When I say entry-level bikes, I don’t mean cheap bikes, because as a beginner you need a solid machine to get you going and gradually help you fall in love with this great sport/recreational activity.
You also don’t need a $5000 machine either to accomplish this task.
That’s why we’ve done the tedious research and rounded up the best entry level road bikes to help you save time.
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6 Entry Level Road Bikes – Reviewed
Since many of us think of race bikes first when we talk about road bikes, let’s start with a race bike from Cannondale.
The CANNONDALE CAAD OPTIMO TIAGRA is the lightest bike on our roundup and it makes perfect sense because race bikes are all about speed and therefore have to be quite light. What’s surprising about it is that at 20.9lbs (9.5kg) the bike has an aluminum frame with a carbon fork.
This combination is quite common with aluminum race bikes because a bike fork is quite important and heavy, so making it out of carbon allows the bike to be lighter and stronger.
The bike comes in two colors and 8 sizes so that everyone can find their perfect fit.
You can see the Shimano Tiagra groupset in the rear/front derailleur, shifters, and brake levers. The CAAD OT has a 2×10 drivetrain meaning 20 gears.
- Carbon fork
- 8 sizes
- Weak rim brakes
This machine from Salsa is the perfect hybrid between touring and gravel. Most touring bikes are also considered gravel bikes because when camping you eventually do have to go off-road.
The aluminum-framed SALSA JOURNEYMAN FLAT BAR CLARIS 700 weighs 25.9lbs (11.7kg) and comes in 5 sizes.
Paired with the aluminum frame, the bike is fitted with the inhouse Fantail Aluminum fork. In terms of the groupset, you’ll find the Shimano Claris groupset which is the most basic road bike groupset.
The bike offers 16 speeds with a 2×8 drivetrain and is supported by Terevail Cannonball 700c x 38mm tires.
- High tire clearance
- Only one color
This is one good-looking bike from TREK. The TREK DOMANE AL 2 comes in 3 colors and 7 sizes.
The aluminum endurance bike has a carbon fork and is only 1.2lbs (0.5kg) heavier than our lightest bike. This bike too has a carbon fork hence the lightweight feature. The carbon fork used is an in-house brand.
The entry-level endurance bike features the Shimano Claris groupset except for the chain which uses a Shimano Sora groupset.
You get access to 16 gears with a 2×8 drivetrain paired with rim brakes and Bontrager 700 x 28c tires.
- Carbon fork
- Multiple colors and sizes
- Weak rim brakes
Commuter bikes are the cheapest type of road bikes and it can’t get any better than the TREK FX1 which is a commuter/fitness bike.
You can use it to get to work daily and then to burn some calories later on at the park.
This affordable bike has an aluminum frame but a steel fork which adds to the weight which is around 27.7lbs (12.6kg).
Even though commuter bikes are considered road bikes they usually use mountain bike groupsets and the FX1 features the most basic Shimano Tourney and Altus groupsets.
Along with the Bontrager 700 x 35c tires you get a 3×7 drivetrain and linear pull brakes
- Steel fork
Co-op cycles might not have the look but since its conception, they’ve been making some solid machines.
However, one look at the Matte Black ADV 2.1 and you’ll fall in love.
The aluminum butted frame paired with a carbon fork weighs 23.5lbs (10.7kg). The low weight again is all thanks to the carbon fork.
Since it’s an entry-level bike, you’ll find the lowest groupset in the Shimano Hierarchy giving you a total of 16 gears.
The 700c x 35mm tires form Kenda has a reflective patch as well.
- Reflective patch on tires
- Carbon fork
- Only one colour
This pure gravel bike from Trek weighs 23.1lbs (10.5kg) and has an aluminum frame paired with a carbon fork again.
What makes this bike different from the other gravel bikes we checked out is the groupset. The TREK CHECKPOINT AL 3 has a Shimano Sora groupset which is not the best but it’s better than the most basic Claris groupset.
The bike features a 2×9 drivetrain meaning 18 gears and is fitted with mechanical discs brakes.
You’ll find the Checkpoint AL 3 in 7 sizes and 3 colors.
- Carbon fork
- Uncomfortable seat
Entry Level Bike Guide
Why Aren’t Entry-Level Bikes the Same as Cheap Bikes?
The answer to this question is two-fold and depends on what your end goals are.
If you’re looking for a casual bike there are road bikes you can get for a couple of hundred dollars. These cannot be regarded as “entry” level bikes because they aren’t going to get you anywhere in your cycling journey. One bad experience and you can easily lose interest in cycling.
If you are passionate about cycling and want to “enter” the world of road cycling, we believe you need to find a balance between quality and price.
What do I mean by this?
As a beginner hoping to get somewhere, you shouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on a professional bike, but you also shouldn’t settle for a department store bike.
On the other hand, if you are strapped for cash but still very much interested in cycling, you could go with a cheap road bike because having a bicycle is better than having no bicycle at all.
Now that we’ve looked at what entry-level and cheap road bikes are, let’s dive into what you should expect from an entry-level bike.
What Are Entry-Level Bikes All About?
Let’s look at what you should pay attention to and then expand on each point.
The heart of your bike is the frame, no matter if you are a beginner or experienced rider, the first thing you should be paying attention to is the fork and frame of the bike.
Other components are important too but not as much as the frame because the components of a bike can easily be replaced. This is an important point to note especially for the enthusiasts who are on a tight budget.
Get the best frame you can with your budget. Then later when you’ve saved up, replace the components one by one and you’ll have a beast customized to your liking.
This is equally important for beginners who aren’t restricted by a budget and can buy the best beginner road bike, because once you pass the entry-level, then what?
Do you want to ditch the bike you’ve accustomed to and get a whole new feel for another bike?
As a rider who’s been in it to win it, I speak with personal experience when I say the more you ride the more you get to know your bike and the terrain you usually hit. You begin to understand what kind of tires suit you, how many gears you need etc.
Now that we know the frame is numero uno, let’s look at what kind of frames you should look at, types of road bikes, and other things in brief.
– FRAME MATERIAL
Even though there 4 types of material used on bikes, you’ll probably only find 3 of those used in Road bikes.
Bikes are made either from aluminum, carbon, titanium or steel. Road bikes are usually made of the first three because steel is quite heavy and road bikes are all about aerodynamics and speed.
As a beginner titanium is out of the question because not even veterans use titanium bikes.
Ideally, the best material for a road bike is carbon due to its lightweight characteristics. But not many entry-level bikes come in carbon and even if they do, the price is considerably higher.
Aluminum on the hand is cheaper and a bit heavier but with the advancement of technology, manufacturers have developed methods to make aluminum lightweight. Butted tubing is such an example where the joints use more material for strength and minimal material is used elsewhere.
Another reason why a premium aluminum frame might be better for a beginner is the fact that carbon is more prone to crack in the case of an accident.
Crashes do happen to anyone regardless of the experience level, but beginners are more likely to crash.
– FRAME ANGLE
You probably can’t say decide this in the beginning but if you do have back problems, you might want to pick a more upright angle like that of a sporty road bike compared to an aggressive attack position of a race bike.
Usually, road bikes come with either 1x or 2x drivetrains paired with 8 or 9 gears in the back.
An important thing to note is that more gears do not mean high speed, it just means that there’s a wide range to find your ideal pedal speed. You might want to go for more gears as a beginner because you are just developing your pedal strokes and you need to efficiently find that pace.
Shimano is probably the most famous brand when it comes to bike groupsets and at the entry-level you should be looking for the Claris, Sora, or Tiagra groupset. If you’re lucky enough you might even spot one or two with the 105 groupsets.
The best road bikes under 500 will 90% of the time have the Claris groupset but moving close to the $1000 mark you’ll find other groupsets as well.
- Road Biking for Beginners – Best Road Bikes Under $1000
- Get Those Calves Pumping with the 10 Best Road Bikes Under $2000
Road bikes usually have 700c wheel sizes but what you should pay attention to is the tire diameter.
You should always avoid super skinny wheels as a beginner because stability is key.
650b wheel sizes are also gaining traction on gravel bikes.
– TYPES OF ROAD BIKES
- Race bikes: As the name suggests these super lightweight machines are all about speed. So, everything about the bike from the geometry to the tires are designed to reach maximum speed.
- Gravel bikes: These bikes are like a hybrid between mountain and road bikes but leaning more towards the latter. They can tackle passive trails and are super comfortable for long rides
- Endurance bikes: Exactly like your race bikes but with emphasis on comfort rather than speed. So, expect an upright position instead of an aggressive riding position.
- Commuter bikes: What many don’t realize is that commuter bikes also come under road bikes because after all they are designed to go on pavements and roads as well.
- Touring bikes: Take your endurance bikes and put the focus on strength instead of comfort because these bikes are made to carry heavy loads.
Now that you know about the best road bikes for beginners and had a quick lesson on what entry-level bikes are, we hope you are informed enough to pick the right one. Keep in mind that the frame is most important and everything else comes after.
We hope you make the best choice and enjoy your cycling experience.