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Best Entry Level Road Bikes for Beginners

Jeff Balton

What are the best entry level road bikes

Do you have a road bike for 2021? If you don’t then relax. In this guide, I will help you to choose the best entry-level road bikes.

Road bikes are the most specialized of all the different bike types and meant only for riding on tarmac. Going to your local bike store you can see them on sale with price tags starting from $800.

We have picked out the best entry-level road bikes, that are not too expensive but offer great value.

Here we go, we’ve brought out the 9 best entry-level road bikes for 2021!

 

 

1. Tommaso Imola


Best Entry Level Road Bike

Tommaso ImolaIn our opinion, Tommaso makes some of the most attractive and best-looking road bikes. It is, without a doubt, one of the best bicycle manufacturers that you can consider at a reasonable price.

Their quality lies in the fact that they make entry-level and mid-range models. Therefore, anyone can find something that they need.

Tommaso Imola, which we are reviewing here, is an entry-level model that even offers several glimpses of the mid-range world.

Key takeaways:

  • Aluminum frame
  • Upright riding position
  • 24 speeds

 

Tommaso Imola is light, fast, and elegant, offering an all-around great performance at a bargain price.

Tommaso Imola has a harmonic combination of Shimano and Tommaso road components. They will provide you with 24 speeds on a 3×8 drivetrain. You’ll do the shifting with Shimano Tourney parts, and a wide-range cassette is a part of the same groupset.

One of the things some riders might not be stoked about is the brakes. Namely, Fascino comes with rim brakes. They offer great braking performance, but more and more riders prefer disc brakes nowadays.

The tires are Kenda, and they’re 25 mm wide. This is the most popular width you can find on most road bikes. It is perfect for entry-level riders who should have more grip when cornering for safety and confidence reasons.

If you’re buying your first road bike and you want it to last a long time and get you through many long rides, you can’t go wrong with Tommaso Fascino.

BTW: There are 6 different sizes to choose from, whoa!

 

 

 

2. Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1


Best with Racks Already Installed

Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1

Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 touring road bike is clearly a capable machine that is available in 5 sizes – from S to XXL. Part of the Co-op ADV lineup, it comes with great value.

Some takeaways:

  • Chromoly frame
  • Comfortable geometry
  • Hydraulic disc brakes

 

The ADV 1.1 is much more than what you’d expect from a bike at this price point. Shimano Deore LX front and rear derailleurs offer 30 gears with a touring crank that’s excellent for climbing.

The bike rolls on 700c size wheels and 38 mm wide tires, which is a great compromise between speed and comfort.

Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 is the best touring bike that can take you on month-long tours with front and rear panniers and all of your camping gear.

The biggest advantage of this bike is that it comes equipped with front and rear racks out of the box. Therefore, all you need is some bike bags.

However, ADV 1.1 has some cons. The biggest one for us is the seat, it is too stiff, which can be a problem when you’re riding all day long.

One thing to keep in mind is that this bike isn’t completely assembled, and some mechanical skill is required. This isn’t necessarily a con but you might want to factor in the cost of assembly by an experienced mechanic before buying. A proper tune-up and inspection are vital to make this bike function properly.

All you need to do is assemble the front wheel, seat, attach the shifters to the handlebars, handlebars to the head, pedals (included), and connect the brakes. Then, inflate the tires, do some minor tuning to the brakes and shifters and you are all set!

 

 

3. Salsa Cutthroat Apex 1


Best Bikepacking Adventure Bike

SalsaSalsa Cutthroat Apex 1 has been making bikes now for a long time and has achieved a high market share. In its price range, this ride is hard to beat, especially when it comes to adventure bikes for cyclists who want to explore roads that are rarely taken.

Salsa Cutthroat is perhaps the best example of all-road bikes that are cheaply priced but well built!

Main features:

  • Carbon frame
  • 1×11 drivetrain
  • Mechanical disc brakes
  • Suitable for bikepacking trips

 

For some, $2,900 might not seem very cheap, but it’s hard to find this list of components for less.

It comes in one color only, but it’s a very attractive shade of silver. Plus, you can choose from five sizes – from 52 cm to 60 cm.

Online reviews mostly have good things to say about it: a 1×11 drivetrain that’s easy to maintain, robust Terravail Sparwood 29″ wheels and versatile 2.2″ tires, light and stiff carbon frame and fork with upright geometry, and dozens of mounting points for accessories.

This bike comes in a single box and is almost entirely assembled. But if you feel insecure, scroll down and see how to assemble it!

Salsa Cutthroat is our top pick due to its fantastic design and bargain components for adventurers and racers who want top value at an affordable price.

This bike brakes with TRP Spyre-C mechanical disc brakes which is a good refreshment if you used to brake with rim brakes. They’re more powerful and more precise.

Related: Fix your ride – Silca T-Ratchet & Ti-Torque Kit Review!

So, if you want to jump on the adventure bandwagon and you don’t want to spend every last penny on your new passion, Salsa Cutthroat APex 1 is an excellent compromise.

 

 

4. Cannondale Synapse 105


Best Endurance Road Bike

Cannondale Synapse 105Cannondale Synapse 105 is every endurance cyclist’s dream come true.

Features:

  • Aluminum frame
  • Carbon fork
  • Shimano 105 groupset
  • Mechanical disc brakes

 

Cannondale Synapse 105 combines a super-durable aluminum frame with a stiff carbon fork. The rear triangle even comes with rear rack mounts, so you can fit panniers on this bike for commutes or bike tours.

When it comes to the components, Synapse 105 has Shimano written all over the place. The groupset this bike operates with is Shimano 105, which is a mid-range race-ready groupset that will take a lot of beating and abuse.

In total, you’ll have 22 gears at your disposal with a compact crank and an 11-34T cassette.

Like most modern endurance road bikes nowadays, Synapse sports a pair of mechanical disc brakes, which greatly improves its versatility. You can ride it on all types of terrains and even in rain.

The Vittoria Zaffiro, 700c x 30 mm tires are smooth and fast. If you want, you can certainly go a few millimeters wider and improve comfort and grip even more if you want.

All in all, if you want a cheap unisex endurance road bike with an aluminum frame and a carbon fork that’s ready for day-long rides, Cannondale Synapse 105 is a worthy candidate!

 

 

5. Marin Olema


Best Hybrid Bike for Road Riding

Marin OlemaOk, we know Marin Olema is not a traditional road bike. This is a drop-bar gravel bike with 650B wheels that are more than capable of doing long distances on paved and unpaved roads.

Features:

  • Aluminum frame
  • Shimano Claris
  • 16 gears
  • Mechanical disc brakes

 

Its aluminum frame provides maximum road vibration dampening and extra comfort. Hard to find another entry-level gravel bike that is comparably capable and affordable like this one.

Marin Olema has durable 650B aluminum wheels clad in wide tires, which is a great combination for city commutes or off-road adventures.

Marin Olema shows that gravel bikes can be fast, fun, and practical all at the same time.

This bike offers 16 gears, so climbing hills will be super easy. It also features powerful mechanical disc brakes that offer plenty of braking power for casual riding.

If you want a bike that rides fast on paved and unpaved roads that you can use for long commutes, as well as for recreational and fitness rides, Marin Olema will put a smile on your face.

See Details on JensonUSA.com

 

 

6. Cannondale CAADX 1


Best All-Road Adventure Road Bike

Cannondale CAADX 1Cannondale CAADX 1 is one of the simplest but at the same time one of the most versatile all-terrain endurance/fitness road bikes that you can buy right now.

If you want to commute, ride brevets, or become a part of the gravel craze, this Cannondale model is going to help you achieve your dreams. However, this is also a phenomenal choice for pure road riding, depending on which tires you put on it.

Key takeaways:

  • Aluminum frame
  • Carbon fork
  • Multi-surface tires
  • Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Shimano GRX 400 groupset

 

One of the main characteristics of all-around road bikes is comfort, which you will no doubt get thanks to the lightweight aluminum frame and carbon fork with endurance geometry. The result is a lightweight and stiff bike that rides predictably.

To power this beautiful bicycle along scenic roads of all kinds, you will be using a 2×10 drivetrain equipped with Shimano GRX 400 gravel-specific components. That’s the best bang for the buck you can get at this price. It offers decent quality and performance, as well as enough variety with the gearing.

Cannondale CAADX 1 is a no-brainer for anyone who has room for just one bike and needs a great performer on a variety of different terrains.

We also like the Shimano GRX 400 hydraulic disc brakes because they are powerful, precise, durable, and easy to maintain.

CAADX 1 is ready for any kind of adventure as it comes with mounts for, racks, two water bottles, and front and rear fenders. You can use it for commuting, multi-day bikepacking tours, or very long rides.

Finally, Cannondale has opted to dress this bike in Schwalbe CX Comp, 700×35 tires, but the frame and the fork have enough clearance for up to 37 mm wide rubber.

Therefore, Cannondale CAADX 1 seems like the perfect tool for road beginners and gravel enthusiasts on a budget to fall in love with this discipline and explore the outback.

7. Cannondale Topstone 2 Women’s


Strong Performer on Gravel

Cannondale Topstone 2 Women'sGravel bikes are the new hot trend in the cycling industry. They have a lot of similarities with road bikes, which is why Cannondale Topstone 2 deserves a place on this list! Gravel bikes are usually not cheap, but you can get a decent model without spending outrageous amounts of money, which is the case here.

Features:

  • Aluminum frame
  • Shimano GRX components
  • Women-specific geometry

Full review of the Topstone series

The frame is made from lightweight aluminum, whereas the fork is made from carbon, so the total weight of the bike is just 22 lbs. That’s very decent considering that this is an aluminum gravel bike.

Cannondale Topstone 2 is the ideal choice for female riders who intend to stray off the beaten path and put their foot in the gravel riding world.

There are several other surprises Topstone 2 has. It’s absolutely jam-packed with mounts, which makes it a fantastic solution for all of your adventure rides. The stock version does not come with any accessories, but you can easily fit it will lights, fenders, racks, bike bags, and anything else you might need for long journeys.

This bike is equipped with Shimano GRX components, which is an excellent choice at this price range. It has a 2×10 drivetrain with a wide-range cassette, so no need to worry about running out of gears. It also has a pair of GRX 400 hydraulic disc brakes, which is a must on gravel bikes!

Related: Best Bikes For Gravel

Let’s not forget the versatile 37mm tires on 700c WTB ST i23 wheels, which can rip trails in half.

If you want a serious two-wheeler for adventure trips and recreational riding, then Cannondale Topstone 2 is the best mid-range road bike for gravel that women can get!

 

8. Giordano Libero 1.6


Best Budget Entry-Level Road Bike

Giordano Libero 1.6We’ve been seeing more and more cyclists on the roads lately, which means that the need for beginner road bikes is growing.

Here we have the best entry-level road bike for new riders in our opinion. This is a unisex bike and fits men and women riders equally well. It’s a good choice to get used to pedaling, improve your fitness, and fall in love with the sport.

Key features:

  • Comfortable geometry
  • Aluminum frame
  • 16 gears

 

The first characteristic of the Giordano Libero 1.6 is obvious from the moment you take the first look at it, which is the design. The color is neutral yet attractive, and the bike stands out when it’s out on the roads.

Another reason why this is the best beginner road bike is the fact that it is made with relaxed geometry that does not put too much strain on your body. This means that it has a shorter top tube than usual and a higher head tube. It also has a comfortable saddle that won’t torture your sit bones. This will make a massive difference when it comes to comfort, especially on longer rides.

Giordano Libero 1.6 is a high-value entry-level road bike with an attractive paint job making it a dream bike for any beginner roadie.

When it comes to the components and parts, there are many things that Libero can boast about. For example, it has a lightweight aluminum frame and fork, strong caliper brakes, and comfy road tires.

This road machine also has a 2×8 Shimano Claris drivetrain which is a good choice for beginner riders.

All in all, Giordano Libero can be recommended as the best beginner road bike for riders who are just starting to ride or want to upgrade from their leisure bike.

 

 

9. Schwinn Fastback


Best for New Roadies

Schwinn FastbackSchwinn Fastback got its place on our list immediately as a good cheap road bike and here it has remained. Schwinn used to be one of the best-known manufacturers around, but it has been sold several times in the last years and a bunch of times before that as well.

Typically these purchases can bring with them changes to the quality of the bike, but with Schwinn, it luckily has remained the same and the price has even gone down on the best budget road bike.

Features:

  • Aluminum frame
  • 16-speed drivetrain

Full overview of Schwinn Bikes

We are personally impressed by the quality this bike exudes for this amount of money.

With this setup, you can ride for years to come. You’d most likely need to visit the local shop 3-4 times to have the wheels re-trued and maybe upgrade some parts (the saddle for example) but everything else is simple – sit and ride.

Schwinn Fastback brings together a list of reliable components on a quality aluminum frame that makes it the biggest bargain in entry-level road cycling.

And if you are a true roadie, then you’ll want to upgrade it so as to make it lighter and otherwise faster. Still, at 22 lbs, it is already pretty light.

Users suggest replacing the rim tape. This is important because the tape of the rim is quite thick and can rub your tire and you’ll end up getting a flat. You can be sure to find something from Amazon, Zefal is a good enough choice. You can get one for less than $10. If you want to train harder, you should get yourself Shimano clipless pedals.

Schwinn Fastback is available in six sizes that fit riders between 4’11” and 6’4″. Also, it comes in a beautiful glossy blue color that makes it look more expensive.

See on Amazon

 

 


Always Lock Your Bike! Best Bicycle Locks Out There



 

 

Expert Opinion – Which One To Choose?

Conclusions of best entry-level bikesAll these bikes are value-added possibilities, but, if we drill into the details, then Salsa Cutthroat is probably the best choice for longer adventures on varying terrain. It’s the best entry-level adventure road bike that we’ve found.

For example, Marin Olema is a great pick for anyone who wants a speedy gravel bike to do daily commutes and leisure rides. For men & women who want a quality endurance road bike with Shimano components, we proudly present you with the Cannondale Synapse 105.

If you need a light, fast, durable, and attractive versatile road bike, Tommaso Imola is there for you. Also, a strong performer on gravel roads is the Cannondale Topstone 2, with a nice set of components and relaxed frame geometry.

If going cheap is what you have in mind, then we’ll point you at the Schwinn Fastback. Yes, it’ll be equipped with a cheaper component group, but, if normally maintained, the bike will work nicely for years to come. Our second choice for minimal investment is the Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 – it comes fitted with racks so it’s ready to travel.

The best newcomer is definitely the Cannondale CAADX 1. It has a nice balance between price and components and performs excellently on gravel and paved roads.

An excellent pick for women who want to take up road biking is the Giordano Libero, which has women-specific parts and geometry and a decent set of components.

Don’t forget that all these bikes are the best entry-level road bikes!

 

 

Are Cheap Road Bikes Worth it?

Yes! They definitely are.

But only the best cheap road bikes are here to stay. These fantastic bikes will last you many great years.

Like the expensive ones, their advantages are in speed, lightness, and an aerodynamic riding position. You can ride, get further in a shorter amount of time and see much more. Typically the road bike is more expensive compared to other types, but there are good budget variants on the market which, while not meant for races, offer up heaps of enjoyment and sweet adrenaline while riding them.

 

Other Best Sellers on Amazon – The TOP 10

 

 

Road Bike Sizing – Choosing The Right Bike Size

We all know what it feels like to shop with a limited budget. But the last thing you want to do is to get the first inexpensive bike you come across.

We want you to choose a bike that meets two criteria  – it’s affordable and you love it. And about sizing, bike size is measured in a way shown on the picture – from the seat-post to the crank.Road Bike Sizing

Your height / Bike Size

  • 4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches
  • 5’3″ – 5’7″ = 15 – 17 inches
  • 5’7″ – 5’11” = 17 – 19 inches
  • 6’0″ – 6’2″ = 19 – 21 inches
  • 6’2″ – 6’4″ = 21 – 23 inches
  • 6’4″ and taller = 23+ inches

We have additional chats for choosing the correct bike size.

 

 

Are Entry-Level Road Bikes Expensive?

Not always. If you choose wisely. If you go to a Local Bike Shop (LBS) you can see very expensive prices. Also, you can check online to find the best inexpensive road bikes. The main difference in price comes from secondary costs like warehouse, marketing, assembly, etc. That’s why you can find road bikes for a good price.

All you must do is choose wisely. Let’s say, 80% of expensive bikes are good. But only 20% of road bikes are expensive. So think again, why should you pay more for the same quality?

GEAR UP: BEST ROAD BIKES UNDER $1,000

 

 

How to Assemble Your New Entry Level Road Bike

Amazon bikes come partially assembled and are shipped out in boxes.

Many new owners tend to complain about it, but it isn’t something impossible for you to do.

There are two ways to assemble a bike.

#1: Take it to the bike shop and they will do it for about $40. Still, a pretty good value if you add it to the price you paid for your entry-level road bike.

Or, #2: Do it yourself, if you can think logically and work a wrench, then it really isn’t hard. Everything is cable activated and these cables need to be tightened properly in order for the bike to shift and brake properly.

Outside of the cable, you likely need to attach the handlebar. Did it sound like it might be a bit tricky? Then I have a video for you:

So you need to adjust them sometimes. And it doesn’t matter, whether you’re riding a cheap bike or an expensive one. So it will certainly be a good skill to have -adjusting brake and gear cables. But if it looks impossible, let your friend do it or pay the guy in your local shop.

So there are a few extra costs at the beginning but it evens out when you are on the saddle of one of the best entry-level road bikes there is.

 

 

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18 Comments

  • someone says:

    Was looking for some advice on beginner bikes for adult women.. seriously, bike color is included in your reasoning?? Most of us are looking for recommendations for bikes that work for our different body physiology and comfort. I realise it’s meant well and I appreciate it, but please take a second look at your writeup.. With regards.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi there,
      Thank you for your feedback. The thing is that there is quite a narrow selection of bikes for women as it comes in colors. We believe that women should have the right to choose different colors. White and pink are colors that we rarely see (and it’s is pity!) Mentioning colors was just one point of this writeup, we did also mention the geometry and and specs, so please don’t feel yourself offended 🙂
      Cheers,
      Jeff

  • Frances says:

    Hi Jeff, thanks so much for the article! So far I really like the Trek AL 2.

    I had gone on some casual 30-50mi rides on my TREK Fx7.2 WSD (hybrid) 53cm/17in, and I want to purchase a decent road bike. I have two questions that I am hoping you can help me answer: 1) I am 5’6, 29inch inseam, what size should I go for? 51/52/54? 2) I have seen a lot of good offers of used bikes with Shimano Tiagra or Ultegra shifts offered at the $1000-$1500 range (even a used Trek Madone under $1000). Would you recommend me buying a new entry-level road bike or buy a fancier used one? $1500 would be a strict cutoff for me in terms of budget, but I worry that if I buy a used one, I would end up spending more money on repairs/tune-ups etc. Let me know your thought thanks!

    • Jeff Balton says:

      You’re welcome, Frances! 🙂 If you’re planning on getting a Trek Domane AL 2, I recommend a 52cm size frame. You could ride a 54cm as well, but I think a 52cm would be much easier to fit properly.

      When it comes to buying new or used, it all depends on your ability to find a good used bike. Because there are definitely excellent used bikes out there for $1,500. If you know what to pay attention to or you know someone with experience who can come along and look at bikes with you, then it’s worth giving a shot.

      On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, a new $1,000 – $1,500 bike is all you need for the first couple of years, really. 🙂

    • Frances says:

      Thanks Jeff! This is super helpful. I just tried the Domane today, but I think it was relatively smooth, but I am not a big fan of the magenta color so couldn’t decide. On the hand, I saw a brand new 52cm La Pierre 2015 sensium 100 that I could get on ebay for $850 (looks fairly light with Shimano Tiagra and only 1/2 of the MSRP). Do you think I should go for something like that? I won’t be able to test ride the bike, so I am a bit hesitant. Let me know what you think!

    • Jeff Balton says:

      I think the price is right, but I can’t say much regarding the size. If a 52cm Domane feels good, compare its geometry chart to La Pierre’s geometry chart. You want the stack and the reach to be as similar as possible, these are the two most important measurements for fitting. 🙂

  • Gina Stoker says:

    Hi Jeff, This information is hugely helpful so thank you so much! I am an avid rider but have stuck with mountain bikes up to now. I am wanting to start road riding and I’m looking at buying the Trek Domane AL2. I am 5’6 and my inseam is 31.5″. Since I am between sizes would you recommend I go for the 52 or the 54? I’d really appreciate your advice. Thank you!!

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Gina, I recommend going for the 52cm size frame considering you’re coming from the MTB world. It should put you in a more upright position which will be more comfortable for you.

  • Alice says:

    My height is just between 2 frame sizes. Would you recommend to choose the bigger or the smaller frame?
    Also, the Felt FR30W looks great to me, but it is seriously reduced in price. Is there a catch?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hey Alice, I can’t help you with the size as you haven’t given me any information regarding your height, inseam, torso length, etc.
      However, Felt FR30W is a fantastic bike and there’s no catch — if you like it and it fits your budget, go for it. 🙂

  • jane says:

    I am a pretty short..I say 5 foot.. but a quarter inch shorter lol..Im a beginner and I am looking to get into cycling as a hobby..Any good recommendation on top of wjat you already reccomended?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      The best recommendation I can give you is to just start somewhere and don’t be afraid to make a mistake, because we all make them. 🙂 I think these are pretty good choices, so whichever you go for – you’ll be happy with the results as a beginner.

  • Rebeca says:

    Hi. I need to know if any of these road bikes will be good for a man that weights 330 pounds and his height is 6’3”?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      The frames on these bikes generally have no problem handling that weight. However, the wheels and tires might give in on standard road bikes. Therefore, I’d recommend going for Salsa Journeyman, as it is a Gravel model with wider tires and more robust wheels. If he rides it on smooth paved roads, he should have no problems.

  • Terry Sanders says:

    I have the giant OCR1 WOMENS I PURCHASED NEW IN O6/07 NOT SUR WHICH YEAR. Due to severe arthritis in my back riding the bike now cause spasms in the upper back.i need an upright bike but not a cruiser I still enjoy moving down the road. I be been told that cannot change the handle bar to straight bar. Is there a bike you could recommend,that isn’t a granny bike, I’m 67 and 5’1″ mine is an xxs and have always felt it was too small but LBS said it was right size, my inseam is 29/30. Would appreciate a response thank you

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Terry, hybrid bikes usually have a more upright geometry than road bikes, but they don’t look like granny bikes. You can still get a good ride on them. 🙂 As for the size issue, I agree with you that XXS is probably too small. You should go for an XS frame size (14″) next time.

  • Nugg77 says:

    Schwinn Volare. Because wifey has a Target discount, and hey it felt aok when sitting on it.

    Wish there were at least a couple with paddle shifters and/or disc brakes, but hey still a good list. Thx! (Now off to ride…)

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Glad you like it, you made a good choice! Those would be good improvements, hopefully they will be added in the near future, but they would also drive the price up significantly.

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