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The 10 Best Road Bikes Under $500 in 2020

Planning to get your first road bike but with a very tight budget?

Alloy 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.

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But otherwise, read on.

Here are 9 of the best road bikes you can get for under $500.

1. Marin Nicasio

Marin Nicaso Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Steel
  • Gears : 8 speed
  • Brakes : Disc
  • Weight : 13kg

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. 

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. 

Mountain bikes are apparently not all Marin is good at designing. The steel-framed Nicasio is built for adventure biking. What does this mean? 

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. 

2. Brand X

Brand X Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 7 speed
  • Brakes : Rim
  • Weight : 11.5kg

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 alloy frame and a mostly Shimano drivetrain with a ProWheel crankset. The Tourney drivetrain offers just 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. 

3. Vitus Razor

Vitus Razor Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 8 speed
  • Brakes : Rim
  • Weight : 10.5kg

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. Legendary Irish cyclist Sean Kelly raced Vitus bikes back in the 1980s. 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 aluminum alloy frame bike just 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. 

4. Merlin PR7

Merlin PR7 Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 8 speed
  • Brakes : Rim
  • Weight : 10.5kg

The upright geometry and shallow drop handlebars of Merlin’s PR7 gives it a classic look and more aggressive geometry than your average entry-level road bike. Merlin is best known for pioneering titanium frames in the 1990s. 

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 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.

5. Schwinn Phocus

Schwinn Phocus Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 8 speed
  • Brakes : Rim
  • Weight : 13kg

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 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 Phocus also comes in a women’s specific frame. 

6. Eurobike

Eurobike Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 7 speed
  • Brakes : Disc
  • Weight : 14kg

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. 

7. Vilano R2

Vilano R2 Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 7 speed
  • Brakes : Rim
  • Weight : 12kg

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 is a factory direct bike, so some assembly is required. 

8. Vilano Shadow 3.0

Vilano Shadow 3.0 Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 7 speed
  • Brakes : Rim
  • Weight : 11.5 kg

The Vilano Shadow 2.0 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 Tourney, which makes them reliable though not performance-oriented. Like the R2, the Shadow is fitted with rim brakes. These features make the Shadow 2.0 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.  

9. Giordano Aversa

Giordano Aversa Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Alloy
  • Gears : 7 speed
  • Brakes : Rim brakes
  • Weight : 13kg

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 14-speed drivetrain with stem shifters, alloy wheels and rim brakes. 

While this bike 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.

10. Giordano Libero Acciao

Giordano Libero Acciao Road Bike
  • Frame Material : Steel
  • Gears : 7 speed
  • Brakes : Rim brakes
  • Weight : 13kg

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 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. 

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;

  • Steel
  • Aluminum

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. 

For example, the Vitus Razor and Merlin PR7 come in at 10.5kg, which is light for a bike below $500.

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 10kg 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. 

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.