Best Bikes

Best Road Bike For Beginners Under $500: An Entry Level Guide

The guide will give advice on the best road bike for beginners under $500. Enjoy.

Your friend has lost 10kg, and "It's given him a new lease of life." No, it's not a result of the new vegan diet his wife's put him on. Something far more sickening...

He's taken up road cycling.

Unlike his diet, it's something you fancy giving a go. However, you're not quite ready to shave your legs like the pros. So, this guide will show the best road bike for beginners. And, to keep things within budget, they'll be under $500.

I hope it eases the transition into the world of questionably tight lycra, just a little. 


No Time To Read? No Worries. Here's my top 6

Vilano Forza 4.0

Price: $$ 
Gears: 24
Frame: Aluminium

Tommaso Imola

Price: $$$ 
Gears: 24
Frame: Aluminium

Schwinn Prelude

Price: $ 
Gears: 14
Frame: Aluminium

Giordano Libero

Price: $$$ 
Gears: 16
Frame: Aluminium

Schwinn Phocus

Price: $$$ 
Gears: 16
Frame Aluminium + Carbon Fork

Vilano Shadow 

Price: $$ 
Gears: 14
Frame: Aluminium

Disclaimer: The bikes reviewed here are from the Amazon store only. There’re also many bikes worth taking a look at from online sites such as Competitive Cyclist, Evans Cycles &  Wiggle.

If you have the option I also highly recommend going to a proper brick and mortar bike shop. You’ll be able to see the bike in person, check for fit, and for comfort before you commit.

How To Choose A Road Bike

See the great video below by REI on how to choose a road bike:  

Take Away Points

Road Bikes Come In 3 Styles:

  • Flat Bar Frames - Offer a more upright position and are popular among commuters for their increased visibility and stable ride. Check out this review on hybrid bikes if you're interested in these. 
  • Drop Bar Frames - Put the rider in a slightly more aggressive position with relaxed steering. Ideal for daily workouts or longer rides.
  • Performance Frames - More competitive riders should go with speed focused bikes. They improve the rider's performance by leaning the rider forward to reduce drag. The frame is stiff with responsive steering.

Road Bikes Come In 3 Materials:

  • Aluminum - A lightweight and low-cost material that is an excellent choice for recreational riders.
  • Steel - Heavier and stronger, great for touring bikes that are traveling long distances and carrying lots of weight. 
  • Carbon Fibre - The lightest of the three materials. It's strong and dampens vibrations for a smooth ride.

Gears

The number of gears on your bike corresponds to the range of gearing. Simply put. The more gears, the more choice you have when going uphill and downhill.

Related: Best Fixed Gear Bikes You'll Come Across - A Buyers Guide 

Breaks

Most road bikes come with rim breaks which are pads that grip onto the rims. They're lightweight and efficient for most riders. Riders wanting better stopping power in wet or dirty conditions, should consider a bike with disc breaks. ​

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Fit

After deciding on the type of ride you'd like, check a bike size chart to work out the proper sized frame for you.

Related: Are Fixed Gear Bike Good For Commuting: Let's Find Out 


Review Of The Top 3 

Tommaso Imola Compact 

Overview

The Tommaso Imola Compact has a compact aluminum frame that's combined with a SST steel.

This gives you the best that both metals have to offer, making it extremely durable.

What's more, the bike is backed up with the industry’s leading Lifetime Frame and Fork Warranty.

Great if any mishaps happen to the bike further down the road, and gives you peace of mind when riding.

Gears And Brakes

It has Shimano Claris Shifters, Shimano Derailleurs, and a Shimano Cassette.

With great components, it ensures that your gear shifts are always smooth, and because of their positioning, you can both break and change gear without moving your hands.

Not having to move your hands great as you have complete control over your gear changes and braking at all times.

The Imola has a Shimano Claris Tripe Crankset in the front and a 12x25 cassette in the rear.

This gear ratio gives you a total of 24 speeds, plenty for when the road ahead gets steeper, and you want a little extra to help you get over the top.

Frame And Handlebars

The compact frame geometry and premium compact handlebars are what makes this bike stand out from its competitors.

The UltraCompact handlebar allows every rider to ride more comfortably in the drops, this reduces wind resistance, enabling you to ride, harder, fast and for longer.

This design gives you comfort in a sleek package. The bike has power, but it also has great functionality. The triangle at the rear of the bike is drilled for pannier racks or fenders, making it an ideal bike for the weekly commuter as well as a racer.

For the fashion conscious, the bike is available in three different colors. Different colors are great if you want something a little bit different.

There's a gold version for those that want to stand out.

Assembly And Sizing 

It’s worth mentioning that professional assembly is required for this bike, so if you were hoping to ride it straight out the box, you'd probably be disappointed.

You’ll need to attach the handlebars, wheels, seat, and the pedals. If you’re unable to set it up on your own, just take it down to any local bike shop, and they’ll be more than happy to do it for you.

XXSmall - 4 feet 10 inch - 5 feet 2 inch
XSmall - 5 feet 2 inch - 5 feet 6 inch
Small - 5 feet 6 inch - 5 feet - 8 inch
Medium - 5 feet 8 inch - 5 feet 11 inch
Large - 5 feet 11 inch - 6 feet 2 inch
XLarge - 6 feet 2 inch - 6 feet 5 inch

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The Good:

  • Durable frame due to the metal combination
  • Pannier rack mounts for commuters 
  • 24 speeds giving you plenty of gearing options ​
  • Three different color options 

The Bad

  • Professional assembly is required

Giordano Libero

Overview

The Giordano Libero 1.6 has a lightweight handcrafted 6061 aluminum frame.

Combined with a 16-speed Shimano STI drive train, and detailers matched to an aluminum road 50-34 compact crank.

This means it’s built for speed, and it’s light enough for you to fly up hills.

The components are great, but it doesn't have as many gearing options as the Tommoaso Imola.

This is something worth considering if having more gears is important to you.

Adaptability 

The bike has 32 spoke high profile quick release alloy rims. Quick release alloy rims it incredibly easy to take the wheels off the bike without any tools quickly.

Great if you’re looking to transport the bike around and what to chuck it in the back of the car.

However, with this option, you’ll want to make sure you have a great lock to keep everything secure.

Accessories

The Giordano expects you to ride it hard. Hard riding is why they've attached dual water bottle mounts to the frame. You’ll need to continuously keep hydrated throughout the ride if you are pushing it.

On days that you’re not testing your limits, you can use the additional bottle mount for other accessories, such as a small pump.

Pannier Racks

This bike is a full on racer, so no fixtures are allowing you to put pannier racks on the back or front of the bike.

You can find racks that attach to the frame itself or the seat stem, but I would always recommend buying a bike with proper mounts built into them.

So if you were hoping to use this bike for commuting, then perhaps it’s not the one for you.

Kickstand 

It does, however, come with a removable kickstand. A kickstand means that while everyone else has to look for a wall to rest their bike against, you can just open up the kickstand and rest it wherever you like.

Great if you’re pulling up to the top of a hill and want to admire the view.

Assembly And Sizing 

As with the Tommaso Imola, a professional assembly is recommended. You could always attach the handlebars, pedals, and a few other minor items yourself, and then take it to a bike shop for them to quickly fine tune everything for you.

The bike sizes are as followed:
Small: 5 feet 1 inch - 5 feet 8 inch
Medium: 5 feet 8 inch - 6 feet
Large: 6 feet 2 inch - 6 feet 5 inch


​Vilano Forza

Overview 

The Vilano Forza has a durable lightweight 6061 aluminum frame.

The frame combined with 24 speeds means that it’s able to stare in the face of big hills, and destroy them!

Pedals​

Unlike the other bikes in this review, the Forza comes with pedals that also have a toe cage. 

A toe cage is a great pedal for those that want the power of a clipless pedal, but don’t want to have to buy specific cycling shoes.

 I use them on my bike, and they’re perfect for when I cycle to town, as it means I don’t have to take two pairs of shoes with me.

Gears And Brakes 

As with the Tommaso Imola, the Forza has integrated gear and brake levers. Making gear changes and breaking much safer and easier.

Having integrated gear and brake levers means that this is the lowest priced bike on the market with this feature.

So definitely a big thumbs for anyone that’s looking to get into cycling, but doesn’t want to spend a huge sum of money.

Indoor Training​

If you fancy training indoors, this bike will fit any Kinetic turbo trainer model.

Which is ideal for those winter months when training outside is a little less desirable.

Assembly And Fitting ​

As with all the bikes ordered from the internet. Professional assembly is required to get it up and running smoothly, although you can do little things like lubing up the chain beforehand.

Sizing is as followed:
Small - 49cm
Medium - 53cm
Large - 57cm

Take a look at my Bike Size Chart for guidance on this.

The Good:

  • 24-speeds enable you to tackle a broad range of hills and descents
  • Integrated gears and brakes - the cheapest bike on the market with this feature
  • Free cage pedals included  ​

The Bad:

  • As with the Giordano, the Forza only comes in the color that you see. So if you fancy some variety, you'll have to switch up the saddle or handlebar grips.
  • Professional Assembly required 

Conclusion:
Best Road Bike For The Money 

Tommaso Imola

The Tommaso Imola is the best road bike for beginners.

  • It's got 24-speed gears.
  • The ability to attach pannier racks for commuting.
  • Compact handlebars for a more comfortable ride position
  • And components such as integrated gears and brakes.

All of which you'd usually see on much pricier models. A great investment for anyone looking to get their first road bike.