Best Entry-Level Road Bikes: Top 5 Beginner-Friendly Picks

Last updated: May 14, 2020
Best Overall
Powerful, Speedy, Durable and Compact
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Best Budget
Sturdy, Lightweight, Speedy and Agile
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BEST WITH DISC BRAKES
Lightweight, Versatile, Capable and Efficient
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BEST LIGHTWEIGHT
Lightweight, Agile, Responsive and Speedy
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BEST 21 SPEED
Strong, Easy-to-Assemble and Budget-Friendly
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Your guide

An entry-level road bike is a smart way to get into road riding, especially when you don’t want to invest a lot of money to test the waters.

However, not all entry-level bikes for road cycling are created equal, and the selection process can be quite overwhelming if you are unsure of how to discern the right bike from the plethora of options available in the market. This buying guide will save you hours of research while empowering you with the insights you need to make an informed buying decision.

Top 5 Entry-Level Road Bikes

Contrary to popular belief, purchasing an entry-level road bike does not mean that you have to settle for entry-level performance. Not so with today’s beginner bikes that don’t cut corners to meet the price points of the entry-level road bike market.

Many of today’s starter road bikes come packed with features that are usually the prerogative of their more expensive and advanced offerings.

cyclists on the road

From name-brand parts to quality frames, carbon forks, disc brakes, wider tires, drivetrains with multiple speeds, and a host of other modern specs, expect the best entry-level road bikes of today to make the latest technologies and features available to you at affordable price points.

Whether you are keen on utility cycling, recreational cycling, fitness rides, long rides, casual cruises around town, or exploratory tours – rest assured that a beginner road bike exists to suit your type of riding. And no matter what your deciding factor – budget, overall value, weight, reliable stopping power, or a multi-speed drivetrain – our buying guide will help you discern a good entry-level road bike that’s right for you.

This guide has been compiled keeping in mind the requirements of those who are just getting started on their cycling journey. Our choices are the result of hours of research, an unbiased study of scores of user reviews, and our own experience in riding a variety of bikes.

Eager to find out which ones made it to our list? Scroll down to unveil the top performers across our five categories of Best Overall, Best Budget, Best with Disc Brakes, Best Lightweight, and Best 21 Speed.

1. Best Overall - Tommaso Forcella

Specifications:

  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Width: 25mm
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 22.7lbs

Key Features:

  • 6061 SLA aluminum road frame
  • Lightweight but high-performance HCT carbon fork
  • 24-speed Shimano drivetrain and full Shimano Claris R2000 groupset
  • Rim brakes and wheels with wider 25mm, 700c tires

Tommaso Forcella Endurance Road Bike Review

If you are eager to get into road cycling with a versatile two-wheeled vehicle that is reasonably priced but not cheaply built, find your dream entry-level bike in the Tommaso Forcella – our top pick in the category of “Best Overall”.

Whether you seek an entry bike for casual commutes, recreational cycling, or fitness rides, find great value for money in the Forcella that blends comfort with weight savings for lightweight, fast, and enjoyable riding on the road.

This premium entry-level endurance road bike can also be your go-to rig when getting back to road cycling after a long break, thanks to a very impressive tech spec that ensures new and returning cyclists don’t have to make do with an average performance which is commonly expected out of beginner road bikes.

From the shifters and derailleurs to the crank and brakes – every component in the Tommaso Forcella is Shimano Claris R2000 – remarkable for a beginner road bike priced under $1,000. The use of a full Shimano groupset means optimal performance that hasn’t been compromised by the mix and match of parts from different third-party manufacturers.

The Forcella strikes a fine balance between strength and light weight with its premium 6061 aluminum frame and an HCT carbon fork. The frame is sturdy enough to offer you years of riding fun, and the carbon fork does a great job of dampening road vibrations in all conditions, without adding considerable weight to the bike.

A compact-frame, endurance-type geometry, coupled with Tommaso’s ultralight sport series handlebars and stem, ensures an optimized fit and increased comfort.

The WTB Volt saddle is both cushiony and comfortable and makes for relaxed riding on long journeys. Cornering also feels smooth and stable with 700 x 25c Kenda K152 road tires added for extra control on turns.

Tommaso Corsa TC-30 rims deliver lightweight, aerodynamic performance and incredible rolling speed, while quick, reliable stopping power is offered by the Shimano Claris brake calipers.

Another USP of this entry-level bicycle is its wide range of gears, which makes it suitable for all levels of riders and diverse riding conditions. Add to this the flexibility of riding at 24 different speeds and you have the inspiration you need to attack and conquer surfaces as varied as flats, inclines, and downhills.

Tommaso understands that personalization can play a big part in one’s overall riding experience. So, all its frames come drilled to accommodate a variety of racks, fenders, and accessories – impressive to say the least.

The Forcella arrives almost fully assembled and minor installation steps and adjustments are needed for the remaining parts such as seat, handlebars, and front wheel. That said, the manufacturer recommends professional assembly for optimal performance and validation of the warranties of your new bike.

Final verdict? If you are in the market for the best entry-level endurance road bike, the well-built, well spec’d, and stylishly designed Forcella will not disappoint you.

With an industry-leading lifetime warranty to back your purchase, you really don’t have much to worry about. Go ahead and pull the trigger as you are sure to be impressed on many counts, including style, quality, performance, and price.

Pros
  • Strong and lightweight build
  • Compact frame geometry
  • Premium compact handlebars
  • Speedy and powerful performance
  • Precise, smooth shifting in all riding conditions
  • Great range of gears to support rides on varying terrain
  • Customizable frame that can accommodate a range of bike accessories
  • Backed up with industry-leading lifetime warranty on frame and fork
Cons
  • Professional assembly/tuning recommended for avoiding installation errors
  • Some reviewers did not find the seat to be very comfortable
  • Not the cheapest entry-level bike in the market

2. Best Budget - Schwinn Volare 1400

Specifications:

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

Key Features:

  • Lightweight aluminum rigid fitness frame with rigid steel fork
  • Shimano 14-speed integrated shifter/brake lever and Shimano rear derailleur combo
  • Alloy crank and linear-pull alloy brakes
  • Oversized Schwinn road tires and high-profile double-wall rims

Schwinn Volare 1400 Review

Wish to make an entry into the world of cycling and speed past the competition, but without forking out a lump sum? Discover an economical way to get into road cycling with this entry-level racing bike from one of America’s best known and most-loved bicycle brands, Schwinn.

Despite being at the lower end of the price spectrum, our best budget-friendly beginner road bike packs quite a powerful punch with its sturdy build and quality components that make it a great choice as one’s first road bike.

If you consider yourself a speed demon, trust the Volare 1400 to quench your thirst for speed with fast, agile riding. The attractive-looking bike is built to go fast. So, you have a light but rigid aluminum fitness frame outfitted with a Schwinn sport riding seat, flat-styled handlebar, stem, and seat post – all of which are lightweight and durable.

A rigid steel road fork ensures quick, nimble riding, and the integrated Shimano 14-speed shifter/brake lever is easy to use – even for novices. The latter combines with Shimano front and rear derailleurs to take the overall riding experience up a notch with precise, smooth shifting.

Front and rear alloy caliper brakes deliver crisp, quick stopping and steady speed control, which makes this budget bike a reliable pick for beginners and intermediate cyclists alike.

As for durability, the Volare 1400’s robust frame is bolstered with high-profile alloy double-wall rims that are both light and strong and give the bike the necessary toughness for the safety and riding enjoyment of the user. And with oversized 700c x 28mm road tires in use, your rides feel comfortable, fast, and smooth, even when the bike rolls over rough terrain.

The Volare 1400 is versatile enough to fit adult riders 5ft 4in to 6ft 2in tall and can accommodate a maximum weight of 250lbs. And like all Schwinn bikes, it comes backed with a limited lifetime warranty to give you complete peace of mind for as long as you own the bike.

Coming to assembly, the bike arrives nearly ready to ride and requires minor adjustments and assembly before you can take it out for a spin. It’s worth noting though that some comfort upgrades may be required in due course, but that’s purely based on your individual riding style, needs, and preferences.

All in all, if you are just getting started and looking for a good entry-level road bike under $500, the Schwinn Volare 1400 will fit the bill. It won’t put a big dent in your wallet with an array of unnecessary bells and whistles and yet will score well for fitness, transport, and fun and that too at an incredible value price point.

Pros
  • Light, speedy frame
  • Flat styled, lightweight handlebar
  • Sport riding seat
  • Precise and smooth shifting
  • Crisp, quick braking
  • Easy to assemble
  • Backed up with limited lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Brakes may need tuning
  • Pedals can be of a better quality

3. Best with Disc Brakes - Giant Escape

Specifications:

  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Tire Width: 38mm
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: Best-in-class

Key Features:

  • Lightweight ALUXX-grade aluminum frame
  • Innovative D-Fuse seat post
  • Puncture-resistant Giant EasyRide Tubeless tires
  • Smooth-rolling 700c wheels

Giant Escape 2 Disc Review

If superior stopping power and consistent, reliable braking in dry and wet conditions are your key considerations in an entry road bike for beginners, a bike equipped with disc brakes will be the best fit for you.

Equipped with powerful disc brakes for better braking power and accurate stopping, the Escape 2 Disc is an affordable beginner road bike that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to performance, efficiency, capability, reliability, versatility, and affordability.

One of the best entry-level road bikes under $1,000 and the top contender in our category of “Best with Disc Brakes”, the all-around Giant Escape 2 is built for comfort and longer rides and offers you dependable performance on the tarmac and light trails.

And even though it’s a moderately priced offering aimed at new to intermediate riders, it manages to bundle in several of Giant’s technologies and systems that are known to ensure smoother, faster, safer, and comfortable rides for the user.

From a lightweight but strong ALUXX-grade aluminum frame and an innovative D-Fuse seat post and handlebar to Giant’s oversized fork steerer tube technology and puncture-resistant tires featuring the new Giant EasyRide Tubeless system, this flat-bar road bike leverages key technologies to help elevate your riding performance with an optimized strength-to-weight ratio, superior road shock and vibration absorption, optimal steering stiffness, fewer flat tires, greater traction, and less rolling resistance.

As for the componentry, Giant scores some major hits here by way of Shimano shifters, derailleurs, and cassette, Tektro brakes and brake levers, alloy fork, a Giant Sport Comfort saddle, and a Giant Sport XC handlebar. And there is clearance for larger tires up to 45c to ensure seamless rides on difficult terrain.

The geometry favors an upright riding position – desirable for comfortable city riding and commutes to the workplace, local grocery shop, etc. A wide range of gears puts you in control of your riding when attacking hills and the smooth-rolling 700c wheels make your road adventures fun with speedy and efficient rides.

Last but not least, the functional Escape 2 Disc features integrated mounts, which makes it a great commuter bike that can be customized with racks and fenders.

No deal-breakers here but the pedals are something to watch out for as they may come across a tad bit heavy to you.

Also, while the bike’s Performance-level ALUXX Aluminum technology is meant to cater to a range of riding styles, it is worth bearing in mind that it is the entry level of this technology and the components are also entry-level. Then again, that’s expected considering the rider profile that this bike caters to.

In closing, if you are on the hunt for a top entry-level road bike from a brand you can trust, you can’t go wrong with this versatile offering from Giant.

From casual rides and rides to keep yourself active to everyday commutes and recreational trips, this capable starter cycling bike will support you well no matter what your chosen path – busy city street, quiet country lane, or a more adventurous route.

Pros
  • Lightweight but durable
  • Upright riding position
  • Reliable stopping power
  • High-quality parts and innovative technologies
  • Integrated rack mounts
Cons
  • Pedals can be of a superior quality

4. Best Lightweight - Schwinn Phocus

Specifications:

  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Frame Size: 41cm (small) and 56cm (large)
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 30lbs

Key Features:

  • Shimano 16-speed drivetrain
  • Promax alloy caliper brakes
  • High profile double-wall alloy wheel rims
  • Alloy crank and carbon fiber road fork

Schwinn Phocus 1600 Drop Bar Road Bicycle Review

Looking for a steal of a deal on a starter bike that offers lightweight strength and versatile riding? Stay active and explore the open roads on the Schwinn Phocus 1600 – the top contender in our category of “Best Lightweight Entry-Level Road Bike”.

Schwinn’s drop bar road bike features an aluminum fitness frame, which makes it a great addition to your workout regime if you are looking to get a good workout now and then.

Although not strictly meant for professional competitions, the Phocus 1600 features a design that complements the sport of competitive racing.

Build for speed, this bike comes with drop handlebars that allow for a powerful and aerodynamic riding position. And despite being priced under $600, it manages to incorporate a carbon fiber road fork to add smoothness to your rides and facilitate better control over the bike without adding bulk.

Balanced rides are also ensured with the bike’s perfectly integrated Microshift shifter/brake lever that makes sure you never have to reach too far to control the action. Promax alloy caliper brakes give you the confidence you need to make sure stops in wet conditions and a Shimano 16-speed drivetrain delivers precise, effortless shifting.

The bike’s 700c wheels are equipped with double-wall alloy wheel rims to keep the weight in check.

The high-pressure road-style tread tires are thin but strong and offer minimal rolling resistance, meaning fast and smooth riding when burning the calories, cruising from A to B, or exploring new trails. Do note that you may have to use a bike pump to pump the tires to their optimal PSI before riding.

According to the manufacturer, this bike fits riders 5ft 4in to 6ft 2in tall. Also, while it comes as a pre-assembled package, some assembly steps and tuning are needed to make it road-ready at home or a bike shop.

Barring the tubes which could be prone to flats, there aren’t any outstanding weaknesses to cite with this entry bike.

In conclusion, the versatile Schwinn Phocus 1600 drop bar road bicycle is a good investment for you if you don’t want to splurge on a top-end model right at the start of your cycling journey.

Get yourself this beginner road bike if you want to hit the sweet spot between price and performance and equip yourself with a multifaceted bicycle that will be your go-to vehicle for a variety of riding needs.

Pros
  • Lightweight fitness frame
  • Powerful and aerodynamic riding position
  • Minimal rolling resistance
  • Smooth, fast gear changes
  • Reliable braking power
  • Limited lifetime warranty
Cons
  • May require professional assembly and tuning
  • The tubes are not heavy-duty enough

5. Best 21 Speed - Kent RoadTech

Specifications:

  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Frame Size: 32mm
  • Frame Size: 22.5 inches
  • Frame Material: Steel

Key Features:

  • Steel road bike frame
  • Shimano rear derailleur and Shimano Revo shifts
  • Alloy caliper brakes and high-profile alloy Vitesse racing rims
  • High-performance 700c tires

Kent RoadTech Road Bike Review

A multi-speed bike, such as a 21-speed road bike, is a good investment for a starter bike if you are keen to take your passion for two-wheel adventure to varying terrain. Such a bike will offer you a greater combination of changeable gears and facilitate comfortable rides at different speeds, which makes riding on a broad range of surfaces more enjoyable and fun.

The affordably priced Kent RoadTech offers a 21-speed range and is a good entry-level gravel bike for any beginner cyclist looking to explore new areas to experience the freedom and enjoyment that comes from riding a bike.

From casual riding on tarmac and gravel to outdoor recreation, training, and exercise, the Kent RoadTech can easily fit into your lifestyle to support your diverse riding needs.

This bike is built around a steel road bike frame, which makes it sturdy, albeit a tad bit heavy. The gorgeous frame is customizable and allows comfort upgrades to help you extract the best experience out of this entry-level 21-speed rig.

Regardless of whether you are buying your first road bike or a continuing bicycle, prepare yourself for miles of confident, enjoyable rides – thanks to the Kent RoadTech’s alloy calipers and brake levers that facilitate quick stopping and a Shimano derailleur-equipped drivetrain that offers quick and smooth gear changes across the RoadTech’s 21-speed range.

A Vitesse racing seat is a thoughtful addition for sustained comfort during fast racing and slow riding. Although some reviewers did not find the saddle to be comfortable and ergonomic enough, we feel this is a matter of personal preference.

Other key features of the Kent RoadTech include high-performance 700c tires and high-profile alloy Vitesse racing rims. We must also mention the Shimano Revo shifters which aid easy and reliable shifting without you having to take your hands off the bike’s handlebar.

All in all, the Kent RoadTech is a good bang for the buck for budget-conscious cyclists and newbies.

Sure, it won’t blow your socks away with top-of-the-line features. This entry-level road bike is not meant for that. It is the kind of bike that grows on you with every ride and has enough going for it to get you outside and active for casual commutes, fun weekend rides, and light training.

Pros
  • Strong build
  • Beautifully engineered design
  • Comfortable racing seat
  • 21-speed range
  • Smooth gear changes
  • Quick stopping
  • Reasonably priced
Cons
  • Some reviewers did not find the seat comfortable enough
  • Relatively heavy

Entry-Level Road Bikes: Frequently Asked Questions

What Should You Look for When Buying a Road Bike?

There are several factors to look for when buying a road bike, especially if it’s your first bike. First and foremost is the quality of the frame. Unlike parts such as wheels, tires, seats, etc., which are prone to wear and tear and more likely to be replaced or upgraded down the line, the frame stays on the bike for as long as the life of the vehicle.

So, it is crucial that you select an entry-level road bike with a frame that’s built to last. Besides the frame, you must also pay attention to the bike’s fork.

Although the fork is replaceable, it is not as easily replaced as some of the other parts, such as the bike’s groupset. Hence, it is essential that your chosen entry-level road bike also comes equipped with a quality fork.

Third, make sure you choose a beginner bike that’s the right size for you as not all models are meant to fit riders of all heights.

Once these three factors have been taken into consideration, you can narrow down your search based on other aspects such as the stiffness of the wheels, quality of the pedals, comfort quotient of the seat, etc.

What Is a Good Entry-Level Road Bike?

A good entry-level road bike is one that finds a sweet spot in terms of price and quality.

When it comes to a beginner bike, you wouldn't want to splurge unnecessarily in the early stage of your hobby or sport. And it is also not recommended that you completely overlook the aspect of quality for the sake of price.

All the best entry-level road bikes featured on our list strike a good balance between price, performance, functionality, and quality and make for sound investments for new and intermediate riders.

What Is the Best Cheap Entry-Level Road Bike?

At ~$500, the Schwinn Volare 1400 is one of the best cheap road bikes for beginners that money can buy. Other options include the Schwinn Phocus 1600, Schwinn Volare 1200, Giordano Libero, Giordano Acciao, Raleigh Cadent 1 ST, GMC Denali, and Vilano R2.

Best Entry-Level Road Bikes: Top 5 Beginner-Friendly Picks — Bike Hacks