Planning to get your first road bike but with a very tight budget?
Aluminum or steel?
7, 8 or even 9 speed drivetrain?
Before you decide, you might want to find out more about what to expect in a road bike under $500. If you’re expecting all the latest and best technologies, you’ll need to increase your budget higher.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Budget Road Bikes Under $500
|Giordano Libero||Steel||7 Speed||13.0 kg|
|Schwinn Phocus||Aluminum||8 Speed||11.5 kg|
|Vilano Shadow 3||Aluminum||7 Speed||11.3 kg|
|Eurobike||Aluminum||7 Speed||14.0 kg|
|Giordano Aversa||Aluminum||7 Speed||13.0 kg|
|Marin Nicasio||Steel||8 Speed||13.0 kg|
|Vilano R2||Aluminum||7 Speed||12.0 kg|
|Brand-X||Aluminum||7 Speed||11.5 kg|
|Vitus Razor||Aluminum||8 Speed||10.0 kg|
|Merlin PR7||Aluminum||8 Speed||10.5 kg|
Giordano Libero Acciao
An Italian Inspired, Classic Steel Road Bike
The first thing you’ll notice about the Giordano Libero Acciao road bike is its classic European design, unlike it’s sibling the Giordano Aversa.
And although the company is part of Kent Bikes, which is based in New Jersey, the company says its bikes are inspired by classic Italian designs. Acciao, which means steel in Italian, refers to the bike’s frame.
And while steel adds weight, the Giordano Libero is actually lighter than many other steel frame bikes. The drive train is all Shimano with Tourney shifters and a rear derailleur. A seven-speed cogset and double chain ring provides 14 gears.
A Vitesse wheelset is also a nice touch and adds to the Italian look of the bike.
The Bike Brand Most American Grew Up With
One of the oldest bike companies in the world, Schwinn is still one of the best-known names in cycling in the U.S., especially for those not yet part of the cycling community.
It’s the bike brand many Americans grew up riding.
And while Schwinn may not have a presence with serious cyclists, it still offers excellent bikes at the entry and recreational level. The Phocus is one of those bikes.
This aluminum-frame bike comes equipped with an 8-speed Claris rear derailleur with Suntour Alloy crank and alloy caliper brakes for solid good braking power. An alloy wheel set that features an attractive non-traditional spoke pattern is surprisingly lightweight.
The Schwinn Phocus also comes in a women’s specific frame.
Vilano Shadow 3
Double Butted Aluminum Frame to Keep the Weight Down
The Vilano Shadow 3 is a step up from the company’s R2 model, but stays well within the under $500 club.
The Shadow features integrated brakes and shifters, which is something not including with the R2. The drive train includes a 7-speed rear cassette and double chain ring.
As with the R2, components are Shimano Tourney, which makes them reliable though not performance-oriented. Like the R2, the Shadow is fitted with rim brakes. These features make the Vilano Shadow 3 a good option for entry level cyclists on a tight budget.
As with Vilano’s other bikes, be prepared to do some assembly on your own, or to pay someone else to do it, once it arrives.
Look No Further If You're After A Bargain
The Eurobike Road Bike is so ridiculously cheap, it’s difficult to understand how a company can sell a bike at this price point without losing money.
And while you might understandably be skeptical of such an inexpensive bike, don’t be. The Eurobike, though one of the heavier bikes at the sub $500 price point, offers plenty of nice features.
The geometry of the steel frame offers a comfortable upright position for beginners. And although the components are low end (the shifters are not integrated) they are Shimano; so you can count on reliable shifting and durability.
Disc brakes and aero spoke wheels are also nice features in the Eurobike.
A Popular Bike Among those Just Starting Out
It’s rare that you’ll find an aluminum frame bike cheaper than Giordano’s Aversa.
This bike comes in at the lower end of the sub $500 price point, offering excellent value for novice cyclists or those looking for a good commuter bike option. Accompanying the aluminum frame is a Shimano 2×7 speed drivetrain with stem shifters, alloy wheels and rim brakes.
While the Giordano Aversa won’t offer the performance options of higher-priced bikes, it is a great option for those interested in dipping their toes in the world of road bikes.
A Solid Steel Road Bike for Adventure Riding
Marin is a smaller outfit located in Marin County, California that has its roots in mountain biking. The company was started by Bob Buckley after he discovered the sport on the advice of his doctor.
It’s difficult to gain accolades from the cycling community. Cyclists can be downright snobby when it comes to bikes, which is why it’s notable that a bike at this price point managed to make it onto so many bike of the year lists.
The steel-framed Marin Nicasio is built for adventure biking.
The bike frame features greater clearance for wider tires (700x40mm or 650x47mm) and includes front and rear mounts for racks. It also comes equipped with an eight-speed drivetrain, double crank, and mechanical disc brakes.
Excellent Value for those on A Tight Budget
Coming in at the lower end of the under $500 price point, the Vilano R2 offers excellent value for those on a tight budget.
The Vilano’s most notable feature is its lightweight aluminum frame, which is a huge bonus at this ultra low price point. The Vilano’s shifting system is not integrated; however, it does give you a Shimano Tourney front and rear derailleurs, so expect reliable and smooth shifting.
A triple chainring helps you get the most out of 7-speed rear cog set. The Vilano is an excellent option for commuters or novices looking for a starter road bike.
Just keep in mind that the Vilano R2 is a factory direct bike, so some assembly is required.
A Tremendous Value with Quality Components
It’s hard to get more nondescript that naming your company Brand-X, which offers a rock bottom price with its road bike.
Their road bike is so cheap, Brand-X, which is sold exclusively through Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, didn’t even spend any money trying to come up with a name for its bike. It’s akin to naming your dog, Dog.
And while you might think that translates into poor quality, it doesn’t.
Brand-X’s road bike offers tremendous value at its price point including an aluminum frame and a mostly Shimano drivetrain with a ProWheel crankset. The Shimano Tourney drivetrain offers 7 speeds with a 14-28T cog set and a double crank of 50/34T.
So, while you won’t be taking on major climbs with this bike, it’s an excellent entry-level budget option into road cycling.
A Brand Ridden by the Legendary Sean Kelly to Many Professional Wins
Legendary Irish cyclist Sean Kelly raced Vitus bikes back in the 1980s.
You might have heard of Vitus way back when the company was originally a French bike manufacturer and had a presence in the grand tours.
But times have changed.
Vitus is now an in-house brand for Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle, though Sean Kelly still serves as the company’s brand ambassador. One look at the Razor, and you instantly see the value.
This Vitus Razor bike looks more expensive, right down to its full Shimano Claris groupset, 8-speed drivetrain and Kenda road bike tires. And although the gear range is somewhat limited for climbing with a small range of 11-28t, the geometry is sporty enough for aggressive cycling in the drops.
Classic Looking Geometry for the Purists
The Merlin PR7 is UK-based cycling store, Merlin Cycles in-house brand.
The upright geometry and shallow drop handlebars of the Merlin PR7 gives it a classic look and more aggressive geometry than your average entry-level road bike.
The geometry of the PR7, with its low stack, allows you to get down into a racing position if desired. Couple that with an almost complete Shimano Claris group set and you’ve got a bike that offers excellent value at the sub $500 price point.
The rear cog set is compact, running 11-28T with 8 speeds, which provides enough range for comfortable climbing. The wheelset is a little stockier on the Merlin PR7 with traditional-looking Mavic rims and Kenda 25c tires, making this bike’s overall weight a bit heavier than other bikes at this price point.
What to Expect in a Road Bike Under $500
While many cyclists may turn their noses up at bikes that fall into this price range, there is actually a surprising amount of value to be found in bikes at this low price point.
Advancements in bike technology have made older technologies like aluminum frames and cable disc brakes considerably more affordable.
And while these technologies may not cut it for experienced cyclists, they offer plenty of value for the novice looking to get on a road bike while on a very tight budget.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect from a road bike below $500.
1. Frame Material
For road bikes at this rock bottom price, you only have two options when it comes to frames;
Aluminum is lighter weight and stiffer than steel, while steel offers better ride comfort and excellent durability.
And given the fact that bikes under $500 will more than likely be outfitted with heavier wheels and components, cutting weight on the frame just makes sense.
2. Drivetrain and Brake Components
When considering bikes at this price point, expect to find components and brakes that are at the very low end of entry-level.
Shimano’s lowest end groupset is Claris. And while Claris components may not offer the gear range, weight savings and smooth performance of Shimano’s higher-end groupsets, it will provide you with durable and reliable shifting and brakes.
Also expect to find lower level components on bikes under $500 including Shimano Tourney (which is actually under Shimano’s mountain bike groupset family) and other off market brands.
Entry-level drivetrains are more basic and are set up to accommodate beginner riders. Gear configurations vary at this range with 7 or 8 gears in the rear cassette. This compares to higher-end cassettes that feature 10, 11 and even 12 gears.
Some bike manufacturers will seek to overcome the limitations of a small rear cog set by using a triple ring crankset, such as in the Vilano R2. Triple ring cranksets include a third smaller ring, sometimes referred to as the granny gear, which ranges between 24 and 32 teeth.
For beginners riding in very hilly terrain, the granny gear can be very useful. Triple ring cranksets offer a broader range of gear configurations, especially low gears. Whereas a double chainring might give you 14 or 16 gears (2×7 or 2×8), a triple crankset will offer 21 to 24 gears (3×7 or 3×8).
Brakes for bikes at this price point surprisingly offer some options beyond rim brakes. While you won’t find hydraulic brakes on bikes at this price point, expect to find cable-actuated disc brake bikes such as the Marin Nicaso and Eurobike.
3. Total Bike Weight
Due to the fact that bikes at this price point are using heavier frame materials and carrying heavier components and wheelsets, they will generally weigh more than higher-priced bikes, which incorporate more expensive lightweight technologies in their bikes.
Expect total weight to be above 10 kg with steel-framed bikes such as the Marin Nicaso being the heaviest.
4. Out of Box Assembly
In order to get the best bang for your buck for a bicycle that is under $500, you need to look for ways to eliminate costs. One of those ways is to eliminate the middleman by purchasing a bike that requires assembly.
Many of the best quality bikes under $500 require you to assemble them out of the box. You’ll need a set of bike tools at home to do this.
If this seems like too daunting of a task to take on, then consider spending the money to get someone else to assemble the bike for you. Amazon offers a bike assembly service for bikes purchased through the online retailer. You can also pay a local bike shop to do the job for you.