Fast and light. If we were to describe road bikes, these would be the top two words that best fit them.
Cycling road bikes are designed for fast rides on smooth paved roads. They’re often lighter than other bicycle types and have skinny tires and drop handlebars that make them excellent choices for on-road racing. However, these awesome features for speed aren’t always ideal for commuting or touring. They can be unstable on unpaved roads and won’t always be reliable for carrying heavy loads.
But if you’re looking for bikes to ride on the fast lane, a lightweight road bike should definitely be your choice.
How would you know if a bicycle is a road bike? Road bikes are generally set apart from other types of bikes by these unique features:
Road bikes have thinner tires measuring no wider than 30mm. Standard widths are 23mm, 25mm, and 28mm. You may come across new endurance and road bikes with 33mm tires though.
Most road bikes have curled-shaped drop handlebars that allow you to adjust your frontal profile to adapt to the terrain. Riding in a lower and more athletic position reduces wind resistance and enables you to ride faster.
Road bikes usually do away with a suspension fork as they are designed to be ridden on smooth pavements where extra cushioning isn’t required. If you want additional comfort, you can instead use a slightly wider tire or in-built compliance to the frame and fork.
Let’s be clear though: even if they share these key features, not all road bikes are the same. When choosing the best road bike for yourself, there are several factors you need to consider.
What type of riding do you intend to do? Some road bikes are best for endurance, while others are best for racing. The best endurance road bike provides you comfortable all-day riding. If you’re looking for speed and efficiency, it’s best to get an aero road bike or a race road bicycle. Those who are just starting on this hobby can make do with an affordable entry-level road bike.
How much are you willing to shell out for your bike? There’s really no ideal budget for a road bike. But you should get the top road bike in the price range you can afford. Generally, road bikes with a lightweight aluminum frame are among the most cost-effective ones.
What’s your cycling ability? Are you a beginner, or have you been riding for several years already? If you’re getting your first road bike and not confident with drop handlebars, you may want to choose one with flat handlebars instead. The best road bikes for beginners would likely have this option. Also, the more experienced you are, the more speed and better gears you’d want to get. Those would, of course, incur more costs.
Once you’ve figured out which type of road bike best suits your needs, you can now go more in-depth and start choosing specific details.
Since road bikes are designed for speed, materials used for their frames are lightweight. Carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, and steel are commonly used.
Carbon fiber is undoubtedly the best material for bikes. It can easily be molded into various shapes to create frames that are light, stiff, and aerodynamic. However, they’re quite costly. Those looking for a cheaper alternative without sacrificing performance can opt for aluminum alloy. Aluminum is strong enough to make a light, stiff, and durable frame.
Before carbon fiber entered the scene, titanium was the premium material for a lightweight bike. Titanium isn’t only lightweight but also highly durable and resistant to corrosion. It isn’t as popular as the first two materials because it can be hard to work with.
Steel was the material of choice in olden days. But with less laborious materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum, it’s now rarely used. However, you can still find steel frame in customized bikes.
Road bikes typically have either rim brakes or disc brakes. Rim brakes are the most popular choices due to their simple mechanism and light weight. As its name implies, the braking force is applied directly to the rim. When you pull the brake lever, a braided stainless-steel cable triggers the brake caliper that clamps on the wheel rims. A beginner road bike would most likely have this type of brakes.
On the other hand, disc brakes clamp onto the rotor at the hub of the wheel. They can be either hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes such as those found on mountain bikes. Also, they provide faster and better control than rim brakes.
Cranks, chainrings, chain, cassette, derailleurs, and shifters are all part of the drivetrain. These all work together to propel the bike. The drivetrain d brakes comprise the groupset of a bike. Entry-level groupsets are usually made of low-grade aluminum and steel, while top-of-the-line ones are made from carbon fiber, high-grade alloys, and titanium. Generally, the more expensive it is, the better its efficiency and performance. Popular brands for groupsets of entry-level road bikes are Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, and Microshift.
Fixed gear ratios and range refer to the number of chainrings on the front bike and the number of cogs on the rear cassette along with the number of teeth on those chainrings and cogs. Endurance bikes have smaller gears that make it easier to go uphill, while race bikes have larger gears for higher top speed. Generally, bigger chainrings mean more speed but more effort exerted, while smaller or compact chainrings mean less effort to exert.
Road bikes have slick or very lightly treaded tires for less friction and more speed. The widths vary depending on use and rider preference. The fastest road bike has tires that are 23mm or 25mm, while an endurance women’s road bike is a bit wider at 25mm to 28mm.
Thin tires roll faster and more smoothly, but wider tires provide more cushioning. For better aerodynamics, choose skinnier tires. For endurance and comfort, choose wider ones.
With all those factors to consider, it can still be confusing to choose the best road bikes. So, we’ve made it easier for you by narrowing the choices for the best beginner road bike under 500. Whether you’re looking for a women’s road bike or a men’s road bike, you can find one in our top picks.
In a hurry? Checkout the winner
At less than 22lbs, HASA R4 is the lightest road bike in this price range. It has an ultra-lightweight frame and elegant design. HASA R4 also boasts of 24-speed Shimano shifters that can easily handle uphill or downhill rides. These also make the R4 great for variable resistance training for fitness cyclists and for women’s road bikes. HASA R4 has highly responsive Shimano brake levers and powerful Tektro alloy caliper brakes, which ensure safe riding even during wet weather.
However, HASA R4 can be a challenge to assemble regardless of the frame size. Unless you’re a mechanical wizard, it’s best to take it to a professional bike mechanic for assembly and tuning. Save yourself a headache from figuring out how to put the components together. You may also want to replace the saddle seat with a more comfortable one.
Trinx Tempo 1.0 features a strong but lightweight aluminum alloy frame with a high-tensile steel fork. This rigid fork enables you to control the bike with ease. Moreover, a brake lever is integrated into the Shimano shifter, providing you complete control of the bike whether you’re braking or shifting gears.
Tempo 1.0 performs well even in wet conditions. Winzip alloy dual brakes have great grips that can quickly stop the bike on wet roads. Also, Trinx alloy double-wall rims minimize bike weight but easily handles the pressure of dirt roads.
The only downsides to this bike are the uncomfortable seats and tires. Best to swap it with another saddle that can provide comfort on long rides and high functioning tires that won’t require frequent re-inflations. Still, the Trinx Tempo 1.0 provides cycling enthusiasts good value at an affordable price.
Schwinn Volare 1300 is designed for riding any road terrain with ease. It gives you a comfortable ride whether you’re on smooth and dry or rough and wet roads. Volare 1300 has a lightweight aluminum road frame and a rigid fork, which enables highly responsive riding. Its solid construction and quality materials ensure its durability and long-lasting performance.
The Volare 1300 is powered by 14-speed Shimano shifters, front and rear derailleurs, and alloy caliper brakes. These high-quality components allow precise and quick gear changes and immediate braking power. Double-wall alloy rims are light in weight while durable enough for fast rides. Its 28C tires are capable of giving a smooth ride, but you may want to replace them with high-functioning tires if you want more speed and better performance.
Overall, the Schwinn Volare 1300 is a decent entry-level road bike for commuting, cruising, and fitness.
Top performance at a low price—this is what Vilano Diverse 3.0 offers to riders. Even at a budget-friendly price, Diverse 3.0 doesn’t scrimp on reliable features that ensure excellent road bike performance at par with expensive bikes.
Diverse 3.0 has Shimano disc brakes for powerful stopping power even in wet conditions. These brakes are integrated with the shifters for better control and maneuverability. You won’t have to worry about road biking in the rain or snow as both brakes and shifters work flawlessly even in these conditions. While most bikes ride well only on smooth paved roads, Diverse 3.0 enables you to ride even on bumpy terrain. You can easily adjust the seat and handlebars to suit your preferred riding position to match weather and road conditions. However, this hybrid bike won’t function the same as your mountain bike so don’t go riding it on heavy trails or downhills.
With its upright handlebar, adjustable seats and handlebars, lightweight frame, and responsive brakes, the Diverse 3.0 is among the best choices for road bikes for women as well.
The Vilano R2 Commuter Aluminum Road Bike is an easy ride that’s also easy on the pocket. Among the best commuter bikes under 500, this is a great choice for those looking for a cheap road bike. It’s reliable enough for commuting students or for novice cyclists. Get the R2 if you’re simply looking for the best value road bike you can ride around town on weekends or for daily commutes in the city.
Vilano R2 has a lightweight aluminum frame, alloy caliper brakes, and Shimano groupset. It comes with an urban commuter saddle, but you may want to upgrade it for a more comfortable seat. The tires are also prone to flats so you need to re-inflate frequently and maintain the correct pressure. Other than that, this road bike offers good value for its price point.
While the bike arrives almost assembled, you’ll still need to install the handlebars, shifters, wheels, and pedals. Some components also require fine tuning. If you’re handy with mechanical stuff, you can easily do these on your own. Otherwise, take the R2 to your bike mechanic after assembly.
If you’re new to road riding or coming back to cycling after a long hiatus, the Vilano Shadow 2.0 is among the best beginner bicycles. It’s a fairly inexpensive entry-level road bike that you can use for commuting, fitness, or club rides. It won’t fare well with racing road bikes but is an excellent option compared to a recreational or commuter bike.
Shadow 2.0 has an aluminum aero frame, providing a lightweight and smooth ride. Its entire drivetrain is by Shimano so you get solid components. Its Shimano brake levers and shifters are integrated into a single unit for more convenient and precise braking and shifting. It’s also quite easy to transport in your car with its quick release wheels and lightweight alloy frame.
Like most bikes that are delivered in boxes, it requires assembly and proper tuning. Assembly is fast and easy even without much experience, but tuning should be checked by a proper mechanic.