A road bike for £800?

Recently I had a question left for me, via the contact page above.  The reader was Josh and asking what bikes I’d recommend for around £800 and the criteria was a bike that could be taken  to various European places and used for day trips – but not a folding bike.

On the face of it, this should be pretty straight forward as there are plenty of decent bikes around at this price and yet getting the right one depends on the actual use it’d intended for.  Also worth remembering budget airlines such as Easyjet do allow bikes providing they are packed in either a box or a proper bicycle bag.   The handlebars need to be turned and the pedals removed.  With this in mind, it will be necessary for my reader to allow about £100 for a basic tool kit and a bike bag like this.

I have also taken the liberty of reviewing bikes available through Wiggle and Evans (see my affiliate links) as these will be available no matter where the reader is based.  Some other brands or models will be available elsewhere or at a LBS.  Let’s all remember that a good LBS will not always be the cheapest but will probably make sure the fit is right and should be willing to fine tune it for you at minimal cost – a different handlebar stem?

My wiggle based suggestions:

Wiggle’s choice isn’t brilliant at this budget end right now.  Plus they tend to concentrate on the “sporty” market so some possibilities aren’t there.

However, Colnago’s Move Tiagra 2013 is my first Wiggle choice here at £809.99 and that’s with 40% off.  That is a substantial discount for a current 2013 model.  On paper it looks good value with a Shimano Tiagra groupset (next up is Shimano 105, significantly more expensive and not necessarily much better).  The groupset makes appearances on bikes far more expensive machines.  Colnago is an Italian brand which is quite famous in racing circles – a car equivalent could be anything from a Fiat to a Ferarri as there is a huge range with this brand.  Colnago certainly has an impressive racing heritage but remember this bike is built to a budget.  This looks like a good stiff bike to buy with a fairly rigid frame and alloy/carbon forks; in other words designed for speed and not all day comfort.  One possible concern is the gearing.  While on this kind of bike, a compact chainset with 50 & 34 teeth chain rings are the norm for a reasonable wide spread of gear ratios, the rear cluster looks quite tight.  Depending on your ability you may find up hill climbs rather hard.  If it were me, I’d be looking to change the rear cluster so I had a lower bottom gear (28t sprocket).

Another option on offer is the GT GTR 3 2013 model has similar components but is pitched at a more novice cyclist who may appreciate a more forgiving ride.  The gearing is a little lower but this is a small detail which could be changed anyway.  With GT I’m afraid you’ll not be picking up any street-cred for the brand, or alternatively, you could say you’re not paying for the name.  This is available for £798.99 and worth considering, especially if you like the eye catching finish but these don’t have the credibility some may look for.

Although outside the price range I see Wiggle is stocking the Verenti Insight for £996; not bad for an entry level carbon fibre, 105 equipped bike which is ready to race.  Not my choice but on paper this is pretty good value for money (i.e. more bangs for your bucks) and the owner reviews are all very positive and arguably the next bike for Josh if time trials become part of your cycling life.

Evans

At the £750 to £850 price range, Evans have considerably more choice with brands such as Specialized, Trek, Pinacle, Bianchi, Jamis, Fuji, Cannondale, Scott, Genisis and BMC.  Amongst these are choices going beyond the road bikes on offer from Wiggle.  For instance, a few have triple chainsets which will allow any hill to be tackled – even by someone not in brilliant condition.  These bikes therefore give a bit more versatility. Specific models that caught my eye are:

The Fuji Sportif 1.1 Triple 2013 at £750 looks very appealing:

Fuji Sportive 1.1 Triple

Fuji Sportive 1.1 Triple

At the time of writing Evans have these in stock in all sizes and are reduced from £900.  You get an aluminium frame and a carbon fork.  From looking at the frame angles I’d say you should get a responsive and lively ride.  It has a Tiagra drive chain, so pretty good, and this is the triple chainset variety.  I’d go for this if I were Josh, or perhaps the Trek below.  It combines the best of the sporty world and yet has a touring bike capability (but it doesn’t pretend to be a touring bike).  You’ll get a sporty ride and, since you’re going to various European locations, there will be a mixture of terrain including some challenging hills.  I have only used my 26t granny ring a couple of times myself but it’s nice to know it’s there.  I really appreciated it on the Kirkstone Pass where the gradient becomes 1:4 after a long climb.

Other possibilities from Evans worth considering are:

  • Jamis Bosanova 2013 is a slightly quirky bike with a steel frame (Evans have over-egged the description I think!) but the bike itself is okay although I’ve not seen one in the flesh.  Costs currently £820.  It is more of a touring bike in terms of the geometry and gearing – good for long rides where some luggage might be carried.  Also has the feature of disc brakes; a little unusual on this kind of bike but there are some advantages.  Probably the heaviest bike here.
  • Trek 1.5 T H@ 2013 at £765 looks good.  It has some similarities with the Fuji and is a great brand, probably more widely known than Fuji.  With a 30t large sprocket this has a very wide range of gears, quite impressive and you’ll feel like you can ride up a brick wall without even standing on the pedals.  My criticism are the tyres.  The standard tyres are 700×23 which lend themselves to ultra smooth road surfaces, which you won’t always get.  Upgrade these straight away to some 700x25s that are puncture resistant!

Another alternative would be the Specialized Allez which I reviewed earlier this year.  It is considerably cheaper at £550 and would leave some spare cash for accessories like the bike bag, basic tool kit, pedals and shoes.

Hope that helps.

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