The bike industry is quite interesting. Just a few years back, you had to have a ballooning bank account to own a premium road bike with state-of-the-art technologies, such as the coveted Shimano Drivetrain. The sheer ability to “trickle down” technologies in the industry, makes it highly competitive and hence, beneficial to the end consumer. In a nutshell, it is now very possible to own a quality cheap road bike for fitness or commuting purposes – from the comfort of your home, through equally effective online platforms such as Amazon.
Road bikes are currently trending and for good reasons. Ever had the pleasure of maneuvering through snarled up faces, stuck in traffic? If you have, you probably get the drift. These bikes are just pretty darn convenient for the modern commuter and not to mention, the health benefits that come as a result of riding on a daily basis. All said, investing in one of these is a really good idea but, there is a challenge you must sufficiently prepare for, and that is getting the perfect bike, on a budget.
Now personally, I have never been the one to mind about spending on any great fitness equipment. However, I also enjoy other outdoor activities and therefore, investing in an expensive model wouldn’t obviously be in my wallet’s best interest. If you lie under this category, it is worth noting that there are great entry-level bikes out there, you can use to meet your needs. Lucky for you, we did all the research and testing to ease the burden in your quest for fitness. Before going through the best options you possibly have, let’s go through some factors to consider while out shopping for a good entry-level road bike.
The Ultimate Entry-level Road Bikes Buyer’s Guide:
For non-cycling enthusiasts, $500 may seem like a hefty amount to part with, for a road bike. However, those that have been at it for years will tell you that this amount is quite a bargain, especially if the prospective bike, sports fancy features such as a carbon fiber fork, butted aluminum frame or Shimano Drivetrain. That said, you can pride yourself in owning a fully-fledged all-rounder, able to withstand the harsh winter climate, dirt trails, commuting applications and sports riding; at pocket-friendly costs.
The features to look at are, well, pretty straight forward – an affordable price, durable frame, and quality components. Brands such as Kestrel, Giordano Libero, and Schwinn have great options, from as little as $500. Be quick to scrutinize the size options available, weight, tires fitted and fork flexibility. When it’s all said and done, you should be just fine with picking any of the cheap options offered below. This is strictly for those on a tight budget, out for the cheapest option available.
Reviewing the Best Entry-Level Road Bikes Under $500 – 2016:
Our Pick – The Vilano Aluminum 21 Speed Road Bike ($250 – $350) –
Vilano has come a long way and improved over recent years to become one of the leading road bike manufacturers in the highly volatile market. This can be attributed to their knack for consistency and crafting affordable, quality bikes for the masses. If you ask me, the Vilano 21 Speed is exactly how an entry-level cheap road bike should look like, but sadly, most manufacturers have other ideas. The Vilano road bike adopts all high-end engineering tricks and aesthetics found in some premium models, only without the extra zeros – Currently, it costs between $250 – $350.
The Specs and Features:
The Frame and Fork – Viliano decided to go with a double-butted 6061 aluminum frame synonymous with some premium bikes that usually cost around $1500. For starters, the material is really sturdy and you can expect it to serve you for decades, if not a lifetime; without losing its shine. On the flip side, it’s one of the lightest materials that can be used to create a solid bike, besides carbon fiber. The result is a relaxing and less tiring ride that doesn’t require you to exert much effort while pedaling. Considering the price, the aluminum 6061 frame is quite a refreshing change from the norm.
To complement the lightweight frame, Viliano decided to go with a 700c Threadless fork, which is great at absorbing shock while riding through dirt trails. This makes it quite easy to navigate over roots, rocks, and other obstacles, just in case you decide to go out for an adventure in the woods.
The Components – as you would expect from any quality road bike, it features Shimano A050 trigger shifters, which makes transitioning as smooth as heated butter. It is considerably less expensive compared to those entailed in premium models, but, doesn’t feel any different by all standards. It gets the job done in an optimal fashion and if well maintained, you can expect it to last for slightly over half a decade without any hitches. Moreover, it comes with a super-low gear that makes climbing walls not seem like a far-fetched idea.
- The Vilano 21 speed bike comes in a wide range of sizes, meaning finding one, regardless of how heavy or tall you may be, won’t be a problem. The manufacturers ensured that all people, body shapes and sizes, are catered for. Quite thoughtful.
- For those thinking about getting in shape for an upcoming road competition, this beast is fast enough to keep you leading the pack throughout a triathlon contest. Not only this, it is a light bike weighing around 25 pounds only, and this combined with the super efficient 21-speed gear, makes up for a dashing riding experience, ideal for pro athletes.
- The Vilano is simply an all-rounded product designed for triathlon competitors (also on a budget), commuters, fitness enthusiasts and bikers at large. It comes with helpful mount points, an exceptional frame and more importantly, very easy to assemble. Considering the great price of approximately $290, it is indeed the best road bike you want to invest in, as an entry-level biker or commuter.
Finding a flaw in the Vilano was similar to being sent on a wild goose chase – impossible. However, we noticed that it slightly falls short of offering much of a challenge for the extremely intense pro athletes seeking to stretch to the limit. However, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for any biker making a debut, considering its all-rounded nature.
In a nutshell, the 21 speed Vilano is the closest thing to neat since diced pineapples; for those on a budget. It is fun, adventurous, sleek, smooth and everything else in between. Again, considering the great price, there isn’t much to complain about.
Runner Up – The Schwinn Prelude ($ 300) –
Any road bike review without at least a single Schwinn product is not quite complete. Indeed, the manufacturer has built a solid reputation of producing quality, affordable bikes that bear ubiquitous appeal. The prelude is a good example of a popular entry-level road bike designed to rival those in the pre-1000 price range. It also scores huge in its design and overall style. Generally, it is a pretty sturdy bike meant for those making a cycling debut or perhaps, seeking to upgrade to a more stylish brand. With that, let’s have a look at some of the simplistic, but essential features entailed in the superior engineering of the Schwinn Prelude.
The Frame and Fork – aluminum road frames are nothing new to road bikes, but with the Schwinn prelude, you get a well-crafted 55 cm lightweight aluminum drop-bar road frame for agile riding. The solid frame is then attached to a quality road fork with the ability to absorb trail imperfections, meaning you need not worry if you regularly hit the woods once in a while too.
The Components – as for the gears, the Prelude decided to go for the reliable Shimano A050 shifters fitted in most premium models, alongside featherweight alloy cranks to keep you pacing all the way. It is a 14-speed beast that will blow your mind away while dashing on the highway.
Safety- As far as your safety is concerned, Schwinn decided to throw in crafty toe clips and straps on the pedals backed by swift dual pivot road brakes just in case you want to come to a sudden halt. Safety and comfort go hand in hand and hence, the main reason why Schwinn went out of its way to ensure that the Prelude is one of the most comfortable road bikes thanks to a combination of thoughtful features such as the slightly slanted Schwinn road saddle.
- The best part about the Prelude (and technically, all bikes on this list) is the fact that it offers all-round performances regardless of terrain or weather. In fact, you can certainly look forward to completing your very first century with this beast, but only if you train all summer.
- Another benefit pegged to investing in the Prelude is its exemplary aesthetic appeal, bound to score you points everywhere you go – even among the pros. It is beautifully crafted with ideally positioned curves and edges – eye-candy. In short, it paints the perfect picture of the ideal novice-on-a-budget road bike, built to the standards and workmanship of a premium road bike.
Unfortunately, the Schwinn weighs about 30 pounds, which is slightly more than you would expect for a bike in its league. On the bright side, though, this translates to durability.
The Prelude is certainly not the bike for those seeking to go pro, or even, those that cycle for long distances every day. However, it is a perfect place to start considering the great price and safety features it boasts. Enthusiasts after a stylish-looking road bike can also benefit from its ubiquitous appeal.
On a Budget Option – The Takara Kabuto Single Speed Road Bike ($200):
Takara is a road bike manufacturer that has been around for quite a while now and even though it often fell short of meeting the dynamic biking industry demands with previous models, it has come into its own with great products such as the Takara Kabuto Road Bike. Now, if you believe in the common adage that first impressions mean everything, this bike will likely lure you from the start. It comes in two stylish color schemes – black and yellow, or blue and green – which are very unique and categorically ideal for the bold. Besides this, there is the very affordable price (just, under $140) to look forward to. Let’s now delve on the basics, shall we?
The Frame and Fork – the frame is made of steel which makes it one of the most durable products, with an extended lifespan guaranteed to serve you for years. The rest of the bike takes a frugal approach to take care of the weight issues pegged to the steel frame and thus, crafted using alloy material. According to our schematics, it weighs just under 30 pounds, which is significantly heavy but doesn’t in any way feel like it is.
The Components – the best part about the Kabuto is the comfortable 42.3 cm wide, handlebars. They are just perfect for those that take long rides on it or use it on a daily basis. The “Kenda Yellow” tires are also worth a mention, and for those that often enjoy hitting dirt trails, the Kabuto won’t let you down. We found that the most comfortable tire pressure for the Kabuto wheels is between 100 – 110 PSI meaning it lets you feel the road’s grit, without letting you lose control while at it.
- The price tag is, of course, the best part of the bike, but other than this, you should look forward to the well tuned single speed feature, which means that you don’t have to worry about shifting gears every now and then.
- The Kabuto is also one of the most comfortable bikes around just in case you didn’t know. It sports thicker and larger tires than your ordinary bike, besides a padded seat designed to keep you relaxed throughout the bumpy ride. In a nutshell, both experts and Kabuto road bikes concur that it is a strong, handcrafted road bike that is really reliable and convenient for the regular commuter or fitness enthusiast. It is also significantly easy to assemble and very user-friendly after that.
Unfortunately, the Kabuto’s brake quality is really wanting. This is not to say that it is in any way unsafe for the regular rider, but the manufacturer could do better, that’s all.
All said, the Takara Kabuto is the bike to own – more so for entry-level bikers and commuters seeking a durable bike with great ride quality. This is not the bike to go for if you are finicky about gears and all, rather, for those that commute on a daily basis to and from work or school. As far as single speed bikes go, the Kabuto is certainly right up there with the cream of the crop.
The Upgrade Pick – Tommaso Imola Lightweight Sports Road Bike ($499):
Similar to most Italian craftsmanship, the Imola is built to attain super speeds while still managing to become one of the most appealing road bikes in the pack. Unlike bikes in its caliber, the Tommaso Imola is carefully handcrafted and properly curved to meet the aesthetic needs of entry-level individuals making a biking debut. Indeed, the bike has a lot going for it as you get to learn from the features below.
The Frame and Fork – some road bikes are light, but only few can boast of having the featherweight features the Imola bears. To put it into perspective, the handcrafted bike is created upon a lightweight SLA 6061 aluminum frame, with a complementing High Modulus Carbon fiber fork designed to keep you in full control. This not only makes the bike really light but comfortable as well.
Components – as you may have learned, the best Drivetrains are Shimano and being a quality road bike, the Imola is no different. It is fitted with Shimano Claris Derailleurs, crankset and shifters for easy transitioning as you don’t have to move your hands while at it.
- With the Imola, you need not fret over tedious and time-consuming assembling applications, thanks to simplistic instructions, unlike other road bikes. At first, you may be intimidated by the fact that it comes in a box. However, it takes less than half an hour to bring it to life and embark on your fitness quest.
- You simply cannot list the benefits pegged to the Imola without mentioning the light weight features it bears. Indeed, the Tommaso product is among the lightest entry-level road bikes you can get your hands on which also translates to one of the fastest too.
Unfortunately, it is not the cheapest road bike on our list and you will have to fork out more than $499 to own this great product. While the price may not be friendly to all enthusiasts out there, it is certainly a worthwhile investment altogether.
In conclusion, investing in the Imola is a pretty good idea more so if you are just getting started as a biker. It is not quite the all-rounder you would want due to some comfort issues in dirt trails. However, it is the best upgrade pick and thus, worth a spot on our list.
Also Great – GMC Denali Road Bike ($220):
If you have been biking for a while now, you are probably aware that GMC is one of the most popular road bike manufacturers, thanks to a string of innovative products such as the Denali. According to experts, it is among the best bikes for commuters and entry-level individuals for some good reasons which we sought to find out. Below, is a comprehensive overview of the Denali.
The Frame and Fork – similar to most road bikes in its price range, the Denali comes equipped with a highly durable and lightweight aluminum frame, which is effective at facilitating control even at high speeds. The fork is also really light for simplistic maneuvering on both roads and dirt trails.
Components – of course, you would only expect a Shimano Drivetrain, and the Denali doesn’t disappoint with the Shimano Derailleur and Revo shifts that work optimally at the seamless shifting of gears. It comes in a box, and ardent DYI enthusiasts should be able to put it up in just under thirty minutes or so. However, it is advisable to take it to the nearest bike shop for further adjustments, more so for the regular commuter that crisscrosses the city on a daily basis.
Why invest in a GMC Denali? Well, it can be because of the great price tag of just under $220, or perhaps, the fact that it is one of the most reliable road bikes on the market currently. In short, there are a number of great benefits pegged to the bike and if you don’t believe me, try investing in one to see for yourself.
Unlike most bikes on our list, the Denali is quite a heavy bike and this may take a toll on soccer moms. Other than this, you can look forward to a great riding experience altogether.
If you are looking for the lightest road bike out there, this is not the place to look. However, this is the ideal option for entry-level bikers on a budget, or those seeking for a reliable road bike to get them to and fro.
Wrapping it Up:
From the above, you can see that there is indeed a wide array of great products on the market, especially if you are just getting started. Purchasing your first bike can be one of the most challenging tasks, but thanks to our expert review above, it shouldn’t cause sleepless nights anymore. The above list just scratches the surface on the infinite number of great products on the market. As an entry level biker looking to stamp authority, your safest bet lies in the above options.