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 Comp (2012/13)
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
+ 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
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
+ The slimmed-down frame is light, classy and stiff
+ Quality groupset and components for the money
– The firm ride feel might not appeal to everyone
– Orange bar tape won’t be to all riders’ tastes
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
+ Great groupset for the price – Sora is a massive step-up from 2300
+ Good build quality, and excellent transmission range
– It’s the heaviest here, and its upright geometry won’t appeal to racers
– Dual-density saddle can be an acquired taste
Giant Defy 1 (2012)
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
+ Offers great handling, comfort and versatility
+ Very good kit spec for the money, notably Shimano 105
– At this price and performance level it’s hard to fault
– A later wheel upgrade would make even more of the frame
Giant Defy 2 (2012)
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
+ Extensively shaped and lightweight frameset gives a brilliant ride
+ Quality parts include Tiagra 20-speed gears and external BB chainset
– Lighter wheelset would allow more of the frame’s speed potential
– Cartridge brake pads would sharpen up braking feel
Giant Defy 4 (2013)
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
+ Great for long-distance comfort and a highly versatile do-anything machine
+ Impeccable handling
– Taller head tube and longer chainstays reduce racing aspirations
– Brakes are OK but could be better
Kinesis Racelight TK3 (2013)
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
+ 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
Norco Valence A1 (2013)
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
+ 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
Merida Race Lite 900 (2013)
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
+ Very sophisticated frame and fork combo for the price
+ Quick to respond to rider input
– Wheels and brakes don’t quite match the quality of the frameset
– Shame it’s not possible to change gear when in the drops
Ribble Sportive Bianco (2012)
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
+ Comfortable for long-distance riding if sportives are your thing
+ Quality carbon frame and forks at an unbelievable price
– Lowest spec groupset of the quartet of bikes on test
– Quite heavy and poorly finished wheels, but easy to upgrade
Genesis Volant 00, £649.99
Moda Bolero, £999.99
Trek 1.5, £800