The world of road bikes is filled with carbon and the latest and lightest technology. Bluetooth shifting eliminates the weight of derailleur cables. Carbon frames, forks, and rims decrease the weight of a bike and increase the stiffness significantly.
As you get into this sport, you could easily be spending up to $10,000 on a bicycle and parts. However, none of that is really necessary, especially when you’re first starting out.
So how do you know where to start? Your budget is set on something more realistic. You’re not going to start with the fanciest, lightest new bike but rather something simple and functional.
Like all bikes, what makes a bike good is the parts. If your bike comes with a quality parts package, the frame won’t matter as much.
Having good wheels and smooth shifting is going to take your farther and faster than a lightweight carbon frame with cheap parts.
Top 8 Women’s Road Bike For Under $1000 in 2020
Let’s look at some great options in the under $1000 price range to get you started on.
Trek Domane AL 2 Women’s
The Trek Domane AL 2 Women’s is a women’s specific frame. This bike is a true road bike so you will have room to grow with the bike as you improve.
The lightweight 100 series aluminum frame provides great all-around performance. Pair this with the Domane carbon fork and you will have a smooth ride. The 2×8 drive train gives you 16 speeds to work with throughout your ride.
A women’s specific seat will alleviate some of the discomforts you may have experienced with more traditional bicycle seats. All together this bike weight 21.7 lbs which is light for an aluminum road bike.
Felt VR 60
If you want to put more money into quality parts than a frame, the Felt VR 60 is for you. This bike features an aluminum frame with higher quality parts. Think higher quality brakes and shifting.
Although VR 60 has an aluminum frame, it doesn’t lack performance. The carbon fork adds to the stiffness and control of the bike. You’ll have a great ride on smooth roads. If you’re looking for a comfortable smooth ride, this is the bike for you.
The 2×8 Shimano Claris drivetrain will give you a good range of gears for climbing and pedaling as well as smooth sifting. You can also upgrade to 30 mm tires if you choose to. This bike is a unisex fit. Felt does not list the weight of this bike.
Cannondale Synapse Al Disc Sora Women’s Bike
The Cannondale Synapse Al Disk Sora women’s specific bike is great for longer, all-day rides. The comfortable sporty riding position keeps the rider more upright which is preferred by many women.
This bike features an aluminum frame with a carbon blade fork for added stiffness and control when steering. The SAVE micro-suspension also adds to the comfort and control of the bike on rough roads.
Shimano Sora shifters and derailleurs provide smooth shifting across a range of gears. The Shimano Sora drivetrain is one of the best options on this list. The Cannondale Synapse Al Disk Sora has a 2×9 drive train giving you 18 gears to work with. All together this bike weight 22 lbs 14.4 oz.
Another great option for those focusing on high-quality parts rather than a frame is the Specialized Allez unisex bike.
For a unisex bike, the Allez has a lot of adjustment to its geometry. This means you can adjust the bike to fit how you would like to be positioned on the bike.
The 2×8 Shimano Claris drivetrain will give you smooth shifting throughout 16 gears. The carbon fork provides comfort and control when steering and riding rough roads. There is no weight listed for this bike.
If you want a quality bike for fast commutes, the Allez has integrated rack and fender mounts. You can add on a lightweight rack to stash a backpack or other pack when commuting.
Specialized does not list the weight of the Allez online, however reviews estimate the bike to be around 20.6 lbs.
Liv Avail 3
A great women’s specific bike option is the Liv Avail 3. This bike has an all-aluminum frame and fork which keeps the price low for beginners.
The Shimano Claris drivetrain offers smooth shifting. Something unique about this bike is the asymmetric chainstay. On the drivetrain side, you can expect stiffness for powerful pedaling and stability on the other side.
For those looking for something a little higher performance, there is the Liv Avail 1 for $970.00. This bike has a higher quality drivetrain and carbon front fork for greater performance.
Liv recommends you have the bike weighed at your local dealer for the most accurate weight estimate for either the Avail 1 or Avail 3.
Salsa Journeyman Claris 650 or 700
If you’re more interested in the bike-packing side of road biking, the Salsa Journeyman Claris 650 is a great option. This bike comes ready to be loaded up with gear for long-distance adventures.
The Journeyman aluminum frame is ready with rack mounts, fender mounts, and braze-ons for attaching saddle bags and loading up gear.
If you are looking for something that will be all-around good for bike-packing, commuting, adventuring, and road biking, you can expect this bike to do it all.
The Journeyman Clairs 650 weighs 27 lbs before attaching racks and gear. This is heavier than most road specific bikes weigh, however, if you are considering this bike, you are probably wanting to load the bike up with gear. At that point, the stronger frame is better for carrying gear.
Diamondback Arden 1/Arden 2
If you’re looking for something quality, but inexpensive, the Diamondback Arden 1 women’s bike is a great entry-level option.
Diamondback designed the Arden to make road biking more affordable for anyone looking to get into the sport, or just to have a fast work commuter.
The geometry of this bike keeps you in an upright relaxed position keeping you from feeling fatigued after long rides. Many women find this upright position to be more comfortable on longer rides.
There is no weight listed for the Arden 1 online.
The Tommaso Facino is a good-value road bike for the price you pay. For a lightweight aluminum bike, this bike comes equipped with high-quality parts for the price. You do sacrifice a carbon fork to keep the price low on this bike.
The Shimano Tourney drivetrain offers smooth shifting throughout the 21 different gears. You will be able to easily climb hills and power through flats with the 3×7 drivetrain.
Ultra-compact drop bars have a less drastic drop than other bars. This allows you to feel more comfortable if you have never ridden with drop bars before. A great feature for a first road bike.
Altogether this bike weighs 23.6 lbs out of the box. For those looking for a fast commuter, the frame is rack ready so you can store your pack on the back of the bike, rather than your back.
If you are still unsure, Tommaso offers a 7-day test ride. The bike ships 99% ready to ride so you can go straight from the box to the road.
If you are not satisfied after 7 days, you can return the bike for no cost to you. This is a great way to decide if road biking is really for you.
What To Look For When Buying A Women’s Road Bike
Let’s look at some things to consider when buying a road bike.
Most road bikers are weight weenies. They obsess over how much their bike weighs and how they can drop more weight. All for good reason. The lighter and stiffer your bike is, the farther and faster you will be able to pedal.
When just getting into the sport of road biking, you won’t have the lightest, faster bike on the road but you should still consider the overall weight. Carbon frames allow bikes to be lightweight and stiff, however, you won’t find a carbon frame for under $1000.
Aluminum technology has come a long way, allowing the bike to be stiff and still lightweight. Many aluminum frames also come with a carbon fork. This allows the bike to have the stiffness and performance of a carbon fork without breaking the bank.
For beginners, you don’t need the lightest bike on the road but the weight should still be a consideration in your final decision.
You want to choose a bike size that is right for you. This may mean test riding a few different sizes to figure out what you feel most comfortable on and what works best for your body.
Ideally, you should be able to stand over the top tube with both feet flat on the ground. Bikes list the rider heights that work best for that size but everyone is different.
If you know you are someone with proportionally short or long legs, consider choosing a bike size accordingly.
Chainring to cassette ratio
Your chainring to cassette ratio is how many gears you get. A 2×8 will have two gears on the chainring up front and 8 gears on the cassette in the rear.
All together you will get 16 speeds to work with. Having a good range of gears is important for when you are climbing steep hills or trying to maintain speed on flats.
Parts vs frame
When buying a bike on a budget, you should consider the price of parts and the price of the frame. Parts are mainly referring to your brakes, shifters, and derailleurs. Everyone recommends something different.
When first getting into the sport, I think having a heavier frame with nicer parts makes more sense. If your bike is shifting smoothly and efficiently, you will have better riding experience.
On the other hand, if you buy the bike with the nicer frame and lower quality parts, you may end up spending more time and money fixing, adjusting, and ultimately replacing those lower quality parts.
Women’s specific vs unisex
Some bike companies make women’s specific frames, other companies make unisex. How do you know which is right for you? The best way to figure this out is by test riding bikes.
Women’s specific frames typically have a shorter distance from the seat to handlebars and are taller from where the crankset of the pedal’s meet the bike to where the handlebars come into the headtube.
Most women have shorter wingspans and prefer to ride more upright so some bike companies have tailored to this.
Other companies that advertise a unisex bike argue that the adjustability to address these differences can be done with the crank arms, stem, handlebars, and seat adjustments. There is no concrete answer as to which is better, just what works best for you and your body.
Carbon front fork
Having a stiff front fork on a road bike makes a big difference in your ride. A stiff front fork can take on rough roads and provide a smooth ride. The stiff fork also affects how the bike handles and turns on sharp corners.
Although all bikes at this low price point will be aluminum frames, many feature a carbon front fork to increase the overall performance of the bike.
Almost all road bikes come with drop handlebars. This allows you to ride in a more aerodynamic position for longer. Drop bars take some getting used to since they force you to ride in a more forward and narrower position.
You want your bike to have good quality brakes for when you’re cruising back down the hill you just climbed. You will want to have disk brakes, be it hydraulic or mechanical.
Either will work well to slow you down or stop you on a road bike. A disk brake creates a smaller surface area for the brake pads to squeeze down on to stop the momentum of the bike.
The disk is also relatively close to the center of the wheel providing greater stopping power than rim brakes do around the outside of the wheel.
The advantage of having hydraulic brakes over mechanical is there is a faster reaction when you pull the hydraulic brake over the mechanical.
If you’re serious about getting into road biking, you’ll want to upgrade to a set of clipless pedals. Although they are called clipless, these pedals allow you to clip the bottom of your bike shoe cleat directly into the pedals.
This allows you to pedal more efficiently than flat pedals. For each rotation, you will get 15% more due to momentum from your upstroke in addition to the downstroke. Unfortunately, pedals are sold separately from the bike, so budget accordingly.
If you’re serious about getting into the sport of road biking, the first bike you buy won’t be your last. As you improve, then you’ll want to consider upgrading your bike.
Having the right bike for you is important, especially when first starting out. If you are not happy with your bike, chances are you won’t enjoy riding it as much.
Buying a bike online is convenient. But if you can, test ride the bike you want at a shop before you buy it. If you find a bike you like at a shop, I strongly recommend you purchase the bike directly from the shop.
Buying a bike directly from a shop is the best way to support local businesses and get help with your bike when you need it.
Most bike shops offer a free tune-up after the first 200 miles of riding. This way you can make sure that everything is working properly on your bike as you break it in.
Also, if anything does need to be warrantied on your bike, it’s easiest to have that done by going back to the shop you bought the bike from.
Before buying a new road bike, take a look at your budget. If you can afford to, putting in a little more money upfront can ultimately save you more down the road. Be careful about choosing expensive road bikes that seem like a good deal.
Oftentimes companies cut corners by putting cheap, off-brand brakes and drivetrains on their bikes to keep the price low. While this saves you money upfront, you’re going to spend a lot of time fixing and ultimately replacing those parts.
Ultimately, any bike on this list will be good for you. The best way to decide is to consider your budget and get out for as many test rides as you can.
Emily is an outdoor enthusiast living in Steamboat Springs, CO. She is an avid outdoor adventurer who particularly enjoys skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.