BEST Road Bike Brand for BEGINNERS? Get a COMPREHENSIVE List
Which are the best beginner road bike brands? Or are they all the same thing?

BEST Road Bike Brand for BEGINNERS? Get a COMPREHENSIVE List

Hello Dear Reader and welcome along to this article that I intend to be an exploration of good quality entry-level or beginner bike brands: what’re the best brands for your first road bike. These are just what constitute my preferences following my own research when I’ve been shopping for road bikes for both myself and my family over the last year or so. I tend to err on the prudent side when it comes to spending the cash, so while that might not reflect your own position, what it does mean is that I do a LOT of research before purchasing! I hope that I can collate that research into something useful for you too 🙂

So I’d like to split this article down thus:

  1. Criteria for rating each bike brand
  2. Good bike brands for beginners in detail
  3. Sortable list of bike brands for beginners


1. Criteria for rating each bike brand

Understandably, there’s always a degree of individual preference when choosing between brands. But there’s also a degree of subjectivity. Particularly because most respectable bike brands will have similarly high quality standards, often share many design cues, and specify componentry along the same price lines. And that means there often differences can be superficial. Therefore, consider everything here as suggestions rather than any attempt to be prescriptive.

Likewise, it’s not really where I’m at to be either snobbish about any brand or be a fanboy for that brand or hater of another. I’m interested in value for money. I want something with sufficient longevity so I can tell if I’m interested in continuing riding that bike. At the same time, I like something that stands out from the crowd. But we all have preferences. And at the end of the day, nothing would please me more than thinking that you’d have got yourself out cycling helped by some info in this article or on the rest of the cyclingquestions.com site 🙂 So as ever, you just ride whatever you’d be happy riding in whatever way you’d be happy riding it! #itsallgood

So in order to determine the criteria for rating each bike brand would it help to specify what we’re looking for in our first, or entry-level road bike? I think so. I hope you agree. So what are we using as our metrics to decide? These are what I’d suggest. If you can think of other deciding factors, please let me know so I can add them in. Meantime these will be of varying importance to your own decision…

  1. Renown of the brand

    • How do we quantify a brand’s renown or brand equity as it’s otherwise known? Well, without wanting to make this a business lesson, we have:
      • Brand Awareness – how far from the average person-in-the-street do we have to go before that person knows this brand?
      • Media coverage – is the brand visible in hardcopy and online media, do they sponsor teams or events etc
      • Social media mentions – have you seen the brand in any of your social media feeds?
    • I’m sure there are others, but you get the idea. These are how we’d measure brand renown in as quantitative a way as possible.
  2. Number and variety of bikes in the range at the beginner price point

    • Q: What’s a good price point for a first, entry-level, beginner road bike?
    • A: That’s a good cycling question! I’m glad you asked 🙂 As I’ve mentioned in the minimum necessities for beginning road cycling section of my Start Road Cycling at 50+ article, but it’s an age-independent suggestion, I wouldn’t spend below GBP350, USD450, AUD600. It’s certainly possible to find bikes below this, sometimes well below. But I’m taking this figure as my minimum for the purposes this article. For rationale, see the above section in the 50+ article. In the interests of full disclosure(!) I’m guilty of buying the cheapest rideable singlespeed roadbike I could get on Amazon. That was less than GBP200, but it is a single speed and it is meant as just a winter trainer, and it’s a “non-branded” brand, so there are considerations to that. As a beginner bike, I’d suggest, as in this article, sticking to known brands. It just makes things simpler all round.
      • Naturally you can spend whatever you’re happy spending. In many cases a brands “beginner for first road bike” will be the price and quality of manufacture it is, simply because that suits their idea of a beginner budget. However, in other cases, for example, the gear ratios on bike may be specified in accordance to what an average beginner road rider can push, right?
      • Take chainsets for example, while it’s common for top riders to use 53T outer / 39T inner rings, most of us begin to ride on a compact 50T/34T. If you’re prepared to pay more for your first road bike, you may end up with gears that seem to provide you with too many unusable gears if you follow.
      • Another noticeable difference in beginner bikes might be, for example the rider position. Either the frame geometry or the stem length might seat the beginner rider in a more upright position, whereas a bike that’s not designed as a first road bike might put the rider in a more racy, forward position. As a beginner, a racier position can potentially be offputting. All the more reason to seek out the beginner bikes if you’re a beginner.
    • Without wanting to sound prescriptive, at the very least I’d suggest that anything greater than GBP1000, USD1200, or AUD1600 probably isn’t a beginner or first road bike. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a wonderful first bike, but I’m using this as the upper limit for the purposes of this article
    • Most of the recommended bikes here are about 2/3 way up that scale. The problem being that many manufacturers don’t specify bikes below GBP500, USD500 or AUD600. So consider these for purposes of comparison. Most are around the GBP800, USD900 or AUD1000 mark.
    • In terms of variety, some brands focus on different market sectors. Some may mostly make MTB or BMX with the odd pavement-ready bike. Others will produce plenty of road bikes. Of those, some may concentrate on providing a choice of value road bikes for a beginner rider, while others eschew this in favor of supplying high-end, high specification bikes for high prices. They may produce only a few women’s specific bikes, or sometimes one or none at all.
  3. Quality of the bikes at the beginner price point

    • The question here might be, is the quality of these bikes real or perceived? Quality is only quantifiable by those of us outside of the company without access to the warranty-claim figures, by keeping an eye on media sources.
    • I bought my Specialized Allez after a carbon fork steerer recall. While a company of the standing of Specialized has resources to handle this, it did make me wonder how something like this passes their QC testing programme? I think kudos to the power of branding, I felt assured that it was Specialized, so there’d be no issues with the replacement fork. But then I guess I’d have felt that where I to have purchased the bike initially with the defective fork, true? I wonder would a smaller, more niche company, a perhaps more innovative, perhaps more economically responsive company have spotted this material flaw sooner? Or would that smaller company not have had the test-resources in place? It’s a hard one to hypothesize.
    • Also, for many companies, the bike isn’t produced by them, but by proxy, often in the Far East, Taiwan being a popular source of frames and forks. In this article about the manufacturer Giant, it’s suggested that Taiwan island: “has a complete supply chain for bikes and the manufacturing technology is mature.” So the question here is, how tight a rein does our company have over the quality processes of their Far-East-Asian manufacturer? Sometimes I think we trust in the brand. But then, that’s what branding is about, right? That’s what we’re buying into.
  4. Value for money of the bikes (technical specification and componentry)

    • Q: How do I compare one set of components with another? How do I know what components on a bike are good and what aren’t?
    • A: I don’t think there are good and bad, just different levels of materials used which often mean a better feel, a better performance, lighter weight or greater longevity. What I mean is, a component, being constructed from lower end materials doesn’t make it a bad component per se. Not as good maybe, but bad, I think that’s unfair.
    • But the same as the bicycles in general, if the components are branded, they’re usually preferable. For example, are the rims, Mavic, or Alex, or Rigida? Or are they simply “alloy”. If a company’s prepared to put its name to something, suggests it’s prepared to stand by it in quality terms.
  5. Bike branding, style and uniqueness

    • While I think it’s something that to quite a degree appeals to me, I totally appreciate that not everyone wants a unique road bike. Maybe as a beginner you don’t want to stand out too much, preferring to learn your skill quietly without seeking attention. I can understand that entirely. Though I’d imagine nobody wants the same bike that everyone else has, knowing a friend has recommended the same brand can surely be reassuring. Karen got one of those bikes and she’s had it three weeks and it still hasn’t fallen apart! Just kidding 😛 I remember as a kid, three of us ended up with exactly the same GT Pro Performer bikes for Christmas lol. Same color, same ACS Z-rims and everything. Ah now I’m getting nostalgic #driftsintochildhoodmemory 😀
    • Knowing there’s a good distribution or parts network for that brand can also afford a certain peace of mind were it to come to technical fixes. For me at least, this aspect can be something of a double-edged sword though. After buying my last bike following a Specialized recall, I wondered of a larger global bike manufacturer like Specialized do we assume they’d have contingency plans in place should such a move be necessitated, but overlook that being a bigger company could foreseeably make things move more slowly? While I didn’t have to wait on a fix. I know others did. Would a smaller, local company have been quicker to respond to something like this? Or would they not have had the resources to cope? It’s hard to know. All I’m saying is that foregoing the uniqueness of a brand in favor of bigger brand because of the resources behind it may pay off as many times out of a hundred as it wouldn’t, right? You’re not buying a hundred bikes though, are you? 🙂
  6. Brand business location and bicycle country of manufacture

    • Saving the planet, helping enterprise at a more regional level by buying local, there could be many reasons for patronizing a company from the nation you see yourself belonging to. I guess the fact that more often than not, the frames, forks and components that make up the actual bike you’re buying are made in Taiwan, in many ways negates the good any of us seek to do in buying local.
    • In many instances here, I haven’t been able to uncover exactly where the frames and forks are built, what I’ve done is list the brand’s country of registration.
    • To underline that point, I’d quote Kona, though it applies to many bike brands…

Kona is 50% US and 50% Canadian owned. It is an independent company; no one owns us and we don’t own anything else. We design all of our bikes from the ground up and visit the factories that make our frames and components and assemble our bikes in Taiwan every month while they are being produced. Bikes these days are a virtual United Nations (we have parts on our bikes made in Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, USA) so it is almost impossible to get even half the parts on a bike from one country now. It is great to support your home country but the most important thing for Kona is to make the best bikes we can because our bikes are ridden by serious riders all around the world who expect nothing short of perfection.


2. Good bike brands for beginners in detail

This is not an exhaustive list. Some manufacturers that you might recognize aren’t listed. Why? Because they may not make road bikes or they may have no beginner road bikes according to the criteria above. This list is in as random an order as I can manage without resorting to back-end HTML table voodoo lol 😀

Kona

  • Started 1988 Pacific Northwest, making mountain bikes. Those were some of my favourites with the sloping top tubes, which was a thing back in the day! Kona Asphalt first in 1993 but at time of writing have a full range of road bikes.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my picks for beginner road bikes would be Kona Rove or Kona Esatto
kona-rove-road-bike
Kona Rove (pic for illustration purposes, see www.konaworld.com for further)

Specialized

  • Foundational in MTB with their first bike the Stumpjumper, Specialized themselves have been around since 1974. You’d certainly see their bikes around today in the pro pelotons of most major cycling races.
  • One of the “big three” bike brands along with Giant and Trek.
  • Based in California, but part owned by Merida (see elsewhere in this table). Made in Taiwan
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Specialized Allez, the Sport version if your budget stretches, or Dolce, which is a women’s specific geometry bike. I own the Allez and have no complaints about quality (or customer contact for that matter)
specialized-allez-sport
Specialized Allez Sport (pic for illustration purposes, see www.specialized.com for further)

Trek

  • America’s largest bicycle brand, Trek claim to be the world’s number one maker. Started in 1976 in a barn in Wisconsin, USA and based no more than a mile from there still. Seen again in the pro pelotons, Trek road bikes are well established.
  • One of the “big three” bike brands along with Specialized and Giant. Trek own Bontrager.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Trek Domane AL, available in a variety of specifications, men’s and women’s versions.
trek-domane-al3
Trek Domane AL3 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.trekbikes.com for further)

Raleigh

  • Ah, I’ve had a bunch of Raleigh bikes in my time, I fondly remember my Extra Burner back in the day and my Raleigh Banana for my commute to college haha #wistful 😀 Founded way back in Nottingham, England in 1887. Now, like many companies swallowed up, I mean acquired by an anonymous holding company. In this case a European Group called Accell (Raleigh, Redline, Diamondback, Lapierre and others), yes, I forgive you as a cyclist for not recognizing the name, unless that is, you’re a stockbroker 🙂 just kiddin Accell, way to go on your investor relations programme #rad 😛
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • I’ve had mixed feelings about the Raleigh bikes I’ve owned. Those were long enough ago though that many things have likely changed. At time of writing, it seems that Raleigh don’t make so many pure road bikes, what they are concentrating on in drop bar bikes is the latest fashion for adventure/gravel bikes my beginner road bike for comparison being limited to the Raleigh Mustang Sport
raleigh-mustang-sport
Raleigh Mustang Sport (pic for illustration purposes, see www.raleigh.co.uk for further)

Planet X

  •  Founded 1988 in England, now also responsible for On-One and Titus bikes, Planet X produces a range of both urban and road-specific bikes that fall into the beginner or first road bike. Bikes keep up with current cycling fashions, for example, the 1-by, fat-tired, gravel-adventure bikes en vogue at the minute, which implies to me that it’s a smaller company, at the same time, prices are reasonable (in the UK market).
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • I like Planet X as s company. I’m a regular purchaser. No complaints regarding service.
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Planet X London Road SL
planet-x-london-road-bike
Planet X London Road SL (pic for illustration purposes only, see planetx.co.uk for further)

Orbea

  • Originally a couple of handgun broker brothers from the Basque Country region of Spain left the handgun business and formed Orbea Bicycles in 1930. The brand gained public awareness with Team Orbea rider Mariano Cañardo in the 1934 Tour de France. In 1969, on the brink of bankruptcy, like many in Spain, Orbea was bought out by the workers. Rejoined competitive cycling again in the 80s with none other than Pedro Delgado. Designed and still built in Spain and Portugal, seen being ridden in the pro peloton on most big cycling tours.
  • One of my sons owns one of these. Seems like a quality bike. Everything’s holding up to the miles well.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Orbea Avant H30
orbea-avant-h30-bike
Orbea Avant H30 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.orbea.com for further)

Vitus

  • Beginning as a frame builder in 1970s France, Vitus was harnessing carbon fibre tech in its bikes since 1982. After somewhat losing its way commercially, it was acquired by Northern Irish bicycle company Chain Reaction Cycles and re-launched in 2010. Entering back into the pro peloton, Vitus’ business model through Wiggle/Chain Reaction makes their bikes rank well for value.
  • One of my sons owns one of these bikes, everything is well put together, well assembled and decently specified in components.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Vitus Zenium Disc
vitus-zenium-disc-bike
Vitus Zenium Disc (pic for illustration purposes, see www.vitusbikes.com for further)

Cannondale

  • Founded in a crowded loft above a pickle factory in 1971 in Connecticut, US, now owned by the Canadian Dorel Industries who also own GT, Schwinn, Mongoose and others. Starting with bicycle trailers and a touring bike, Cannondale produced their first MTB and road bike in 1984. Creating some radical mountain bikes in the 1990s, Cannondale are well versed in road bikes too.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Cannondale CAAD Optimo, available in various options.
cannondale-caad-optimo-road-bike
Cannondale CAAD Optimo (pic for illustration purposes, see www.cannondale.com for further)

Bianchi

  • Founded in 1885 by Edoardo Bianchi, F.I.V. Edoardo Bianchi Spa is part of Cycleurope AB Group. See, cycling is so corporate at the top of the business hierarchy. Still, Bianchi have a reputation for quality bikes. Maybe it’s an Italian thing? So while the headquarters remain in Treviglio (Bergamo, Italy), most of the frames are, as ever produced in China. Bianchi has many famous cycle tour victories to its name, under the prevailing pale blue “celeste” color scheme.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Dama Bianca
bianchi-via-nirone-7-dama-bianca-road-bike
Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Dama Bianca (pic for illustration purposes, see www.bianchi.com for further)

Wilier

  • Wilier Triestina have their HQ Veneto near Vincenza Italy. Pietro Dal Molin purchased English brand Wilier in 1906 and set up a factory along the bank of the River Brenta in Italy. Triestina was added to the branding to reflect a desire to reunite Trieste to Italy from which it had been annexed since WW1 #history101 lol. After declining fortunes, the company was bought over in 1969 by the Gastaldello brothers. The team has been riding on the pro circuit since autumn 1945 and is obvious in the pro peloton of today.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Wilier Jareen
wilier-jareen-road-gravel-bike
Wilier Jareen (pic for illustration, see www.wilier.com for further)

B’TWIN

  • In 1976 Decathlon Cycle was created, a subsidiary of the French Decathlon Group. In 2006 Decathlon Cycle became known as B’TWIN after the B’TWIN 5 original bike – but how did that get its name? The B’TWIN headquarters is in Lille, France. Representing consistent value for money as reported in the cycling media, possibly because they’re solely distributed through Decathlon Sports, B’TWIN – and I’m still looking for a source for that name 🙂  are spotted on the pro peloton too.
  • What I like most about this brand is that it’s no nonsense, value for money, has no air of pretentiousness (know what I mean?)
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be B’TWIN Triban 540
btwin-triban-540-road-bike
BTWIN Triban 540 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.decathlon.com for further)

Merida

  • Founded by Ike Tseng in 1972, after supposedly reacting to a “no Taiwanese bikes for repair” policy due to their apparent low quality while passing a bike store on a trip to the US. Merida are one of the world’s largest bicycle suppliers to other brands. Merida have been a brand in their own right since Ike Tseng’s decision in 1988. Based in Taiwan with facilities in Germany, Merida also owns a 49% stake in Specialized.
  • Liking some of these steep frame angles, remind me of the old Gary Fisher mountain bikes back in the day. I’ve always found Merida visually pleasing.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Merida Ride 300
merida-ride-300-road-bike
Merida Ride 300 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.merida-bikes.com for further)

Boardman

  • Chris Boardman is a 1Hr World Record holder and former pro cyclist with TdF stage wins to his name. Boardman established the brand assisted by Dimitris Katsanis, a Greek engineering expert in composite materials. The company launched their first range into the UK in 2007. Bought in 2014 by Halfords Plc, the brand has received much kudos for their value spec’ed and well built bikes.
  • My Boardman flatbar bike is featured elsewhere on site. I bought the frame and fork and built from there. A nice, reliable piece of kit that was. No complaints
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Boardman Adv 8.8
boardman-adv-8-8-road-adventure-bike
Boardman Adv 8.8 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.boardmanbikes.com for further)

Scott

  • Ed SCOTT, an engineer and ski racer from Sun Valley, Idaho invented the first tapered aluminium ski pole that  replaced the sport’s existing use of bamboo and steel. Scott produced ski equipment and MX goggles before branching into bike stuff with the infamous aero bar, MTB suspension forks and then bikes. After a management buyout in 1998, ownership was transferred to Switzerland. Doing well at the minute in the pro tours.
  • I owned a Scott Roadster for a few years  in about 04-05 I’m guessing. Quality, fun bikes back then as I’m sure they are now.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Scott Speedster 30
scott-speedster-30-road-bike
Scott Speedster 30 (pic for illustration pusposes, see www.scott-sports.com for further)

DiamondBack

  • Another bike company owned by Dutch group Accell that I’ve mentioned already, Diamondback was founded in Camarillo, California, US in 1978 as a BMX brand, written as Diamond Back. While Diamondback until recently concentrated on the end of the market we, as first bike buyers are interested in, they have made moves into much higher end bicycles too!
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, it seems the Diamondback road range is not available in all countries. But my beginner road bike for comparison would be Diamondback Century 1
diamondback-century-1-road-bike
Diamondback Century 1 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.diamondback.com for further)

Cinelli

  • Cinelli was founded in 1947 by an ex-pro cyclist Cino Cinelli. Originally making bars and stems and the world’s first plastic saddle, the unicantor 🙂 The company was sold in 1979 to Antonio Columbo who was the president of Columbus tubing who redefined the brand. Based in Milan, Italy, and owned, as many others, by a larger interest group (in this case  Gruppo S.r.l.) Cinelli continue to make legendary road bikes as well as harvesting the track and singlespeed trend, as below.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, I was about to relegate Cinelli into the just-too-expensive category at the bottom of this listing, but since that pained me, my beginner road bike for comparison, if you can accept that it’s a singlespeeder would be Cinelli Tipo Pista
cinelli-tipo-pista-singlespeed-road-bike
Cinelli Tipo Pista Singlespeed (pic for illustration purposes, see www.cinelli.it/en for further)

Schwinn

  • Founded in 1895 in Chicago, US by Ignaz Schwinn and his partner Adolph Arnold, Schwinn is one of the older bicycle companies still around. As with many key companies, Schwinn has something of a whirlwind business history moving from Chicago to Boulder, Colorado, merging with GT, being bought by Pacific Cycle in 1994, who were themselves acquired by Dorel Industries (mentioned already in the article) in 2004.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, Schwinn road bikes aren’t so easy to get in all regions outside of the US, the brand being limited here in the UK sadly to the odd cruiser and static gym machines 🙁 Nevertheless, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Schwinn Fastback 2
schwinn-fastback-2-road-bike
Schwinn Fastback 2 (pic for illustration, see www.schwinnbikes.com for further)

Claud Butler

  • Claud Butler opened a bicycle store in London, UK in 1928 where he began building bronze-weld, decorative lugged bike frames. As with many, owned by hierarchical business interest Tandem Group (British Eagle, Holdsworth, Falcon cycles, Elswick). In 2016 Tandem Group merged Claud Butler with Dawes as listed elsewhere.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, it looks like Claud Butler have not only quite a modest range but also, as far as I can see, a limited reach outside of the UK, so it was a question of whether or not to include the brand here. Nevertheless, it’s an old brand still going strong so it’s here 🙂 My beginner road bike for comparison then would be Claud Butler Radical
claud-butler-radical-road-bike
Claud Butler Radical (pic for illustration purposes, see www.claudbutler.co.uk for further)

Giant

  • Founded in Taichung City, Taiwan 1972, Giant is generally recognized as probably the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world. The gamechanger for Giant was possibly being requisitioned by Schwinn to make frames and forks for them which led to Giant making bicycles for many other recognized brands including Specialized and Bianchi. Giant began it’s own range of branded bicycles including what’s widely regarded as the first affordable carbon framed bike, the Cadex 980. Giant were also known for the so-called compact frame, being one of the first proponents of the sloping toptube.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Giant Contend 1
giant-content-1-road-bike
Giant Contend 1 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.giant-bicycles.com for further)

Cube

  • In 1993 former student Marcus Pürner formed Cube, starting out with an area of 50 m² in his father’s furniture factory. As with many brands, the bikes are produced in Taiwan, here Cube still assemble in their plant in Waldershof, Bavaria. Cube may have been primarily known for MTBs but their road bike prowess is evident now too. 
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Cube Attain Pro Disc
cube-attain-pro-disc-road-bike
Cube Attain Pro Disc (pic for illustration purposes, see www.cube.eu for further)

GT Bicycles

  • Founded in 1979 by Gary Turner (GT, eh?) and Richard Long in Santa Ana, California, US, GT Bicycles were a main protagonist back in the halcyon days of BMX. I should know, I owned a bunch of them! Oh, let me tell you about my ol ’91 Karakoram and ’93 Zaskar LE 😀 Though they’re mostly about BMX and MTB today, they still bring some decent cards to the road bike table, many still with the famous “triple triangle” frame geometry which suits the dropped seatstays on today’s road bikes. GT Bicycles merged with Schwinn before that ensemble was bought by Pacific Cycle in 1994, who were themselves acquired by Dorel Industries (mentioned already in the article) in 2004
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be GT GTR Sport
gt-gtr-sport-roac-bike
GT GTR Sport (pic for illustration purposes, see www.gtbicycles.com for further)

Canyon

  • Canyon bikes emerged from a bike supply company called Radsport Arnold, started in 1985 by brothers Roman and Franc Arnold. Canyon operate a direct sales model which, according to their info, keeps the prices low for you, the customer.
  • Based in Koblenz, Germany, there have been some issues with Canyon’s delivery schedule, admin side, and also their quality control which (if you check Trustpilot) you’ll see resulted in some disappointed customers, not least me myself when trying to acquire the very bike below!
  • Hopefully they’ll rectify that because their road bikes sure look sweet. The bikes are easily spotted on most major cycling tours at the moment. Like many, Canyon are made in Taiwan (by Giant I believe) but assembled in Germany.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Canyon Endurace AL 6.0
canyon-endurace-al-6-0-road-bike
Canyon Endurace AL 6.0 (pic for illustration, see www.canyon.com for further)

Marin

  • Founded in 1986 by Bob Buckley in Marin County, California, US, Marin were one of the pioneers of mountain biking in the early days, with such notable staff as Joe Murray and Dave Turner (later of Turner Bikes). Marin too were influential in suspension design on MTBs. The company produces a range of pavement bikes too definitely worth checking out.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Marin Gestalt
marin-gestalt-road-bike
Marin Gestalt (pic for illustration, see www.marinbikes.com for further)

Salsa

  • Founded in 1982 in Bloomington, Minnesota, US, Salsa Cycles by Ross Shafer, a former road frame builder at Santana Cycles. Salsa began predominately making stems as well as MTB frames and handlebars.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • Today, Salsa have what I’d describe as a unique range of bikes and while many are at the higher end of the price spectrum, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Salsa Journeyman.
salsa-journeyman-gravel-road-bike
Salsa Journeyman (pic for illustration purposes, for further see www.salsacycles.com)

Dawes

  • In 1926 in Birmingham in England, Charles Dawes set up Dawes Cycles out of a partnership known as Humphries and Dawes – the Humphries end of the business being motorcycles. Dawes contributed greatly to the Second World War effort supplying bicycles. With a proud heritage and well known for touring bikes replete with triple chainrings and racks as below, Dawes is now part of the Tandem Group mentioned elsewhere (Claud Butler, Falcon, Elswick).
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Dawes Galaxy
dawes-galaxy-touring-road-bike
Dawes Galaxy (pic for illustration purposes, see www.dawescycles.com for further)

Mekk

  • Mekk is the brainchild of two cycling afficianados, riders and racers from Bristol, England: Mark Edwards and Ken Knight, see what happened there? ME-KK? Cool, right? 🙂 Being not only pro-am cyclists but also expert in the distribution side of bicycles places the Mekk team in an awesome network of manufacturing and tech sources that shows in the flair of the bicycles. I like these bikes I have to admit 🙂
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Mekk Pinerolo SE 0.2
mekk-pinerolo-se0-2
Mekk Pinerolo SE 0.2 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.mekkbicycles.com for further)

Felt

  • Engineer Jim Felt founded Felt Bicycles in Southern California, US in 1991. Working with performance athletes such as Paula Newby Fraser (triathlon) and producing performance bikes, Felt underwent some internal strife before relaunching in 2001. The French Skis Rossignol snowsports group (owner of LOOK) bought Felt in 2017.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, Felt bikes just about scrape into our price criteria but I’m glad they do. So my beginner road bike for comparison would be Felt FR40
felt-fr40-road-bike
Felt FR40 (pic for illustration purposes, see www.feltbicycles.com for further)

Fuji

  • Founded in Japan in 1899 as “Nichibei Fuji” (or Japanese-American Fuji), the company began importing by American and English bikes. Selling initially as in-house branded bikes (eg. Sears & Roebuck), Fuji began a successful individual brand in the 1970s with the Fuji Sports-10 road bike. Having very much made a name for themselves in both road and TT bikes, Fuji bikes, though now part of the Advanced Sports Group (PA, US) still add a little sparkle of flair to their innovation and decently spec’d bikes.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Fuji Sportif 1.5 Disc
fuji-sportif-1-5-disc-road-bike
Fuji Sportif 1.5 Disc (pic for illustration, see www.fujibikes.com for further)

Jamis

  • American Cypriot émigré George Joannou began his own brand Jamis in 1979 out of his cycle distribution business. When George passed in 1981, the business was taken charge of by his daughter Carine. Though the company began with cruiser bikes and later MTB, in 1988 they began producing road bikes too. Now production is shifted to China and Taiwan, still the company retains an ethos of a family business.
  • See beginner bike brands list below for scores
  • At time of writing, my beginner road bike for comparison would be Jamis Ventura Sport
jamis-ventura-sport-road-bike
Jamis Ventura Sport (pic for illustration purposes, see www.jamisbikes.com for further)

Left off the List?

Other manufacturers concentrating on other segments of the market besides first bikes or beginner road bikes have not featured in this beginner’s road bike brands article:

  • 3T, an Italian cycle company founded in 1961 who began making bicycle parts. 3T bicycle prices are beyond the range of what we’re classing as beginner or first bikes for this article
  • Cervelo, a Canadian company founded in 1995. Cervelo bicycle prices are beyond the range of what we’re classing as beginner or first bikes for this article
  • BMC, abbreviation for Bicycle Manufacturing Company – snappy eh? – a Swiss company formed in 1986. BMC road bike prices are beyond the range of what we’re classing as beginner or first bikes for this article
  • Surly Bikes was founded in 1998 in Minnesota, US, and concentrates on bikes made from a more, I guess you could say, traditional 4130 Cro-mo steel. Surly road bike prices are beyond the range of what we’re classing as beginner or first bikes for this article
  • Colnago, Ernesto Colnago opened his first bike store in 1954 in Cambiago, Milan, Italy and moved from mechanic to making bicycles for none other than Eddy Merckx. Colnago bicycle prices are beyond the range of what we’re classing as beginner or first bikes for this article.
  • Eddy Merckx, the Belgian icon of the pro peloton, founded his eponymous brand in 1980. S.A. Cycles Eddy Merckx Rijwielen N.V the business moniker of the brand, was never quite as successful as the rider himself. So much so that it’s been bought over by Belgian compatriots Ridley Bikes. Eddy Merckx bicycle prices are beyond the range of what we’re classing as beginner or first bikes for this article.
  • Pinarello, Born in 1953 in Treviso, Italy, the brainchild of Giovanni Pinarello, famous as much for his Giro Black Jersey triumphs as anything Cicli Pinarello began small, building by hand and taking small sponsorships until their first Giro victory in 1975. The company was acquired by fashionista group L Catterton and concentrates now on super high-end bikes which consequently push them out of our list on price.

Last Year’s Road Bike Models

As a potentially useful point of note, if you’re considering a purchase of a higher end bicycle (or in fact any new branded bicycle from the above list) it’s that most brands introduce a new range lineup every year. More often than not, that happens around mid September – mid November. What that means is that prices of last year’s bike will generally drop as retailers try to liquidate stock before the new season’s bikes arrive. Again, some folk like the latest and greatest, but many of the “left out” brands above would appear in this list as I write (it’s end September) if I were to include the reduced previous year’s models 🙂


3. Sortable list of bike brands for beginners

  • Table Columns:
    • A – Brand Renown, Scoring out of 10
    • B – Number and Variety of Road Bikes at Beginner Price Point, Scoring out of 10
    • C – Quality of Road Bikes at Beginner Price Point, Scoring out of 10
    • D – Value for Money of the Bikes, Scoring out of 10
    • E – Bike Branding, Style and Uniqueness, Scoring out of 10
    • F – Brand Business Location and Bicycle Country of Manufacture
BrandABCDEFWebsite
Kona Beginner Road Bikes72767US & Canada / Taiwanwww.konaworld.com
Specialized Beginner Road Bikes82766US / Taiwanwww.specialized.com
Trek Beginner Road Bikes83775US / Germany, Netherlands, China and 1%USwww.trekbikes.com
Raleigh Beginner Road Bikes61745Netherlands / Asiawww.raleigh.co.uk
PlanetX Beginner Road Bikes57777England / Taiwan, China and Italywww.planetx.co.uk
Orbea Beginner Road Bikes57878Spain / Spain & Portugalwww.orbea.com
Vitus Beginner Road Bikes57796France & Ireland / Asiawww.vitusbikes.com
Cannondale Beginner Road Bikes74765US / China www.cannondale.com
Bianchi Beginner Road Bikes61867Italy / Chinawww.bianchi.com
Wilier Beginner Road Bikes51868Vincenza Italy / Asiawww.wilier.com
B'TWIN Beginner Road Bikes48796Lille France / Europe & Asiawww.decathlon.com
Merida Beginner Road Bikes53766Taiwan & Germany / Taiwanwww.merida-bikes.com
Boardman Beginner Road Bikes44776London, UK / NAwww.boardmanbikes.com
Scott Beginner Road Bikes63766Switzerland / Asiawww.scott-sports.com
Diamondback Beginner Road Bikes53765US / Asiawww.diamondback.com
Cinelli Beginner Road Bikes71868Italy / Italy & Asiawww.cinelli.it/en
Schwinn Beginner Road Bikes81765US / Asiawww.schwinnbikes.com
Claud Butler Beginner Road Bikes43675UK / Asiawww.claudbutler.co.uk
Giant Beginner Road Bikes83776Taiwan / Taiwanwww.giant-bicycles.com
Cube Beginner Road Bikes63866Germany / Taiwanhttps://www.cube.eu
GT Bicycles Beginner Road Bikes63777US / Asiawww.gtbicycles.com
Canyon Beginner Road Bikes53768Germany / Taiwanwww.canyon.com
Marin Beginner Road Bikes64777US / Asiawww.marinbikes.com
Dawes Beginner Road Bikes55776England / Asiawww.dawescycles.com
Felt Beginner Road Bikes52766US / Asiawww.feltbicycles.com
Mekk Beginner Road Bikes24778UK / Asiawww.mekkbicycles.com
Fuji Beginner Road Bikes43767US / Taiwanwww.fujibikes.com
Jamis Beginner Road Bikes44766US / Taiwan & Chinawww.jamisbikes.com
Salsa Beginner Road Bikes33867US / Taiwan & Chinawww.salsacycles.com

Final Observations?

One thing that struck me more than anything in the course of writing and researching this article was the fact that most bikes are, as the Kona quotation says at the beginning, a cornucopia of outsourced parts with no one bike from any major brand as above, being built on site from raw materials to finished bike. While there are loads of independent fabricators out there doing sterling work with TiG welding rods or carbon composite molds, I wanted to stick with bigger brands just for the purposes of this beginner road bike article.

The other thing that comes from this research is the – and how do I put this kindly – the homogeneity of the offerings of most major brands above. I mean I own a Specialized Allez as pictured above somewhere, but I can’t help notice it’s not only similar to many other brands with the dropped seatstays, but it’s almost identical in every way, not just the frame, but spec too, to the Jamis Ventura. I can only assume this is as a result of bikes being sourced from the same mega-plants in Taiwan and mainland China. That’s fair enough, but I think some brands above don’t have too much by way of differentiation from each other. Certainly not at this end of the market.

I don’t know about you, but I like a touch of the unique and the way bikes are built now, that uniqueness can’t come from frame design because they’re mostly only minor differences due to frame sourcing. That uniqueness can’t come from component specification because there’s a set of components for our price bracket and it’s not possible for brands to deviate from that in order to maintain profits. So for me, the only way to add in that uniqueness is cosmetically, in the actual physical branding – the paintwork, graphics and logos. But from what I’ve seen as I’ve taken this journey, and I’m sure you notice too, is how samey the offerings in the beginner or first road bike are. Am I wrong? Things don’t have to be crazy weird, just a bit different, no? I’d love to see a chromed bike again. But then that’s the old timer in me talking lol 🙂

I’ve made a case for going higher on the bike-buying price range if at all possible. Check it out on CyclingQuestions YouTube Channel

Feel free to check out the other vids while you’re there too!

But notwithstanding, I hope this provided you with some points of reference for your own search. If you’re looking for a first road bike, I wish you every success in finding what’s right for you. Take all the advice you can get. Let me know how you get on! Meantime, research hard and ride safe, David

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