If you have around £1,500 to spend on a road bike, you really do get a lot for you money. A benefit of spending this sort of money is that the bikes start to get much lighter than those costing half as much, which will have a significant impact on the ride quality and performance, and your times up your local hills.
You've lots of choice in this price range: race bikes, endurance bikes, gravel bikes, frames from carbon fibre and aluminium, rim brakes or disc brakes
Shimano Tiagra and 105 dominate the component spec here, though occasionally SRAM groupsets pop up
Direct-mail operations offer very competitive bikes in this bracket, but of course you'll need to know exactly what size you are, and how to do your own final assembly and adjustment
This price bracket hasn't been hammered as hard as cheaper bikes by Covid-19 lockdown demand, but some sizes of some models are in short supply
Shimano 105 and Tiagra are the dominant groupsets in this price range. While there is a lot of own-brand kit for parts like wheels, handlebars and saddles, which is no bad thing (manufacturers have really raised their game with own label components), there is a lot more branded kit from the likes of Mavic and Fizik.
You'll typically find yourself making a decision between an aluminium frame (which range between very good and superb in this price range) with a groupset such as Shimano 105 or a carbon frame with Shimano Tiagra. Which you go for will depend, among other things, on whether you're a parts upgrader or a bike replacer when it comes to future developments.
The Kinesis R2 is a no-nonsense aluminium road bike that'll take fairly large tyres and comes with eyelets for fitting mudguards and a rack, so it's a practical choice as an all-rounder for typical UK conditions.
The R2 offers a quick yet comfortable ride. That comfort comes courtesy of a geometry that's fairly relaxed by road bike standards (I'll give you details on that later), a slim 27.2mm seatpost, and 32mm Continental Grand Sport Race tyres that actually measure 34mm on Alex Draw 1.9 rims. Run the tyres with a bit of squishiness left in and you get quite a cosseted ride here, especially by traditional skinny-tyred road bike standards. It's the sort of bike you can ride for hours without feeling you need to book a visit to the chiropractor.
If your riding plans veer toward long, leisurely, multi-day trips rather than high speed blats around the lanes, then the Spa Cycles Wayfarer touring bike should be on your 'must consider' list.
Tester Neil was initially deeply unimpressed. Then he changed the tyres. He writes: "The transformation was incredible. Now, when I put in some extra effort, the bike responded by going quicker! I found myself riding in the middle ring where I had been in the small ring, and the large where I'd been in the middle. Not only that, but the tooth-rattling, jarring ride over rough tracks was tamed.
"The Wayfarer went from being a bike I couldn't wait to see the back of, to one that I'd certainly recommend for serious touring duties, though the overall weight means there are better places to look in Spa's range for more versatile all-rounders."
The Ribble R872 Disc Tiagra is a carbon fibre road bike that's built to a sportive-friendly geometry and it offers a much higher performance than you've a right to expect at this price. Plus, there's the bonus that you can tweak the spec to suit your taste and budget.
The feature that surprised me most about the Ribble R872 Disc's ride is the front end stiffness. In this respect it feels like a bike costing way more than this. Haul on the alloy handlebar and everything is absolutely rock solid. You might not pull out your best Mark Cavendish sprint all that often but you'll appreciate the rigidity when climbing out of the saddle and also when cornering hard – you can really chuck this bike through the bends.
The latest version of Specialized's entry-level aluminium speedster is a little softer and kinder than the race bikes that used to carry the Allez name, but still a barrel of fun to ride. Because it could be picked up for less than the old £1,000 Cycle to Work cap, the Allez became a commuter's favourite, with many taking on the daily haul to and from work in all weathers and conditions. The last set of tweaks reflected this, with the Allez frame now able to take full mudguards and a rear rack while still maintaining the ability to wear 28mm tyres.
As tester Stu put it: "Everything feels tight under hard cornering and braking, that's for sure, and thankfully it hasn't come at the cost of comfort. The entire frame manages to take out the worst of the road buzz and I never once felt like I'd taken a battering."
Cube’s Attain is an endurance and comfort-focused road bike. The Attain SL Disc comes with a Shimano 105 groupset including hydraulic disc brakes, and 28mm Continental Ultra Sport 2 tyres. It’s a smart frame, with slim dropped rear stays to boost comfort, a tapered head tube for precise steering and full internal cable routing giving a very clean appearance.
Whyte's Dean is a 700C-wheeled gravel bike that might be a bit more conventional than Whyte's 650B-wheels road bikes, nevertheless looks like an excellent package.
The Glencoe combines an aluminium frame and fork rolling on wide profile Whyte tubeless-ready rims and Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres. Stop and start are taken care of by Shimano's 10-speed GRX groupset which allows Whyte to spec a really wide gear range from a 30/36 low (that's 22.5in in old money) to 44/11 (113in) at the top, and gets you hydraulic disc brakes.
The frame appears to be identical to the one used for Whyte's Glencoe, a long-standing road.cc favourite.
Giant has two families of endurance bikes, the Defy series with carbon fibre frames and disk brakes throughout the range, and the Contend bikes with aluminium frames and a choice of discs or rim brakes. This is the top model in the six-bike Contend family. It has Shimano's excellent-value Shimano 105 11-speed transmission, and Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes. It's a high-quality aluminium road bike that's relatively light, comfortable and well priced. It's not really a racer, but offers a lively, positive ride, with crisp handling.
Tester Rob concluded: "It has the feel of a quick bike, and decent performance potential, with even more composed handling and versatility, which makes perfect sense in today's market. For the price, the Contend SL 1 Disc is a great buy, with a thoroughly sound package that isn't crying out for immediate upgrades. It's a bike you could happily enjoy as it comes, but a future handlebar and wheel swap would make a brilliant bike really sing."
Cross, Gravel, Road, that's what the CGR initials stand for on Ribble's latest all-rounder. A disc brake-equipped, mudguard-shod 'do a bit of everything' machine that makes a lot of sense for the rider who doesn't always want to stick to the tarmac. Thankfully, this jack of all trades is no master of none.
Thanks to Ribble's online bike builder, you can have any spec you like. The CGR starts from £1,099 with Shimano Tiagra; the price here is for the option with Shimano 105 and hydraulic brakes, which gives a good combination of slick shifting and powerful stopping.
Canyon might be best known for its carbon fibre races bikes like the Ultimate and Aeroad, but it does a nice line of aluminium bikes, and they offer decent value for money. The Endurace is the company’s distance and comfort orientated model, with a taller front end and larger volume tyres to provide more comfort. This is the yop version with a full Shimano 105 groupset including the chainset, DT Swiss wheels and Continental Grand Prix SL 28mm tyres.
Tester Stu Kerton said "Its aluminium alloy frame is stiff but comfortable enough to deliver a fun ride with plenty of feedback, whether you are out for a blast or just enjoying the countryside. It's a great a package for the money too."
This bike has at its heart the aluminium version of Trek's lightweight Émonda platform, equipped with Shimano's Tiagra groupset including hydraulic disc brakes.
The Emonda line is Trek's take on making the lightest road bikes it can produce for a given price, which means the frame here is worth upgrading as the parts wear out; it wouldn't be shamed by a Shimano Ultegra groupset. In fact, if you have another £750 to spend you can buy it with Ultegra, though you don't get the glorious yellow and red paint job here.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.