As we gaze upon the latest superlight, nano-matrix, supreme modulus, multi weave, dual-density, hyperspace capable, carbon aero bicycle frame adorned with a $100,000 price tag and no pedals, is it no wonder we become a little disheartened? Who can afford to buy these things? It's a bike, right? One way to look at it is like a Paris fashion show. The fashion on stage will never be worn by the average Joe and plain Jane public (you'd just look stupid anyway), but what is important is the artistic direction and associated spin-offs from the designer elite.
Bikes are similar. Although there are some fat wallets out there who can afford the top of the line road bike bling, for most of us it is but a pipe dream. Perhaps we potentially could afford an Italian carbon 11 speed EPS bike but there are probably more pressing matters on hand, like servicing the car, school shoes for little Johnny or saving for the family holiday. In short, spending the family savings on a bike for yourself could be interpreted as a little selfish and integrity steps-in to scuttle the plans.
Fortunately, just like Paris fashion, we don't have to empty our wallets till moths start moving in to get involved. Technology from the pinnacle of bicycle design tends to filter down to the middle and lower echelons...this is the most competitive market and it is here that the big companies make most of their cash. This is also where most of us shop.
With this in mind I wanted to look at five road bikes that squeeze into what I would call the minimum spend for a cycling enthusiast. These bikes typically feature a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain, alloy frame with carbon fork and solid yet heavy wheels. For racing I would look further up the chain, but for an average rider looking for fitness, bunch socialising and the odd century ride these bikes are very capable and, at around the $1,500 mark, relatively affordable.
Finally, why these five in particular? The only reason is that they came immediately to mind. Through either personal experience or from reputation I know all these bikes are quality despite their entry level price tag, and there are many others out there. This list is representative, not exclusive by any means.
The Jamis Ventura Race mirrors the geometry of the racier carbon Xenith but, as Jamis says, they have "softened the edges" to make for a more comfortable ride for the average cycling enthusiast. The Jamis Ventura range is a great starting point for anyone entering the sport. The bike has a Tiagra kit (apart from brake calipers) and strong Mavic rims. The weight is also right in the middle of what you would expect at this price point.
Felt are gaining quite a reputation for stuffing their bikes with great components while keeping the price down, and the F85 is no exception. Components are all reliable, including Felt's own brand parts, particularly the carbon fork. This bike is a tad heavier than some others, yet at this level reliability is probably more important than race weight. The geometry is leaning towards performance rather than sportive.
It is hard to miss the big S in any list of potential bikes. If you want trickle down technology it would be hard to go past one of the most innovative bicycle companies of all time. The Allez is a great starting place for beginner road cyclists and is as well designed as bikes worth much more money.
BMC also are at the cutting edge of bike design and that can cost a bit more money. This Tiagra bike is a few hundred dollars more than comparable models, but it is also one of the lightest alloy bikes at this level. This can be attributed, no doubt, to the triple butted frame. This means the alloy tubes have three different widths along their lengths which results in more strength and lighter weight. The GranFondo has more relaxed geometry, hence its name, and is suitable for a wide range of cyclists.
Another "fondo" bike, the Fuji Roubaix is added here because of its incredible value. This is a 2013 model, so may not be available now, but I would definitely check out the 2014 version. The Roubaix 1.3 features Shimano 105 components which is great value at this price. Definitely worth a look at your local bike shop.
If any of these bikes appeal then check out your local bike shop and organise a test ride. There has never been a better time to discover road cycling within a budget!