Looking at 5 of the best road bikes under $1500, there’s still going to be a bit of give and take, but there are also lots of great options here, and quite a few of them quite frankly offer exceptional performance. This is usually the price range where you start to get great all-around packages to take into a race. Overall, the bikes on here are a lot of fun and pack a punch.
Our picks for 5 of the best road bikes under $1,500
- Trek Emonda ALR 5
- Specialized Allez DSW Elite
- Fuji Roubaix 1.1
- Ridley Fenix Alloy 105
- Giant Defy 2
What should you look for in the $1,500 price range?
The $1500 and under price range is what most beginner cyclists keep an eye on. Although you may not get top-of-the-line components, you can still get reliable performance from a road bicycle within this budget.
At this price point, you’ll mostly find aluminum frames. Aluminum frames can be lightweight like carbon frames that you see on most higher-budget road bikes, but the material is not quite as strong or stiff. One of the fun things about this price point, though, is that it’s about the point at which manufacturers can start trying to get creative with frame design to start to boost performance.
These bikes also usually have lower-end groupsets, like the Shimano Sora or Tiagra, to keep costs down, although you’ll find some exceptions to this in the list below. The systems offer lower speeds and gear ranges but still provide excellent value than higher-end Shimano and SRAM groupsets, with reliability that comes with the Shimano name.
You may also consider checking your local bike shop to see if there are any pre owned bikes. While these models will not be as nice as newer ones, pre owned bikes can still be reliable and fun.
You’re not going to get a high-end road racing bike for this price, but you absolutely can get a very good, very fun, very fast bike. You’ll also be able to enjoy all the little engineering innovations bigger brands can take with aluminum frames in this class.
To take your savings even further, consider our guide on road bikes under $1000. These bikes are even cheaper and still deliver amazing quality.
The Top 5 Road Bikes Under 1500 Dollars Compared
Our list of best road bikes under $1500 includes a comparison of 54cm bikes, except for the Giant Defy 2 Disc, for which we used the Large (L) 53.5cm bike. In keeping the sizes of the bikes similar, we can compare their geometries and features more precisely, allowing you to determine which road bike might be your best option.
Effective Top Tube Length
Effective top tube length = the length from the seat tube to the head tube parallel to the ground.
The top tube of the Defy 2 is significantly longer than the other bikes, which are right around the same length. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, since these bikes are usually best suited for taller riders. The other top tubes are similar.
Chainstay length = the measurement of the distance from the back axle to the bottom bracket.
The average chainstay length of road bikes is between 405 and 410mm, which all of these bikes have except for the Giant Defy 2 Disc, which has a length of 420mm. This length is unique for a road bike, as you’ll more often see longer chainstays on a mountain bike built for uphill treks. This longer chainstay may not make the bike quite as agile as the others, but it’s also typical for a Giant bike’s geometry.
Wheelbase = the measurement between the center of the front and rear wheels (the axle).
Again, the Giant Defy 2 Disc is entirely different from the other bikes in our roundup in its wheelbase length, 1022mm. The Allez and Fuji Roubaix both have relatively short wheelbases around 97mm, making them the more agile bikes of the pack.
Stack / Reach
We can see here that the bikes are somewhat similar in their stack and reach measurements, except that the Giant Defy 2 has a significantly longer stack than the others (characteristic of Giant bikes). This puts you in a more bent-over, aerodynamic riding position than the other bikes.
The shortest stack in the group belongs to the Ridley Fenix Alloy 105, making it the most upright riding position out of the bikes reviewed here.
Aluminum bikes tend to be a little heavier than the average carbon bike. So, it makes sense that these bikes, all of which use aluminum frames, are on the heavier side for road bikes, although the weights here are nothing to be ashamed of either. The Fuji Roubaix 1.1 is the lightest of the bunch, boasting an aluminum frame that uses less material than others to keep it as lightweight as possible. The Emonda ALR 5 is also relatively light, weighing an impressive 18.67lbs.
Specialized Allez DSW Elite review
For this price point, you’ll likely be pleased with the amount of power, cornering ability, and strength you get from this bike. This bike is a more affordable version of the professional Specialized Tarmac, but you’ll get much of the same excellent handling as you would from the more expensive counterpart.
The Allez DSW Elite uses a Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum with D’Aluisio Smartweld Technology.
Specialized made this bike for aggressive riders, and the aluminum frame with DSW technology meets that need. The DSW technology welds the frame in places of low stress to improve the overall stiffness and strength of the frame.
This bike uses Shimano Tiagra shifters, crankset, and cassette. It also uses Axis 1.0 brakes.
Shimano Tiagra is a 10-speed system that will give you almost as much performance, power, and speed as the mid-range tier of Shimano products, but at a lower price point. The Axis 1.0 brakes can be a bit touchy and may need more time to learn than others.
The Allez uses the AXIS Classic wheelset with a Specialized Espoir Sport tire setup.
The AXIS Classic wheelset doesn’t offer quite as much stiffness you’d expect from this powerful bike. The set is a bit heavier than some racing wheels and can drag when climbing up hills. The Specialized tires get many miles, but may not provide enough grip to make them work with you when riding.
This bike might be a contender for serious racers or those in training. The high-end frame is a huge benefit, offering incredible stiffness from aluminum. In addition, the Shimano Tiagra components help keep the bike at a low price point but still lend to the bike’s overall quality.
While the setup is generally good here, everything comes together in a package that weighs a bit more than others on this list. Still, the nice, stiff frame makes up for it a bit.
- This bike offers standard road racing geometry, with a compact frame that positions the rider for aggressive riding and excellent aerodynamics
- DSW technology creates a strong frame without welding on high-stress points
- The bike provides a similar performance to Specialized’s more professional bikes at a lower price point.
- The wheelset and tires can stand an upgrade to match the power of the rest of the bike.
- The brakes on this bike may require an extended period of breaking in before they become less touchy.
The big draw here is just the performance similarity between the Allez DSW Elite and Specialized’s higher-end models, like the Tarmac. The downside (a trend you might notice in this list) is the wheelset, which is fine but it’s one of the first things we’d upgrade first.
“The main upgrade here from our previous Allez at the base and sport price points are that, here, we start to use the D’Aluisio Smartweld technique. That’s mainly related to the head tube area and the joints of the top tube to the down tube as well and that effectively stiffens up the whole front end, so our tracking and our cornering ability is enhanced.” – David Alexander, JE James Cycles
Trek Emonda ALR 5
The Emonda ALR 5 is one of Trek’s mid-range bikes, and most of the time, you can find it just under our maximum price today. It features a superbly engineered frame that represents Trek’s attempt at approximating the performance of a carbon fiber with aluminum bikes’ lightweight performance, using raw engineering willpower. In our view, it gives you one of the best bangs for your buck on the list.
The Emonda ALR 5 uses an Ultralight 300 Series Alpha Aluminum frame.
This is an aluminum frame (Trek calls it an “advanced aluminum” frame) designed to achieve a good balance of stiffness and weight, which can sometimes be tough for aluminum frames. Trek uses hydroforming to create these tubes, a process where they essentially fill round tubes with pressurized water inside a mold to create the tube shape. That way, they mold aluminum frames “to their current limit” and create more precise welds with less welding material. Trek likes this system because it supposedly gives them a weight advantage over competitors in the same class.
All in all, it shouldn’t be any surprise that Trek makes a great frame, and it’s a particularly solid frame at this price point.
This bike uses a Shimano 105 groupset, including a 50/34 crank and an 11-28 cassette.
No surprise here, but it’s worth noting this bike houses a full Shimano 105 groupset, so you’re not going to have to replace mediocre components.
The Shimano 105 is fairly ubiquitous in this price range. The Shimano 105 is a good all-around groupset, and the shifters included have a slightly easier shift than something like, say, an Ultegra 11-speed groupset (although they won’t be quite as precise, either).
Shimano groupsets are interchangeable, so you can slap on an Ultegra cassette (or whatever) if you want to customize the drivetrain of your Emonda a bit.
This bike uses Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite 700x 25c tires and Bontrager Tubeless Ready rims.
There are pros and cons to this wheelset for sure, and while you’ll be making a few sacrifices here, this is also likely where you’re saving a bit of money.
The main complaint about this tire is it’s not as stable in wet conditions or going around corners at speed. The tire does, however, make very little noise and seems to be very durable (we couldn’t find any real complaints even with riders who’ve put several thousand miles on them). In dry conditions and on most roads, though, Bontrager tires are a perfectly suitable starter wheelset.
This bike also features Trek’s H2 geometry, which is slightly less aggressive than their ultra-serious H1 geometry. Lots of people seem to love this fit, and it’s great geometry for most amateur riders (lots of triathletes apparently like it as well)
- This is a well-engineered frame: strong, light, snappy, and looks sharp
- Made with Trek’s hardest and lightest alloy, which helps approximate carbon fiber performance
- Tapered headtube (hydroformed technology) improves responsiveness
- The wheelset can be fickle and may not be great in wet conditions; however, the bike will fit bigger tires (up to 700 x 28) if you want to slap them on.
The big draw of this bike is the frame. Trek goes out of their way to bridge the gap between aluminum and carbon with some creative metalurgy, using tappered tubes and vairable tube widths to create a pretty interested riding experience. Is it carbon? No. Can it do some really fun stuff at a considerably lower price point? Yes.
“The ALR 5 is a hard-to-beat performance value package.” – Durianrider
“If you’re looking for an entry-level race bike… if you’re looking for a bike that’s comparable to carbon… this is the bike… Everything works on this bike.” – David Vega
Fuji Roubaix 1.1 Review
Fuji’s purpose for the Roubaix 1.1 was to create an aluminum-framed bike that was one of the lightest on the market without sacrificing the bike’s durability and responsiveness. As a result, this bike is the lightest one in our roundup, thanks to its frame technology that uses less material than most aluminum frames.
With a typical racing geometry for agility, Fuji comfort bikes offer a mixed bag. Their hybrid setup lends to their weight and performance, but may not be ideal for those who like the looks and reliability of matching groupsets.
The Fuji Roubaix 1.1 Road Bike uses an A6-SL super-butted 6066 aluminum frame
The A6-SL super-butted 6066 aluminum frame is Fuji’s way of keeping the bike as light as possible while maintaining its strength and responsiveness. The frame is a step up from the company’s lower-budget aluminum frames, transitioning materials to areas of the frame where it needs it most, like the front fork and tubes improve its stiffness and strength.
This bike uses Shimano New Ultegra brakes and shifters, Shimano 105 cassette, and the Oval Concepts 500 crankset.
The Shimano New Ultegra is one of the company’s newer versions of the performance groupset meant for serious racers and matching the performance level of the company’s top tier of DURA-ACE components. The rim brake system offers excellent contact for quick stopping and reliability in various weather conditions.
The Fuji balances the price of its high-end brakes and shifters with the lower tier of Shimano’s mid-range components, the 105. This groupset still offers excellent performance, value, and 11-speeds, just like the Ultegra would. You won’t see much difference except for a little added weight, which is hardly a concern for this already-light bike.
The Oval Concepts 500 crankset performs much like the Shimano 105 or Ultegra. And, the semi-compact 52/36t crankset offers a wide range of gears, making this bike an excellent choice for uphill climbs.
The Roubaix 1.1 uses the Oval Concepts 527 wheelset with Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tires.
This wheelset is an entry level set from Oval Concepts. The set meets the needs of the amateur road racer, the target of this bike, offering a 27mm rim with Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tires. Zaffiro Pro is Vittoria’s high-level “training” tires, made for endurance more than agility. They may not be the best choice on sharp corners or for comfort, but they’ll likely log lots of miles before needing an upgrade.
This bike has some excellent components for an amateur bike in the $1500 range, including a durable and responsive frame and Shimano mid-range components usually found on more professional bikes. But it seems that the wheelset dropped the price on this bike.
While the Fuji is awesome for many reasons, its groupset is lacking. It could be improved if the Fuji had a full Shimano groupset, but it’s still good overall.
- Shimano Ultegra brakes and shifters offer similar performance to the higher-level DURA-ACE, with just a bit of extra weight.
- This bike places the strength where it’s most needed in the frame and avoids extra, unnecessary materials in other spots for a lighter weight, increasing its ease uphill.
- Thick rim depth can help keep the bike more stable in and out of the saddle.
- The wheelset meets the needs of beginning riders but doesn’t match the performance level of the rest of the bike.
- The somewhat mismatched groupset might not look as put-together as other bikes that use the same brand’s parts.
Noticing a pattern? Awesome bike, sub-optimal wheelset. But that’s usually fine for most riders, and you can always replace them. The huge selling point for Fuji is the weight, which is impressive and makes up for the slight compromises in the groupset.
“I love riding it. I’ve got almost 1,000 base miles on it already on the same tires, and I can’t say enough about these Vittoria clinchers.” – David Vega
Ridley Fenix Alloy 105 Review
The Ridley Fenix Allow 105 is a bike for aggressive racers who want a bent-over riding position and a compact, aerodynamic geometry that’s still powerful enough for top speeds and hill climbs. This bike also excels at absorbing shock and creating a comfortable ride for endurance bike cyclists, thanks to its diamond shape frame.
The Ridley Fenix Alloy 105 uses a Fenix A, Triple Butted Hydroformed 6061-T6 Aluminum frame.
The Ridley has a triple butted aluminum frame that relieves extra pressure from the frame’s joints to create an overall stiffer frame. The Fenix is also known for its diamond shape frame, giving it a geometry that absorbs impact from small and large road bumps, making it an excellent frame for those who ride long distances on harsh road surfaces.
The Fenix uses Shimano 105 crankset, cassette, and shifters , and Forza Stratos brake system.
The Shimano 105, one of the company’s mid-range groupsets, gives the Ridley Fenix 11 speeds and various gears comparable to the slightly lighter Ultegra. Ridley also opted for the Forza Stratos brakes, rather than the Shimano 105, which offers a smooth ride with little force necessary and quick braking.
This bike uses the Forza RC31 wheelset with Vittoria Zaffiro tires.
The Forza aluminum rims on the Ridley are good for low, offering an entry level road bike rim with stiff, well-placed spokes and good cornering. The Vittoria Zaffiro tires are a step down from the Pro version used on the Fuji Roubaix 1.1. These are also training tires, but are a bit more rigid than the Pro, which could put you on the path to a bumpier ride.
The Ridley Fenix Allow 105’s aggressive racing geometry and high-end parts give the rider a sturdy and comfortable ride. However, the wheelset and tires could stand an upgrade to lighten the bike and give its frame better shock absorption for harsh roads.
The diamond frame is a good all-around frame that provides a solid combination of stiffness and shock absorption. The groupset is also good, and the only non-Shimano component here is the brakes, which are good in their own right, making this a great package overall.
- The triple-butted aluminum frame helps distribute weight and disperse shock throughout the bike to prevent rider fatigue
- The compact racing geometry of the Ridley leads to its good power transfer and agility
- Forza Stratos brakes are a good complement to the Shimano 105 groupset.
- Ridley could have improved the Fenix’s shock absorption even more with less rigid tires
- This is one of the heaviest bikes in the roundup, putting it at a disadvantage when climbing hills.