We review four of the best road bikes under £1,000
In an ideal world we’d all have the budget (and space) to maintain an arsenal of single-minded bikes for different purposes. In reality, things need to double up a bit. The bikes in this test cover a lot of bases. They’re all designed with performance in mind, with lightweight frames and carbon fibre forks, but all can be fitted with full mudguards and most will take a rack too.
This sort of bike is very versatile. They’ll make light work of long commutes, and mudguards are essential for getting the miles in during winter training (especially if you ride in a group). When the weather improves, take the mudguards off and you’ve got bikes ready for speed. And if you’re just getting into triathlon, there’s no reason you couldn’t race these bikes for at least your first few race outings.
This isn’t a style of bike that the big, mainstream manufacturers really see a worthwhile market for, so some smaller brands get a look-in for this test, with three of the four bikes we lined up being UK-designed rides.
Boardman Road Comp
Boardman has always offered great value for money, and with its sponsorship of the all-conquering Brownlee brothers it’s got 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, but add mudguards and you’ve got a practical fast commuter. It’s biased towards the sporty end of the spectrum, which will be exactly what many riders are looking for.
Read the full Boardman Road Comp review
+ Distinctive, lightweight and high-performance frame
+ Properly lively, race-ready feel at a great price
– Massive gear range leaves gaps in flatter terrain
– Not available in independent bike shops
UK-based Moda runs a two-year update cycle for its bikes, and for 2013-14 the Bolero has had a refresh. Apart from the limited-edition Intro, the Bolero is the cheapest bike in the Moda range. It’s a well-balanced package, and we like the fact that Moda has put a strong budget into important parts like the wheels. The Bolero may not have the long-term upgrade potential of some of the competition, but it does an excellent job at doing what it was designed to do.
Read the full Moda Bolero review
+ Sprightly feel with confidence-inspiring neutral handling
+ Well-balanced component spec and low weight
– Handlebar shape and shifter ergonomics won’t suit everyone
– Shift transmission is OK but not as good as Shimano or SRAM
Norco Valence A1
Norco is best known in the UK for its mountain bikes, but in its native Canada it’s a big player, with a vast range covering hybrids, kids’ bikes and, of course, road bikes. The Valence A1 is top of the four-bike aluminium Valence Road Endurance/Fitness range. It’s a versatile, well-equipped and comfortable bike that’s more than capable of delivering a satisfying and rewarding ride. Add mudguards and it’d be at home as an all-conditions fast commuter or winter trainer, and in its out-of-the-box specification it’s well suited for big training miles. It’s not going to embarrass you in a first race season, either.
Read the full Norco Valence A1 review
+ Great spec offers startling value for money
+ Impressively comfortable for long rides
– Long head tube limits bar height adjustability
– May not suit more aggressive riders
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. As it stands, it’s a lively but comfortable winter trainer or fast commuter. Pop the mudguards off and maybe fit lighter tyres and it’s ready for summer sportives or a first race or two. If you need more speed, then the best option is to upgrade the wheels. The highly developed frame and full carbon fork are well worth hanging onto, and that’s not something that can be said for all mid-range bikes.
Read the full Kinesis TK3 review
+ Hugely successful mix of performance and practicality
+ Excellent, highly-developed frame and fork package
– Relatively high overall weight for the price
– Respectable but not outstanding component spec
Considering how similar in concept and price they are, these four are actually quite different both in character and equipment. The bikes fall into two obvious categories, with the Kinesis and Boardman being steeper, road-race-inspired bikes, and the Moda and Norco offering a more stable feel.
The Kinesis is deliberately specced as a winter trainer, a job it does well. Even with some extra weight, the quality of the frame and fork shines through. The Boardman has a lighter, performance-orientated spec.
The Moda and Norco, while similar in shape, differ in feel. The Moda is stiffer and accelerates better, while the Norco is more comfy. The TK3 has a brilliant frame and fork, but is just edged out on value as a full bike. The Moda is light but the MicroSHIFT transmission, while competent, doesn’t make us want to ditch Shimano and SRAM.
The Boardman is an excellent package, but for a crossover commuter/trainer we’d pick the Norco – it’s superbly equipped and just the job for getting the miles in.