If you want to dip your toe into road cycling, the number of bikes available can make it very confusing. There are a lot of manufacturers competing for your money.
We want you to make the best-informed choice you can, so we’ve created a guide to the 6 best cheap road bikes under $500 available in 2021.
After the bikes, we’ll have a little guide to help you pick the very best bike for you. They’ll be no fancy terms, no jargon, just straight forward advice. So read on and find the new road bike that you’re wanting.
Editor’s Note: The article was updated in April 2021. Luis added one of his recommendations: Giordano Acciao 700c.
- 6061 aluminum frame
- Shimano A070 groupset
- 14 speed
The Vilano Shadow 2.0 is a 6061 framed aluminum framed road bike. The bike is shaped with an aero profile, like many much more expensive bikes. Vilano, however, give us no more details than that it is aero shaped. We’ll just have to take their word on its aero credentials.
The good news about the aero shape, even if it doesn’t cut through the wind, is that fact that the tube profiles will be able to cancel out road vibrations. Meaning you’ll be much less likely to get numb hands on this bike, and it will save your arms from getting fatigued.
To get the Vilano up to speed, there is a Shimano A070 groupset fitted to the bike. The A070 shifters are an easy way to change through the 14 gears that the Shadow 2.0 has available for you to pick from. The Vilano is a great starting point for your journey into the world of road bikes.
- Shimano A050 shifters
- Double wall alloy rims
- 14 speed
The Schwinn Volare 1300 is an affordable road bike that features a lightweight aluminum frame. Schwinn is a huge brand that the majority of us will have come across in our life, and many of us will have nostalgic feelings to the company.
To keep the bike affordable, Schwinn has lumped for using Shimano A050 shifters. These are big plastic thumb shifters that sit on your handlebar beside the stem.
Thanks to the position of these shifters, you’ll have to take your hand off the bar to change gear, if you’re riding on the hoods.
Riding on the hoods is the comfiest place to ride, especially if you’re riding long distances and it keeps your hands right on top of your brakes. You’ll find that the Schwinn Volare 1300 comes with 14 gears for you to choose when you’re out riding.
To keep the Volare 1300 reliable, Schwinn has fitted the bike with double wall alloy rims. Double walls rims will give your spokes a more secure bed and will stop them going out of true as easily, and your wheels will be more resistant to knocks, especially from potholes.
On top of these wheels, Schwinn has outfitted the bike with 28mm wide tires. 28mm is wider than the old standard of 23mm that you’d expect to find fitted to a bike at this price point. The extra 5mm will bring you comfort and more grip on corners, which is a bit of a win if you ask us.
Giordano Libero 1.6
- Compact gearing
- 6061 aluminum frame
- Shimano Claris gearing
In our review feature, the Giordano Libero 1.6 has the best groupset. That means that the Giordano will change gears faster and more smoothly than the other bikes in this review. The Libero 1.6 comes with a 16 speed Shimano Claris groupset.
The best feature of Claris is that you’ll be getting a bike with STI shifters. STI shifters are where your gear shifters and brakes are an integrated unit.
You’ll then find it easy to change gear from the hoods or if you’re in the drops. Shimano STI shifters are considered to be one of the best technological leaps forward for road bikes.
You’ll find the Claris groupset is draped on a lightweight 6061 aluminum frame. You’ll then have a bike that will not look out of place on group rides, and you’ll also find it easier to get spare parts from your local bike shop should you have a mechanical problem.
The Giordano is a great choice if you think you’ll more than likely get sucked into road cycling. It is a bike that will stop you from wishing you’d bought a more expensive bike right at the start.
- 6061 aluminum frame
- Shimano Tourney gears
- Quick release wheels
The Sundeal R7 looks like a much more expensive road bike than it is. With its nicely curved fork and the straight-laced front wheel. It looks like it could be gracing the pro ranks. It is, however, a highly affordable road bike, one which will inspire you to get out and ride.
The R7 has a 6061 aluminum frame to keep weight down and to give you an immediate feel when you press down the pedals. The frame will be stiff enough, to have you sprinting out of every corner and trying to reach every new street sign before people riding around you.
With a Shimano Tourney groupset supplying the Sundeal with 14 gears, you can be sure to find the ones you need when you’re out on a ride.
The double chainset at the front is adding to the pro looks of the frame and fork. There is also a high enough gear for you take advantage of for when you’re sprinting for those street signs.
If you ride a lot, you’ll inevitably get a puncture, and it happens to all of us. The R7 to make this a little bit less of hassle comes equipped with quick release (QR) wheels. A quick flick of the lever and you’ll have your wheel out to get that tire fixed quickly.
Giordano Acciao 700c
- 14-speed Shimano Tourney STI drivetrain.
- Very durable
- Steel frame
It is very difficult to find a quality road bike at a price of less than $500, but Giordano has achieved this challenge with its new road bike for 2021. A bike for both men and women, which will help you to give your first pedal strokes on the road.
Both the frame and the fork are made of steel, which isn’t very surprising considering this is an entry-level road bike. The increased weight of the steel is compensated by the resistance of this material, which will make the bike very durable.
A very comfortable bike with a great price-quality ratio. Even if you are a tall person, you will find the right bike size and posture to pedal with good biomechanics.
If we analyze the configuration of the bike, you will find a Shimano Tourney STI 14 speed drivetrain for efficient pedaling. It is also equipped with rim brakes for effective braking. It is important to point out that these brakes will be equipped on 29″ wheels.
We can highlight one of the differences it has with the Giordano Libero also reviewed in this article, which is the differences in the drivetrain, 14 vs 16 speeds.
You can find the Giordano Acciao on Amazon.
- Flip-flop rear hub
- Classic looks
- Pista handlebars
If you fancy a retro road bike and want it with as few gears as possible, then the Critical Cycles Classic Fixed Gear is the bike for you. With massive drop handlebars, the Pista bars on this bike harks back to the time when people racing Le Tour De France were only allowed bikes with 1 gear, well 2 as they could use a flip-flop wheel.
Which is exactly the setup that the Critical Cycles use for this bike. The rear hub comes with a fixed cog on one side and a freewheel on the other side.
These will traditionally have both been fixed cogs, but if you want to coast having the option to run a freewheel may be music to your knees. The hub is called a flip-flop, as they used to be taken out during a race, flipped around and flopped back in.
The Critical Cycles as it is a fixed gear will also be cheaper than a geared bike. You’ll then tend to get higher quality bike parts on a fixed gear than a geared bike, as the manufacturing is easier. Lower cost equals lower price, and it could be the best way to maximize your budget.
The other place the Critical Cycles stands out is that it is a simple bike, and you’ll hardly have to spend any time on maintenance with it. Geared bikes have chains that will wear out, generally faster than you think they will.
Single speed chains don’t wear out nearly as fast, mainly as you’ll not be changing gears. A great choice if you want a bike that you can just pull out of the garage for an occasional ride.
- 6061 aluminum frame
- Shimano A050 groupset
- 21 speed
Our second test bike from Vilano is the Vilano R2. The Vilano R2 is listed as a commuter bike, and to be fair, it is a fast commuter bike with drop bars.
It is then a slightly more comfortable road bike that you can also use as a fitness bike. It could then be the road bike that will best maximize your budget for you.
Coming with a lightweight 6061 aluminum frame, The Vilano R2 is light and stiff where you need it to be. It will help you ride up climbs and then find a little bit of extra speed as you sprint for traffic lights.
To help you find any extra speed, the R2 comes with 21 gears from which you can choose from to make pedaling a little bit easier.
To change gears, you’ll find another set of Shimano’s bar-mounted A050 thumb shifters. These shifters are simple to use, but as we said above, you’ll have to take your hands off the bar to change gear.
These shifters work with a Tourney rear derailleur, so even at this affordable price point, you’re getting reliable parts that will just work.
3 tips for buying the best road bike
1. Fit. Buying a road bike that fits you is more important than any other factor on the bike. When you go road riding you’ll be sitting in the same position for a long time, buy the wrong bike and this will be painful and possibly damaging to your long term health.
Don’t buy a bike because it is a bargain, buy a bike because it fits. All of the manufacturers listed will have a size chart available for their bikes, pick the size that you sit in the middle of, and be honest about how tall you are.
2. Color. Yeah, the color should be a consideration. Why buy a bike in a color you hate because it fitted your budget and had the best parts? Many, people will argue this is the best way to buy a bike, but I’ll lay one problem with purely going for function over fashion.
Will you want to ride it? If you have a bike you thinks looks cool, it will be much easier to get off the sofa and get out and ride and that way you’ll have made a good purchase.
3. Weight. It is a simple metric for picking a road bike, and it is why magazines use it. It is easy to say that a 12kg bike is heavier than a 10kg bike, so therefore the 10kg bike is better. You’ll find when bikes are all around the same price point they will all be similar in weight, regardless of what is listed.
So, don’t get caught up about weight and buy a bike that you like. Remember if you weigh 80kg a bike that is a few grams heavier is not going to make any difference, despite what marketing departments tell you.
Should I buy a road bike under $500?
If you can’t afford more than $500, then the answer is undoubted yes. If you feel you can easily afford more than $500, then the answer is maybe.
The best thing to do is, to be honest with yourself. Do you think you want to go the full Lycra, shaving leg hair route, or do you just want a fast bike to get a little bit fitter?
If you want to get fitter, and just try out road biking, then spending over $500 might not be in your best interests. What happens after a month and you decide you hate it, you’ll be left with an expensive bike.
If you buy a cheaper bike and get into road biking, then you can buy a “good” bike further down the line, and you’ll have a spare bike for winter or those days that you don’t want to take your pride and joy out.
Always remember a more expensive bike does not make you a better cyclist, actually cycling makes you a better cyclist.
I’ve spent way more time in the bike trade than anyone should reasonably want to. In that time I’ve wanted to make cycling jargon and marketing easier to cut through to help people get the bike of their dreams.
When I’m not writing about bikes, I can be seen out bikepacking on single speed bikes or teaching kids how to ride.