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Cheap Road Bikes

By: Saundra Latham on May 12, 2017

Carbon composite accents can lighten the load of heavier budget-friendly bikes

Road bikes at a friendlier price point of $1,500 or less usually have aluminum frames that tend to be heavier and transmit more road vibration – these bikes aren't built for racing or hardcore distances. However, some budget-friendly bikes include a few carbon composite accents in the fork and rear triangle to lighten the load and help dampen vibration. You'll also find lower-quality components, which may impact performance, but many riders with a good base bike find they can switch these out later.

The very reasonably priced Tommaso Monza (Est. $925) is one such aluminum-framed road bike with a lighter, higher-quality carbon fork. In fact, this bike is filled with quality components that reviewers say make it a great buy for those willing to buy direct online -- and those components that don't make the grade can be easily swapped out.

The 20-speed Monza gets a lot of love from DavesCheapBikes.com, which says this bike stands out from other inexpensive models with its reliable shifters and other remarkably high-end components. These factors combine to make this an ideal model for someone who wants to get serious about road bikes without going crazy on price for their first "real" model. The bike's owners praise the smooth ride, and some even say it's surprisingly speedy for a budget-friendly model.

Reviewers say the secret to ensuring a comfortable ride on the Monza is choosing the right size – there are five of them, ranging from extra-small to extra-large. Extra-small is recommended starting at 5-foot-2, while extra-large accommodates the tallest riders up to 6-foot-5. In addition, DavesCheapBikes.com says the compact frame and carbon fork on the Monza combine for a smoother, more "buttery" ride that many budget bikes can't touch.

Tommaso isn't quite as well-known as other bike brands, but owners who've had the Monza awhile say it has stood up to frequent use and abuse quite well. A few do recommend changing out the pedals and seat for something higher-quality. Tommaso ships bikes fully tuned and offers a 14-day risk-free test ride that allows buyers to return the bike free of charge. Frames and forks are warranted for the lifetime of the original owner.

If the Monza's close-to-$1,000 price tag is still a little too rich for your blood, check out the Giordano Libero 1.6 (Est. $400), another direct-to-consumer budget-friendly road bike that earns some solid feedback. Experts say it's a good choice for someone who's just starting out and doesn't yet know whether they'll spend a lot of time on their bike.

DavesCheapBikes.com notes that the aluminum-frame, 16-speed Libero is definitely several steps down from the Tommaso Monza and other pricier models in terms of quality. He says it shifts well, but it's too heavy for long endurance rides or would-be racers. Wheels and brakes could also use an upgrade, he says. ActiveWeekender.com also notes the limitations of the tires and brakes, but says "the ride is pretty smooth" and the rider is able to stay in control at high speeds. Most owners are impressed by this bike's performance and style for the price, but several note that they opted to upgrade the brakes, seat, pedals or tires.

As with the Monza, picking the right size bike is key to riding comfortably on the Libero. It's available in small, medium and large, and Giordano recommends these sizes for riders from 5-foot-1 to 6-foot-5. Of course, given that these three sizes are meant to fit the range of riders that five bike sizes cover on the Monza, the fit might not be quite as exacting. Several reviewers are also critical of the seat, calling it too hard. But they note it's easy to swap out with something cushier.   

Giordano is not a particularly well-known bike maker, and the one-year warranty is certainly shorter than the lifetime warranty most other bike makers provide for their frames and forks. Customer service is available via phone and email. Though minimal assembly is required, most owners say it's crucial to take this bike to a local bike shop for a tune-up before riding.

If you're looking for a woman's road bike at a friendly price point, the Specialized Dolce Sport (Est. $970) squeaks in under $1,000 while providing a quality ride for women who want to get a little more serious about road biking. This aluminum-frame model is well-suited for buyers who want a good mix of comfort and performance, experts say.

Lauren Laker of Road.cc says the Dolce Sport offers a smooth ride even on rougher surfaces, though she does note that it's not a bike that accelerates as well as some pricier models. Indeed, this probably isn't the bike for budding racers, but it would do well on long, leisurely weekend rides or daily commutes. While experts with Good Housekeeping UK are complimentary of the reliable gears, a few owners have complained that gear shifting could be smoother. The rim brakes could also do with an upgrade, Good Housekeeping says.

The Dolce Sport gets very good marks for comfort, with upright geometry that can be altered for more advanced riders, easy-to-grip handlebars, and brakes and levers that Laker says are "easily accessible, even for small hands." She also says the saddle is comfortable without being overly squishy, and other reviewers seem to agree.

Specialized offers a lifetime warranty on the bike's frames and forks, and a one-year warranty on other components including suspension, wheels, drive train, brakes and crankset. Customer service, available by phone and email, receives few complaints, though as Specialized notes, your best bet for any issues is to consult an expert at your local bike shop. 

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