The best road bike for £2,000 – £3,000

The best road bikes for under £3k, picked by resident cyclist and expert, Myles Warwood.


by Myles Warwood |

If you’re looking for a bike in this price range, you’re probably looking at taking your bike riding more seriously or looking for a bike to be more focused on your road riding than an all-around machine.

Suppose you’re buying a bike for this money. You may be expecting to be buying a carbon fibre bike. In that case, however, there will be some very, very good high-quality aluminium frames at this price point, competing with the carbon fibre frames.

We’ll also likely be seeing hydraulic disc brakes, and we’ll also be looking at Shimano groupsets. Let’s get into what that means before we look at the bikes.

Hydraulic vs mechanical disc brakes

The difference between hydraulic discs and mechanical is that hydraulics are controlled by brake fluid, and mechanical are controlled via a cable to your brake leaver; this means that hydraulic disc brakes give you greater stopping power with more control. You do not have to put as much energy into the lever, meaning you can slow your bike down rapidly with just one or two fingers compared to mechanical brakes.

Another advantage is that the hydraulic fluid flows more readily through the cable routing, and there is less chance of experiencing drag through the cabling as you might get from mechanically driven brakes.

As a hydraulic brake system is effectively a closed circuit, the chance of getting grit or road grim clogging the brake lines is far reduced. Hydraulic discs will also self-regulate, which will adjust as your disc pads wear down, so there is no ‘dead zone’ in the braking, or you have to adjust the brakes on your lever.

There is a downside. However, hydraulics are more expensive and much more challenging to maintain; you may wish to take them to your local bike shop to be serviced, as getting them perfect can be tricky. Also, if you plan on travelling with your bike, if it has hydraulic discs, they will need you to bleed the braking system to ensure they’re running right as the high altitude of flying can affect them.

So, to sum up:

Pros for hydraulic Pros for mechanical
• Greater stopping power with less effort • Greater stopping power than rim brakes
• Self-regulating • Easier to maintain than hydraulic
• A closed braking system • Cheaper than hydraulic
Cons Cons
• More expensive • Inner cables can drag on the outer casing
• More maintenance • Need to be on top of regulating as pads wear
• It can be not accessible to self-maintain

Mechanically actuated hydraulic disc brakes

Yes – to confuse matters further, there is this hybrid system. However, it’s not as daunting as it first sounds. This means a closed hydraulic system from the brake lever towards the brake actuator, where the hydraulic master cylinder pulls on the cable to apply the brakes. This system means you get the feel of hydraulic brakes with minimal cabling to put any drag on the system.

They can be powerful, but wear on the cable can be high due to the power of the hydraulic system.

Internal cables

It’s probably best to point this out now as we’ve touched on it in the points above – not only does internal cabling look so much sleeker and give your bike a nice clean look, but it also helps keep the braking system closed. This means less road muck clogging up the cabling and less friction from the inner cables rubbing on the outer cables.

They can be a nightmare to change, meaning a trip to your local bike shop might be in order. However, their advantages are cleaner-looking bikes, cleaner airflow over the bike, and easier to clean, and maintenance is further apart.

Aluminium vs carbon frame

As we get into this price bracket, we’ll see these two materials fighting it out for what’s better, so let’s bust some myths about these two materials to try and help you decide.

We’re used to hearing that carbon fibre frames will be more comfortable over longer rides, eliminating road buzz – sure, this method of thinking is accurate, but only to a certain extent. Years ago, this was more true; aluminium can be a soft alloy, so manufacturers used to beef it up, giving it its uniformly stiff ride. We’re now used to hearing the term ‘laterally stiff and vertically compliant’ this used only to be reserved for carbon fibre bikes as how you weave the carbon can give it different characteristics.

In the modern era, manufacturers can vary the shape of the aluminium frames throughout their length by hydroforming to achieve that latterly stiff and vertically compliant holy grail. This all means that the differences between the two are getting much more minor, certainly in this price range.

To quantify comfort is incredibly difficult as what might be comfortable for one person might not be for the next; ride position, touchpoints, tyres and bike geometry all play a massive role in how you feel on a bike.

Carbon fibre has a slight edge, and as you get into the higher price bracket, the way you can weave and manufacture different types of carbon fibre significantly takes over any other material. If comfort is your thing, though, with frame material secondary, look for things like tyre clearance, geometry and fit – you can always dial in more comfort with tyre choice and saddles, for example.

Shimano groupsets explained

Most, if not all, of the bikes in this price bracket will be on Shimano groupsets; these are any parts involved in braking, changing gear or running the drivetrain. This includes the shifters, brake levers, front and rear callipers, front and rear derailleurs (sometimes referred to as mechs), crankset, bottom bracket, chain and cassette.

In this price range, Shimano 105 should be a minimum and likely topping out at Ultegra.

The differences in these groupsets can affect the overall price of the bike, and it’s often what you’re paying the added extra for if all else on the bikes is equal.

bike cassette
Gears, sprockets and chain of a mountain sports bike on a white background. Bicycle parts.

Listed from most expensive to much more entry-level, they are:

• Dura-Ace
• Dura-Ace R9150 Series
• Ultegra
• Ultegra R8050 Series
• 105
• Tiagra
• Sora
• Claris
• Tourney
• A050

The best road bikes for £2,000 - £3,000

The Rondo Mutt Al Disc is an ‘all-road’ option, a bike which is versatile in the way in which you can use it. The mudguards and mounts for pannier racks make it a choice for commuting, touring, gravel riding and winter training. While clearance is in the frame for either 700c or 650b tyres, you can switch up your wheel and tyre choice for whichever you’re riding. The Rondo Aluminium frame gives way to carbon forks to help eliminate road buzz.

For further comfort on the trails, the Rondo’s TWINTIP carbon fork design offers two different settings; the first has steep angles, a smaller trail and a lower riding position for fast riding on the smoother tarmac; the second is much more slack for endurance riding on bumpy trails.

The groupset is made up of a mix of Shimano Tiagra and 105 bringing the price right down with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes for added stopping power. The Rondo Mutt Al Disc comes with Vittoria Terreno Zero 650b tyres and Rondo’s own Superlight hub wheels.

Pros
• Able to shift between road and trail riding
• A great year-round bike

Cons
• Mudguards only work in the LO position.
• We would expect a full Shimano 105 at this price point.

Cinelli, famed for making beautiful fixie bikes and track racers, has this equally beautiful Veltrix Disc, a full carbon frame and forks for lightness and comfort, giving way to Tifosi alloy handlebars, stem and seat post. A full Shimano 105 groupset gives you two gears on the crank and 11 on the rear, making it ideal for climbs and flat-out sprints.

The supple nature of this bike means that not only would it be good for long-distance rides, but it will also hold its own in fast group rides and races, as well. Cabling is internal. After popping out at the handlebars, it makes its way down the bike, hidden in the downtube.

Hydraulic disc brakes complete the Veltrix Disc, while the frame is also electronic and mechanical groupset ready and are UCI approved for racing.

Pros
UCI approved for racing
Comfortable for long days in the saddle
Full carbon frame and forks are of a good grade

Cons
We prefer the cabling to be a bit tidier.

The Specialized Allez Sprint has been designed as an aluminium alternative to carbon race bikes rather than a budget option, so don’t think that you’re going down the cheaper route here with this bike, as the geometry and many other features have been lifted straight off the pro-level SL7.

The frame comprises D’Alusio Smartwelch technology and hydroformed aluminium tubing to make the most of the aluminium. The downtube and bottom bracket have been formed using a single piece of aluminium, meaning that stiffness is at a maximum and there is minimal loss in power transfer.

The dropped seat stays mirror the pro-level Specialized SL7’s silhouette; the carbon form and seat post are identical components to those on its top-tier machine, giving you greater comfort over longer rides.

Hydraulic disc brakes and mechanical 11-speed gears are all Shimano 105, making this bike a seriously competent machine at this price, and one to seriously consider.

Pros
An optimised aluminium frame
Trickle-down tech from pro-level race bikes
Looks clean with hidden cabling

Cons
It could be expensive to service and maintain

The Orro Venturi Evo is a full Carbon Fibre frame and fork bike – engineers to be fast, agile and as strong as it possibly can be. This aerodynamically optimised road race bike is set up in geometry as such. Built for fast-paced rides, it features a full Shimano 105 groupset, mechanical gears and hydraulic disc brakes.

The cables are semi-integrated. Hiding under handlebar tape before they run along the handlebar stem and down into the frame of the bike. The wheels are Fulcrum R800 DB Wheels, and they roll on Continental Grand Sport Race 28c ryes, which offer significant levels of grip while not compromising on speed and performance.

Pros
Full Shimano 105
Hydraulic disc brakes
Good spec of wheels and tyres

Cons
Not the best-known brand

We have this aggressively shaped and designed Fuji Transonic 2.1 road bike at the top of the price range. A full carbon frame with an integrated and tapered head tube, not only is the frame made out of the high-modulus C10 carbon, but the forks are too, meaning road buzz and bumps are slightly flattened while still having a super stuff frame to get the most out of the pedal stroke.

We have an upgrade in Shimano groupset here, too, with the commonly seen Shimano 105 giving way to Ultegra, which offers an 11-speed cassette and hydraulic disc brakes.

Again cables have been semi-hidden by handlebar tape before popping out near the handlebar stem and making their way into the sown tube.

Rolling on tubeless FSA Trimax 35 Disc wheels wrapped in Vittoria Rubino Pro IV tyres.

Pros
Ultergra groupset
Full carbon fibre frame and forks
Super racy looks
Nice colour combination

Cons
Its original price was £4,499, which makes us think it should probably have a bit more tech for that price… but still a great steal!

Colnago's V3 105 Disc Road Bike brings many of the V3R-S’ benefits to a broader audience, with its carbon frame and performance-oriented components ready to tackle long rides and challenging races.

The redesigned frame and fork now feature greater tyre clearance, a shorter head tube, longer fork legs, and a lower bottom bracket for more stability. The seat post clamp has also been improved, providing more security and lower weight.

Equipped with Shimano’s workhorse 105 11-speed groupset and hydraulic disc brakes, shifting is accurate and light with powerful, easy-to-modulate braking. The gear ratios reflect the bike’s performance aspirations, with an 11-28 cassette and 52/36 chainrings. Wheels come courtesy of Fulcrum Racing and are shod with Continental Ultra Sport II tyres, and the alloy stem and handlebar are from Deda.

Pros
Good wheel and tyres on the bike
Strong gearing
Full Shimano 105 Groupset

Cons
Colnago could do better on the paint job…

Myles is a Commercial Content Writer for What's The Best, Parkers and CAR. His areas of expertise include cycling, fitness tech and hot hatches.

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