Cycling has always been a relatively costly sport. Even though it's possible to spend well into five figures on a top-end road bike nowadays, entry-level bikes can offer a lot of the benefits at a fraction of the cost. We've previously looked at how the price of bikes and other cycling-related products has risen sharply in recent years, outstripping the rate of inflation in some instances - so does this mean even lower end bikes are in danger of becoming luxury items for those of us on a tight budget? Let's take a look at just how much it would cost to get into road cycling now compared to ten years ago.
Lately, some of the big brands have been pushing the boundaries of top-end pricing, getting people used to the idea of five-figure price tags for some of the best road bikes on the market. This trend in rising prices isn't just with brand's flagship models, either. Prices of entry-level bikes that were once seemingly set in stone appear to have increased considerably in the 2020s, and don't appear to be coming back down any time soon.
Is cycling pricing itself out of its own market? These are, after all, the bikes being bought by people new to the sport, and perhaps more reluctant to drop the big bucks. Many people in many parts of the world are also still being negatively impacted by inflation and the cost of living crisis that has emerged off the back of this, making large purchases like bikes harder to justify.
In an attempt to break down roughly how much cash a wannabe road cyclist would have to put down to get started vs the previous decade, we've taken some popular bike models, clothing and accessories and looked at how the prices have changed over the last ten years in the UK.
According to the Bank of England's inflation calculator, goods and services should be just over 31% more expensive now than they were ten years ago, so we've also adjusted the prices of our older bikes for inflation to see how they stack up against the equivalent models today. There are many more factors at play here, such as wages, world events and the impact of the pandemic, plus some of the entry-level bikes from the previous decade may have been discontinued, or replaced with more advanced models - but this gives us some basic figures with which to compare.
We're sticking to new bikes and equipment you can buy off the shelf in this article, but of course, you don't have to buy new. If you're confident you know what you want, or have a mate who knows their bikes and can help, you can make considerable savings by buying a bike secondhand.
Let's take a look at our example bikes, clothing and accessories...
The Allez is the bedrock of the Specialized range, and not that long ago an entry-level Allez was priced from around £600. In some model years, that £600 would get you better equipment than others, but it always more or less hit that price point.
The cheapest Allez in 2014 was £600. For this you got an E5 Premium aluminium frame with smooth welds and an A1 Premium aluminium fork, with an 8-speed Shimano Claris 2400 groupset and AXIS Classic wheelset.
Entry-level bikes have evolved massively, often with price tags to match. At the time of writing, the Specialized Allez is only available with disc brakes and the entry-level model costs £1,100 - that's around an 80% increase.
The E5 Premium aluminium frame with smooth welds remains pretty much the same, the groupset is still Shimano Claris and the AXIS wheelset remains. The fork is upgraded, as it's now Specialized's FACT full carbon fork.
Price of 2014 Specialized Allez adjusted for inflation: £789.15
2023 Specialized Allez E5 percentage increase vs 2014 equivalent: 83%
In 2016 Giant released its new entry-level road bike, the Contend, taking over from the Defy. The Contend has virtually identical geometry to the Defy, and the Contend 2 cost £525 at the time, coming in at under 10kg in weight.
As with most entry-level bikes, it had an aluminium frame, carbon fork and an aluminium steerer, with a Shimano Claris groupset.
The Giant Contend 2 has seen around a 40% increase in price since then, as it's now £749. It still features an aluminium frame, carbon fork and Shimano Claris groupset, and still weighs just under 10kg.
Price of 2016 Giant Contend 2 adjusted for inflation: £685.71
2023 Giant Contend 2 percentage increase vs 2016 equivalent: 42%
In 2013, the base model of Trek’s range was the Trek 1.1, costing £550 at RRP. It featured the same geometry as Trek's higher-end road bikes and a Shimano Claris groupset, with Bontrager finishing kit and wheels.
The Trek Domane AL2 is now the entry-level road bike in Trek's range, and also the most affordable Trek road bike priced at £850.
It’s Trek’s lowest grade of aluminium tubing, which you’d expect on an entry-level road bike, but it's welded neatly throughout. To further keep the costs low it has a Shimano Claris groupset, and is finished off with Bontrager wheels, tyres, handlebar and stem.
Price of 2013 Trek 1.1 adjusted for inflation: £733.96
2023 Trek Domane AL2 percentage increase vs 2013 equivalent: 55%
Decathlon's road bikes, now under the Triban and Van Rysel names, have built up a very solid reputation for low prices and high quality in recent years. In 2018 we reviewed what was then known as the B'Twin Triban 100 road bike, priced at a very wallet-friendly £249. It came with compromises as you'd expect for a bike priced this low, such as a steel fork and index thumb shifter with just seven gears, but impressed us with its easy handling and functional kit that is ideal for a beginner.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Triban RC 100 is still exactly the same bike, it's lost the B'Twin brand name and is now priced at £299.99. 1x shifting means simplicity and less maintenance, chunky 32mm tyres should eat up dodgy road surfaces and the sturdy 6061 aluminium frame is very durable.
Price of 2018 B'Twin Triban 100 adjusted for inflation: £309.07
2023 Triban RC 100 percentage increase vs 2018 equivalent: 20%
Boardman bikes are known for their affordability, and you can walk into most Halfords stores and pick one up. Boardman bikes have gained popularity for providing good quality bikes at various price points, making cycling more accessible to riders of all levels.
We reviewed the Boardman Road Sport in 2015 and at the time, the bike with a 7005 aluminium alloy double-butted frame was priced at £499.99. For a sub-£500 bike it didn't look or ride like something really cheap, and shared some of the same design features as Boardman's more expensive bikes, such as the rear stays.
The Boardman SLR 8.6 (standing for Super Light Road) is now the brand's entry-level road bike. It's priced at £650, around a 30% increase from the price of the Boardman Road Sport in 2015.
It features a 6061 alloy triple-butted frame, a full carbon fork and Shimano Claris groupset. Like the Road Sport, it features mudguard and pannier rack mounts, making it ideal for commuting.
Price of 2015 Boardman Road Sport adjusted for inflation: £657.36
2023 Boardman SLR 8.6 percentage increase vs 2015 equivalent: 30%
Vitus is a brand from the past that slipped away, but it relaunched in 2011 and is now owned by the WiggleCRC group. The Vitus name is now known for bringing decent bikes to the marketplace at very sensible prices.
We reviewed the Vitus Razor VR road bike in 2015 when it cost £599.99, and found that it was very capable for the price tag. It featured an alloy frame, carbon fork and Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset, an upgrade on the 8-speed Claris we often see at entry-level.
The Razor VR model is now only available with disc brakes and costs £799.99. It's a double-butted aluminium frame paired with a carbon fork, featuring mudguard mounts and internal cable routing. It retains the Shimano Sora groupset and has Vitus-branded wheels.
We've done our direct comparison with the Razor VR, but there is actually still a road bike in the Vitus range priced at £599.99 - the Vitus Razor W has rim brakes, a Shimano Claris groupset and a carbon fork, so apart from the groupset downgrade, it's largely the same amount of bike for the same money you'd have spent on the Razor VR in 2014.
Price of 2015 Vitus Razor VR adjusted for inflation: £788.84
2023 Vitus Razor VR percentage increase vs 2015 equivalent: 33% (or 0%, if you consider the Vitus Razor W as the comparison bike)
If you're thinking about getting into cycling, your biggest expense is going to be the bike itself. There are other costs to consider, though, such as cycling-specific clothing, accessories such as a bike lock, bike pump, lights and a saddlebag and a helmet.
While you don't need specialist cycling clothing to start, comfortable clothing can make your rides more enjoyable. Brands rarely keep a range going for over a decade without doing something drastically different, so it's much harder to find prices to compare here. Even so, let's take a quick look and try to find 2023 equivalents to the bike clothing from a decade ago...
dhb is a prime example of excellent value cycle clothing, but I remember paying around £30 for my thermal bib tights not so long ago. A quick gander on the Wiggle website indicates that a set of thermal longs are now more likely to cost you in the region of £80 at RRP, more than double what they were a decade ago.
Even if you almost never ride when it's dark, a set of some of the best bike lights are essential for all cyclists.
The price will depend on which ones you decide are best for you. We found the best cheap front bike light to be the Cateye AMPP 400 Front Light, which is £20.99 on Amazon at the time of writing. Our pick for the best cheap back light would be something like the Prime 360 Super Bright Rear Light, which is currently £17.99 from Chain Reaction Cycles at the time of writing. That's just under £40 for a pair.
If you're a helmet wearer, you can get a cheap cycling helmet for around £30-£50. Since all helmets sold in the UK have to conform to European standards, we take it as a given that they provide that minimum level of impact absorption and look for comfort, ventilation and ease of adjustment.
If you're new to cycling, there are a few essentials we'd advise you to carry on every ride. These are a spare inner tube, tyre levers and a pump/CO2 inflator, since a puncture is the most common bike problem you’re likely to face out on the road.
Costing up all of our budget clothing and equipment suggestions, you're looking at around £150-£200 minimum on top of the price of your bike.
Other than our Decathlon selection, it's now looking like you need around a grand to get into road cycling, with entry-level bikes seeing around a 30-50% price increase. As we've already mentioned, if you know your stuff then you can always look for secondhand bikes, clothing and accessories to save some money and bring your spend down closer to 2010s-prices.
In the UK there's also the Cycle to Work scheme (other territories have their own version of it) which is a government initiative designed to promote healthier journeys to and from work and reduce pollution, offering the most cost-effective way to get new cycling equipment. As you don't pay income tax or national insurance on the scheme payments, you can save between 32% and 42% (depending on your tax band) on the overall cost of your new bike and accessories, and pay in instalments.
While it's impossible to weigh up all the economic factors to determine if a budding cyclist would truly have to spend a much greater proportion of their income on a bike now compared to ten years ago, it's safe to say that most of the most popular entry-level road bikes are at least 30% more than they were in around 2013-2014. An increase of 30% does roughly tally with inflation, but unless you're lucky enough to have seen your pay packet grow by over a third in ten years, the evidence here suggests that popular entry-level bikes bought new are generally more expensive for most of us in the 2020s.
Taking only inflation into account, our winners were Decathlon, Boardman and Vitus. Decathlon's Triban 100 is just £299.99 today and 20% more than it was when we reviewed the bike in 2018, which is actually £9 less than the Bank of England's inflation calculator suggests the bike should now cost. It does come with some big compromises and might not be suitable for cyclists with ambitions beyond cycling to work or the occasional jaunt, but realistically you could be out on the road with all the bike and kit you need for £500 or less with this bike. Decathlon's most affordable bike with STI-style gear shifters and disc brakes is the Triban RC 120, priced at £499.99 - £100 more than when we reviewed it in 2019.
Our Boardman Road Sport that cost £500 in 2015 should have cost £657.36 in June 2023, meaning the Boardman SLR 8.6 at £650 is arguably better value than its equivalent was eight years ago. Vitus also performs well within these parameters, as the Razor VR - arguably a superior bike compared to the 2015 Razor W - is 33% more, and the latest Razor W is actually the same price as it was eight years ago with just a small groupset downgrade.
The Specialized Allez has seen the biggest percentage increase compared to its older equivalent, with the price of its entry-level road bike now 83% more than the 2014 Allez. Again, this might not tell the whole story, because the entry-level Allez of today is a more advanced bike than it was ten years ago with disc brakes, improved cable routing and a carbon fork.
Whether entry-level bikes are truly more expensive now is open to debate, but incentives like the Cycle to Work Scheme, the secondhand market, plus the money you can save by choosing cycling over other methods of transport means entry-level bikes are certainly not unobtainable to those of us with modest budgets.
What was the price of your first road bike? Let us know in the comments section below...
Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.
Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…