Best Road Bikes Under $1000 (Year 2018)
The agile, sleek designs of road bikes lend themselves to speed and performance, and are heavily preferred over other bike types for athletic training, racing, and general fitness.
Road bikes are instantly recognizable due to their dropped handlebars, which force a rider to lean forward in a more aerodynamic position than if they were sitting upright. What’s more, many road bikes allow for endurance racing, so racers can comfortably ride for longer periods than just a few quick sprints.
These speed machines do come with a price, though—and it’s often higher than you might expect from other bikes. Rest assured, this is for a reason: road bikes require very specific construction. They need to have a thin yet durable design, to ensure they’re capable of achieving such greatness, and strong enough to withstand such intense cycling.
All things considered, is it possible to find an excellent road bike for less than $1,000? Our buyer’s guide will assess some of our favorite road bikes in this price range, and answer common questions buyers might have.
I see some racers/athletes on touring bikes, hybrids, etc. How are these different from racing bikes? Is one better than the other?
In technical terms, a road bike is anything that is designed for smooth, hard roads (such as asphalt or concrete). In the bike world, however, road bikes are generally assumed to be racing bikes, meant for competing and training at high speeds.
They have an instantly recognizable look, thanks to their dropped handlebars and narrow tires, as well as the rider’s “leaning forward” position. The top bar is usually parallel to the ground or very slightly angled, although some women’s models have a deeper slant for easier mounting.
Hybrids, on the other hand, achieve a balance of comfort and speed, rather than specializing in one element over the other. They also have flat handlebars like mountain bikes, for better control, and are one of the most popular options available for general use.
Touring bikes are meant for comfort, too, but are meant to provide it on long casual or semi-casual bike rides, known as “tours.” They’re heavier, have wider tires, and feature rear carrier racks, water bottle mounts, and more, so riders can take everything they need along for the ride. Some endurance road bikes have mountain features, too, but are meant to carry lighter loads—a few snacks, water, and spare bike parts or tools.
As for one being better or worse, it all depends on your preferences, skills, and what you plan to use your bike for the most. For racing and training with speed as your primary concern, road bikes are the way to go.
Will I get uncomfortable leaning forward like that?
Riders come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no one sitting position that will suit everyone. Just because Lance Armstrong—or even that fit guy from the end of your block, who whizzes past every morning before you’ve even had your coffee—lean very far forward, doesn’t mean you have to. If you aren’t comfortable while riding, you won’t be able to ride very fast…or for very long.
Fortunately, there are ways to adjust your position without sacrificing much speed. Some riders increase or decrease their seat or handlebar heights, as needed. The lower your seat/higher your handlebars, the more upright your body will be (or vice-versa).
If your back is fine, but your feet, legs, or knees are aching after riding, the problem might be your pedals…or even your shoes! Road bikes require special riding cleats to properly lock into the pedals, and poor fit or alignment can cause unnecessary strain on your legs and joints.
Is there a significant difference between this price point and lower ones ($500 or less) or higher ones ($1500 and up)?
Yes and no. While you can find excellent bikes at almost any price, it largely depends on your needs and desires; some prices are just better at fulfilling riders’ wish lists than others.
Cheaper road bikes are usually made of cheaper materials, and might be prone to damage more quickly; they’ll have shorter lifespans than pricier bikes, which tend to use higher quality materials in their construction.
If you aren’t sure what to get, consider your skill level: beginners might benefit from a cheaper bike more, so they can practice without worrying they’ll damage their expensive new bike. And, if the person changes their mind about biking, they won’t be out an arm and a leg.
Pricier models than our $1,000-or-less range should feature very high-quality materials. You might see carbon frames in the $1,500+ realm, which has the strength of steel and the light weight of aluminum—the best of both worlds, but not exactly cheap.
So yes, the more money you pay, the better your bike will be or the longer it will last—but that doesn’t mean you have to shell out big bucks for a nice one, either.
What features should I look for in a road bike?
First, decide if you want a bike better suited for high-speed racing, or if you need one for longer rides at decently fast speeds. Some road bikes are made for racing and little else; endurance road bikes are meant for slightly less speed, and the long haul.
Next, consider your height. The most impressive bike in the world won’t perform well for you if it isn’t properly fitted; your control, posture, and speed will all be compromised with an ill-fitting bike. (Even the world’s cheapest bike will outperform a $5,000+ bike, if the former fits you and the latter doesn’t.)
The bike seat is important as well; endurance bikes will have wider ones than racing bikes, and women’s seats tend to be wider and shorter than men’s anyway, due to pelvic bone differences. Racing bike tires are usually 23mm or 25mm wide; endurance tires, 25mm or 28mm. 25mm is a good standard for road bikes, and the one you’ll probably notice the most when comparing models.
Brakes are another factor to consider. While linear-pull caliper brakes used to be the standard for road bikes, today riders can find products with disc brakes, instead. Caliper brakes are favored by racing bike manufacturers (and most riders), and endurance bikes use discs more often.
Top 4 Best Road Bikes Under $1000 Reviews
1. Schwinn Phocus 1600 Men’s Road Bike Review
Schwinn is a favorite brand with many riders, thanks to their affordable prices and long-standing name in the industry: cyclists and non-cyclists alike recognize a Schwinn. The Phocus 1600 is designed for high speeds and shorter rides, which puts it in the “racing” category of road bikes.
Sorry, endurance riders: the Phocus isn’t for you. For racers, though, this model can deliver premium speed and control, at a fraction of the price of other road bikes with comparable features. While we don’t expect professional racers to be seen on a Schwinn, we think it’s more about “big brand stigma” than overall quality, because the Phocus seems to deliver in that arena.
2. Tommaso Imola Compact Aluminum Road Bike Review
We’re not big fans of obvious branding or decals, but something about the Tommaso logo on their Imola model is very appealing. Maybe it’s because it echoes the bike’s overall aesthetic: clean lines, simple design, and big impact in an industry where so many bikes look the same.
Another eye-catching feature? The price. The Imola is very affordable for a road bike, and can help riders on a budget get back on the road in a flash.
The Imola is ideal for endurance riders, thanks to its specialized drivetrain, compact design, and options for fenders and racks. Our only qualm is the fact it’s not pre-assembled for customer completion, so you’ll have to take the whole thing to the local bike shop before you even see it put together. Still, for the price you’re paying, even an assembly fee isn’t going to put this bike anywhere near most road bikes on the market.
3. Raleigh Bikes Merit 2 Endurance Road Bike Review
Raleigh, like Schwinn, is old hat in the bike business: they’ve been around since the late 1800s, and have evolved right alongside the rest of the industry. In short, they know bikes.
The Merit 2, an endurance bike for mid-level riders, is one bike you definitely don’t want to overlook: its specs include Shimano derailleurs, alloy disc brakes, and a tapered fork for nearly effortless control.
Professional riders won’t look at the Merit 2 twice for anything other than a training/fitness bike, but that’s not really who Raleigh designed it for. Instead, this is made for mid-level riders stepping up from their beginner models, looking to spend a little more cash for a lot more performance. The Merit 2’s geometry will keep you riding comfortably, whether your trip is a quick early-morning ride, or an all-day affair to soak up the sights.
4. Vilano R2 Commuter Aluminum Road Bike Review
As useful in concrete jungles as it is on the open road, the Vilano R2 makes a great commuter option and racing model for the same reason: it’s built to go fast. Its responsive handling will have you zipping around other folks—whether they’re in cars, on the street, or alongside you in a race—with ease and confidence.
The most affordable option on our list, the Vilano R2 still packs a powerful punch. We recommend this to beginners more than mid-level/intermediate riders, although it would make a great option for either. We especially like its duality as a commuter option, so riders can employ this bike for everyday use, as well as recreational.
Road bikes were created, and have been perfected, to give riders the most speed they can, and the responsive control they need. It doesn’t matter if you’re still starting out, training for a big race, or just enjoy the thrill of fast-paced cycling: there are plenty of road bikes under $1,000 to suit your needs. Best of all, many of them can be discovered easily and assembled in a flash, so you can get out on the open road as soon as possible.