Hit the Road

The Best Road Bike for Every Budget


June 18, 2018 Buying Guides By Photo by Henry Phillips
From Issue Six of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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Road cycling is an exceedingly expensive obsession. While pedals, cleats, helmets, shoes, jerseys and bib shorts are all pricey (and prerequisite), the biggest investment you’ll make is your bike. The general rule in cycling is “the more you spend, the better quality you’ll get,” but there are exceptions to that rule. There is value to be had at every price tier and at every turn in your trip down the rabbit hole.

Trek Domane AL 3


Best Bike for Tight Budgets: If there is one brand name in the cycling space that virtually every person knows, it’s Trek. Based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, the brand is by far the most historic and important bike maker in the US, and the Domane AL 3 lives up to the brand’s reputation. At its core, the Domane AL 3 is a basic road bike, but it shares a pinch of DNA with Trek’s high-end flagship road bike the Domane SLR. If you’re operating on a Cup O’Noodles budget, but still want to explore the world of road cycling, this is your bike.

Specialized Allez Elite


Best Entry-Level Bike: There are few things that the cycling world agrees upon, but the fact that the Specialized Allez Elite is the best entry-level road bike money can buy is among them. At $1,200, the quality of the Specialized SmoothWeld aluminum frame simply cannot be beaten. The technology allows Specialized to create a super strong frame using less material in comparison to traditional techniques — which makes for a lighter bike. A Shimano 105 groupset and Tektro Axis brakes round out the build. A bike with comparable specs, like Cannondale’s CAAD Optimo 105, will run you $150 more. Not only that, but you’ll also take a 1.3-pound weight penalty by opting for the Cannondale. If you’re just getting into cycling, this is the single best purchase you can make.

Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0


Best Intermediate Bike: When Canyon finally started shipping bikes to the US in August of 2017, it was a serious value proposition. The direct-to-consumer business model allows Canyon to offer bikes at significant price cuts compared to the competition. The Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 comes equipped with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and disc brakes, DT Swiss PR 1600 Spline DB wheels, a
Fizik Antares R5 saddle and Canyon’s high-quality stem, handlebar, fork and seatpost. Similarly equipped bikes from Cannondale, Specialized and Trek retail for $3,000. While $200 may not seem like significant savings, a tune-up at your local bike shop will run you about $150 — and you’ll still have plenty of money left over for beer.

Alchemy Atlas Ultegra Di2


Best Expert Bike: It’s difficult to talk about value in reference to high-end road bikes without coming off as a bit out of touch. That being said, there is value to be had in Alchemy’s Ultegra Di2 build of the Atlas. For $7,500, you get one of Alchemy’s tried-and-true carbon framesets kitted with all ENVE everything: Road 1.25-inch fork, Road Compact handlebar, Road stem, Road seatpost and SES 3.4 wheels. Alone, those ENVE parts would run you $4,000 at retail. Toss in another $1,200 or so for the Ultegra Di2 groupset, and you’ll start telling everyone about what a bargain you got on your brand-new $7,500 bike.

BMC Roadmachine 01 One


Best Bucket List Bike: At the pinnacle of road bike design, engineering and performance sits BMC’s Roadmachine 01. It’s superlative in every way: frame, design, color scheme, parts — it all aligns to create the dream road bike. If money were no issue, and we were tasked with buying a complete bike off the shelf, this is the one. For the price, which is aspirational, you’re getting some serious upgrades like Shimano Dura Ace Di2 electronic shifting, completely integrated cable routing, DT Swiss ERC 1100 DICUT Db 47 Carbon wheels and an integrated bar and stem. Not to mention, it comes with the only tires road bikes should ever have, 28mm Vittoria Corsas.

Read More in Gear Patrol Magazine


A version of this story appears in Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Six, more than 220 pages of guides and reports that put product first. Subscribe Now: $39