Carbon. This much-coveted wonder material makes up pencil leads, diamonds and something we’re all much more interested in: bicycles. Immensely strong, incredibly lightweight and stiff. It’s the ideal material to build bikes from, and with engineering technology coming on in leaps and bounds, what was once the sole preserve of the pro peloton is increasingly available to us mere mortals. If you want to shave grams off your bike weight, a carbon frame is one of the places you can make the biggest saving.
Cycle manufacturers carbon technology means they can adapt the way carbon fibres are layered and woven to alter stiffness, compliance and shape to produce bikes suited for sportives, time trialing or endurance.
Not all carbon is created equal however, and carbon frames at the lower end of the price range are likely to be made from lower grade carbon fibres than the 10k wonder machines you have to remortgage your house to purchase.
And of course the bike frame is just part of the equation. Without quality wheels, gears, brakes and finishing kit, although you have a lightweight and strong frame, you may be looking to upgrade parts sooner rather than later.
So we’ve done the legwork and found 5 bikes that give the best value for money if you’re on the lookout for a sleek, light, speedy and downright stunning road bike.
Canyon Endurace CF 8.0 £1,299
One way to save money when shopping for a new bike is to go direct, and that’s the sales model German brand Canyon have gone for. The money they save by cutting out the middle man means they can afford to provide incredibly well specc’d bikes for crazy money. The service is excellent too.
Although the Canyon Endurace isn’t a women’s specific bike, it is available in a wide range of sizes, and Canyon will alter elements such as the saddle, swapping them for women’s specific models.
The Endurace is a great all-round bike, comfortable for riding distances. The carbon frame is good quality, and it comes with full Shimano 105 brakes and Shimano 105 11 speed groupset with compact chainset.
The wheels are worth an extra mention themselves. DT Swiss R24 Spline are high quality in their own right, and the 18c rims follow the new trend for wider rims which allow you to ride wider tyres, which means more comfort, grip and puncture resistance. They also make removing and replacing the tyre slightly easier.
Bike: Canyon Endurace CF 8.0
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL
More info: Canyon
Liv Avail Advanced 3
Liv, the new women’s cycling brand and the sister brand of Giant, have not only an extensive range of women’s bikes, but they’ve got some really great value products on offer too. The Liv Avail Advanced is the do-it-all road bike that can take on fast rides, long rides, and group rides. It’s also one of the few bikes to have disc brakes. All this for under £1,200? That’s seriously good.
Liv say they’ve designed the weave of the carbon to work specifically with female riders, and the bike comes with a women’s specific saddle as you’d expect. The full Shimano Tiagra groupset is a good quality, and a 10 speed cassette plus compact chainset gives you a great range of gears.
FYI if you’ve got more cash to splash, we also think highly of the Liv Avail Advanced Pro. At £2,599 it’s not cheap, but it comes with outstanding specs, including full Shimano Ultegra and hydraulic disc brakes for stopping power in the wet. It also looks completely kick ass.
Bike: Liv Avail Advanced 3
Sizes: XS, S, M
More info: Liv
Planet X RT-58 Shimano Ultegra 6800 Women’s
The RT-58 Shimano Ultegra 6800 Women’s road bike isn’t a model name that exactly rolls off the tongue, but you’ll forgive Planet X their naming conventions as yes, you guessed it, it’s a carbon framed bike with full Shimano Ultegra for only £1,399. That’s pretty good, that is.
It comes fitted with women’s specific saddle and narrower handlebars with a shallower drop, and this bike is designed to be comfortable for hours in the saddle, riding mile after mile.
11 speed groupset with a compact chainset is the standard now and Planet X offer this, plus gearing which Planet X say is perfectly suited to the different ride style and power output of female riders. The Ultegra levers have a closer reach, which is easier to use and offers more control.
Planet X are another direct sale online only brand, similar to Canyon but based in the UK. They’ve got a shop in Rotherham, should you need to get in touch.
Bike: Planet X RT-58 Shimano Ultegra 6800 Women’s
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
More info: Planet X.
Liv Envie Advanced
Yes, we know this is the second women’s road bike from Liv in the lineup but dammit, they’re just such great value! And this one might be a little pricier, but firstly it’s still rare to see a women’s specific time trial bike and secondly we were astounded by the value the Liv Envie Advanced 1 presented.
The groupset is fully Ultegra, the second-from-top of the range set by Shimano, barring the Giant SpeedControl brakes which are designed to integrate with the frame. The frame, forks and seatube are carbon fibre, and have that distinctive time-trial aero shape to minimise drag.
There is a cheaper model with Shimano 105 if you want to save some pennies, but if you are searching for a bike at this price point, you get a lot of quality components for your money. We also love the colours; not a hint of pastel, just bold, statement blues and greens on this aerodynamically designed demon of a bike. Go fast or go home!
Bike: Liv Envie Advanced
Sizes: XS, S, M
More info: Liv
Specialized Alias Sport Tri
The bike model name here gives you a clue to what makes this bike value for money. The Specialized Alias is a bike of many talents. In particular, it’s designed to be used as both a triathlon specific bike and regular road bike, and is aimed at those who are just getting into the sport.
Triathlon bikes are great for racing, but the aggressive ride position can make them uncomfortable for longer rides or general sportives. But if you’re new to the sport, or even if you are just watching the pennies, buying two bikes is quite an investment. Specialized have designed one slick looking stone to kill those two birds with.
Out of the box, the Specialized Alias comes with a zero offset seatpost and clip on aero bars. However, if you want to use it for road cycling, unclip the bars and swap the seatpost over for the offset road seatpost for a more comfortable body position. You’ll have to buy this separately though, which is a shame.
The Sport model comes with full Shimano 105 groupset, and Axis 2.0 wheels.
Bike: Specialized Alias Sport Tri
Sizes: 44, 48, 51, 54, 57
More info: Specialized.