Which is the Best Entry Level Road Bike?
Get Riding Without Breaking the Bank
Road biking is an extremely popular sport. Drive along just about any road in the summer and you're bound to run across a spandex-clad rider out for a spin. It's fast, exciting and a great exercise. But if you've been in a bike shop lately, you'll know that they don't come cheap. Many entry level road bikes are more expensive than a used car!
There is something to be said for the adage of 'you get what you pay for', but in the cycling realm it all depends on your expectations. Are you a cycling aficionado, or just a casual rider? Do you plan to ride 20 miles per day, or just enjoy a nice ride once in a while? If you're just looking into the sport, I'd highly recommend looking at some of the cheap entry level road bikes in the $500 and under range before investing in something fancier.
This article is written to help you find a good quality road bicycle that will work nicely, ride well and give you plenty of enjoyment. We'll take a look at four of my favourite road bicycles available for under the $500 mark, and give a brief review of each ride. Hopefully it will help point you in the right direction!
If you're after an inexpensive, beginner level road bike, you probably aren't terribly picky, but I think this needs to be stated regardless: cheap bikes have cheap components.
Keep in mind that cheap does not mean bad! Many budget cycles can ride really well with lower quality ingredients. I'm not a bike snob by any means. But will any of these entry level bikes compete with higher priced brands? For the most part, no.
This article is written for anyone seeking an affordable bike for casual riding. Hardcore riders & racers should probably consider a budget range of $800 and up.
A light & fast entry level road bicycle
If you're hunting for 'bang for your buck', you might take a look at the Giordano Libero as a real option. It's a light and fast road bike with a lot of upside, and it's really affordable too. As entry level road bikes go, this one has above average components. Beyond that, the real story is the fact that this bike is just downright fun to ride!
Check out the customer reviews! It's a well-loved bike for a few reasons. I'll get into the technical stuff first.
The frame itself is a lightweight 6061 aluminum, which includes oversized tubing for added rigidity and strength. The front forks are made of high tensile steel. Overall it's quite a light bicycle for the price, and it comes in around 24 pounds. Certainly not the lightest, but still quite reasonable when compared to all-steel frame models.
The shifters are Shimano ST2300 brand, which isn't really a top quality set, but it shifts well and is pretty easy to tune. The integrated shifter / brake is a nice feature. You have 16 speeds to play with in total, which should be more than enough.
The brakes are calliper (side pull style) and they'll stop the bike really nicely if tuned properly and maintained. The rims are 700c Vitesse alloy wheels, and they're both equipped with quick release skewers to remove the wheels quickly. They spin really nicely, actually!
The riding position is aggressive and fun. You'll really enjoy zipping around on this lithe little entry class road bike, and it's cheap to boot. Definitely one to check out.
Amazon Price: $1,146.73 Buy Now
(price as of May 6, 2015)
A simple, affordable beginner level road bike
If you're not after bells and whistles, this is a wonderful bike to consider. It's a quick, light and no-nonsense entry style road bicycle that's a great option if you're hindered by a budget.
It's primary selling point is the lightweight frame, which is made from the standard 6061 aluminum and is tastefully sculpted using oversized tubing. It weighs in at the same weight as the Giordano, around 24 pounds all told.
The wheels are double-walled aluminum alloy with pretty good hubs. They spin really well and should be quite strong, despite the fact that they're 'brand-less'. The included tires are Kenda Kwicks, which are pretty good.
The shifters are my least favourite part of the bike, but they definitely work. They're not integrated into the brake unit, which is a bit abnormal for a road bike, but they're still very functional and simple to use. The Shimano Tourney shifters are pretty basic, but that's why the bike is so affordable. If you're a casual rider or commuter, this is a nice option for you. If you're going to be riding pretty often, you might consider something with a groupset.
All in all, this is one of my favourite entry level road bikes because it's so affordable and fun to ride. The riding stance is somewhat aggressive and you'll love the nimble ride.
Amazon Price: $599.95 $299.95 Buy Now
(price as of May 6, 2015)
Diamondback Podium One:
A gorgeous entry style road bicycle with huge upside
In some cases you'll have a cheap road bike that's overpriced. This is the exact opposite situation! The Diamondback Podium 1 is a bike that should really be priced much higher than it currently is. I wouldn't be surprised if they hike it up in the next little while, but for the moment I'd encourage you to take advantage (it's about $499 at the time of writing).
Featuring a 7005 aluminum alloy frame, it's quite light. What's more, the frame is stunning and very nicely welded, with a subtle arch in the top tube and a somewhat triangular look.
It's a 24 speed bicycle, with a Shimano Sora rear derailleur and a 2300 front. The shifters are both 2300 as well. These shifters are integrated with the brake lever. The bottom bracket is sealed, which is always nice, and the crankset is an FSA Tempo Triple model.
The rims are 700c Equation alloy style, and they spin extremely smoothly. They are paired with Michelin Dynamic Sport tires that should prove very durable and smooth.
The bike stops on a dime with it's Tektro calliper brakes, which have a good amount of mechanical advantage. It's really nicely geared too, so you'll be able to sprint from a dead stop very quickly.
I'm essentially boggled that the price is so low on this model. It's a great quality entry level road bicycle that has a ton of upside and should provide years of enjoyment.
Amazon Price: $750.00 Buy Now
(price as of May 6, 2015)
If you're after a women's version, consider the Airen 1, which is almost identical but features a smaller frame.
Fun, quick and nimble. A great beginner road bike on a budget.
Tommaso Imola hasn't been around as long as some of the bigger names in the industry, but don't let that turn you off of them. They're a contender in this price range, and this is just one of a range of affordable entry level road bikes that they have on offer.
The Imola is a gorgeous bike at first look, with a well crafted frame and excellent paint quality. It's also available in a ton of different sizes, which is always a nice thing.
It features a 6061 aluminum alloy frame that's pretty darn light. The wheels are also alloy, with Weinmann rims paired to Kenda Kwick tires and good quality hubs. On the whole the bike is quite lightweight.
The shifters are Sunrace, and they're paired to Shimano ST2300 derailleurs on the front and rear. Again, the shifters don't compare to a super expensive groupset like Ultegra, but they're of good quality and will shift well enough for most people.
The brakes are Tektro and really nicely placed. If they're tuned up properly they'll stop you just about as well as a much more expensive set.
I'd definitely encourage you to check out Tommaso for the Imola, as well as their other models. They're all very reasonably priced for what they offer. The Imola in particular is a fantastic and cheap road bike for beginners.
Amazon Price: $799.99 Buy Now
(price as of May 6, 2015)
Note of Caution:
Finding the right ride for you.
If you've been hunting around online, you've probably already noticed that there are tons of inexpensive bikes kicking around the web. Many of them look pretty good in the photos and are pretty appealing, but I'd encourage you to be cautious. Only buy something that you're certain of.
Stick with quality brands, or failing that, customer reviews. There's only so much an advert can tell you, and finding out what someone else's experience has been is a huge benefit.
If you're not afraid of a project, you can save a bit of money by restoring a vintage bicycle back to working order. Your time and elbow grease will pay off if you choose well, and your vintage road bike will look great and get tons of looks if you restore it properly.
Good luck, and if you have any questions on brands I haven't covered, feel free to leave them at the bottom!