comfortable road bike to get your through sportive events and century rides which won’t break the bank, the Diamondback Century 2 could be a great option. It’s designed for all day riding.

The Century 2 features a lightweight and responsive endurance orientated frame and vibration dampening carbon fibre fork. Its geometry is designed for longer rides so it would also make a fantastic winter training bike. It’s perfect for club cyclists wanting to protect their more expensive bikes, or for someone looking for a fast and comfortable commuter.

It’s when you’ve got a long day in the saddle planned that the Century really excels with a comfortable, slightly more upright position which will suit newcomers to the sport or potentially those who suffer lower back issues.

It’s a fantastic entry level choice for a beginner to road cycling.

The Century 2 offers riders a fantastic Flanders C2 wheelset from specialists HED designed for performance and comfort with a wide profile rim to incorporate slightly wider tires. This allows for a more comfortable ride while not compromising on weight or speed.

When you also consider the reliable Shimano 105 groupset included, this makes for an exceptional value package.

Pros: Comfortable frame geometry, well suited to beginner road cyclists, great wheelset.

Cons: Less race oriented.


Specialized Allez Sport: Big name brand and a great frameset

specialized allez sport 2015

 

Specialized Allez Sport

If you’re seduced by the appeal of a big brand name, the Specialized Allez Sport could be the right bike for you. At an MSRP of $970 it comes well within the $1000 range.

While you are paying for the big brand name, you also get a fantastic Specialized premium E5 aluminium frame and FACT carbon fork designed to reduce road vibration. That reduces component wear and tear over time.

The remaining specification on the Allez Sport is poor in comparison to many of the other bikes featured here. You’re left with a 9 speed Shimano Sora groupset which is weaker than the Tiagra and 105 offerings on other bikes in the price range as well as a slightly heavier wheelset.

As a result the positive characteristics of the frameset are negated by slower feeling components. As an overall package this makes the Allez Sport weak against the competition.

Still, it’s worth considering since it is a fantastic frameset that you could easily upgrade.

Pros: Big brand, fantastic aluminum frame and carbon fork.

Cons: Components and drivetrain don’t compare as nicely to others on this list.


The Tommaso Monza: Among the best women’s road bikes under $1000




The Tommaso Monza is a great package for female riders at an exceptionally good price.

Currently reduced to $749.99 the bike compares well to big brand bikes at up to twice its cost. Tommaso may not be a brand you know but with its Italian styling and value orientated approach it is fast gaining popularity amongst savvy cyclists.

Featuring a lightweight 6061 aluminium compact frame and carbon fibre fork specifically designed for female riders, the Monza offers reassuring road handling whilst offering a light weight.

A mixture of Shimano Tiagra and 105 components provide long-term reliability and 10 gears. An FSA Vero compact chainset also allows for a wide range of gearing which will suit newcomers and those in a panic when you get to climbs when combined with an 11x25t cassette.

Finishing kit comes mainly from Tommaso’s own label, which certainly holds its own.

Tommaso Monza: A men’s frame version with deep dish wheels

At $849 the 2015 Tommaso Monza men’s bike also represents exceptional value like its sister featured above.

It takes a great package and adds a racy looking 40mm deep section wheelset for aerodynamics. As well to satisfy those of us that want to look like a pro racer at a fraction of the cost.

The remaining specification mirrors the women’s version featured above with a premium 6061 hydroformed frame.

Pros: Tiagra / 105 components, affordable price tag, great looks.

Cons: Not a well-known brand. Many ‘house brand’ components.


Gravel

Life isn’t always about riding on smooth asphalt roads. Sometimes you get to a point where you’d like to turn off the road and onto some forest tracks.

If you don’t really fancy a heavy mountain bike, you’re not out of luck. There are some very reasonably priced beginner level gravel road bikes and cyclocross offerings to choose from.

For the explorer in us a cyclocross bike or gravel road bike could be a great option for gravel roads, forest tracks and also if you might want to consider trying your hands at cyclocross racing over the winter to add to the variety.

Fitting a set of road tires is easy and the narrower, easier gearing of a cyclocross bike would suit junior riders and those who live in hillier areas for the roads whilst cyclocross tires offer a huge amount of adaptability from road to trails.


Felt F85X: Pro styling and disc brakes for reliable braking

The Felt F85X has the potential to offer riders a little more sturdiness on rough roads and canal towpaths without the drawback of a mountain bike riding around the city. Its main feature is a custom butted aluminium frame and carbon fork to offer lightness and response whilst disc brakes provide all the stopping power you could ever need.

The riding position is also a little more upright on a cyclocross bike so you won’t feel as stretched out over longer rides.

The rich berry color (Known as Satin Snozberry) really draws the eye to the bike and Shimano Tiagra gearing won’t let you down on a muddy December ride.

The filter down of componentry through the Shimano line-up means that riding Tiagra now is as close as you can get to ride much higher priced equipment from a short number of years ago.

Pros: Well-rounded bike, great for trails or tarmac, Tiagra gearing.

Cons: Upright riding position isn’t suited for high speed riding.


Blue Norcross AL: An affordable entry level road / gravel bike

If you’re looking to ride gravel roads as well as smooth tarmac, the Blue Norcross AL is a great bike currently retailing around the $1000 price point.

It’s a cyclocross bike and will therefore work well almost anywhere you want to take it (including some mountain bike trails if you’re brave). It will serve you well as a do-anything bike from commutes along the river and through local parks to the rough roads of a city centre.

Braking comes courtesy of SRAM’s reliable and sharp hydraulic disc brakes which are slowly integrating the road bike marketplace as they offer better, more reliable braking in all conditions when compared to calliper brakes.

SRAM Apex gearing also offers reliability and performance comparable to Shimano Tiagra and 105 groupsets featured on many of the other bikes featured here.

The beauty of the Norcross is that you could easily ride it to work during the week and then race a cyclocross event at the weekend. Or, fit a set of road bike tires and head up into the mountains on a sportive or century ride.

Its adaptability makes it a great purchase and currently they’re available for less than $900 from several retailers. It’s a budget-priced gravel road bike for beginner to expert riders.

Pros: SRAM components, hydraulic disc brakes stop extremely well, adaptable ride.

Cons: “Do anything” bikes tend to not excel in any one area.

Liam Hallam

Liam Hallam

Liam Hallam is a Nottingham UK based road racer and cyclocross enthusiast. You'll mostly find him on the tough roads of the Peak District or trails of Sherwood Forest.

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