Get Up To Speed: The Best Beginner Road Bikes

A good beginner bike should be comfortable, reliable, and feel good to ride. We explain what cyclists should look for in their first road bike and take a look at some of the best beginner models.

Best beginner road bikes

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in

So you’ve been bitten by the cycling bug, and now you’re shopping for your first road bike. Welcome! You’re about to embark on a two-wheeled journey full of fun and adventure. Hopefully, you find a good bike that can be a reliable companion for years to come. 

Need help picking the right bike? No problem. We’ll cover what beginner cyclists need (and don’t need) to look for in a road bike and pick out a few of the best beginner bikes from our inventory. 

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Good beginner bikes need…

1. To be modern but affordable 

I suggest in “How Much Should You Spend On Your First Bike” to spend $1,000-2,000 on your first bike. Nowadays, I’d even bump that number up to $2,500, just to give you more options. Sticker shock? Well, you’ll soon discover that $1,000 is very “affordable” in the cycling world. 

Of course, you don’t have to spend this much, but if your goal is to ride regularly and rack up miles, this price range will get you a bike made in the last 5-10 years that is safe, reliable, and resellable. It will ride well, be easier to use and maintain, and won’t need any immediate repairs. Plus, it will keep you stoked to continue riding.

2. Quality drivetrain components

Related to the last point, a modern bike from a reputable manufacturer comes with a drivetrain, brakes, and components that function better and are more reliable. Plus, it will be easier to find compatible replacement parts. Bike shops will have fewer issues working on your bike if something goes wrong.  

Beginners should keep an eye out for entry-level to mid-range Shimano or SRAM drivetrains. Prioritize bikes with: 

  • Shimano Sora
  • Shimano Tiagra
  • Shimano 105
  • Shimano Ultegra
  • SRAM Apex
  • SRAM Rival
  • SRAM Force

3. Proper fit

Measured Frame Size
Frame Size
Min. Rider Height
Max. Rider Height
48cm
XS
4' 11"
5' 2"
50cm
Small
5' 2"
5' 5"
52cm
Small/M
5' 5"
5' 7"
54cm
Medium
5' 7"
5' 10"
56cm
Large
5' 10"
6' 1"
58cm
Large/XL
6' 1"
6' 3"
60cm
XL
6' 3"
6' 5"

Buy the correct size. If your bike fits you, it will be more comfortable and easier to ride. If you need more guidance than a basic size chart, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Bike Sizing or contact our expert Ride Guides at rideguides@theproscloset.com, or call us at 866-401-9636 for one-on-one sizing advice. No matter how good the price looks, it’s a bad deal if the bike doesn’t fit you.

Good beginner bikes DON’T need…

1. Carbon

Despite what bike media or snobby riders say, no one actually needs a carbon road bike (or carbon wheels). Yes, carbon has a lot of advantages, but that comes with a higher price. Modern aluminum and steel bikes are nearly as good, and they’re often much more affordable and durable. That being said, if you find a nice carbon bike you like in your price range, go for it! 

2. The latest technology

I love electronic drivetrains and hydraulic disc brakes, but they aren’t must-haves. If you can get them, great! But beginners (most riders, really) will be perfectly happy with old-school mechanical drivetrains and rim brakes that are simpler, cheaper, and easier to service. 

3. Race-focused design

The cycling world is obsessed with performance, but most of us aren’t getting paid to race. So don’t stress too much about having a “fast” bike. It doesn’t need to be some featherweight (weight doesn’t matter much anyway) aero machine. The rider matters most, so focus on honing that first. 

The best beginner road bikes

These bikes were made in the last 10 years and now sell for $1,000-2,500 — great beginner road bikes. You’ll notice most are aluminum. If you shop around, you’ll probably find plenty of good used carbon bikes in this price range, but the models listed here are easy to find and consistently good options for beginners. They will even appeal to more experienced riders on a budget. 

Trek Emonda ALR

Trek Emonda ALR

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The Emonda is Trek’s all-rounder road race bike. You’ll see the carbon version under top riders at the Tour de France, but for everyone else, the aluminum Emonda ALR is a lightweight and affordable option that provides a lot of performance. 

Specialized Allez

Specialized Allez

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The Specialized Allez has the most pedigree here and has been in the Specialized line-up since 1981. It’s a great aluminum alternative to the range-topping carbon Tarmac and will be a fast and reliable daily driver. Aspiring racers may like the more aerodynamic Allez Sprint.

Cannondale Synapse Alloy

Cannondale Synapse Alloy

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The Cannondale Synapse is an endurance bike focused on rider comfort. It has a more upright riding position and the aluminum version of the Synapse uses thin-walled hydroformed SAVE fork legs and seat stays that increase frame compliance to absorb bumps and vibration. 

Giant Defy Advanced

Giant Defy Advanced

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Giant is the world’s biggest bike manufacturer and known for building bikes that provide more performance for less money. The Defy Advanced is a comfy carbon endurance bike that is as affordable as many of its aluminum rivals. 

Cannondale CAAD Series

Cannondale CAAD12

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Cannondale has more experience than anyone building aluminum road bikes and performance-focused riders have loved its affordable but fast CAAD Series frames for years. I recommend looking for CAAD10, CAAD12, and CAAD13 models. 

Specialized Allez Sprint

Specialized Allez Sprint

[product-block handle="2020-specialized-allez-sprint-comp-disc-m-1"/]

The Specialized Allez Sprint is a cult classic and loved by racers that need a tough, affordable, and competitive bike. It’s as aerodynamic as many carbon aero bikes and incredibly stiff. Riders who prefer something more comfortable should look to the standard Allez. 

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Don’t forget gear and accessories 

The bike is important, but don’t forget to budget for gear and accessories. At the bare minimum, wear a helmet and protect your head. As you start building mileage, you may find bike shorts and other riding-specific gear are valuable additions to your wardrobe. 

For a good breakdown on what you might need, check out our list of essential road bike accessories and repair kit essentials

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