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We've ridden and evaluated more than 100 of the top road bikes in the past year—everything from budget picks to fully customized carbon superbikes. We found inspiring road bikes for less than $1,000 and excellent disc brake-equipped bikes for about $1,500; something which was unheard of just a few years ago. We discovered that some of the best road bikes ever built are available right now.
Check out five of our top picks below, then scroll deeper for buying advice and reviews of these bikes, and more high-ranking options.
What Do We Mean by "Road Bike?"
Any bike that's intended to spend all (or most) of its time on the road can be considered a road bike, so here you will find a wide variety of bikes; all generally meant for "road" riding. Some will be light and fast bikes intended for racing or fast group riding, others veer into all-road adventure and mixed terrain exploring. We even threw in a few flat-bar options for riders seeking a bit more of an upright riding position.
Disc Brakes on Road Bikes Are Now the Norm
Many high-end bikes now launch as disc brake-only platforms. Both Specialized and Trek no longer even offer their range-topping models with rim brakes, and component manufacturers Shimano and SRAM have essentially stopped making new rim brake options. Cycling is now far enough along in disc brake technology that many of the woes of first-generation disc-brake road bikes—additional weight, poor brake feel, aerodynamic penalties, noise—are a thing of the past.
That means, for the most part, you get the benefits of disc brakes–better control, more consistent performance, better performance in adverse conditions, fewer brake-heat-induced rim, tube, and tire problems–without drawbacks.
Rim brake fans can still find some options. Brands such as Canyon and Colnago still offer limited rim brake models, and Campagnolo has shown little interest in abandoning their rim brake groupsets. But the writing is on the wall, and it will likely only get harder to find a new bike with rim brakes for purchase going forward, especially at premium price points.
Tire Clearance on Road Bikes Is Wider Than Ever
Until recently, rim brakes limited many road bikes tires to a maximum of 28mm width. That's because most modern road bikes did not use medium or long-reach brakes, but rather a lighter and stiffer short-reach brake. By using disc brakes, that pinch point is removed, and we're seeing tire clearance of more than 32mm on even the most race-oriented road bikes, such as the Cervelo R5, with many disc brake road bikes able to fit tires of more than 34mm.
Wide tires offer benefits such as increased comfort, better traction, and often improve rolling efficiency. In some cases, they're safer, allowing you to roll through potholes and over gravel patches rather than dart around them. That's what big tires can do.
The most common materials used to make modern road bikes are carbon fiber composite and aluminum alloy (sometimes just called "alloy," which can be confusing because the titaniums and steels used for bike frames are also alloys). If you prefer something less common, you can also find bikes made of steel, titanium, hardwood, bamboo, and magnesium. While all the materials have their own intrinsic qualities, any material can ride very well or very poorly, be very strong or very fragile, depending on how it is used by the manufacturer. Don't buy into myths like "all carbon frames are weak" or "all aluminum frames ride harshly."
You will find that almost all bikes over $2,000 will be made of carbon fiber. This material is exceptionally strong, stiff, light, and tunable. More than any other material, carbon allows frame engineers to micro-tune areas of a frame with specific attributes. Carbon is also more shapeable–with fewer drawbacks when dramatically shaped–than any other material.
Know Your Fit
While a good fitter should be able to make almost any bike fit you properly, it can helpful to get a good professional fit before you invest in a new road bike. Knowing your fit details can help you narrow down the list of bikes to those that will fit you best. If you're lucky enough to be comfortable in a long and low position, race-oriented bikes will fit you well and are typically designed to steer properly with more weight on the front wheel. If your fit is more upright, an endurance-style bike, with a longer head tube, will allow the handlebar to be properly positioned without a skyscraper of spacers (which can be unsafe).Endurance bikes are usually designed to handle properly with less weight (compared to a race bike) on the front wheel.
Many road bikes we review have a crank with two chainrings (also called 2x), and 11 or 12 rear cogs (11 or 12 speeds). But there are other drivetrain configurations.
When the price of a road bike dips below $1,300, that's when the number of rear cogs begin to reduce. The first step would be 2x10, and with lower priced road bikes you will see 2x9, then 2x8. With fewer speeds, the ratio jump between each gear is larger, which makes shifting feel clunkier and creates more dramatic cadence changes.
On higher priced bikes, Campagnolo, SRAM, and Shimano all have 12 gears on their groupsets. Though, due to the limited availability of Shimano's new groupsets, most Shimano bikes you'll find right now will likely still have 11-speed drivetrains.
Another drivetrain you might find is called 1x (pronounced one-by). Popularized by SRAM, this drivetrain is more often found on gravel and cyclocross bikes, but there are a few road bikes that utilize a 1x drivetrain. This system does not use a front shifter or derailleur and can offer the same total range as a 2x system; but 1X systems do have larger jumps between gears. 1X's advantages are simplicity, chain security, and aerodynamics.
How We Tested These Bikes
Our staff carefully chose these bikes based on their value, quality of parts (most of which have been tested separately), user reviews, our experience with the brand, and overall aesthetics. These are the best road bikes we recommend for fast and fun rides.
—BEST ROAD BIKES UNDER $1000—
With a simple, 1x 10-speed drivetrain and large-volume 38c tubeless-ready tires and wheels, the Triban GRVL120 is set up for riders looking to discover road or gravel riding. The Microshift drivetrain has a wide gear range. The greater than 1:1 easy gear ration to helps riders tackle all but the absolute steepest climbs.
The Imola is a great option for riders who want to get into fast road riding. The Imola is designed purely for road riding, featuring rim brakes, 25c tires, and a tight 11-28 tooth range 8-speed cassette. Riders in hilly areas will appreciate the easier gears offered by the Shimano triple crankset, but those looking to ride on dirt or gravel will be happier looking at other bikes.
Triban RC120 Disc
It's hard to beat the value and versatility Triban packs into the RC120. With disc brakes, tubeless-ready tires and wheels, plus a wide range 2x Microshift drivetrain and a carbon fork, the RC120 has the versatility to be the ideal road bike for many riders. Its ability to fit fenders and racks make it a great candidate for riders interested in commuting by bike, or trying some light touring, in addition to more traditional road riding.
A road bike for less than $450? Chain Reaction Cycles is making it happen. The Brand X road bike will not ride like a high performance race bike, but the Shimano Tourney drivetrain will be more than enough to get riders started riding on the road.
Triban RC120 Flatbar Disc
This is essentially just the Triban RC120 disc bike, but built with a flat handlebar. Many might label this bike a hybrid, and honestly, you wouldn't be wrong. Although hybrids tend to be built cheaper and heavier, this bike uses the same build and parts as the drop bar RC120 model, making it just as capable on the road but with a more accommodating riding position. The flat handlebar, fender, and rack mounts make the RC120 perfectly capable of doing double-duty as a commuter.
—BEST ROAD BIKES UNDER $2500―
Ruut AL1 - 2x
The Ruut AL1 frame is as adventure-capable as it gets for drop-bar bikes. With a plethora of frame mounting points, plus a flip-chip in the fork that allows you to tune the handling depending on if you're spending more time on the road or dirt. Shimano's excellent GRX 2x drivetrain completes the package with powerful brakes and a wide range of gears to tackle any adventure.
Niner RLT 9 Apex 1
Niner uses its affordable and versatile 6061 aluminum tubing to not only make a more affordable bike, but to make a bike that blurs the line between road and off-road. The RLT 9 is made for riders that prioritize the freedom to ride on any surface over outright speed. Niner pairs the alloy frame with its RDO carbon fork to smooth out the ride. Multiple rack, fender, and cargo mounts add utility and let the RLT do double duty as a light tourer or commuter.
BMC Teammachine ALR Two
We are big fans of aluminum bikes. They're light, offer an engaging and efficient ride, and aluminum frames are often more durable than carbon. They aren't as light or smooth-looking as their fibrous counterparts, but the lower price can help make up for the performance differences. The Teammachine deserves serious consideration from anyone looking to spend less than $2,500 on a road bike they want to race.
Orbea Vector LTD
A lot of bikes can fit fenders, racks, and lights. But few actually include all these accessories, often leaving riders to make these purchases later on. The Vector takes a different approach with fenders and a rear-rack pre-installed. For riders looking to ride through the night or see the road ahead on an evening commute, a Shimano Dynamo hub system powers the included front and rear lights. The Vector LTD even comes with a Brooks saddle!
Vaast A/1 GRX 2x
Vaast is a relatively new brand that has taken a unique approach to making frames. Instead of a more traditional 6061 alloy, Vaast has opted to use a magnesium alloy that they claim to be a smoother ride compared to traditional aluminum, and lighter as well. Paired with a Shimano GRX 2x drivetrain, the A/1 is a bike that can handle any road or gravel ride you'd want to throw at it. Dropper post compatibility opens the possibilities even further.
Triban is the more endurance-focused brand of Decathalon (which also makes the Van Rysel EDR AF 105 that we loved). It features a 2x11 Shimano 105 drivetrain with tubeless compatible wheels and clearance for 36mm tires, making it a great option for riders looking for the features of a modern disc brake equipped road bike on a budget.
All-City Super Professional Apex
Some flat bar bikes might look like hybrid bikes of old, but they are far from the budget options bike shops sell by the dozens. The All-City Super Professional is a perfect example of brands taking what would be a popular drop bar model and offering it up with a flat handlebar. The Super Professional is a super commuter, crossed with a cyclocross bike, mixed in with an all-terrain tourer. It's a perfect bike for riders who want to ride everything and aren't interested in, or don't want, a drop bar on their bike.
Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1
The ADV is a classic touring bike with ultra-low gearing to let riders tackle mountain passes while carrying a full load strapped to the front and rear racks. To do that, the bike is equipped with a Shimano Deore drivetrain, with a triple crankset that features a 26x34 tooth low gear as stock. It's a bike that's meant to go far and carry all the things you might need on your journey.
The Gestalt is a great pick for an all-road bike that skews more towards pavement than gravel. With 32mm tires and a Shimano Claris 2x8-speed drivetrain, it's perfectly suited to long road rides. The low one-to-one gear ratio is great for tackling all kinds of hills along the way. It even has rack and fender mounts to let it do double duty as a commuter.
—BEST ROAD BIKES UNDER $5000―
Cannondale Topstone Neo 5
"E-bikes aren't for everyone" is something you might hear someone who's never tried an e-bike say. "They're awesome" is something you'll hear from most folks riding e-bikes. That's why we include the Topstone Neo 5 here. It's just plain awesome. Big tires and pedal assist up to 28 mph open a world of new ride possibilities for all kinds of riders.
Santa Cruz Stigmata / Juliana Quincy Rival
The Stigmata and Quincy bikes are identical frames, with the Quincy having parts specifically picked with women in mind. Both are ready to go fast on everything from pavement to rough singletrack. With a SRAM Rival 1x drivetrain and clearance for 650b x 2.1 tires, there's really no limit to what you can do with one of these.
The Caledonia is a true all-arounder. It's a fast road bike with an aero design that merges the S-Series and the Aspero gravel bike features, plus adds hidden fender mounts. It's a bike that can tackle your local crit and then hit a few dirt roads on the way home. Plus, it comes with Shimano's excellent Ultegra Di2 groupset, which offers some of the best shifting currently available.
Vitus Vitesse EVO CR eTap Rival AXS
The Vitesse is a no-nonsense race bike. With an all-new carbon layup, Vitus' latest frame is a claimed 10% lighter and 34% stiffer than its predecessor. The Vitesse is ready for racing right out of the box, combined with the latest wireless groupset from SRAM and tubeless compatible wheels and tires.
Ibis Hakka MX Rival
The Hakka is a versatile, go-anywhere bike for riders who want to explore trails, fire roads, and pavement. With clearance for 650b x 2.1 tires and a wide range Sram Rival drivetrain, it's kind of like the Swiss Army Knife of bikes. Tubeless compatible wheels and tires are an excellent value add for riders that want to run the stock 40mm Maxxis tires at suitably low pressures.
Pinarello Paris 105
Love the look of the multi Tour winning Pinarello F12 but can't stomach the price? The Paris features the same asymmetric frame shaping and aerodynamic design as the F12 at a fraction of the cost. Combined with Shimano's workhorse 105 drivetrain, the Paris features nearly all the performance of its pricier sibling at almost a quarter of the price.
Wilier GTR Team 105
The GTR is a carbon road bike for riders looking to rack up the miles on beautiful pavement roads or enjoy fast group rides and the occasional race. Its limited 28mm max tire clearance will not be ideal for dirt surfaces, but that doesn't mean it can't handle the occasional dirt road. Wilier outfits the GTR with Shimano's excellent 105 drivetrain, complete with hydraulic disc brakes and RS171 wheels. The Shimano wheelset is noteworthy for reliability and easily serviceable cup and cone hubs.
—BEST DREAM BIKE―
Cervelo R5 Force eTap AXS
Raced all summer by the stars of Cervélo sponsored Jumbo-Visma pro tour team, the long-awaited redesign to the R5 is finally ready for the world to ride. It was worth the wait. The R5 is not groundbreaking in its design, but it is a highly competent road racing and all-day ride machine. It won't make you into Wout, Marianne, or Sepp overnight, but you will sure have fun trying.
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