The 10 Best Entry-Level Road Bikes Under 500 Dollars in 2018
In 1817, two centuries ago, Karl von Drais from Germany invented the first bicycle; he called it a “swiftwalker.” Since then, cycling has become a part of many people’s everyday life. Others do it for fitness and sports, while some do it for commuting or to help save the environment.
With 25% of adults ages 30-49 years old claiming to be a cyclist, biking is clearly a sport that people of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy. Road biking is especially popular, with many riders choosing to skip the horrible traffic in the car lanes for the fresh air and sunshine that comes with commuting by bike to work. Road biking is also a popular hobby, with many riders enjoying long weekend rides with their friends.
Road biking doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby to start with; there are many affordable, high-quality road bikes available on the market today. After looking at the ten best road bikes under $500, we think that the Pure Classic 16-speed bike is the best road bike under $500. Its lifetime warranty, variety of sizes, and high-quality Shimano STI Integrated shifters are all great benefits to a sharp looking bike.
Best Road Bikes Under 500 Dollars: Quick Comparison
Pure Classic Road Bike
GMC Denali Road Bike
Tommaso Fascino Sport Road Bike
Schwinn Volare 1400 Road 700C Wheel Bicycle
Giordano Libero 1.6 Men's Road Bike-700c
Vilano Shadow 3.0 Road Bike
Raleigh Bikes Merit 1 Road Bike
Vilano FORZA 4.0 Road Bike
Schwinn Men's Axios TT 700c Drop Bar Triathlon Road Bicycle
Diamondback Bicycles Sport Bike
1. Pure Cycles Classic 16-Speed Road Bike
With six sizes to choose from and four different colors, it’s no wonder that the Pure Cycles Classic 16-speed road bike is one of the best-reviewed road bikes under $500. Its retro and classy look is matched by its features—a frame and fork of 4130 chromoly steel, 16-speed Shimano Claris STI shifters for easy shifting, and easy-to-use front and rear alloy caliper brakes.
It features 700c x 28mm tires for speed with enough traction for various terrains. The adjustable drop handlebar allows for a variety of hand positions to find the one best suited for you. The frameset has all the mounting and attachment points needed for whatever addons you want. The medium-sized bike weighs a light 26 lbs., perfect for a road bike.
This Pure Cycles Road Bike looks like a high-quality and stylish choice, rolled up into one affordable package. The Shimano shifters are one of the main attractions for many buyers—this is the lowest-priced, but highest-quality, bike that offers these STI shifters!
2. GMC Denali Road Bike
The GMC Denali Bike—not the car—offers four sizes for a perfect fit. It is also available in three colors, one of which is pink (how fun!). It has a 6061 aluminum frame, alloy calipers and side-pull brake levers, alloy Vitesse racing rims, and Shimano derailleur and Revo shifters with 21 speeds.
The popular drop bar handlebars are perfect for those wanting speed, while the Vitesse saddle is comfortable for longer rides. The medium-sized bike weighs 30 lbs., while the other bikes weigh a little more or less depending on the size. The wheels are 700c x 28mm, perfect for road biking, but also able to handle the wet or loose terrain.
For the price, the GMC Denali Road Bike is a great frame that can be upgraded to suit your needs. It will be a suitable bike for the amateur cyclists or the experienced rider who wants a cheaper second bike for commuting or other circumstances.
3. Tommaso Fascino - Sport Performance Aluminum Road Bike
From a company that is 100% employee-owned and operated come the Tommaso Fascino Sport Performance Aluminum Road Bike. Their stated goal is to make high-quality, affordable road bikes simply because of their love of biking. The Fascino is offered in five sizes for the perfect fit.
They offer a lifetime warranty on the Fascino frame and are one of the few road bikes to offer a full Shimano Tourney drivetrain—shifters, triple crankshaft, and cassette. It is patterned after their famous Imola bike and includes the same quality that Tommaso is known for.
The small size weighs a light 23.6 lbs. and the frame offers a quick release front wheel. The wheels are 700c x 25mm, a size which will glide effortlessly over the open road.
The Fascino bike is high-quality, with name brand components, for a beginner-friendly price and budget bike.
4. Schwinn Volare 1400 Road 700C Wheel Bicycle, Matte Purple, 48 cm/One Size
The Volare 1400 from Schwinn, undoubtedly a market leader in the cycling industry, is one of their most popular models, with this size (and color) directed towards the female riders. It features a lightweight aluminum frame with a steel fork, Shimano 14-speed integrated shifter and brake lever, Shimano derailleurs, and oversized road tires.
The bike comes with a limited lifetime warranty from Schwinn. It weighs 29 lbs. Reviewers mentioned that it was packaged well and is relatively simple to assemble.
While perfectly suited as a road bike for the beginning cyclist or commuter, it seems that there are other options available besides this bike that perform well at the same price, and have more impressive options, sizes, and color choices. However, it’s a good frame with Schwinn’s well-known warranty, so a lot could be done to make this the bike of your dreams!
5. Giordano Libero 1.6 Men's Road Bike-700c
Raved about by its users, the Giordano Libero 1.6 Men’s road bike is impressive and solid. It comes in three sizes and two colors, made of 6061 aluminum, and has a steel fork. It weighs about 26 lbs., depending on the size ordered, and includes a 16-speed Shimano STI drivetrain. The tires are 700c x 25mm and it includes dual water bottle mounts.
Reviewers mentioned that it needed a lot of work right out of the package, and recommended taking it to a bike shop for assembly. Others noted that the seat is uncomfortable (to be expected in this price range) and that the brakes aren’t always responsive at high speeds. They also mentioned the tires included are bottom of the line and could use replacing.
Overall, this bike looks like a great choice for someone looking for quality at this price range. It has a good frame and shape, which can be customized and added on to as needed by the user.
6. Vilano Shadow 3.0 Road Bike
Popular among amateur bikers and experts alike, the Vilano Shadow 3.0 road bike has some great features not found in many other bikes of its price range. It’s made of 6061 double butted aluminum, has 14-gear Shimano STI Integrated brake lever and shifters, mechanical dual disc brakes, and quick release rims.
Pedals are included with the bike, which weighs a light 23 lbs., and the wheels are 700c x 25mm—perfect for speed and stamina on the road. Reviewers mentioned that the bike was factory direct, and would probably need a professional tune-up before use. Others found the integrated shifters hard to reach, and that the cheap components other than the Shimano pieces broke quickly.
A great choice for its lightweight and Shimano parts, the Vilano is a bike that could be appreciated by both commuters and leisure riders alike.
7. Raleigh Bikes Merit 1 Endurance Road Bike
From the famous Raleigh name, the Endurance Road Bike is so named because of it's relaxed and higher stack geometry that allows for more comfort and vision while riding—a perfect choice for commuters and leisure riders.
It has an aluminum fork and frame, which shaves off a couple extra weight that the popular steel forks usually add. It features dual pivot caliper brakes and a Shimano drivetrain. The tires are 700c x 28mm, providing some extra traction on sandy roads or dirt paths.
Aside from the wheels, reviewers raved about the quality of this bike, especially for the affordable price. The Shimano drivetrain is high-quality, and the endurance design is a great choice for commuters and leisure riders alike.
8. Vilano FORZA 4.0 Aluminum Integrated Shifters Road Bike
Another Vilano model, the Forza 4.0 comes in four sizes, with a 6061 aluminum frame, steel fork, and Shimano STI Integrated Brake lever shifters and Claris front and rear derailleurs. It has 24 speeds, 700c x 23mm tires for extra momentum and agility, and the pedals are included with the bike.
Some reviewers had wheel issues and recommended replacing those before doing much riding. The cheaper components of the bike were prone to breaking and needed constant repair or replacement.
While well-liked by the majority of users and reviewers, it seems there are better choices available in the “best road bike under $500” category that can offer extras like complete Shimano drivetrains, warranties, and size varieties than this bike.
9. Schwinn Men's Axios TT 700c Drop Bar Triathlon Road Bicycle
Again from the well-loved and popular Schwinn brand comes the Axios Triathlon Road Bike. It comes in one size, with an aluminum road frame, Shimano 14-speed drivetrain, and front rim quick release. It also has alloy caliper road brakes and a quick release saddle for easy seat adjustments.
Reviewers noted that it was easy to assemble and appreciated the limited lifetime warranty that Schwinn offers. However, they noted that the tires were cheap and would need to be replaced before depending on it in a triathlon or on a longer ride.
For the price, this Schwinn is a well-reviewed road bike under $500 that would serve its user well in both races and commuting, a fact backed up by the good reviews it receives online. It definitely outperforms the Volare with a complete Shimano drivetrain—worth considering for the racer looking for a bike that’s affordable and well-made.
10. Diamondback Bicycles Trace St Dual Sport Bike
Different from the previous bikes discussed, the Diamondback Trace is a dual sport hybrid bike. It features the wheels of a road bike with the tough geometry of a mountain bike—a good compromise for the commuter who wants to go off-roading on the weekends.
While some may compare this to the “Jeep” of cars, it isn’t quite the full effect you’d get from the typical off-road bike, but fun enough for wooded dirt paths and gravel roads.
It has 21 gears with a Shimano drivetrain, an aluminum frame with steel fork, and alloy linear pull breaks. It comes in four sizes for a comfortable fit, and its most unique feature from the previous nine reviewed bikes is its 700c x 40mm tires. While these tires won’t necessarily offer the speed of the lighter road bike tires, they will perform great on rougher terrain and lend themselves more towards the explorers and wanderers.
Overall, the Diamondback Trace looks like a fun bike for someone who wants a practical bike for commuting but also wants to have some off-road adventures at other times without owning a different bike. The Shimano parts are high-quality and the reviews are excellent as well.
Best Road Bikes Under 500 Buying Guide
The wheels of a road bike are one of its most defining features. Road bike wheels must be lightweight, sturdy enough to hold up the rider, able to hold a good amount of pressure and handle the frequent use of the bike by commuters and racers.
The common road bike rim size is 700c, with a variety of wheel rim widths available, depending on your needs and the terrain you’ll be traveling.
The wheel rims of the average road bike are made of aluminum, although the upper level of wheel rims will be made of carbon fiber. These are for professional racers that need as much weight as possible taken off their bikes.
There are three types of tires for bikes.
Many types of pedals are available to road bikers, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs and experience.
Platform bike pedals are the typical pedals that many users have on their beginner bikes. They are usually made from lightweight materials with traction grips for wet conditions. Many bikers prefer these types of pedals if they use their bikes in conditions conducive to crashes such as downhill mountain biking or wet areas, as they allow them to quickly dismount.
Toe clips, or toe cages, are small frames that the rider inserts their foot into, and include a strap that wraps around the ball of the foot for securing. These types of pedals allow the rider to not only push down through the pedal stroke but pull up on it too.
Clipless bike pedals work with specially-cleated shoes that allow the user to “clip in” their shoe to the pedal’s cleats, in the same way, a ski boot clicks into skis. They were invented as an alternative to the toe clips, as a pedal that a shoe can be directly clipped into by a direct attachment.
Caliper brakes are the most common brake system on road bikes, featured in many of the bikes written about in this article. The brakes are mounted centrally above each wheel so that when the brake lever is pulled, the calipers move inwardly toward the rim.
It is important to make sure that the brake levers are compatible with the brake calipers on a road bike—there are many types of compatible calipers and levers for different styles of handlebars.
There are also different brake pads available, depending on the bike’s rims and the weather conditions it is being ridden in.
Brake cables are one of the most important aspects of the brakes, and require routine maintenance and checking for safety.
The following are the types of caliper brakes:
The most important aspect of any bike is its frame, as many of the additional parts of the bike can be updated or fixed depending on the preferences of the rider but the frame cannot be changed.
Aluminum is the most common frame material, as it is lighter than steel and cheaper than carbon fiber. Aluminum may not hold up the weight of heavier riders, though, and won’t be as durable as some other material choices.
Steel offers the strength needed for frequent riding and for taking on heavier riders, but there are disadvantages as well for steel road bikes. The bike will be much heavier than a bike of another material. Steel does not absorb road vibrations as well as other materials, and it will also oxidize in wet or humid areas.
Carbon fiber is the most popular material among professional cyclists for its strength and lightweight. It is much more expensive than other bike materials, and it is known for its road vibration dampening abilities—a great choice for the serious cyclists.
Know Your Size
The best bike size can be found by measuring your inseam—placing your feet flat on the ground and about shoulder width apart. Measure from the floor and bottom of your foot to your crotch.
Use this measurement to compare the sizes on the manufacturer’s website of the bike you’re interested in.
Many makers’ bikes fit slightly different, even with the same measurements, so it’s best to check the exact charts that the bike company offers. Generally, road bikes are offered from 47-48 cm for people 5’ and under, and up to 61-63 cm for those closer to 6’5”.
Tire clearance refers to the space available for the different width of tire rims. Road bike rims are notoriously thin, for the lightweight and momentum they offer on the open road.
Others prefer wider tires that can handle varying types of terrain that one may encounter on roads and trails.
The Relaxed Frame Geometry is on road bikes for commuters, leisure riders, and those seeking comfort over aerodynamics in their rides. It features a more upright riding position due to the height and placement of the handlebars and saddle. Another name for these types of bikes is “endurance.”
The Competitive Frame Geometry is the classic road and racing bike look—the rider will be bent down over the handlebars to improve their speed and aerodynamics. This type of ride may be uncomfortable for beginners or commuters, but will definitely improve the speed of the competitive rider.
In previous times, road bikes were seen as a personalized and specialized tool, reflecting the needs, desires, and budget of the user. Now, bike companies are starting to manufacture the components of the bike themselves, offering users an integrated bike with parts designed to work in perfect sync.
Many cyclists prefer the idea of picking their own time-tested and user-approved components, while integration fans support the streamlined aesthetics and removal of unnecessary connection points to lighten the weight and the number of repairs needed.
Road biking is a sport that can appeal to everyone, from the nature-lover to the fitness guru. A road bike, especially the affordable road bikes reviewed in this article, is a tool for people to get in shape, save on commuting time and money, be kind to the environment, and find a new community of friends.
Another benefit to road biking is that it’s a hobby that many people can afford, thanks to the cheap road bike options available to users today. Many are made by companies that are experts in road bikes and provide an affordable, more basic model of their popular road bikes for the average person to fall in love with the sport.
A bike is a tool, and as long as you choose that tool well, there’s nothing standing between you and the miles of open road available to you in life.