Like it or not, we live in a global economy. We ride American bikes made in Taiwan and drive German cars made in India. A purists’ headache but good news for the rest of us. Good news because if you’re looking for the best road bikes under $1000 in 2017, you can thank 21st-century competitive markets for falling prices on quality cycling equipment.
Best Road Bikes Under $1000: What Are They?
Shopping for an entry-level road bike 20 years ago meant narrowing down your choice to a brand or two and then go from there. Not anymore. Unless you want a high-end or a custom-built machine, it doesn’t matter as much these days what brand you buy.
Advances in Alloys Manufacturing
Innovations in aluminum alloys manufacturing allow brands to build quality frames today at the low cost never seen before. Built with hydroforming technology, modern aluminum frames are light, strong, and don’t suffer from fatigue flaws of the past.
Few people can tell the difference in ride quality between the best road bikes under $1000 and a mid-level carbon bike thousands of dollars more expensive. They’re that good these days.
The Brand Names’ Trap
When you’re shopping for a good road bike on a small budget, don’t get caught up in the branding game.
Nothing wrong with paying for a logo if that’s what you want. If you don’t want to spend more than a thousand though, does it matter what logo they stick on your frame? Instead of stickers, focus on the components they bolt on it.
Kill It With the Right Components
Good components is the key to getting your best road bike under 1000 bucks. On a tight budget, the choice is between a brand name with lower-end components and something less glorious in brand recognition but equipped with solid bike gear.
In this price bracket, better components trump popular brand names. Variations in frame quality are not significant enough to fuss over them. Gun for the best components you can get for your money.
The Aim: Shimano 105
The best road bikes under $1000 are the bikes equipped with Shimano 105 parts.
It doesn’t mean Shimano’s lower level parts, Tiagra and Sora, should be avoided or there’s something wrong with them. But, if 1000 bucks can buy you a modern aluminum frame with Shimano 105, buying a Tiagra- or Sora-equipped bike doesn’t make sense.
Shimano 105’s quality and durability is legendary. It works as good as the
$1228 ($533) Ultegra and looks about the same. Resale value of a 105-equipped bike will be higher too. It’s a no-brainer.
The two points you need to keep in mind in your search for an entry-level road bike:
- Don’t get hung up on brands
- Limit your choice to a Shimano 105-equipped bike
In case you find a Campagnolo- or SRAM-equipped bike, the similar to 105 groupset from Campagnolo is Veloce and Apex from SRAM.
An exception to this 105 rule is when you find a good bargain or there’s something about the frame worth paying for that you can go for lower-lever components to get what you want and upgrade later. The fifth bike on this list is an example of that.
Let’s look at some examples I found on the Internet of what I think are the best road bikes under $1000.
Cube Attain SL: $899
You could improve it with disc brakes, but then the price would be much higher.
The shifting mechanism on Cube Attain SL is an 11-speed Shimano 105. With 50/34 chainset at the front and 11-32 cassette at the back, the range of gears is wide. You’ll have low enough gear to climb steep, long climbs if you’re up for it or smash it on the downhills on 50×11 like a mad missile.
Verdict: A great bike for a great price.
Cube Attain SL’s highlights:
- $899 price tag
- Full Shimano 105 groupset
- Solid Mavic Aksium Elite wheels
- Carbon fork
Masi Gran Corsa: $799
Some of the biggest road cycling stars of the past rode Masi bikes. Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, and even Fausto Coppi himself. That was a long time ago though. The Masi family sold their brand to a Californian investor in the 1970s hoping to capitalize on the booming bicycling industry in America. Two Masi’s leading frame builders, the founder Faliero Masi and Mario Confente, moved to Carlsbad and built some of the best bikes of that era.
Some Masi history for you.
The $799 Gran Corsa hadn’t been built by the grandmasters, but it has that link to the bygone era when professional riders rode re-budged Masis because Masi was the king.
The Gran Corsa is equipped with Shimano 105 except for the 52/36 FSA Gossamer crankset coupled to 11-28 11-speed cassette.
If you’re planning to climb steep walls, the smallest 36×28 gear may or may not be enough. Depends on how fit you are. Keep this in mind if you decide to buy this bike.
For an extra $35 you can buy a Shimano 105 11-speed cassette with a wider spread if you discover 36×28 is still too big for you.
Masi Gran Corsa comes with solid DT Swiss R460 wheels.
Verdict: A fantastic bike with a fine pedigree to go with it if you care about things like that.
Masi Gran Corsa’s highlights:
- $799 price tag
- Shimano 105 shifting, derailleurs and brakes
- DT Swiss wheels
- Carbon fork
Marin Argenta Elite: $699
Marin Argenta is a clever endurance bike with eyelets on the frame for mudguards to turn it into a commuter any time you wish.
The crankset is a generic 50/34 Shimano piece with 105 everywhere else. The 11-28 11-speed cassette should cover all your gearing needs.
Alex double-wall rims laced to Formula hubs, 28-hole front and 32-hole rear for a decent pair of wheels. They should last thousands of miles in all weather conditions.
Verdict: A modest rig with options for a transformation
Marin Argenta Elite’s highlights:
- $699 price tag
- Shimano 105 shifting, derailleurs, cassette and brakes
- Frame eyelets
- Carbon fork
Fuji Roubaix 1.1: $989
Unlike most bikes in this price bracket, Fuji Roubaix 1.1 has a full carbon fork, a feature found on more expensive bikes. Nice touch to save weight and stiffen the front-end assembly.
This is not all. Higher-priced Ultegra shifters had been fitted to take care of gear changes. A big tick again.
Oval Concepts 52/36 crankset is the usual non-105 part of the components’ group. With 11-28 11-speed Shimano 105 cassette, you should have a suitable gear on any road.
Verdict: An entry-level bike with higher-end features thrown in.
Fuji Roubaix 1.1 highlights:
- Shimano 105 derailleurs, cassette and brakes
- Shimano Ultegra shifters
- Full carbon fork
Kona Honky Tonk: $650
The 105 rule I spoke about before, this is the kind of a bike worth getting even if the components are not Shimano 105.
First of all, it’s a great bargain at $650. This Kona Honky Tonk is a 2015 model so it’s been discounted by 40% now. Bikes are not cars, who cares what year model it is, they change little from year to year. One limitation with this model though — you can only pick from two frame sizes, 54cm and 56cm. All other sizes have been sold.
A stylish steel frame is why you’d want this bike. It will be a bit heavier than other bikes on this list but the ride quality will trump that. A well-built steel bike will give you a silky-smooth ride. Kona have been building steel bikes for a long time, they know what they’re doing.
You’ll love this machine.
The Honky Tonk is equipped with Shimano Sora shifters and front derailleur, Tiagra rear derailleur, FSA Vero crankset, and Shimano brakes and wheels.
And look at the paint job.
Kona Honky Tonk highlights:
- Reynolds 520 butted cromoly steel frame
- Pint job
- Frame eyelets
Technological innovations in metallurgy and the spread of production costs around the globe made it possible to buy a quality bike today without spending a fortune.
To find the best road bikes under 1000 bucks, don’t limit your choice to major brand names. You won’t find anything interesting there because you’ll pay extra for the logo. In this price range, every dollar counts, every feature you can get without going over the budget is worth getting.
Focus on components. Raise the standard high. Shimano 105 is high for this kind of money and as you can see, we found four bikes for you to check out.