Cycling is a great activity that offers myriad benefits. It’s a way to get much-needed exercise and stay in shape, an effective stress-reliever, and a mess of getting around town reasonably quickly and without contributing to environmental pollution — among other things. But if you’re only now looking to get into cycling and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a top-of-the-line bike with fancy features that you won’t need, navigating the bike market on your own can feel like wandering through a minefield. To lend you a hand, we’ve assembled a list of 10 great road bikes, each of which you can buy for less than $500.
Beyond offering you a few excellent bike suggestions that will go easy on your wallet, we also want to make you into a smart and self-reliant shopper. To this end, we’ve included a buyer’s guide together with our bike reviews which we hope will arm you with some crucial information and answer a few basic questions that you should know before buying any road bike whatsoever. Once you’ve digested our information, you can safely pick out a bike of your choice and get to pedaling.
|Vilano Shadow||Aluminum||25 lbs||14||Shimano||700c x 25c||10/10|
|Vilano Aluminum Road Bike||Aluminum||24 lbs||21||Shimano||700c x 25c||9.5/10|
|Vilano Aluminum Road Bike Commuter||Aluminum||26.5 lbs||21||Shimano||700c||9/10|
|Vilano R2 Commuter Aluminum Road Bike||Aluminum||27 lbs||21||Shimano||700c x 25c||9/10|
|Vilano Tuono 2.0||Aluminum||28 lbs||21||Shimano||700c x 25c||8.5/10|
|GMC Denali Road Bike||Aluminum||29 lbs||21||Shimano||700c||8/10|
|EUROBIKE Road Bike EURXC550||Steel||31.5 lbs||21||Shimano||700c||7/10|
|Vilano Diverse 1.0 Performance||Aluminum||27 lbs||21||Shimano||700c x 35c||6/10|
|KENT GZR700||Steel||31.2 lbs||21||Shimano||700 x 32c||5/10|
|Takara Kabuto Single Speed||Steel||35.2 lbs||1||–||700c||4/10|
Vilano Shadow Road Bike — Excellent Bike for Exercising
This is an aero bike built for speed, which means that it’s also excellent if you want to use cycling as a means to get in some intense cardio. It’s got a double buttered aluminum frame, which allows it to endure considerable punishment while remaining light. I comes in the standard sizes: small, with a 19.7-inch (50 centimeter) frame; medium, with a 21.3-inch (54 centimeter) frame; and large with a 22.8-inch (58 centimeter) frame. It weighs only about 24 pounds and comes with a reliable 14-speed gear system that lets you start barreling down the road.
- built for speed
- tough aluminum frame
- only has 14 speeds instead of the more usual 21
If the fact that this bike only has 14 speeds instead of 21 doesn’t bother you and you want to race down the road at blistering speed, get it.
Vilano Aluminum Road Bike — Best Introductory Road Bike
Weighing in at an almost feather-light 24 pounds, the Vilano Aluminum Road Bike is a fantastic choice for someone looking to buy his first road bike without spending much money. The bike comes in three frame sizes: small, with a 19.7-inch (50 centimeter) frame; medium, with a 21.3-inch (54 centimeter) frame; and large with a 22.8-inch (58 centimeter) frame. It comes in three colors: black, white and grey/red. It’s got 21-speed A050 Shimano shifters mounted on the handlebar, alloy caliper brakes and a comfortable seat for any long rides.
- strong brakes
- good gear system
- easy to ride and handle
- good for beginners
- without enough maintenance, the wheels are prone to breaking
For the price, this as an excellent bike. A beginner can hardly ask for anything better.
Vilano Aluminum Road Bike Commuter — Best Road Bike For City Dwellers
This next offering from Vilano seeks to mix the features of a standard road bike with those of a commuter bike. It is in many ways similar to the standard Vilano Aluminum Road Bike considered above in that it also has a lightweight but durable aluminum frame, 21-speed A050 Shimano shifters that you can easily access on the handlebar, a comfortable seat and a generally simpler design. However, it also comes with water bottle mounts and drop bars to help you some additional things onto your bike during your commute through the city. It therefore weigh 26.5 pounds when fully assembled, which is still very light indeed. It only comes in either black or white, though and is generally only available in a small 19.7-inch (50 centimeter) frame size.
- very inexpensive
- strong brakes and good gear system
- includes water bottle mounts and drop bars
- easy to side and simply designed
- only available in a small frame size, and so may not be suitable for taller riders
If you’re under 6 feet tall and are looking for a simple, cheap and easy-to-handle bike to ride when commuting to work, look no further. You may want to choose something else if you’re taller, though.
Vilano R2 Commuter Aluminum Road Bike — Most Versatile Commuter Road Bike
This aluminum-framed black-and-green road bike from Vilano has a 21-speed gear system. You can easily shift through any of the rear 7-speed and from 3-speed gears with your thumbs using the A050 thumb shifter on the handlebar. It’s got effective alloy caliper brakes and comes in three sizes: a 19.7-inch (50 centimeter) frame small, a 21.3-inch (54 centimeter) frame medium and a 22.8-inch (58 centimeter) large. At only 27 pounds, it’s quite lightweight. The also wheels have quick release skewers.
- versatile 21-speed gear system
- powerful brakes
- tires sometimes go flat rather easily
This is a great road bike for city commuters that offers great versatility and is easy to handle. However, while it’s cheap, there are even cheaper options available.
Vilano Tuono 2.0 — High-Performance Road Bike
The Vilano Tuono 2.0 is an aluminum-framed aero bike that’s designed to go fast. It’s most salient feature is probably its 21-speed gear system, by way of which you can shift gears smoothly, cleanly and easily. It’s got powerful alloy caliper brakes and even a water bottle holder and some storage racks to help you carry extra things around during your commute. If that wasn’t enough, it’s got a comfortable seat and great overall stability. It comes in two main sizes — small, with a 19.7-inch (50 centimeter) frame, and medium, with a 21.3-inch (54 centimeter) frame —and weighs about 23 pounds.
- very stable riding experience
- comfortable seat
- can reach high speeds
- 21-speed gear system
- may require an extremely hard squeeze to get the brakes to work
This is yet another decent, low-cost aero road bike. The price is very low, but there are better-performing alternatives.
GMC Denali Road Bike — Best Low-Cost High-Performance Road Bike
The makers of the GMC Denali strove to pack as much performance capability as it’s possible to pack into a road bike that costs less than $500 and actually had an impressive degree of success. First, the bike has 21-speed Shimano Derailleur and Shimano Revo shifts that give you the ability to cleanly switch gears. Since you can do all that with the handlebar alone, it can be done with ease. Beyond this, the bike weighs as little as 28 pounds, has 28-millimeter tires, a state-of-the-art 6061 aluminum frame that’s both lightweight and durable, and calipers brake levers and 36 spoke rims all made of alloy. This is an aero bike that can fly down a road.
- lightweight and durable
- can reach high speeds
- strong brakes
- versatile gear system
- frame generally available only in small (19.7 inches)
For the speed demon who can’t spend much money, this bike is a dream come true. There are other bikes to choose from if you prefer to take it easy, though.
EUROBIKE Road Bike EURXC550 — Cheap Bike With an Expensive Look
This bike has the look of a fancy, high-end set of wheels, but not the price tag of one. Sporting a tough steel frame and a set of aluminum dual disc brakes with fantastic stopping power, the bike is available in frame sizes ranging from 19.3 inches (49 centimeters) to 12.3 inches (54 centimeters) and also comes in a bewildering array of colors and styles. It weighs about 31.5 pounds, so it’s somewhat heavier and more difficult to handle than many of the other bikes we’ve been considering here, but considering that you almost never see dual disc brakes on a bike that costs less than $500, this bike is a steal.
- extremely tough steel frame
- has dual disc brakes
- comes in a very wide range of colors, styles and frame sizes
- heavy and a little bit difficult to handle
This bike looks cool, presents you with a wide range of choices regarding style, color and size, and is simply tough as nails. If weight isn’t a problem for you, we recommend it.
Vilano Diverse 1.0 Performance Hybrid Bike — Best Hybrid Road Bike
Since all bike types, including road bikes, have their strengths and weaknesses, it’s only natural for people to eventually decide to combine the various features of the different sorts of bikes together in the attempt to create some kind of super-bike. That’s precisely what Vilano tried to do with its Diverse 1.0 Performance Hybrid Bike. For a bike at its price point, this lightweight aluminum alloy-framed bike is a marvel of versatility and high performance. Not only is it durable, but its got powerful linear pull V-Brakes, a 21-speed gear system and a seat comfortable enough to give you a smooth ride while riding through many different terrains.
- powerful brakes
- excellent gear system
- usable even on rougher terrain
- chain has been known to break after heavy use
It’s impossible not to like this bike. It offers the kind impressive performance and versatility that you generally see only in more expensive bikes.
KENT GZR700 — Most Affordable Road Bike
This steel-framed bike is perhaps the ultimate in low-budget goodness. It’s got a 21-speed gear system that’s easily controllable from the handlebars and caliper brakes made of steel and aluminum alloy. It comes in one standard size, with a 21.3 inch (54 centimeter) frame and can carry up to 250 pounds of weight. The bike itself weighs only 21 pounds.
- extremely cheap
- very lightweight
- durable steel frame
- the brakes have been known to have issues
- only one available frame size
Get this bike only if you care about saving money above all else. It is the cheapest option we are considering here, but there are better-performing models available.
Takara Kabuto Single Speed Road Bike, Blue, Large/58cm — Great Road Bike for Tall Riders
This excellent steel-framed bike is a great way for taller cyclists to go out for a ride, as it’s available in a large 22.8-inch (58 centimeter) frame size, making it especially suitable for those who are about 6’2” or taller. It’s a single-speed bike, so there’s no gear shifting system, but it’s got a rear flip flop hub that allows you to switch between fixed gear or freewheel modes. Use the former when you want to keep your speed at an even keep and use the latter when you want to blast down the road. It’s steel allow wheel rims and steel side pull brakes, so the brakes are reliable and the bike itself is phenomenally durable. It’s also surprisingly cheap.
- very inexpensive
- extremely durable
- strong brakes
- great for going around town
- perfect for taller people
- not suited for shorter riders
- no gear shifting system — only fixed gear and free wheel modes
If you’re tall, this is a great bike to take out around town. It’s highly resilient too boot. Shorter riders should look elsewhere, though.
It may be pleasantly surprising to know that you actually can get a good road bike for less than $500, but as we’ve just shown you, it’s absolutely possible. However, you aren’t quite out of the woods yet if you’re a total beginner. There are still some important things to know about bikes, how to ride them and what to look out for when shopping for them. Without the information we’re about to give you, it’ll be very difficult to make the right choice for your needs. Since we want things to be simple for you, here’s what every bike shopper ought to know.
Just what is a road bike, anyway?
Throughout this guide, we’ve been throwing around the term “road bike,” but there are other types of bikes out there — mountain bikes, commuting bikes, touring bikes, hybrid bikes, and so on. What differentiates a road bike from these other types? Briefly, road bikes have exceptionally light frames, use narrow tires, usually have drop handlebars and don’t have front or rear suspensions. This contrasts especially with mountain bikes, which typically have flat handlebars and certainly do have front and rear suspensions because of the abuse that they are expected to endure while being ridden through rough terrain.
This contrast reveals a lot about the sort of riding for which road bikes are intended. As their name suggests, they are meant for use on flat, paved surfaces like roads and can’t handle the rough-and-tumble stress of riding on something like a dirt path or forest trail. Road bikes are also capable of reaching great speeds, which makes them suitable for fitness enthusiasts who want to push themselves to the limit. Road bikes also don’t have racks or areas onto which you can attach gear, as a touring or commuter bike might. That means that if you have anything you want to bring with you while going for a ride on a road bike, you’ll probably have to carry it in a backpack or some other kind of bag.
Choosing the right Frame Size
Getting the greatest bike in the world won’t mean a thing if it doesn’t fit you and you can’t ride it properly. That’s why the dost fundamentally practical criterion of all for what road bike is right for you is size. Buying a bike online, however, makes figuring this out difficult, since the bike isn’t physically there for you to try out before you buy it. Luckily, there are a few different methods you can use to figure out whether a bike is of the right size. Since dealing with the various bike sizes and performing measurement conversions can be complicated, the simplest of these methods is the following: take a measurement of the distance from a bike’s seat post to its crank — usually called the frame measurement — and compare this to your height. The relevant approximate comparisons are as follows:
- If you are between 4’11” and 5’3” tall, use a bike with a frame that’s between 13 and 15 inches long
- If you are between 5’3” and 5’7” tall, use a bike with a frame that’s between 15 and 17 inches long
- If you are between 5’7” and 5’11” tall, use a bike with a frame that’s between 17 and 19 inches long
- If you are between 6’0” and 6’2” tall, use a bike with a frame that’s between 19 and 21 inches long
- If you are between 6’2” and 6’4” tall, use a bike with a frame that’s between 21 and 23 inches long
- If you are 6’4” or taller, use a bike with a frame that’s 23 inches long, or longer
Using these rules lets you get past having to think about different bike sizes and the differences between men’s and women’s bike sizes. These height and frame size comparisons should work, regardless of whether you’re looking at men’s or women’s bikes.
Frames and Frame Materials
Road bike frames can be made of any of four different materials: aluminum, carbon fiber, steel and titanium. Here’s what you need to know about these four frame types:
- Aluminum Aluminum-framed road bikes tend to be the cheapest of the bunch, but this does not automatically imply low quality. Aluminum frames make for light and rigid bikes that transfer weight and power extremely well. However, because the aluminum tubes used to make these frames are quite thick, the bikes tend to vibrate strongly and gives riders a rather bumpy ride. To mitigate this somewhat, aluminum-framed road bikes will generally have a carbon fiber fork. An aluminum frame can also wear down with time if it is not properly maintained.
- Carbon Carbon fiber-framed bikes were once the exclusive preserve of professional cyclists, but this is no longer the case. Now that the cost of using carbon fiber has come down, we see it used much more frequently in bike frames, even in relatively cheap bikes. Carbon fiber has an excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio, making it persistent favorite of professional riders. It makes for bikes that are rigid, lightweight, durable, long-lasting, and that won’t vibrate uncomfortably as you rise. The only downside with carbon fiber is that it can crack.
- Steel Before aluminum-framed bikes rose to prominence, steel was the metal of choice for road bike frames. Though steel is extremely durable and functions well, it is heavy and expensive to use and fashion. For that reason, it’s fallen out of favor, except on some recreational bikes not designed for high performance. Steel also rusts, which posed a further problem for steel-framed bikes.
- Titanium You’ll rarely see titanium-framed bikes anymore, especially if said bikes are inexpensive, but titanium is an extremely durable and resilient metal and won’t corrode like steel does. It’s also relatively lightweight, which makes it a common feature of expensive luxury road bikes.
Types of Road Bikes
There are a few different types of road bikes, each with their specific strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of them:
- Aero Bikes Aero bikes are single-mindedly focused on enabling you to reach the highest speeds possible. They have flat handlebars and are meant to be aerodynamic, sacrificing something in the fields of weight and comfort for that end. They are designed to be ridden on flat roads, are very stiff and are somewhat larger than other road bikes, enabling them to cut through air more easily and reduce drag. They also have deep rim wheels.
- Endurance Bikes: Endurance are easily the most popular road bike type because of their dedication to comfort and stability. They typically have a longer wheelbase and headtube than other road bikes, and they are built with disc breaks. They are meant for longer, slower and more leisurely rides.
- Recreational or Fitness Bikes These are supremely practical bikes designed to get you from point A to point B. They have wider tires, flat handlebars and gear ratios that make pedaling easy. They are constructed according to a philosophy of simplicity. They are best for novice cyclists and for those not looking to become serious riders.
- Gravel or Adventure Bikes Gravel bikes are relatively new and depart somewhat from the general idea of what a road bike is supposed to be, in that they are suitable for all terrains. As such, they are durable and have disc brakes, a higher bottom bracket and lower gear ratios to make it easier to pedal them.
This concludes our discussion of 10 of the best cheap road bikes available today for your riding pleasure. Since all of these bikes are under $500, you’re guaranteed to get an impressive deal and each an every one of them. What’s more, as we’ve shown you, this low price is no way a sign of low quality. But not only have we shown you that you truly can get both high performance and low price out of a road bike — the best of both worlds — we’ve also armed you with some helpful general information about road bikes that you can always have on hand to use from here on out when shopping. Feel fee to pick out that perfect bike and hit the road.