Top Five Entry-Level Road Bikes: Best Options for $500 and Under
Riding a road bicycle is one of the best and most exhilarating exercises you can find. It's a wonderful combination of endurance, speed, and agility. If you're new to riding, or are hoping to get into it, finding a good entry-level road bike at an affordable price is really important. I know a lot of people who have invested a large sum in a bike only to find out they don't actually like riding all that much. A beginner road bicycle lets you get into the sport without investing a fortune.
There are a lot of bikes on the market and it can be confusing. A good entry-level road bike will have some specific features. They need to have efficient components that will ensure the ride is smooth and quick. They need to have a light frame and good geometry to let the rider pedal comfortably. Since the price tag is lower there will almost always be some compromise, but those components must still do a decent job.
This article will take a look at five of my favorite entry-level road bikes, giving a brief review of each one and offering my opinion on why you might consider it. We'll also talk briefly about some specific things you might want to avoid on an inexpensive road bicycle, to steer you away from a dud. Let's get started.
What to Avoid When Buying a Beginning Bike
• Unfamiliar Brands: There's a reason that big brands are successful. The best bikes for beginners are made by the big brands.
• Plastic Components: A good entry-level bike should have steel or aluminum-alloy brakes, shifters, and derailleurs.
• Poor Set-Up: You might have a great bike that's not adjusted for you. Use online guides for height, handlebar adjustment, and other settings.
Good Entry Level Bikes for $500 or Less
Obviously even the best entry-level road bike come with a lower price tag than a bike for experienced riders. With that comes lower value components, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing you should know what you're getting into. Here are a few tips to help you avoid riding around on a two-wheeled lemon.
- Stick with well-known, proven brands.
A good rule of thumb is to stick with a brand you're familiar with. There's a reason that big brands are successful, and if nothing else you have a large company to turn to in case of a failed component. Some of the best bikes for beginners are available from bigger brands like Schwinn and Diamondback. They have the buying power to get discounts on decent components, which saves you money in the long run, so check them out.
- Avoid plastic components.
I'm not a bike snob. I know that plastic has its place, but I still think it should be avoided on primary components. That means that a good entry-level road bicycle should avoid fully plastic brakes, shifters, and especially derailleurs. They just don't have the resilience that steel and aluminum alloy boast. They bend, snap, and wear out much more quickly. A good road bike doesn't have to skimp on component quality.
- Set it up properly.
Sometimes a bike doesn't feel right, and it's not the bicycle's fault at all. Make sure that you set up your ride properly. There are some great online guides on standover height, handlebar position, and things like that. If you're not comfortable, look at those settings first before blaming your bicycle. Even cheaper bikes can benefit from adjustments like this.
Based around a lightweight 6061 aluminum frame, it's an entry-style road bicycle that will please even experienced, seasoned riders. The Vitesse alloy 700c wheelset is light and spins really well for the price, and the silver Shimano 2300 shifters and derailleurs are quite smooth to shift as well.
It's available in multiple frame sizes depending on your height, and all of them are light and agile platforms, quick to start, and fast on long straightaways. Personally, I think they are very attractive bicycles too, with a subtle, race-inspired look and oversized tubing. It's also a breeze to upgrade components if you find yourself outgrowing them. This is one of the better entry-level road bikes on the market. Available in black or white.
Tommaso is not yet a very well-established or recognized brand, but it's one you should consider. The company consistently puts out an excellent product, including some awesome beginner-level road bikes like the Imola here.
The is a respectable platform and an excellent value, and it's definitely one of my picks for the best road bike for entry level riders. Like many of the competitors in this bracket, this bike uses a compact, lightweight, and strong 6061 aluminum frame, and many of the other components are from high-quality brands—stuff that you'd only expect on higher end models. Tommaso Iola Lightweight Road Bike
The Sunrace R-80 integrated shifters are precise and a lot of fun to use. The shifters are Shimano 2300, front and rear, offering 24 speeds in total. The cranks are all alloy making them light and strong enough to last. The bike ranges in size from 47cm up to 61cm, and it comes with a standard adjustable seatpost, so there's definitely a frame to fit most people.
I should note that this one doesn't come with pedals, so that's the only additional thing you'll need to pick up. On the whole, this is a light, responsive, and gorgeous entry-level road bicycle that I'd strongly urge you to consider.
Vilano is not necessary a name you'll recognize (notice a theme here?), but they boast some of the best entry-level road bikes in the business right now. I particularly recommend them if you don't have a lot to spend. Their prices are very affordable despite offering a decent set of components. is aluminum-framed and a prime example of what Vilano has to offer. The Vilano Shadow Road Bike
Don't let the name confuse you, these bikes are not Italian, but they're solid with many brand name components and good construction. I always like to go by customer reviews, and this one has had a great response.
It's the kind of bike you'll want to see up close. The paint is excellent, and it has a low key appearance that's not too flashy. With integrated handlebar-mounted shifters and a 6061 aluminum frame, it's light and responsive. The Tourney rear shifters are basic, but if tuned properly they'll work great for you. The bike weighs in at around 24 pounds. Contrast that with more expensive models!
The calliper brakes actually stop better than many disc varieties out there. The double-walled alloy rims make the bike look great and keep the weight respectable. It's one of my favorite inexpensive entry-level road bicycles out there today. Definitely give this one a look.
Schwinn Men's Phocus
I've spent a lot of time building and repairing Schwinns and they consistently impress me as well-built and crafted. The is a great example of an entry-level road bicycle that will impress. It has a gorgeous, arched aluminum frame with oversized tubing for extra strength and rigidity. This is a snappy bike that you'll love zipping around town on. Schwinn Men's Phocus
It comes with basic but intuitive Shimano A050 shifters and derailleurs. You have 14 speeds, which is more than enough for most situations. The shifters are not integrated, which some people prefer and others don't.
The brakes are alloy calliper, which actually operate a lot better than the disc brakes that more expensive cycles come with. The frame is 18 inches, which is a medium frame, good for someone around 5'6 to 5'11, and the seatpost is adjustable. The wheels are quick-release, so be sure to pick up a cable lock to keep them safe too. It's a good road bicycle for beginners that's not a huge investment, but will probably last you for years to come.
Nashbar AL1 Road Bike
Nashbar is another brand that's less well-known, but it's gaining notoriety by producing an excellent quality bicycle with great components for a decent price. They're primarily makers of cyclocross, mountain, and road bikes. The is one of the best entry-level road bikes, albeit a bit more expensive than the others listed here. Nashbar AL-1 Road Bike
This bike has a full aluminum frame that's lightweight and extremely responsive. Shimano Sora derailleurs and shifters are a cut above what you'll usually find at this price point, and shifting is a breeze. It has dual pivot caliper brakes that stop you on a dime. It comes in silver or matte black/blue. I encourage you to research Nashbar a bit to get to know the brand. The AL-1 is among the best road bikes for entry-level riding on the market.
Quality Indicators for Beginner Bikes
How to Buy a Quality Entry-Level Bike
• Where the bike was made. Bikes made in China are often not as good as those made elsewhere.
• The brand. If a bike is "brandies" it might be a rebadged version of a less popular brand.
• Components. Look for branded, not "no name", parts.
• Customer reviews.
• Frame material. Steel is cheapest, then aluminum.
If you're considering an entry-level road bicycle that's outside of these selections, I want to encourage you to use this check list to make sure the bike is a decent buy. This isn't a sure-fire way to determine quality, but it can definitely help.
- Check where the bike is made. If it's made in a factory in China, it probably isn't as high-quality as one made by hand somewhere else. That said, some Chinese factory bikes are really decent, especially if the manufacturer controls the quality.
- Check the brand. Some bikes are "brandless," and that's a risky thing. Many, less popular, brands are just rebadged versions of more popular bikes. A big brand is an indicator of quality control, and something to look for.
- Make a list of the components, and then research those brands. If most of the components are "no-name," the bike is probably not as good as one carrying lots of brand-name parts. If you're not sure of a component brand, post a comment below and I can let you know if it's any good.
- Customer reviews are key. There are a lot of enthusiastic bicycle fans like myself that buy, ride, build, and review bicycles from all over. Read blog reviews and forum posts for a better understanding of the bike you're looking into. Also, if you're buying from a big online retailer, be sure to read the customer reviews and blurbs for a better understanding.
- Check the frame material. Steel is generally the cheapest material, followed by aluminum and chromoly, and then carbon fiber and titanium. At this price point if you're able to find aluminum or chromoly it's probably a great deal.
If you're still stumped and looking for more indicators, please leave a comment and I'll try to help you out.