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All of the best sub-£1,000 bikes we’ve reviewed in one handy source

If you’re just starting out in triathlon, there’s no point investing in a super-expensive, super-aerodynamic TT bike. Instead, what you need is a road bike that’s simple to get to grips with, ideal for training and, with the addition of a set of clip-on aero bars, fine for racing too.

Here you’ll find our archive of the top-scoring sub-£1,000 road bikes we’ve tested, with all receiving at least 4/5. They’re listed in alphabetical order, and were all still available to buy at time of publication.

You can find more bike reviews in our triathlon bike reviews archive.


Boardman Road CompBoardman Road Comp (2012/13)
£949
boardmanbikes.com

Boardman has always offered great value for money, and with its sponsorship of the all-conquering Brownlee brothers, the brand has lots of multi-sport credibility too. The Road Comp sits right in the middle of the Performance Road series, sharing a frame and fork with the slightly cheaper Boardman Race. Out of the box, it’s great for training and entry-level racing.

Read the full Boardman Road Comp review

Pros
+ Distinctive, lightweight and high-performance frame
+ Properly lively, race-ready feel at a great price

Cons
– Massive gear range leaves gaps in flatter terrain
–  Not available in independent bike shops

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Cinelli Experience VeloceCinelli Experience Veloce (2012)
£999.99
cinelli.it / chickencycles.co.uk

Cinelli is a brand with over half a century of history and heritage, and while the Italian company is well known for its components, it also makes some stylish bikes. The Experience sits towards the lower end of the range, but don’t let that fool you – this well-specced machine is a real mover with racing in its DNA.

Read the full Cinelli Experience Veloce review

Pros
+ The slimmed-down frame is light, classy and stiff
+ Quality groupset and components for the money

Cons
– The firm ride feel might not appeal to everyone
– Orange bar tape won’t be to all riders’ tastes

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


Felt Z95

Felt Z95 (2013)
£649
evanscycles.com / saddleback.co.uk

Mirinda Carfrae and Becky Lavelle are among the triathletes who reached the podium on Felt bikes in 2012. The American company’s bikes always look the part, but its Z95 endurance machine has brought something more tangible than just good looks to the party at this pricepoint: nine-speed Shimano Sora shifting.  It majors in comfort over all-out performance, but would make a great long-distance machine if its upright position suits you.

Read the full Felt Z95 review 

Pros
+ Great groupset for the price – Sora is a massive step-up from 2300
+ Good build quality, and excellent transmission range

Cons
– It’s the heaviest here, and its upright geometry won’t appeal to racers
– Dual-density saddle can be an acquired taste

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


Giant Defy 1Giant Defy 1 (2012)
£999
giant-bicycles.com

Giant is one of the world’s biggest producers of high-end bikes, manufacturing millions of units annually in Taiwan and in mainland China. It also set the pattern for today’s compact frames back in the mid-1990s. The Defy is Giant’s most popular road bike, designed for long days out but light enough for competitive duties too. The second-from-top Defy 1 model’s sub-9kg weight and stiff frame make it great on the climbs, and it shines elsewhere too, with responsive handling and comfort in spades.

Read the full Giant Defy 1 review

Pros
+ Offers great handling, comfort and versatility
+ Very good kit spec for the money, notably Shimano 105

Cons
– At this price and performance level it’s hard to fault
– A later wheel upgrade would make even more of the frame

Performance 5/5
Value 5/5
Overall 5/5


Giant Defy 2

Giant Defy 2 (2012)
£799
giant-bicycles.com

Even with functional rather than fancy finishing kit and wheels, the remarkably ‘floated’ ride sensation of the Defy frame is still very much present on the mid-range Defy 2. Where other bikes at this price rattle, rumble and chatter, the Defy glides smoothly. What’s especially clever about this bike, though, is that the compliance and comfort doesn’t come at the expense of powertrain stiffness or steering accuracy.

Read the full Giant Defy 2 review

Pros
+ Extensively shaped and lightweight frameset gives a brilliant ride
+ Quality parts include Tiagra 20-speed gears and external BB chainset

Cons
– Lighter wheelset would allow more of the frame’s speed potential
– Cartridge brake pads would sharpen up braking feel

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


Giant Defy 4

Giant Defy 4 (2013)
£599
giantbicycles.com

The Defy 4 is one of the best entry-level all-rounders out there. It’s not a super-fast machine, but the balance it offers you allows you to go at a decent speed all day long and then come back for more the next.

Read the full Giant Defy 4 review

Pros
+ Great for long-distance comfort and a highly versatile do-anything machine
+ Impeccable handling

Cons
– Taller head tube and longer chainstays reduce racing aspirations
– Brakes are OK but could be better

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


Kinesis TK3

Kinesis Racelight TK3 (2013)
£1,170
kinesisbikes.co.uk

The UK-designed TK3 replaces the very popular TK2 in the Kinesis range, aiming to be a true four-season bike – the design intent is light and race-ready, but practical with it, with room for big tyres and mudguards.

Read the full Kinesis Racelight TK3 review

Pros
+ Hugely successful mix of performance and practicality
+ Excellent, highly-developed frame and fork package

Cons
– Relatively high overall weight for the price
– Respectable but not outstanding component spec

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5


Norca Valence A1

Norco Valence A1 (2013)

£1,000
evanscycles.com

In the UK Norco is better known for mountain bikes than road bikes but in its native Canada, it’s a big player in all sectors of the bike market. The A1 is top of the four-bike aluminium Valence range. It offers a superb specification for the money, but it’s more than just a bunch of decent parts – the ride’s great too.

Read the full Norco Valence A1 review

Pros
+ Great spec offers startling value for money
+ Impressively comfortable for long rides

Cons
– Long head tube limits bar height adjustability
– May not suit more aggressive riders

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


Merida Racelite 900

Merida Race Lite 900 (2013)
£599.99
meridabikes.com

Merida is one of the world’s biggest bike manufacturers and it also has strong links with Specialized, owning a third of the American company. The bikes it produces under its own name aren’t that well known in Europe, but the Race Lite 900 – the cheapest of Merida’s 19 road bikes – offers a lot of bang for your buck. If you’re looking for speed on a budget you won’t be disappointed, whether you’re after a high-end training bike or your first racing bike. It’s a great frameset with impressive acceleration and handling.

Read the full Merida Race Lite 900 review

Pros
+ Very sophisticated frame and fork combo for the price
+ Quick to respond to rider input

Cons
– Wheels and brakes don’t quite match the quality of the frameset
– Shame it’s not possible to change gear when in the drops

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Ribble Sportive BiancoRibble Sportive Bianco (2012)
£994.95
ribblecycles.co.uk

Preston-based Ribble was founded in 1897 and is still going strong. Why? Because its internet sales model has enabled its to keep costs down and value up to almost unheard-of levels. Using its online frame builder you choose the kit yourself, our Shimano Tiagra-equipped, carbon fibre Sportive Bianco coming in at under a grand. The overall weight is very competitive but it’s the ride quality that really sets carbon apart from its aluminium competitors, even on this modestly priced model. Once you get it up to speed on a bright, sunny day you’ll appreciate the extra comfort as the miles start to sail by unnoticed.

Read the full Ribble Sportive Bianco review

Pros
+ Comfortable for long-distance riding if sportives are your thing
+ Quality carbon frame and forks at an unbelievable price

Cons
– Lowest spec groupset of the quartet of bikes on test
– Quite heavy and poorly finished wheels, but easy to upgrade

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


ALSO TESTED

Genesis Volant 00, £649.99

Moda Bolero, £999.99

Trek 1.5, £800