You need a new bike or perhaps a first bike for regular road riding, but you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on the top-of-the-line bikes that you see reviewed elsewhere. We know it’s hard to find cheap road bikes under $1000, so we’ve consulted the experts to develop a range of offerings for you to pick from.
Our Picks: 5 Great Affordable Road Bikes
- Diamondback Century 1
- Raleigh Merit 2
- Cannondale Synapse
- Specialized Allez e5
- Giant Defy 3
What’s a budget road bike? What can you get for under $1,000?
The under $1000 price range is unique because of how large of a range of bikes it encompasses. For example, for less than $1000, you can buy yourself a used and dilapidated fixer-upper for $100, or a fresh and newly manufactured bike produced with some of the latest materials.
The features that get compromised under the $1000 price point are typically the frame and the groupset. If you’re unwilling to pay the big bucks for the lightweight alloy frames, expect to purchase a bike with a heavier carbon bike. A lightweight aluminum frame requires casting and molding for multiple pieces, making it a more expensive road bicycle. When going for a cheap road bike, you may have to compromise on handlebar width, too.
Getting a carbon frame means it’s cast from a single piece. Unfortunately, a carbon frame bike also means you’ll lose out on features that the more expensive bikes contain in their frames. A cheap road bike under $1000 tends to be more tiring to ride and has uncomfortable standover heights and seat tube lengths.
There’s another reason that the bikes in this range are more tiring to ride: the groupsets are the other point of compromise to reach the price point.
Even the best road bikes under $1000 will not be the highest quality. That means that you’ll suffer from awkward gear shifting, a short-range of gears to suit your terrain, and lower quality driveshafts that can get damaged more readily than their expensive counterparts.
If you’re considering bikes of a higher quality, we also have a guide on the best road bikes under $1500. For a little more money you can get better parts and quality, if your budget allows it.
Comparing 5 Cheap Road Bikes
To compare bikes of the same class, we like to see how the geometries stack up against each other and see if we can spot any significant differences, which can help you understand what exactly you’re getting for your money. To do this, we compare models in the same (or similar) bike size. Here, we’re looking at the 54cm versions of every bike except for the Defy 3, which only offers a 53.5cm size.
Stack & Reach
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Giant Defy 3 tops the stack and reach measurements, since it’s characteristic of the brand (they’re just bigger bikes). However, the interesting outlier is probably the Diamondback Century 1, which has a stack only slightly shorter than the Defy. This means the Century puts you a bit higher in the air, so you’ll be in a better racing position when you ride.
Wheelbase length = the distances between the rear axle and the front. Longer wheelbases provide stability, while shorter ones offer handling.
The Giant Defy 3 is the outlier on this measurement. Sporting a 102.2cm long wheelbase will provide riders with a comfortable riding experience relative to shorter wheelbases. The Specialized Allez e5 has the shortest wheelbase, which means that it’ll likely be among the most maneuverable of the bunch.
Chainstay length = the distance from the bottom bracket horizontally to the rear axle.
The Defy is longest here, which means you might have a slightly easier time getting traction while climbing and have a more comfortable ride. The shorter chainstay of the Allez, while not much shorter than the rest of the pack, provides better power transfer and tackles corners more athletically.
Diamondback Century 1 Review
Diamondback’s budget offering is unique because it feels like a much more expensive bike thanks to a number of quality of life improvements and features. Disc braking, while still controversial, does add a bit of weight to the bike, but to find disc brakes on a budget bike is remarkable nonetheless.
Overall, the frame and components of the Century 1 come together in a strong, versatile package for the price. The Frame isn’t stellar, but it’s definitely a strong choice in this price range, and the brakes stand out in this class.
- Allows for good braking thanks to its high quality disc brakes, unlike many other budget bikes
- great alloy frame that could be considered a steal when compared to the frames of other budget bikes
- Chainset will do the trick and provide a smooth riding experience that’s very controllable for the user while on city roads
- This bike may not always be priced at under $1000
- The factory wheelset probably can’t handle extended excursions into country roads that get rough
- Expect to purchase a replacement saddle sooner rather than later (or just to switch it out with something more comfortable)
While it isn’t always on sale for under $1000, when it is, the Diamondback Century 1 105 is a quality bike in the disguise of a budget bike. You’ll be able to keep this bike in smooth but fast riding condition for years, provided that you give it a little bit of care to ensure its weaker drivetrain stays in action.
“This is a budget bike designed for the long distance rider with a relaxed geometry that makes it really comfortable to ride.”- Ryan, Performance Bicycle
“The Century 1 is a nice looking and nice feeling bike that took me where I wanted to go at the price I wanted to pay without feeling like I got ripped off.” – Carl Canner, Sick Bikers
“Everything runs good, it runs smooth, and everything about it works like you’d expect.” – Utah MTBiker
Raleigh Merit 2 Review
The Raleigh Merit 2 is a good looking yet powerful bike could potentially build (for a small additionally investment) into a workable long-range cycling rig. The price of the Raleigh Merit 2 is also the least expensive bike on this list and can sometimes drop even lower than normal.
Even though this bike doesn’t cost much money, and the components do represent some compromises, the overall package works fairly well, although it’s not as versatile as other options.
- Could potentially be the bike for the best value on this list, depending on how much price is a factor for you
- Great for cycling long distances on smooth terrain right out of the box
- Chainset is sufficient for city biking so long as maintenance is regular and complete
- Not always be priced at a bargain, and may sometimes be overpriced relative to the weak chainset and tires
- Expect to calibrate the bike carefully before you can realize any of the fatigue saving features which it advertises
The Raleigh Merit 2 is an inexpensive bike that you should expect to serve you well for long-range city riding. You should also expect to put some money into your Merit 2 if you mistreat it, as a number of its core components aren’t meant for abuse. The alloy frame is the bike’s strongest component and should last you a long time.
“It’s easy to pop tires on and off and re-pump them when they get flat, but they’ve never gotten flat on me so that’s a pretty big endorsement from me.”- Ickina
“This bike will be comfortable all day, whether it’s for a quick commute or for an entire day adventure.” –Single Speed Reviews
“The wheels are really nice, they’re textured all the way around and you can really lean all the way over on pavement and feel like you’re not losing a lick of control.” – Paolo Sica
Cannondale Synapse review
The Cannondale Synapse AL Sora Bike is a basic commuter and leisure road bike that doesn’t try to be a racing bike while maintaining a low price point. You’ll feel a comfortable ride from the Cannondale Synapse AL Sora Bike in addition to rock-solid construction and a flashy look.
One of the trends you may be seeing here is that bikes in this class tend to compromise a bit in the wheelset. It’s likely not a huge deal with the money you’re saving elsewhere, but it’s not going to get you the miles a higher-quality set would.
- Brings a hint of racing aesthetics and form factor to a budget bike
- Endowed with a better than average groupset for a bike at its price point
- A relatively forgiving alloy frame that saves a bit on fatigue
- Comes with a wheelset which will likely need replacing
- Chainset will likely need to be replaced if it’s exposed to rough roads or gravel
- Frame only really works when the saddle is configured and installed correctly
The Cannondale Synapse AL Sora is a serviceable commuter bike that you could also show off to your friends as a quasi-racing bike. Unfortunately, the bike will likely require repairs to the groupset and a replacement wheelset with rigorous use or if you’d like to transform it into an actual racing bike.
“The taper in the alloy connecting to the saddle is going to save everyone a lot of fatigue, and almost gives this budget bike the feeling of having a bit of a racing heart.”- Alan, Alans Bikes
“Quite possibly, the perfect budget road bike.” – All Terrain Cycles
“It’s got good braking, which saved me from hitting a squirrel at one point and made me think, they, that’s pretty decent.” – Running And Cycling Dad
Specialized Allez E5 review
The Allez E5 is a sexy (if we do say so ourselves) bike that’s specialized for smooth road riding at an affordable price point. The Allez E5 is packed with features that are made for your comfort.
In our opinion this compoinent set up probably gives you the best overall bang for your buck if you’re looking to buy a bike under $1,000, and the wheelset is likely the best of the bunch.
- Excellent wheelset and groupset, meaning that you won’t need to put any extra money into this bike if you decide to purchase it
- Most comfortable for people with relatively narrow shoulders and torsos due to the width of its handlebars and compact frame
- Relies on rider skill in posturing, turning, and braking to reduce fatigue, allowing for it to have a lighter weight while maintaining a low price despite high quality core materials
- The frame can be prone to denting and can feel a bit heavy
- Smoothly operating machine on roads, but its sensitive components will suffer on gravel or offroad
- Fatigue reduction features of the E5 are reliant on rider skill rather than intrinsically built into the bike
The Allez E5 is a great choice for bikers who are already experienced, but there are probably better options for newer bikers. If you plan on using a bike to commute and go for the occasional city ride, the E5 can easily surpass your needs without surpassing your budget.
“You’re not going to round out the tiny components like the bolts and other bits with extended use, which isn’t true of other budget bikes.”- Cycling Weekly
“This bike demands a riding position that impels efficiency while preventing fatigue; we found that it worked quite intuitively and quite well.” – Road.cc
“We’ve finally found performance at an affordable price point.” – Tredz Bikes
Giant Defy 3 review
The Giant Defy 3 is big brute of a bike that provides a comfortable but slow ride at a price point that just barely meets our criteria. Overall, the Defy 3 a good budget bike simply because it’s probably the most comfortable.
Like with other Giant bikes, the frame is one of the selling points, and the proprietary manufacturing allows them to offer more quality for less cost. The groupset is geared more toward beginner riders rather than advanced riders looking for budget bikes.
- Heavy, and will allow for momentum-based cruising down long straightaways
- Typically comfortable for most riders, especially those who prefer upright riding positions
- Sturdy sturdily and has no obvious likely point of failure even when taken off-road
- May be too heavy for some cyclists to handle safely
- Not very comfortable for shorter users regardless of the fitting thanks to its high standing height
- Frequent starting and stopping of city riding mean that the Defy 3’s heavyweight works against it in those conditions
The Giant Defy 3 is a great choice for bikers who want a versatile and durable bike that they can take with them in the city for their commute or off the road during the weekend. You’ll have a hard time breaking this bike, and will appreciate its comfort features during long rides.
“Aside from issues with the bike rack, I was blown away by the bike itself because of the top-notch job that Giant did while making this bike.”- Ryan Cocoapuff
“The saddle is far better than you’d expect, and you get an exceptional value along with a great endurance rate geometry.” – Tredz Bikes
“Stiff and efficient power transfer.” – Alterraincycles