Best Road Bikes for Hitting the Off-Road Trails

Last updated: August 25, 2020
BEST OVERALL
Multifaceted, Affordable and Great-Value
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BEST BUDGET
Robust, Powerful, Versatile and Low-Cost
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BEST WITH DROP BARS
High-Performance and Comfort-Oriented
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BEST WITH INTEGRATED SHIFTERS
Lightweight, Durable, Versatile and Great-Value
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BEST WITH DISC BRAKES
Sleek, Lightweight, Responsive and Race-Ready
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Your guide

When it comes to road bikes, you will find a range of bike types to complement different road riding styles e.g. leisure riding, fitness riding, adventure riding, bicycle touring and utility cycling.

Considering that there is a particular type of road bike to address a specific riding need, your selection of the best road bike will rely heavily on your motive behind hitting the paved roads, e.g. sportive, exercise, leisure or transport.

Furthermore, your choice will be influenced by the amount that you are willing the spend on your new bike, and what you expect the most out of your riding machine, e.g. performance, speed, comfort, latest tech specs or overall value. Also, knowing what size of a road bike is the best fit for you is incredibly important, so you don’t end up with something that doesn’t suit you at all.

Top 5 Road Bikes

Not everyone is gung-ho about hitting the off-road trails and not all can afford to indulge their passion for bike riding with the more expensive variation of cycling i.e. mountain biking. For many, the thrill of cutting through a pack of riders and zooming past breath-taking sceneries is as much of an adrenaline rush as the activity of going off the road and climbing steep hills or hurtling down dirt roads.

a woman riding a bike back view

Whether you are purchasing a road bike as a healthy and cost-effective alternative to your everyday commute to work, for recreational purpose, for road racing, to run errands or to ride with your group of friends, rest assured that you won’t be wanting in choices with regards to brands, models, tech specs and price points.

Choosing the best road bike is easier said than done. It entails time-consuming research and some bit of technical understanding on your part to discern a well-spec’d bike from the numerous options available online and in-store.

Thankfully, you don’t have to invest time sifting through numerous websites or hopping from one store to another to find the best road bicycle for your needs.

We have done the hard work for you and the below list is an outcome of our hours of analyzing user reviews and leveraging our own experience in riding as well as test-riding a range of bikes to find a worthy mention in the five categories. Read on to know more about our top 5 road bikes that will deliver without putting a big dent in your savings.

Also, check out our guides on some bike accessories and road bike tires to make your cycling adventure more comfortable.

1. Best Overall - Specialized Allez

Specifications:

  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Width: 25mm
  • Shift Levers: Shimano Claris 8-speed
  • Chainrings: 50/34T

 Key Features:

  • Specialized E5 Premium Aluminum frame
  • Full FACT carbon fiber fork
  • Geometry inspired by Specialized’s vast Retül bike-fitting database
  • Reliable Shimano Claris shifting

Specialized Allez Review

We kick off our list of the five best road bikes in 2020 with Specialized’s Allez – our top choice for the best all-round road bike. Ever since its introduction more than three decades ago, this entry-level bike has remained a firm favorite in the bike manufacturing giant’s eminent line-up of road bikes.

It is now available in a redesigned E5 Alloy frame, which, according to the brand, renders this race-inspired bike a class-leading weight.

Often, buying a bike on a limited budget means having to make do with a sub-par build and/or compromised ride quality. But not so with this swanky-looking racy road performer. The maker claims to have developed the Allez with its database of the most technically advanced bike fitting and product matching technology – Retül.

What this means for you is a well-designed bike that combines performance-minded handling with improved aerodynamics and a very capable geometry that is attuned to a broad range of positions.

Featuring a premium aluminum build, the Allez can get you up and down a hill, over rough chip-seal and across winding paths with ease, thanks to its smooth ride quality and superior handling capability – made possible with a refined alloy frame, weight-saving, aggressively thin-walled yet tough tubes and a full FACT carbon fiber fork.

The lightweight build is bolstered with high-end components such as a Shimano Claris 8-speed drivetrain, a comfortable Body Geometry Bridge saddle, an anti-corrosion alloy seat post, Specialized shallow drop 70x125mm handlebars, durable Axis Sport alloy wheels and hard-wearing Espoir Sport 700 x 25mm tires with double BlackBelt protection.

With Allez, it does not matter whether it is your first bike or an upgrade from an erstwhile entry-level road bike. You can expect refreshingly refined and comfortable rides from this top-performing, versatile alloy-framed racer that is equally at home with daily commuting as it is with fitness and sportive-type rides.

The wide range of gears makes it suitable for riding on a wide range of terrain, adding versatility to its already long list of impressive qualities. The price is also on point, and, at $875, Specialized’s value offering proves that a modest budget is not necessarily a barrier to accessing industry-leading technologies or enjoying miles of good rides.

With regards to aesthetics, this road bike under $1,000 is undoubtedly one of the best-looking bicycles in this price range, thanks to a stylish exterior in a glossy, satin or hyper fade finish, svelte lines, smooth welds and clean looks rendered by internal cable routing.

The provision of integrated rack and fender mounts further ups its appeal as a utility bike that will not only carry you around but also your belongings.

Anything that could improve? Unsurprisingly, with so much on offer already, our list of desirable alternatives is skimpy. However, the Tektro dual-pivot alloy brakes definitely could do with an upgrade to level up the braking performance.

With that out of the way, the Specialized Allez is a very dependable, all-round bike that can fit in as an affordably priced, good beginner road bike, a fast commuter bike, a performance-packed tarmac machine for road racing and a solid pick for spending long hours in the saddle.

Pros
  • Lighter frame and fork for class-leading weight
  • Smoother ride quality and better handling with a redesigned frame and quality specs
  • Versatile and slightly relaxed geometry to suit a broad range of cyclists
  • Integrated rack and fender mounts for enhanced utility
Cons
  • Budget brakes do a decent job but can be improved

2. Best Budget - Schwinn Phocus 1600

Specifications:

  • Frame Size: 41cm (small) and 56cm(large)
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Thickness: 23mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano 16-speed

Key Features:

  • Shimano Claris 16-speed derailleur
  • Microshift integrated shift/brake lever combo
  • Promax alloy dual pivot caliper road brakes
  • Alloy crank and carbon fiber road fork

Schwinn Phocus 1600 Drop Bar Road Bike Review

Unaffordability is often one of the main factors that come in between bike enthusiasts and their willingness to convert their casual interest in cycling into a serious sport or a disciplined means to get back in shape.

The American icon, Schwinn makes it possible for you to launch your cycling journey without busting your budget. Regardless of whether you are looking for the best beginner road bike for men or the best beginner’s road bike for women, you can count on the Phocus 1600 to get you on the road and see you having fun at that.

Currently available online at a discounted price of $449, the Phocus 1600 is a reliable choice for those looking to buy the best budget road bike under $500. This drop bar model is essentially designed for leisure and fitness rides and does a good job of both.

The aluminum fitness frame makes it high-performance equipment for your daily workouts, while the lightweight build renders it a sprightly feel that ensures your long-distance solo commutes and group rides with your cycling buddies are less strenuous and more fun.

For an entry-level bicycle, the Phocus 1600 comes loaded with desirable features that are quite unusual for a starter bike and that too in this price range. For example, Schwinn has equipped it with a carbon fiber road fork for responsive handling and quick, agile riding – impressive as not many manufacturers would have considered anything carbon for a budget bike.

Then there are high-profile double-wall alloy rims with a quick-release front wheel. The rims are lightweight and strong and help keep the weight of the wheels in check. The Promax alloy dual pivot caliper road brakes are reliable and make for assured stops with their superior braking power.

Giving flat bars a miss, the Phocus 1600 opts for drop bars to provide you with the comfort of multiple hand positions when riding. A Shimano Claris 16-speed derailleur with micro shift integrated shift/brake lever combo facilitates smooth, precise and swift gear changes and better handling of your rides with all your bike’s controls in one place.

We also like the quick release-enabled saddle that facilitates seamless height adjustments. This budget road bike banks on smooth-rolling, thin Kenda Kontender road tires for fast-paced riding.

The tires, although reliable as commuting tires and also wearing well and supporting fast speed, are not the sturdiest or the most puncture-proof tires that you will find out there and flats could be bothersome.

Replacing the narrow tires early on with wider, heavy-duty tires will be a wise move to keep those unexpected flats at bay.

Barring this particular weakness, we found the Phocus 1600 to be great value for money with its bike-shop quality components and advanced features that are comparable with pricier offerings from other big-name brands.

If you are looking to take up cycling as a form of exercise or as a leisure sport for your weekends and do not fancy breaking the bank to get into the early stages of your road riding journey, you are more than likely to strike the right note with this no-frills, quality offering from Schwinn.

Pros
  • Lightweight and durable aluminum frame
  • Good-quality components
  • Effective braking system for tight stops
  • Wide gear range
  • Easy to assemble
  • Budget-friendly
Cons
  • Tires could be susceptible to flats

3. Best With Drop Bars - AL Disc 7.0

Specifications:

  • Weight: 9.10kg
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Width: 28mm
  • Frame Material: Aluminum

 Key Features:

  • Vibration-dampening, VCLS technology-enabled carbon SP43 Seatpost
  • Curved Ergo AL handlebar for enhanced hand comfort and confidence-inspiring riding
  • Precise and powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • Built around Canyon’s Sport Geometry for an efficient riding position

Canyon Endurace AL Disc 7.0 Review

When it comes to road bikes, you have a choice of two types of handlebars – flat and drop. Both have their own merits and demerits with regards to factors such as riding comfort, position, control and maneuverability.

If you are buying a bike for long-distance/day-long riding and looking for the most comfortable road bike handlebars, drop bars will be your best bet. They offer you multiple hand positions to minimize hand fatigue and make longer rides and commutes more endurable. Plus, there is the aerodynamic advantage when riding on the hoods or in the drops.

A great blend of performance, functionality, value and good looks, the well-spec’d Canyon Endurace AL Disc 7.0 road bike with drop bars is a very competent buy for riders targeting capable endurance riding or long hours in the saddle – without numb and tired hands for company.

This all-round endurance road bike features an H17 Ergo AL handlebar with 70mm reach and 130mm drop. The bar’s ergonomic design helps distribute the pressure points and provides enhanced comfort and control for descents, sprints, and long-distance riding, plus improved access to shift and brake levers.

At $1,599, the Endurace AL Disc 7.0 packs in a whole lot of workhorse components for a mid-range road bike. The firm but lightweight 1,350g aluminum frame limits the bike’s overall weight to 9.10kg.

A catchy color scheme (read airwave blue or stealth color) and a gorgeous, clean frame make for a stunner that not only rides well but also looks great.

This stylish, all-day bike is engineered around Canyon’s Sport Geometry, which promotes a more relaxed, upright riding position and more efficient pedaling to make long journeys less arduous for the rider. The use of Sport Geometry also means augmented stability and reduced road buzz with long chainstays and thin seat stays.

Look past the cutting-edge design details and you will find a very admirable component spec backing up this bike, including a full Shimano R7000 105 groupset, a Shimano HG700 11-34 cassette, hydraulic disc brakes, a carbon SP43 Seatpost and a carbon fork.

The Mavic Aksium Elite UST Disc – Yksion Pro UST wheel-tire system is lightweight and efficient with wider rims for ample grip and tubeless-ready 28mm tires for superior puncture-resistance on unpaved roads.

And there is a claimed clearance of 33mm for wider tires to give you the advantage of boosted traction in varied riding conditions.

Any major compromises? Not really, although mudguard mounts would have been a welcome addition. Also, the relatively flat profile of the Selle Italia X3 saddle may come across as a bit too stiff to those who prefer saddles with a bit more shape and padding. However, this remains a personal preference and may not be bothersome for all.

Except for these two observations, none of which are deal-breakers, we didn’t have much to complain regarding the Endurace AL Disc 7.0’s ride quality, performance, comfort factor or price point.

For us, it has almost everything going for it to position itself as an all-weather, competitively priced and performance-oriented endurance racer with drop bars – one that can deliver fun, fast rides when you are covering long miles, attacking tough climbs or heading downhill, without wearing you out with the aggressive riding position of a racing bike frame.

Pros
  • High-quality and durable aluminum frame
  • Robust design and quality spec
  • Optimal riding position for long-distance comfort
  • Hassle-free assemble
  • Backed up with a 6-year warranty
Cons
  • Does not come with mudguard mounts

4. Best With Integrated Shifters - Contend 3

Specifications:

  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Clearance: 28mm
  • Wheelset: Giant S-R3
  • Shifters: Shimano Claris

 Key Features:

  • High-quality ALUXX aluminum frame
  • Innovative D-Fuse Seatpost
  • Built with Giant’s revolutionary Compact Road design
  • Bolstered with Giant’s OverDrive and Tubeless System technologies

Giant Contend 3 Review

The major advantage of opting for integrated shifters is that you get your bike’s braking and gear shifting controls assembled in a single component.

The benefit that you get to draw from this kind of arrangement is that both the shifters and brakes are always easy to reach and in your field of vision. So, you don’t have to take your hands off the handlebars or your eyes off the road to shift gears.

At $680, the Contend 3 2020 ticks all the rights boxes to earn the top place in our category of “Best Road Bike with Integrated Shifters”. Performance, ride quality, efficiency, comfort, cost-effectiveness or a modern gearshift system – you name it and this entry-level road bike has it in it to fulfill your expectations.

Although designed to help aspiring riders elevate their on-road riding experience, this versatile all-rounder packs in enough punch to take it above a starter-level bike and position it as a great-value and high-performing bicycle for new and seasoned cyclists alike.

The Contend 3 manifests a durable build that boasts the manufacturer’s reliable entry-level aluminum technology – ALUXX. The performance-level ALUXX-grade aluminum renders a certain degree of resilience to the frame and makes this bike suitable for different riding styles.

The lightweight build further makes for snappy acceleration, and, combined with a relatively smaller 34t cog, it facilitates efficient and easy climbing on steep inclines.

An innovative own-brand D-Fuse alloy seat post ensures minimal fatigue and enhanced comfort for a smooth riding experience that is not overridden with road shocks and vibrations.

The use of 28mm tires contributes to the rider’s comfort factor by making travel on rough roads smoother and more stable. Plus, there is ample frame and fork clearance to enable the fitting of wider tires of up to 32c.

With a bike as affordably priced as the Contend 3, you would think the geometry would be compromised. Not so with this entry-level bike from Giant. The geometry is balanced. So, besides an endurance-influenced upright rider position, which translates into smooth climbs uphill, you have the added advantage of agile cornering and responsive acceleration – typical of a road racer.

As for the tech specs, the Contend 3’s componentry is an assortment of the manufacturer’s own-brand as well as name-brand parts – nothing top-of-the-line but all functional and capable of delivering stable and smooth rides for the user.

The selection of components includes Tektro TK-B177 brakes, FSA Tempo crankset, Shimano Claris shifters, front & rear derailleurs, and brake levers, ALUXX-grade aluminum fork, Giant S-R3 wheelset, and Giant P-R3 AC 28mm tires. The brake levers are dual-action, meaning they also act as gear shifters – quite remarkable for a groupset at the lower end of the price spectrum.

Sure, we are not going gaga over the Contend 3’s relatively heavy spec, but we think the components are comparable with similar offerings in this price bracket and we certainly approve of the manageable climbs to the top with the wider gear range of a compact 34/50 crankset and an 8-speed cassette with a 34t cog.

To sum up, Giant’s revamped Contend 3 is a versatile offering that is meant for all-round riding and that emphasizes the riding needs of budding cyclists. As someone new to cycling or as an ambitious road rider yet to achieve pro-level mastery, this is the bike that you will want to ride to pile on the miles and also push the pace when you are out on the road.

Pros
  • Lightweight frame for efficient climbs and snappy acceleration
  • Comfortable and confident rider position
  • Decreased road vibrations and shocks for smooth ride quality
  • Balanced road geometry for an all-rounder feel
  • Professional assembly service included
Cons
  • Components are not the most efficient in the market

5. Best With Disc Brakes - Émonda ALR 5

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8.98kg
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Width: 25mm
  • Frame Material: 300 Series Alpha Aluminum

Key Features:

  • H2 geometry for an optimal fit and the right blend of power and performance
  • Invisible weld technology for enhanced strength, less material usage and cleaner looks
  • Powerful, lighter and smaller hydraulic disc brakes for confident stopping power under harsh conditions
  • Shimano 105 drivetrain for high performance, augmented maneuverability and efficient shifting

Trek Émonda ALR 5 Disc Review

With today’s pro peloton inclining towards disc brakes, the popularity of disc brake as a braking system has increased manifold. Thus, you will find the market flooded with disc brake-equipped bicycles from several big-name bike manufacturers across the globe, including the likes of Giant, Specialized, Trek, Canyon, and Cannondale.

Wondering if a road bike with disc brakes is right for you? The answer is a “yes” if aspects such as precise braking, confidence-inspiring stopping in harsh weather conditions, improved tire clearance and minimized brake-induced heated rims matter to you.

After analyzing a host of bikes with disc brakes, we found the Trek Émonda ALR 5 Disc to be one of the most bankable disc road bikes in the market. So, what made us choose the Émonda ALR 5 Disc as the best in this category?

First and foremost, we have to admit that this budget racer is quite the looker and can easily grab attention with its svelte lines (courtesy of almost-invisible welds and internal cable routing) and luxurious finish that can hoodwink any onlooker into believing that this is an expensive carbon frame when it is not.

But that’s not the reason why it is on our list as we are reviewing no head-turners here. The light and responsive Émonda ALR 5 Disc feels fast and smooth on pavements, fares well on the climbs, corners on rails and does not feel out of its depth on technical descents – just what we would expect from a top-notch road racer.

The gorgeous-looking, wallet-friendly frame is advanced alloy and replicates carbon looks at the price point of an aluminum frame.

By keeping the bike’s geometry at par with its highest-end carbon Émonda race bikes, Trek has ensured that the aluminum sibling not only looks premium but also delivers a ride quality that is comparable with the riding performance of far more pocket-pinching carbon frames.

No matter what kind of road riding you are targeting – on-road racing, club rides or that occasional veering off paved roads for some technical adventure – this performance race-ready frame will keep you going with fast and stable rides.

Powerful Shimano 105 flat mount hydraulic disc brakes equip you with the stopping power you need to make confident halts in any weather condition.

According to Trek, the Émonda ALR 5 Disc has been engineered to be the lightest in its class and designed for all-around road racing. The result is an 8.98kg frame with a spritely response to pedaling input, surefooted cornering, and quick handling.

So, whether you are looking to climb your way to the summit or conquer short, punchy hills and twisty descents – trust the Émonda ALR 5 Disc to feel at home and leave you with an enjoyable ride impression along the way.

Coming to the technical specifications, the componentry is dependable – complete with in-house as well as name-brand parts and big upgrades.

So, you have the likes of an Émonda SL carbon fork with 12x100mm thru-axle, a carbon seat post, a Bontrager Comp VR-C alloy handlebar with 124mm drop, Shimano 105 R7000 derailleurs, crank and cassette, Bontrager Affinity tubeless-ready wheels, Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite 700x 25c tires and a full 2×11 Shimano 105 drivetrain that endows this race-ready, light road disc bike with precise and reliable shifting.

The hydraulic disc brakes support additional tire clearance – handy when you need wider and more stable tires to smooth out rough roads and mixed-surface courses.

At an asking price of $1,999.99, the Émonda ALR 5 Disc is certainly not the cheapest when it comes to aluminum road bikes. However, it is a very respectable purchase for a disc-brake equipped race bike with carbon looks and handling.

The reasonable price tag does not come at the cost of ride quality or enjoyment and the high-quality spec makes this versatile, nimble race-ready frame a performance pusher in its own right.

Think you can stretch your budget a bit to bring home this speed-focused beauty under $2,000? Then, go for it and prepare yourself for miles and miles of fast solo or group riding that doesn’t feel harsh but surprisingly lively, fun and comfortable.

Pros
  • Lightweight, durable and carbon-like build
  • Confidence-inspiring ride quality
  • Superior road shock and vibration absorption with an Émonda SL carbon fork
  • Extra clearance to accommodate wider, more stable tires
  • Premium carbon looks and carbon-like performance, minus the carbon price point
Cons
  • Not the cheapest aluminum frame in the market

Road Bikes: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Road Bike for Beginners?

There isn’t any one particular best road bike for beginners as your choice of the best entry-level road bike will depend on your own riding style, riding aspirations and budget. Also, these days, you will find a wide range of budget bikes that are versatile enough to double up as a dependable first road bike and a good-quality upgrade bike.

Having said that, you must pay attention to aspects such as frame material, groupset, wheelset, braking system etc. as your bike’s build quality and the quality and functionality of its components will go a long way in influencing your initial ride impressions and your decision to pursue cycling as a long-term sport.

What Is the Best Road Bike Brand?

Again, there is no one best road bike brand but there are indeed several well-established and up-and-coming bike brands that manufacture a wide range of road bikes to cater to a broad selection of cyclists.

Some of the notable road bike manufacturers include Giant, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Canyon, BMC and Diamondback.

What Is the Best Road Bike Under $1,000?

There are several bike models that can be considered as the “best road bike under $1,000”, depending on the category under which they are evaluated, e.g. Best Value, Best Gravel Bike, Best Disc Road Bike, Best Endurance Road Bike, Best Men’s Road Bikes, and Best Women’s Road Bikes.

This buying guide covers the Specialized Allez, Giant Contend 3 and Schwinn Phocus 1600 - all of which are quality road bikes under $1,000.

Which Is Better - Giant or Trek?

Between the two, Giant is recognized as the world’s largest bike manufacturer and has a competitive edge over Trek by way of its location, which also allows Giant to curtail its production costs and sell bicycles at relatively lower prices than many brands.

Giant is also credited with being at the forefront of technological innovations that have subsequently been adopted across the industry as standards. Nonetheless, both the brands are bankable and it’s hard to go wrong with either when it comes to performance, quality and variety.

Best Road Bikes for Hitting the Off-Road Trails in 2020 — Bike Hacks