Both the popularity of cycling and advances in manufacturing technologies has consequently made road bikes more affordable than ever before. In fact, for first time riders – as well as veteran price-conscious connoisseurs – getting bang for the buck has never been more attainable. Previously, BikeRoar has placed the spotlight on what to look for when buying a $2,500 - $3,000 road bike, but now it is time to look at a few standout bikes that hit the proverbial “sweet spot,” when it comes to value.
Taking geometry out of the equation, the two most important factors when considering overall price is frame material and componentry. While BikeRoar editors initially placed the price range from USD $2,500 to $3,500, review and testing left this journalist feeling that there were some quality 2016 bikes coming in at just over the $2k mark. These bikes were certainly punching above their weight and deserving a bit of recognition.
Specialized Allez DSW SL Expert ($2,000)
Who said alloy was dead? This polished aluminum stunner comes right out of the box at just $2k complete with sexy Shimano Ultegra front and rear brakes and mouth-watering 11-speed fore and aft derailleurs, along with an ultra-durable 105 11-speed cassette and TURN Zayante compact crankset by Praxis Works (BB30, 50/34T) – this bike is without a doubt a BikeRoar favorite. Constructed with internal cable routing and Specialized Smartweld technology, the Allez offers a clean silhouette that rivals any European thoroughbred.
Fitted with a full monocoque carbon fork and a single-bolt carbon composite seatpost, the Allez DSW SL Expert offers a superior ride for sensitive cyclists who want full-carbon comfort without the costly price tag. The Allez DSW SL Expert comes in at just $450 more than its mostly 105-equipped DSW SL Comp ($1,550) sibling, but $199 less the Trek’s comparably equipped Émonda ALR 6 ($2,199). For another $600, weekend warriors can take home the race ready DSW Sprint X1 Expert ($2,600) – featuring the no-nonsense SRAM Force 1 drivetrain which is right at home on the crit circuit.
Giant Propel Advanced 2 ($2,100)
Since it’s WorldTour debut with Team Blanco-turned-Belkin prior to the Tour Down Under in 2013, the Giant Propel Advanced series has always been on the BikeRoar wishlist. With a straight horizontal top tube and tailored rear-wheel cutout, the profile of the Propel is unmistakable – as is the ride. Without question, this bike is speedy! and at just $100 above the $2k mark, this 11-speed Shimano 105-equipped, carbon fiber firecracker is always a best-in-show prospect.
An extra $500 will bring home the Ultegra-equipped Propel Advanced 1, featuring the same, fast and durable Giant PA-2 aero wheelset. Unlike other aero road bikes tested in the past, such as previous incarnations of the fast – but teeth chattering – Scott Foil, this bike is both quick and comfortable, making it an excellent road bike for shop rides, criteriums and an occasional triathlon.
Giant also offers a women’s specific Propel called the Liv Envie, which mirrors both performance and price while providing a look and feel designed exclusively for female riders.
Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Ultegra ($2,660)
Although the Specialized Allez DSW SL Expert earns BikeRoar’s ‘Best Value’ award, few brands do alloy better than Cannondale. The timeless CAAD series has perhaps finally perfected itself in the Shimano BR785/805 hydraulic disc-equipped CAAD12 fitted with 11-speed Shimano Ultegra.
The CAAD range has always lent itself toward serious racers who appreciate a high-performance alternative to carbon. With disc brakes all the rage, stopping power has never been more at a premium while tearing through corners and descending like a comet. Cosmetically, the CAAD12 Disc Ultegra looks the part. With simplistic – and straight-to-the-point – black and white sex appeal and matching Mavic Aksium wheelset featuring enlarged white logos – this bike screams speed.
Cervelo S2 ($2,800)
For many cycling enthusiasts, spending $10,000 on a road bike such as Cervelo’s flagship S5 is just a pipedream – and a one-way ticket to divorce court – but the Cervelo S2 gives riders unparalleled performance and jaw-dropping aesthetics without breaking the bank.
The S2 pioneered the aero road bike genre and is just as eye-catching today as when it debuted over a decade ago. However, this is not your dad’s Cervelo as the latest version of the S2 is ‘future proof’ with a cable management design that allows for compatibility across mechanical, electronic, and hydraulic brake and derailleur systems. That means the frames include interchangeable cable stops that snap into the frame and are easily swapped out by hand to accommodate upgrades.
All that’s left is to perhaps add a pair of matching HED Jet 6s or Zipp 404s down the road and this reliable 11-speed Shimano 105 equipped race weapon may just be the last bike you ever own.
Check out the Comparison
6 best bet 2016 road bikes $2-3.5K from Specialized, Giant, Cannondale, Cervelo
Focus Cayo Disc 105 ($2,700)
For those interested in something a bit more Euro in style, the all-new German-engineered Focus Cayo Disc 105 could be that exotic exclamation mark you are looking for when rocking up for the next club ride or criterium. Following in the footsteps of the 2015 Cayo 4.0 and using the same Cayo P2T carbon for both performance and comfort, the Cayo Disc 105 sits perfectly nestled between Focus’ range-topping race machine, the Izalco Max, and the exceptional endurance alternative, the Izalco Ergoride. Whether it’s a 40-kilometre loop before work or a century ride to cap off the weekend, the Cayo is an ideal choice.
What BikeRoar finds most impressive about this carbon fiber, disc brake-mounted beauty is the use of mountain bike-style thru-axles – which both increases stiffness and provides near-perfect brake alignment each and every time. Both Ultegra and 105 mix versions are available, at $3,700 and $2,700 respectively, while the Cayo Disc Ultegra sits just above the Disc 105 at $3,700. Non-disc alloy versions of the Ultegra and 105 models start at $2,800 and $2,050 respectively.
Trek Domane 5.2 ($3,499)
While on the upper threshold of our price range, the Trek Domane 5.2 is “bike-of-the-year" worthy for those in the market for an endurance geometry frame with a sublime ride. There are few wild roads this beast cannot tame. With a cleverly designed IsoSpeed decoupler featuring proprietary seat and top tube connectivity, the vertical seat tube can flex to offer exceptional shock absorption over that of a standard bike.
But don’t worry, the flex is negligible when smashing the pedals on either side of the BB90 bottom bracket over smooth roads, but it is immediately appreciated once the going gets tough – and bumpy. Manufactured with 500 Series OCLV carbon, the Domane 5.2 is also lightweight – tipping the scales at just 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds), impressive by even the sveltest of race geometry counterparts.
Women are also in luck, as Trek has created the women-specific Silque SL, which combines the responsiveness of the Madone with the same IsoSpeed decoupler and comfort of the Domane – and all starting at just $3,259.99.
Check out the Comparison
6 best bet 2016 road bikes $2-3.5K from Cannondale, Cervelo, Focus, Trek
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