The 7 Best Road Bikes Under $1000 in 2020

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Looking to get started in road cycling with an entry level road bike?

You’re at the right page.

On this page, we’ll show you the best options for road bike under $1,000 as well what you should consider and expect before buying.

Things like frame materials, geometry and groupsets will play an important role in your decision making.

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If your budget allows, you want to consider better specced road bikes such as those around the $2,000 or even $3,000 range. Or if you’re tight on budget, you can also consider road bikes under $500.

Here are the 6 best road bikes you can buy for less than $1,000 today.​

Bike ModelFrameGroupsetWeight
Trek Domane AL2AluminumShimano Claris, 8 Speed10.0 kg / 22.0 lbs
Giant Contend AR3AluminumShimano Sora, 9 Speed10.3 kg / 22.7 lbs
Salsa JourneymanAluminumShimano Sora, 8 Speed11.6 kg / 25.6 lbs
Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1AluminumShimano Claris, 8 Speed10.0 kg / 22.0 lbs
Raleigh Merit 2AluminumShimano Sora, 9 Speed10.6 kg / 23.3 lbs
Fuji Jari 2.3SteelShimano Sora, 9 Speed13.0 kg / 28.6 lbs
Roll AR1AluminumSRAM Apex, 10 Speed10.4 kg / 23.0 lbs

1. Trek Domane AL2

Trek Domane AL2 Road Bike
Photo Credit : Trek

A Comfortable, Entry Level Road Bike from Trek

Trek has been manufacturing frames since the mid 1970s. Over the years they’ve become known for their high quality bikes. 

The Domane AL 2, Trek’s entry-level road bike, features a lightweight aluminum frame. The frame’s geometry is designed for endurance with a more upright position while a carbon fork helps to absorb shocks. There are also mounts for a rack and fender add ons. 

The Domane employs Shimano’s first tier entry-level components, Claris R2000, for the drive train, shifters and brakes. One nice feature of the Domane are shifters that are integrated with the brake levers, meaning your hands will never have to leave the bars. The wheels and handlebars are also from Bontrager. 

The frame plus components give the Domane a manageable load of 10 kg. 

2. Giant Contend AR3

Giant Contend AR3 Road Bike
Photo Credit : Giant

Quality Bike Components at an Entry Level Price

Giant bills the Contend AR 3 as your first true road bike

And for an entry-level bike, the AR 3 is pretty impressive. It comes specced with Shimano’s second-tier component group, the Shimano Sora. The rear cassette offers greater versatility than other entry-level bikes with 9 speeds. 

An aluminum frame keeps this bike lightweight while a hybrid composite front fork dampens road vibration. Giant describes its frame geometry as balanced for both aggressive riding and endurance. 

Disc brakes are also a nice feature on the AR 3, which is something you don’t always get on entry level road bikes. Giant also uses its patented D-Fuse alloy in its seat post to make your rides more comfortable. 

3. Salsa Journeyman

Salsa Journeyman Road Bike
Photo Credit : Salsa

Designed with Endurance and Comfort in Mind

The Salsa Journeyman is built with journeying in mind.

Components are full Shimano with an FSA crankset and 8-speed rear cogset. And, while Claris may be at the lower end of Shimano’s groupsets, it offers reliable shifting and includes the same integrated brake and gear lever setup found on Shimano’s higher-end components. 

The 1.5” WTB Riddle Comp tires offer enough tread for off road excursions on rails-to-trails paths but enough roll for efficient road riding. And if those tires aren’t beefy enough, the Journeyman has enough clearance to accommodate tires up to 2” wide. 

There are some nice upgrades for the Salsa Journeyman at the sub $1000 price point. This includes flat-mount disc brakes and full-length internal cable routing. 

4. Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1

Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 Bike
Photo Credit : REI

A Bike for On and Off Road Adventures

Keeping in line with its focus on outdoor adventures, REI’s Co-op line was branded as a trails first approach. 

The Co-op ADV 2.1 is designed to be ridden comfortably both on and off paved surfaces, giving you a very versatile, entry level road bike.

A double butted aluminum frame with a carbon fork keeps the weight down to 10 kg, while the compact 50/34T gearing gives you sufficient gears to ride fast on the flats and also go up steep climbs. For increased comfort and confidence riding off-road, it’s equipped with disc brakes and wider 35mm tires in which you can run lower tire pressures.

And this wouldn’t be a bike put out by REI if it wasn’t built for adventure. The Co-op ADV 2.1 has plenty of mounting points for frame bags and racks.

5. Raleigh Merit 2

Raleigh Merit 2 Road Bike
Photo Credit : Raleigh

A Bike That Does It All, On and Off Road

Once a standout with pro racers, Raleigh now focuses on producing youth, mountain and road bikes for recreational use.

The Raleigh Merit is a road bike with endurance riding in mind. Its geometry keeps you in a more upright position, which makes it better suited for taking on loose gravel and dirt. 

Components are all Shimano Sora with an 9-speed rear cassette and a compact 50/34T front chainrings that will get you through some of the steepest climbs. An aluminum frame keeps the bike’s weight in check while making a for a responsive ride. 

The Raleigh Merit 2 is a great versatile option for those wanting to take on the roads but still in need of some moderate off-road capability.

6. Fuji Bikes Jari 2.3

Fuji Jari 2.3 Road Bike
Photo Credit : Fuji

Designed for Endurance, Strength and Utility

Fuji, founded in Japan in 1899, takes its name from the famous mountain of the same name. The company’s founder saw the mountain as a symbol of strength and endurance.

Well, strength and endurance is exactly what you can expect from the Jari.

Proving that steel-frame bikes are not a relic of the past, Fuji’s Jari 2.3 is a formidable entry-level road bike that is also versatile enough to take things off-road. This bike’s chromoly frame is tough enough to take on not just paved surfaces, but also gravel roads. 

It even has plenty of frame mounts for bikepacking. Components include a mix of Shimano’s entry-level road and mountain bike components; Sora brakes, shifters, and front derailleur, and an Alivio rear derailleur. 

A 9-speed rear cassette offers plenty of gear options while extra-wide road tires provide off-road stability. At nearly 13 kg, this is also one of the heavier bikes on the market.

7. Roll A1R

Roll Bicycles AR1
Photo Credit : Roll Bicycles

A Perfect Blend Between On and Off Road Riding

The trend towards bikes that can effectively handle both paved and off-road surfaces continues to spur the development of more and more adventure bikes. 

Enter the A:1R Adventure Road bike from Roll Bicycles.

Roll’s take on the adventure bike is a balanced mix of road bike and gravel bike. The frame is lightweight double-butted aluminum for durability and stiffness. Internally routed cables keep brake and shifting lines from getting in the way. 

While Roll goes with standard road drops, it opts for a short reach, creating a more comfortable upright riding position for long touring rides. The full SRAM Apex drivetrain leans more towards offroad needs with a 10-speed 11-36T rear cassette and single 34T front chainring. While this may feel limiting on paved flats, it provides plenty of options for off road climbs. 

What to Expect in a Road Bike Under $1000

With so many options out there when it comes to road bikes, determining which bike is the right first purchase for you can be more than a bit overwhelming.

Steel or aluminum?

What’s the difference between Shimano Tiagra and Shimano Sora?

How aggressive should the frame geometry be?

Don’t worry. We’re here to help guide you through this confusing process.

Below we’ll take you through the factors you should concern yourself the most with and even give you our top picks for an entry-level road bike.

Buyer's Guide to Road Bikes Under $1,000
Buyer's Guide to Road Bikes Under $1,000, by The Geeky Cyclist

1. Frame Materials

For bikes at the entry-level price point of less than $1,000, you have two options to consider: steel or aluminum. 

Both have their pros and cons. 

The biggest advantage of aluminum is weight. Aluminum is simply lighter than steel, which means less weight to haul and a faster bike that is easier to handle. Steel, in comparison, is sluggish. 

Steel is king when it comes to strength and durability. Whereas aluminum is brittle, steel frames such as Fuji Jari are malleable. They will rarely fail and will bend long before they will break. Steel’s relative flexibility also makes for a more comfortable ride as it will better absorb road shocks than aluminum. 

2. Frame Geometry

Frame geometry refers to the shape of your bike’s frame. 

This includes everything from the length of the tubes, the angles at which they connect and the height of your handlebars. All of these factors determine how your body fits on the bike. 

Frames that are designed for endurance riding will put you in a more upright position, which generally makes riding more comfortable. 

For example, the Salsa Journeyman is designed for long distance riding in mind.

Frame geometry that tilts more to the racing side of road cycling will put you into a more aggressive, lower position that offers better performance but also makes for a less comfortable ride, especially over long distances.

3. Groupsets

Groupsets make up the drivetrain, shifters, and brakes on a road bike. 

When it comes to groupsets, you have three main component manufacturers; 

  • Shimano
  • SRAM, and Campagnolo

You’ll typically only find Campagnolo, or Campy for short, on higher-end bikes while Shimano and SRAM make components for both high-end and entry-level bikes. 

Shimano is by far the largest of the three. These manufacturers offer their components in tiered groupsets that range from novice to pro racer. 

Shimano’s entry-level groupsets include their Claris, which is at the lowest tier, followed by Sora and Tiagra. 

What’s the difference? 

Groupsets in higher tiers are lighter and offer better performance. They also cost more. 

That said, when purchasing a road bike, you’ll notice that bike retailers often mix these groupsets to keep costs down. You might find an entry-level bike with a Sora front derailleur and a Tiagra rear derailleur, for example. 

You’ll typically see entry-level bikes equipped with 8, 9 or 10-speed options. This refers to the number of gears in the rear cassette. 

For instance, the Giant Contend AR 3 is 9-speed while the Trek Domane and Salsa Journeyman are 8-speed.

What’s the difference? 

Generally speaking, when cycling on hilly terrain, the more gears you have, the easier it is to maintain a consistent pedaling speed or cadence. More gears also means smaller jumps between each gear, allowing for a more consistent cadence. 

4. Total Weight

One characteristic you’ll hear a lot about if you spend enough time cycling is weight. 

Because entry-level road bikes are outfitted with heavier components, wheels, and frames, they will typically weight above 8.5 kg. 

Most entry level bikes such as the Trek Domane AL 2 and Giant Contend AR 3 weigh in at around 10 kg with steel frame bikes weighing upwards of 12 to 13 kg.