Sportive bikes and endurance road bikes, with their comfort-focused design and equipment, are the most popular style of road bikes in the UK - and you can get a lot of bike for under £1,000 these days.
You can spend as much as your budget will allow on a sportive bike, with full carbon and electronic gears at the top-end, but we’re going to focus here on bikes that cost under £1,000. As this article shows, your choices are wide and varied.
Under the £1,000 threshold you can expect bikes built with aluminium frames, carbon fibre forks and predominantly Shimano groupsets, with 105, Tiagra and Sora the most common. You might get a carbon fibre frame at this price but that commonly means the components will be downgraded to account for the more costly frame. Essentially, you'll get better parts on an aluminium frame because the cost of an aluminium frame is much less than one made from carbon. Modern aluminium frames are very good, a far cry from the harsh ride they used to be known for.
Many frames at this price share key features found higher up the price ladder so you’re getting the same focus on comfort, and in terms of geometry the same upright riding position and space for wider tyres - most bikes here feature 25mm tyres as a minimum and most will go wider if you wanted to upgrade. One advantage of disc brakes is that they more easily allow the fitting of wider tyres.
There’s a mix of rim and disc brakes as well, and both have their advantages - discs are generally better in bad weather but heavier and pricier, rim brakes are lighter and cheaper but not as good in the wet. Most manufacturers offer a choice, but in the sub-£1,000 price bracket, rim brake bikes still offer the best value for money. Those bikes with disc brakes will be mechanical disc brakes, which are good but not as powerful or reliable as hydraulic disc brakes, but you're going to have to spend more to get a sportive bike with hydraulics.
You don't find many carbon fibre bikes in this category any more, but here's Halfords and Chris Boardman to prove it can still be done, with the 105-equipped SLR 8.9 Carbon.
We loved the previous SLR 8.9 carbon, with tester Mat Brett describing it as "a corker". This version gets 11-speed Shimano 105 shifting where that bike had 10-speed Tiagra and Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Graphene 2.0 tyres, an upgrade over the previous Vittoria Rubinos.
If you prefer disc brakes on your carbon-fibre sportive bike, take a look at Chain Reaction Cycles' Tiagra-equipped Vitus Zenium.
The Zenium is designed as an all-rounder that can act as everything from a winter workhorse to a nippy sportive bike. The frame and fork are both made from T700 HM-UD carbon fibre, and they're thoroughly modern with through-axle dropouts and clearance for up to 30mm tyres.
The only catch is that CRC has just two sizes left, L and XL.
The Forme Longcliffe delivers a very good ride indeed, and don't pay much attention to that overall weight – on all but the steepest of hills it feels nippy and surprisingly agile for a bike of its type. If you are looking for your first road machine for fun and fitness or you want a budget winter machine, then it is definitely worth considering.
Not only is the Forme a good-looking bike, it also delivers a much better ride than I was expecting. Aluminium alloy frames have changed beyond all recognition from those available at the turn of the century, but when you receive what could be considered a budget option you do tend to wonder just how refined it is going to be.
The Merida Scultura Disc 200 may look like it is an entry-level machine on paper but the frame and fork are absolutely top notch and massively upgradable. It's yet another example of just how good alloy frames are right now, offering a very comfortable ride and plenty of stiffness to boot.
The Scultura Lite-BSA Disc frame has a very enjoyable ride feel; there is no harshness or irritating amounts of road buzz coming through to your contact points, even with the 25mm tyres pumped up to my preferred high pressures. This makes the Scultura a fun bike to ride and you can really cover some miles tapping away on the pedals while taking in the scenery.
Specialized made the Allez a slightly gentler bike in 2018, changing it from the previous eyeballs-out race bike to something more suitable for long rides. It's still quick, but its previous razor-sharp handling has been calmed a touch, and the new version even has eyelets for mudguards and a rack in acknowledgement of the Allez's status as a popular fast commuter for Cycle To Work Scheme buyers.
Nevertheless, the Allez still feels tight under hard cornering and braking and that it hasn't come at the cost of comfort. The entire frame manages to take out the worst of the road buzz and tester Stu never once felt like he'd taken a battering.
British brand Genesis Bikes is probably best known for its steel road bikes like the Equilibrium or Volare, and increasingly its carbon fibre offerings like the Datum and Zero, but snuck away at the back of the range is this aluminium model, the Delta. It’s pegged as a comfortable and practical road bike with some nice details, like the provision for mudguards. It’s well equipped with the Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset and 25mm wide CST tyres.
Even with Canyon’s aggressive prices, you won’t quite get a carbon fibre Endurace (the Endurace CF 7.0 costs £1,399) but you can get the Endurace AL 6.0 for £999. It trades the carbon for an aluminium frame but it shares many of the same features including the relaxed riding position and pencil thin seat stays. Canyon specs a full Shimano Tiagra – including the chainset and brakes – with high-quality Continental Grand Prix SL 25mm tyres on Fulcrum Racing 900 wheels.
Giant’s Contend models are what the company terms road all-rounders and that makes them perfect all-day bikes. The Contend SL 1 features a frame made using Giant’s own ALUXX aluminium with shared features like an OverDrive headtube and PowerCore bottom bracket to provide a stiff frame, but most importantly the D-Fuse seatpost is borrowed from the Defy to keep the ride smooth and comfortable. A Shimano Sora groupset with a compact chainset and Giant’s own tubeless-ready wheels, tyres and finishing kit complete the package.
The Synapse has been a popular choice for cyclists seeking comfort for long distance rides for a good few years. The frame is designed to smooth rough roads and it's a comfortable ride thanks to a skinny 25.4mm seatpost and a geometry that places you in a more upright position. This aluminium version is equipped with Promax Render R mechanical disc brakes and a Shimano Tiagra/FSA groupset. Tyres are Vittoria Zaffiro in a 30mm width. The disc brakes which offer better braking in all conditions, and Cannondale deserves points for keeping the price under a grand when companies like Giant and Specialized have edged up their 2021 prices for similar bikes.
Merida's previous Ride endurance bikes are no more, replaced by new Silex platform, a more versatile design intended for everything from sportives to exploring dirt roads and easier trails. The range opens with the £1,000 Silex 200 (above) which is built up with a 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset and Promax Decode R mechanical disc brakes. You get some very low gears via the 48/32-tooth chainset and 11-32 cassette.
While the Sora components aren't quite as nice as the Tiagra you usually find in this category, the 6066 aluminium frame and full carbon fork offer loads of upgrade potential down the line. Merida uses the same Silex Lite aluminium frame for the £2,100 Shimano Ultegra-equipped Silex 700.
Cube’s Attain combines an aluminium frame with a relaxed and upright riding position and it’s one of the few bikes here with disc brakes. It’s packed with modern details like internal cable routing, a carbon fork, thru-axles and mounts for mudguards, increasing its versatility if you want to use it for commuting as well as weekend sportives. A Shimano Tiagra groupset with 28mm wide Continental tyres are equipment highlights.
Decathlon’s Van Rysel EDR AF 105 is a popular road bike because you get a really good parts package for the price, backed up with a decent frame that offers a fine ride. This model features a complete Shimano 105 groupset including chainset, and Fulcrum Racing 6 wheels with 25mm Michelin Lithion 2 tyres. Those parts are all hanging off an aluminium frame with a claimed weight of 1,460g in a size M and carbon fibre fork.
The Laterite range is a popular choice for sportive cyclists and with rack and mudguard mounts it’s also a good option for commuting and daily riding. A 6061 aluminium frame with triple butted tubes to save weight and a carbon fibre fork are fitted with Shimano 105 R7000 components and 25mm wide Continental Ultra Sport tyres for increased comfort. This is a bike built to cope with British road conditions, with geometry pitched between an aggressive race position and a more upright classic sportive one, so basically a modern performance endurance bike. It will take mudguards and is definitely a bike we’d view as having upgrade potential as parts wear out. There is also a women’s specific version of the Pinnacle Laterite 3.
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson 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 editor 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 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.