If you have limited budget and still want to buy a decent bike, you will need to research carefully. This is the category where every $50 extra can make a huge difference in the way your bike handles and rides, while $100 or $150 can be a difference between a good bike and a BSO (bike-shaped object). Still, there are many inexpensive, and still, great road bikes out there. We have reviewed most popular affordable bikes out there to save you some time and money.
Giordano Libero 1.6
Just like it’s more expensive counterparts, LIbero 1.6 features Claris components (however, not the entire groupset), and offers an impressive value for the money.
The frame is hand-made of 6061 aluminium alloy and has the classic geometry, where the top bar is completely parallel to road surface. It makes bike a universal choice for those cycling for hours or trying their first high-speed race.
Nashbar AL1 Sora
If on sale, this is definitely the best value you can get for $500 or less. No other bike in this category features a Sora groupset (which is a step up over Claris, most common here), and provides smooth and responsive switching. Even more, it already has a carbon fork for precise steering, and only a few other bikes at this price have it, too.
Bikes from other manufacturers who have this level of performance will probably cost between $700 and $850, if you find a good deal. So for five-hundred bucks or so, this is a no-brainer.
Pure Cycles Classic 16-Speed
If you like vintage-looking bikes, you will adore this model. A very strict triangle shape is neither leaning towards aggressive racing, nor upright endurance position. This means it can fit both styles if needed.
Most of components used here are Shimano Claris. We would also love to see a Claris crankset, but unfortunately, it uses a generic alloy combined with Sunrace cassette.
Considering the fact that in budget category there are not many classic road bikes with this build quality, we definitely recommend Pure Cycles 16-speed.
This is an extremely affordable road bike for those looking for maximum value at lowest price possible. It has basic Shimano Tourney components, however, not the entire groupset, which allowed the manufacturer to cut the costs.
We would recommend it to beginners cycling mostly on flat terrain without much of an elevation gain or drop. It still has a reliable and lightweight aluminium frame, but the components used are just not made for shifting under heavy load.
If your really low on budget, this is probably the bike to choose. If you can afford extra $100 or $150, we’d suggest to consider other options since you will get a much better bike.
Fascino is the cheapest road bike in entire Tommaso lineup, and it’s worth a closer look. Here we see classic Tommaso aluminium lightweight frame and full Tourney groupset. The latter comes as a little bit of surprise, because Tourney is usually used on mountain bikes, and can rarely be seen on road models in budget category.
Even though it’s a very basic groupset, it’s high-quality and what is more important, the manufacturer didn’t cut the corners by installing a lousy aftermarket crankset and cassette.
Overall it’s a great bike mainly because of the frame and good reputation of the brand. If you want to upgrade to better components in future - even better.
The downside - for the same amount of money you can get a bike from other brand with higher-level components.
It’s already not a surprise that you can find a bike with carbon fork under five hundred bucks, and Schwinn Focus is one of them. Components come as a standard in this category. Overall an average bike. Important: sometimes this bike is advertised as 14-speed, but actually it’s 16-speed.
What could be improved: breaks good be better. No worries, they will stop you, but we’d like to see more response.
Claris groupset is not complete and important parts like crank and shifters are replaced with less reliable aftermarket stuff.
A well-balanced road bike from a Taiwanese (yes, did you know $95% of bikes sold in the US are made there?) brand with good reputation.
From a quick look on the specs it’s clear that manufacturer didn’t cut the corners by using low-grade generic parts. You can see a high-quality 8-speed SRAM cassette combined with 3-speed Tourney crankset, which is a bit unusual in this category. Anyway, 24 speeds combined will offer an impressive versatility for beginners both on climbs and descents.
Frame is standard aluminum 6061, but somehow HASA has managed to keep the overall weight of the bike under 22 lbs, which is an impressive number.
Quite an impressive offering - except list of components, which comparable to other rivals at this price, unlike many of them, Triton has a carbon fork which will result in smoother ride and better vibration absorption.
Out of downsides we can mention that it took us a bit of time to get this bike assembled, even though many bikes come already assembled. Another point to mention - in our case rear derailleur required a serious tune-up before being ready to hit the road.
As our list above shows, if you spend a bit of time on research, you can buy a really decent bike. However, the “under 500” limit is actually quite broad, and we’d like to be more specific here. There’s a huge difference between bikes that cost $350 and those that go for $500. Can afford more? Great! Make sure to check our reference guide with more models.
Here’s what we mean. A $350 bike will usually have cheapest components installed, that can sometimes work a bit clunky together. At the same time, you can expect a full Shimano Claris (in case with Nashbar AL1 it will be even better Sora) groupset from a $500 bike that will have a carbon fork. Only $150 difference in price, incomparable difference in quality, feel and performance.
So, if $350 is maximum you can spend on a bike, we still would suggest to go for it. It can give you an understanding of road cycling, but you want to be aware of the cons for such approach. As a you progress further and want to upgrade, it will make no sense to replace a drivetrain, for example, because its cost will likely surpass that of your bikes MSRP. If you’re really into cycling, we would suggest selling that bike and purchasing a new one with better specs.
In case with $500 bike the situation is different. Not only it will completely satisfy your need for at least couple years to follow, it will make actual sense to upgrade it as you go.