£1000 is a popular price point for people buying road bikes in the UK. £1000 gets you under the Cycle to Work limit and will get you a pretty decent bike. In this guide we look at the best road bikes for men and women under £1000 for the 2018 season.
All of the bikes we are looking at in this guide use an aluminium frame and a carbon fibre fork. Most will be fitted with either Shimano Sora or Shimano Tiagra gears. The biggest differences in these bikes come with the type of riding they are intended for and the design philosophy behind them.
Road Race v New Road
Road bikes are increasingly splitting into traditional road bikes, built to be light and fast, and ‘new road’ bikes built to be versatile and tackle more terrain. The new road variants will be happy tackling the odd cycle path, canal towpath or gravel path. If you are commuting, doing long endurance rides or riding on really rough roads then ‘new road’ is the way to go. But the price you pay for this extra versatility is that the bikes will be marginally heavier, slower and have less responsive handling.
Road race bikes are happier sticking to a nice clean bit of tarmac. If you want to race, or just go really fast on the road then the road race bikes are the ones to go for. These bikes will be lighter, faster and have quicker handling. If you are going to get seriously into road cycling for fun and are going to want to nail some good times, beat your friends, and keep up with the fastest guys on the local club ride then this is where you want to be. In this guide we’ll be looking at both types of road bike.
Disc Brakes v Rim Brakes
More and more road bikes under £1000 are now coming with disc brakes fitted. Most of the disc brake bikes at this price point will be of the ‘new road’ flavour which are intended for use on a variety of surfaces. Although the highest end disc brakes are now very light the ones at the £1000 price point still add a bit of weight to a bike and more weight = less speed. So if you are looking for a light race bike then rim brakes will be the better choice. If you are planning to use the bike through the winter, or for commuting, then discs will give you greater stopping power. So the decision of whether to go for disc brakes comes down to that balance of weight and versatility.
Where is the 2018 Specialized Allez?
Normally the first road bikes that we would recommend for under £1000 would be one of the Specialized Allez bikes. Unfortunately, Specialized have had issues with the forks on their 2018 bikes and they have asked all UK bikes shops not to sell them until they have been replaced. At the moment there is no firm date for when the 2018 Specialized Allez will go back on sale but we expect it to be before the summer.
Specialized Dolce Elite Women’s - £999.99
The fork issue is only a problem for the Specialized Men’s bike as women’s bikes like the Dolce Elite use a different fork. The Dolce Elite is best equipped of our £1000 road bikes. Where all of the other bikes we will be looking at use the Shimano Sora or Shimano Tiagra gears the 2018 Dolce Elite comes with Shimano 105 gears. All of these gears work in the same way but the quality, weight and durability improves as you go up the range. A bike with Shimano 105 gears should be lighter and have noticeably smoother gear shifting than a bike with Shimano Sora gears and there will be a marginal improvement over the Shimano Tiagra gears.
The Dolce Elite is also an 11 speed bike (meaning it has 22 gears total) while many of the other bikes we will be looking at are 9 or 10 speed (18 or 20 gears total). 11 speed is the latest standard so this means you are getting the best range of gears possible.
Specialized recommend the Dolce as a perfect first road bike, or first upgrade. It is a similar bike to the Trek Domane AL 3 that we’ll look at below in that it’s designed to be a stable and comfortable platform for doing longer rides on. This is definitely a road race bike, not a ‘new road’ bike intended to tackle gravel paths, but it is one where the aggressive edge has been dialled back. This makes it more forgiving for new riders who may not yet have the confidence for a purer race bike and who prioritise comfort over pure speed.
Cannondale Synapse Disc Tiagra Men’s and Women’s - £999.99
This bike is available in both men’s and women’s versions. The Synapse Disc Tiagra is on the ‘new road’ end of the road bike spectrum with Cannondale themselves saying the bike is suitable for “anything from fast group rides to daily commutes” and comes with a ‘sportive’ riding position. That means that the bike has a more upright riding positions, wider tyres and slight more relaxed handling than you would find on an out and out race bike.
If you are looking for a road bike to use for commuting then the Synapse Disc Tiagra is a perfect choice, especially as it has fitting points for full mudguards. We’ve also had several customer’s who’ve bought them for use as winter training bikes. While it will handle rough conditions the Synapse Disc Tiagra is still a fast bike and will do you great duty on weekend rides exploring your local roads. It’s relaxed riding position means it will be also comfortable for long sportives and endurance rides.
If you are looking for a really capable road bike that is still reasonably fast then the Synapse Disc is a good place to start your hunt. There is also a Sora equipped version of the same bike for £849 if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the full grand.
Whyte Dorset Men’s - £999
The Whyte Dorset is a similar bike to the Cannondale Synapse but takes it’s ideas to the next level. Like the Synapse the Dorset has been designed as a bike which will serve you well as a commuter during the week but can be pressed into service as a winter training bike or be used for weekend rides and sportives. This is not a bike built for out and out speed but for practicality and durability.
Whyte are the only bike brand in this list who design their bikes in the UK and as a result they have focussed on what British riders need. That means good mudguard fittings and easy to service reliable parts that won’t mind a bit of dirt and water. Whyte have put 9 speed Shimano Sora gears on this bike with a wider than normal set of ratios to make climbing steep British hills easier. They have also fitted it with really wide tyres (32c wide compared to 25c wide on the Dolce Elite) to soak up the bumps on rough British roads.
If you are primarily looking for a road bike for commuting, but one that will handle the odd weekend ride then the Whyte Dorset is a good option.
Trek Émonda ALR 4 Men’s - £1000
If the Cannondale Synapse Disc and Whyte Dorset are ‘new road’ bikes the Émonda ALR 4 is a proper old school race bike. This is a bike designed for two things, racing and being super light. If you want a road bike that is as fast as possible this is where you need to be looking.
The Émonda ALR 4 comes with a lightweight 300 series aluminium frame and carbon fork. The Émonda ALR 4 is the cheapest bike in the Émonda range and the frame is the same as the one used on the next couple of bikes up in the range so it’s a good platform to upgrade from. It comes equipped with the same Tiagra groupset as the Cannondale Synapse Disc which is a decent quality and reliable but can easily be upgraded as you go to make the bike even lighter.
If you want to try your hand at racing, want to do fast club rides, or really want to push your times on the local climbs then this is the bike to go for. It is probably not a bike you would want to commute on and it isn’t going to enjoy a trip down a canal towpath. This is a pure road bike for pure road cyclists.
Trek Domane ALR 3 Men’s - £1000
The Domane ALR3 is firmly in ‘new road’ territory and it comes equipped with Trek’s IsoSpeed Decoupler technology. The decoupler allows parts of the frame to be disconnected from each other and to move backwards and forwards when you hit bumps, effectively giving the frame a few mm of suspension. Originally developed for racing over the cobbles of classics like the Paris Roubaix, the IsoSpeed technology is designed to allow you to do long rides on rough roads without getting fatigued. It also means the bike can handle the odd bit of gravel or rough cycle path.
Although it is ‘new road’ capable the Domane ALR 3 ultimately descends from race bikes and is still intended to be fast. This is a bike that will let you keep up on the local club ride and post a decent time on sportives as well as being comfortable if you want to spend all day exploring country lanes.
Trek’s IsoSpeed Decoupler does come at a price though, the gears on the Domane ALR 3 are Shimano Sora, the same gears that come on the £849 version of the Cannondale Synapse and one rung down from both the Cannondale Synapse Tiagra and the Trek Émonda ALR 4 at the same price.
Trek Domane AL 3 Men’s and Women’s - £750
The Domane AL 3 is available in men’s and women’s versions. The Domane AL 3 is designed to be stable and comfortable over long distances. Trek market it as an endurance bike but one that is still quick and they recommend it as an ideal road first bike.
The Domane AL 3 comes with Shimano Sora gears, the same level as the ones fitted to the Domane ALR 3 at £1000. The reason the AL 3 is £250 cheaper is because it comes with a standard bike frame rather than one fitted with an IsoSpeed Decoupler. It also uses a slightly cheaper grade of aluminium. This means the bike is going to be slightly heavier which means it will be slightly slower. The weights of the 3 bikes stack up as:
- Trek Domane AL 3 £750 = 9.77 kg / 21.54 lbs
- Trek Domane ALR 3 £1000 = 9.44 kg / 20.81 lbs
- Trek Emonda ALR 4 £1000 = 8.89 kg / 19.60 lbs
With road bikes lighter = faster. So, spending the extra £250 will get you a lighter and quicker bike. The choice is whether you want to go really light and really fast with the Emonda, or a bit lighter and a bit faster with the Domane ALR 3.
Merida Scultura 200 Men’s - £850
The Merida Scultura is an interesting option at this price point. Merida are one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world and make bikes for a number of other well known brands in their factories. While Merida may not have the brand name power of some other bikes they are known for being fantastic value for money.
The Scultura 200 is a road race bike designed for pure speed and as you would expect from this type of bike it is light. It uses the same Shimano Sora gears as the Trek Domane ALR 4 but weights 2.2kg less, that tells you it has a seriously light frame and, as we keep saying light = fast. If you’ve got a £1000 to spend you could buy the Scultura 200 and use the £150 you save to upgrade some of the parts to make it even lighter. Merida know that this is a bike people are likely to want to upgrade and comes with a frame ready to accept electronic Di2 gears if you want to upgrade to them. If you want disc brakes then there is a disc version of the Scultura 200 at £950.