If you’re thinking of getting a bike via the Cycle to Work scheme, or you simply have a budget of £1,000 or less, these are the very best options that we’ve reviewed over the past 12 months.
The Cycle to Work scheme is a government tax exemption that’s offered through an employer, allowing you to save money on a bike and equipment. The maximum value for the vast majority of participants is £1,000, so that’s the top price of bikes included in this category.
You can get any type of bike through the Cycle to Work scheme; it’s not limited to commuting bikes so our top 10 isn’t either. Loads of people buy road bikes and gravel bikes through Cycle to Work, and that’s reflected here.
We have included references to commuter-friendly features where relevant, particularly the ability to fit mudguards and racks (if they’re not part of the package). You might be perfectly happy to ride year-round without either, carrying what you need in a bag on your back and willing to put up with water getting sprayed up by your tyres, but many people regard them as essential for commuting comfortably. That comes down to personal preference.
Today’s sub-£1,000 bikes are the best they’ve ever been thanks to lightweight frames, reliable components and an incredibly competitive market that drives prices down.
Bikes in this price category benefit hugely from trickledown technology – design features originally found on higher priced models that have gradually filtered down through the ranges – so if you’re looking for the best value you’re in the right place.
As with our other categories, only bikes reviewed on road.cc during 2018 are considered (republished reviews don’t count!).
10. Cube Touring Pro £649.00
It’s called ‘Touring’ yet it looks like a shopper! Expect performance somewhere in between and you’ll find the Cube Touring Pro is stable, surefooted and has a surprising turn of speed. Probably most important of all, it’s very, very comfortable. In fact, with its rear rack, dynamo lights, kickstand, mudguards and chain case, it’s a lifestyle bike that’s truly easy to live with. The only slight downside comes in terms of cost: unusually for Cube, the Touring Pro is a fair deal but not a bargain.
Because of the nature of the Touring Pro’s geometry, the front end feels tall, which provides a high riding position that is good for a commanding view of the way ahead and gives you an enhanced road presence. The slight downside is that communication between the wide handlebar and front wheel feels a little long-distance at first, and initially you may find the Touring Pro just a little unresponsive. This calms down with use and actually improves with speed.
And speed isn’t out of the question. This may look like a relaxed cruiser but it boasts great balance, so out-of-the-saddle efforts aren’t impossible. When it comes to climbing, you’d have to be built like Roger Ramjet to get any kind of weight down over the front, but power transfer is good and on descents there’s a surprising element of playfulness.
The Touring Pro’s sure-footedness extends to wet roads. While the high position does mean your centre of gravity is equally lofty, the wide tyres and benign nature of the frame makes for stable cycling.
How does that ‘Touring Pro’ label work out? Well this is far more of a trekker than a tourer, so it will happily cope with a spot of towpath or credit card touring. But the position is just a little too upright to handle crossing continents at any kind of consistent pace.
The Touring Pro is a very good bike to ride, with a lot of useful extras and a decent enough selection of components. Our one gripe with the Touring Pro is that it seems just a little expensive, which is not a criticism normally levelled at Cube.
Why it’s here With performance somewhere between ‘tourer’ and ‘shopper’, the Cube Touring Pro is a fine leisure and commuting bike
9. Claud Butler Quest 11 £799.99
The Claud Butler Quest 11 (currently priced from £639 at Tredz) is a smart looking sports hybrid with an aluminium frame and carbon bladed fork. It rides very well, though it could do with lighter wheels to make it nippier. It’s specced with a single chainset and the not-so-common Shimano Metrea rear mech and Ultegra shifter, which provide super-smooth and reliable shifting.
You’ll be surprised by how smoothly the Quest gets up to speed and how well it rolls along at a comfortable cruising pace. Although it’s aimed at a ‘fast urban warrior’, it’s tough, strong and swift rather than racy fast. It provides the easy, comfortable ride you want from a hybrid but with more than a spark of excitement bubbling underneath.
The Quest’s long wheelbase helps to keep the ride comfortable and it never feels sluggish or slow to react to inputs from the pedals. Those longer stays will also make it handle better should you add a rack and load it with commuter bags.
The frame responds well to your effort, being stiff enough to put a smile on your face should you put the power down but not so stiff as to have you reaching for the ibuprofen when you get home. It’s actually comfortable enough to extend your rides to more than just the trip in and out of work, but you might need to avoid the steepest hills because the 42T chainring is mated to an 11-32T cassette. We’d rather the gearing was a little wider ranged than that.
The fork tracks well and there is no flutter from the carbon blades, even under heavy braking, although the stiff bar does pass some excess road feel to your hands from time to time.
It’s nice to see that the frame and form have mounting points for mudguards and you can fit a rear rack too.
Add lights, mudguards and a rack and you’ll be sorted for commuting in all weathers and still have money left over from £1,000.
Why it’s here A comfortable and fast bike ideal for urban commuting with excellent shifting
8. Kona Rove DL £899.00
The aluminium Kona Rove DL is an absolute blast, especially off the beaten track. It works everywhere, on the same day, on the same ride.
The Rove DL is described as a gravel racer-cum-commuter and in its standard guise it’s set up for the latter, being the only model in the range to come fitted with mudguards for year-round usability.
The Rove is mild mannered on the road. The steering is a lot slower than that of a road bike. Descending and other high-speed shenanigans are dealt with in unflustered fashion. This is a very balanced frame which gives you plenty of feedback about what’s going on.
The Kona covers ground quickly and is quite a pleasure to ride on the tarmac. In the middle of winter when there is mud on the roads, loads of water and maybe even a bit of snow, the Rove just feels planted and confidence-inspiring.
The bike comes fitted with Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tyres which will take a lot of abuse thanks to their 3mm thick puncture protection strip and you can easily flick between road, canal path and hardpacked gravel depending on where your route takes you. However, reviewer Stu Kerton swapped these for Schwalbe G-One Bites and removed the mudguards and enjoyed himself on gravel roads.
With the surface moving around beneath you, the Kona feels planted. It’s responsive and really feels good up those short, sharp climbs.
The Rove is controllable on looser surfaces just by a slight shift in body weight, and it’s fun, really fun, whether you are an off-road novice or a skilled all-terrain bike rider.
Why it’s here A solid workhorse for the commute and with a change of tyres a blast on and off the beaten track
7. Vitus Razor VR £599.99
The Vitus Razor VR got a new frame and fork for 2018, along with some welcome upgraded components. Although the weight has increased, the ride is still as fun as previously. This model is currently reduced to £399.99 at Chain Reaction Cycles.
While the Razor isn’t the quickest from a standing start, as long as you keep a bit of momentum going it’s surprisingly nippy. This bike defies its weight to feel pretty quick on the climbs and it handled with confidence through flowing bends.
You get a compact chainset (with 50/34 chainrings) and an 11-28 tooth cassette spread over nine sprockets, which helps on the climbs, although the gearing isn’t anywhere near as low as that found on other bikes at this price point aimed primarily at those new to the sport.
You’ll start to notice the Razor’s weight if you are on a particularly hilly route, especially if the climbs are short, sharp and punchy and the ride goes on for a few hours, but on the whole the Vitus does well.
It’s easy to tap out a rhythm in the saddle – and out of it for that matter. When it comes to descending, the Razor VR has a very smooth style. It flows nicely through the bends, too. It’s not the sharpest handling of bikes, but its weight gives it a planted feeling, inspiring confidence and allowing you to push things a little through the twisty sections.
You get plenty of feedback so you know full well when you are getting near the bike’s limits, and it’s easy to bring back into line by way of a shift in body position or a dab of the brakes.
Vitus has dropped the Razor’s ability to take a full set of mudguards, which is a shame for year-round use, including commuting. That aside, the Razor VR is a very well-built package. The frame is comfortable and you don’t get any harshness from the ride, while a near-full Shimano Sora 3500 groupset is good for the money.
Why it’s here Entry-level road bike with a performance that belies its weight
6. Merlin Malt G £649
The Merlin Malt-G is an aluminium gravel/all-rounder bike that puts in a solid performance on both asphalt and hard-packed roads and offers exceptional value for money.
The Malt-G is a versatile proposition, able to handle a variety of different types of riding with assuredness. Although it lacks the all-out speed of a full-on road bike, it’s comfortable and confident across the tarmac. Fancy taking on the towpath? That’s cool too, the Malt-G having semi-slick tyres that provide sufficient grip and enough low gears to cope with more draggy surfaces.
The frame and fork each come with eyelets for fitting mudguards which is good news if you fancy using this bike as an all-weather commuter, and you get rack mounts at the rear too – handy if you’d rather ride to and from work without a bag on your back, or if you’d like to head off on a bit of an adventure at the weekend.
Is the Malt-G really gravel-capable? In short, yes it is. The Malt-G is a lot of fun across loose surfaces.
You’d have to say that at 11.1kg it’s not a light bike, but you won’t particularly notice that weight when riding, the Malt-G bowling along just fine. Yes, there are plenty of bikes that are a little sharper to accelerate and a bit more nimble on the climbs, but you get plenty of comfort and control here and those are important characteristics on a bike of this kind.
The Malt-G isn’t knocked off its line particularly easily when you hit a rough section of road and you can tackle descents with the confidence that you’ll end up where you want to be, not just where the bumps and holes send you.
Some of the components are basic but the frame and fork are good and the Shimano Tiagra groupset is way better than you have a right to expect at this price. The Malt-G doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re riding a £649 bike. This is a bike that’s not just competent, it’s hugely enjoyable.
Why it’s here A solid all-rounder that’s a whole lot of fun for tackling gravel
5. B’Twin Hoprider 900 £549.00
The Hoprider 900 isn’t a light bike, but if your commute isn’t too hilly it rides really well and is excellent value, equipped with just about everything you could need for cycling to and from work.
This is less a ‘bike’ and more a ‘total cycle commuting solution’. That might sound like marketing guff (it really isn’t, I’ve just made it up) but you’ll soon understand why. For £549 you’re buying a bicycle that comes fully loaded with features that cover everything from load carrying, to night-time illumination, to even basic lockable security.
You can’t fault the Hoprider 900 for effort, emerging from the box complete with rear rack, hub dynamo lighting system, frame lock, front suspension fork, kickstand, hydraulic disc brakes, mudguards, 38mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres and even a chainguard to keep your tapered turn-ups oil-free.
It’s a heavyweight (19kg), but that mass isn’t all bad news because the Hoprider 900 is fantastically stable even at speed. It might sound a minor point for riders with excellent bike control, but for more nervous or wobbly folk, the Hoprider 900 is a brilliantly benign bike for looking over your shoulder or signalling. The view forward is impressive, too: the riding position is relatively upright, which is good for visibility and also adds to a rider’s road presence.
B’Twin has specced some very decent components here. The Shimano Alivio/Deore/Altus drivetrain is bombproof and works well, which is good because you’ll probably make the most of its 27 available gear ratios. Meanwhile, the Shimano BM-M315 hydraulic discs have enough stopping power to handle a laden Hoprider 900, even when travelling fast.
B’Twin has added comfort by fitting 63mm of front suspension and a fairly voluminous Selle Royal saddle. The Suntour fork will take the edge off minor potholes or patchy parkland paths. It can also be locked out, if front stiffness is your thing.
The Hoprider 900 offers a stable ride, nice high commuting position, and incredibly fulsome spec, all making for fantastic value.
Why it’s here If you place practicalities, comfort and general usefulness ahead of bike weight, the Hoprider 900 is a gem.
4. Specialized Allez £599.99
This is an impressive entry level to Specialized Allez ownership. Coming with a great aluminium frame and an excellent finishing kit, it is one of the best bikes out there at its price. The only thing letting down the 2018 model was that, unlike the frame, the fork didn’t take a proper mudguard. This has been rectified on the 2019 model (this bike is priced £630), improving its desirability for year-round commuting.
Specialized has taken its aluminium race bike and slackened off the angles a little, raised the front end, extended the wheelbase and given it mudguard mounts, creating a bike that is set up very well for commuting — especially long distance commuting — and winter training. It achieved all of this without losing the Allez’s fun and appealing ride. Good work.
The Allez is simple to ride and easy to control so you can focus on enjoying the experience. The handling is pretty neutral, which will suit commuters who need to handle a range of different weather conditions and carve through traffic, but if you’ve had a challenging day and need to blow off some steam you can stamp on the pedals and really go for it on the way home.
It’s an exciting bike to ride and you’ll easily get that little adrenaline rush when you really push it. If you’re confident, you can definitely take a few risks.
The 9.6kg overall weight is pretty impressive for a bike of this price. The Allez climbs well and acceleration doesn’t really feel like it is hampered.
If you still think alloy frames are harsh, ride one of these and you’ll realise they definitely are not. The Allez is a much better bike than any spec list or set of scales would have you believe. You get an excellent ride quality and plenty of fun.
Why it’s here Massive performance on a minimal budget
3. Boardman ADV 8.8 £750
With the ADV 8.8, Boardman continues its theme of offering great performing bikes at sensible prices. Well made, well specced and fun to ride, this adventure machine covers plenty of bases, from blasting the local gravel byways to year-round commuting. It’s a lot of bike for not a lot of money.
We don’t have thousands of miles of gravel roads in the UK so the company hasn’t gone down that route specifically, instead taking the fast-rolling features of a road bike with slightly more forgiving geometry for multi-terrain use.
The aluminium ADV 8.8 never feels twitchy on loose surfaces, which is confidence-inspiring, especially if you dart between tarmac and gravel mid-ride.
On the road the ADV never feels ponderous through the bends. If you commute in all weathers this slower steering benefits in heavy rain or on greasy, salt-covered winter roads. With a tapered head tube up front and full carbon fork, stiffness is impressive which also helps in the bends.
The Boardman is really fun on gravel tracks. It’s a fun and solid performer. Schwalbe’s G-One Allround tyres (38mm width) perform well both on and off-road. If you are going to spend a lot of time on tarmac, though, as a commuter for instance, then a switch to some slicks will make for a better ride.
The ADV 8.8’s all-in weight of 10.57kg never really feels like a hindrance under acceleration or when climbing. Boardman has specced a 48/32t chainset option plus an 11-32t cassette so you have plenty of low gears to get you up the steep stuff anyway.
Like a lot of other bikes at this price point, the ADV 8.8 is fitted with a set of mechanical TRP Spyre-C brake callipers and while they are one of the better cable-operated disc brakes you really need to pull them on hard if you need to stop from speed. You aren’t really benefiting over a good set of dual pivot rim brakes in the dry, although you will reap the benefits in the wet. You’ll also experience less wheel wear if you ride year-round: it’s much cheaper to replace a rotor than a wheel rim.
The ADV 8.8 comes with a full complement of mounting eyelets for mudguards and a rear pannier rack.
On paper, it’s hard to discount the ADV 8.8. It’s relatively light against much of the opposition, and quite a bit cheaper. In the real world that doesn’t change either: it’s a fun bike to ride, has loads of versatility and really is a bargain.
Why it’s here Boardman’s adventure bike has an impressive ride on and off the road, at a very competitive price
2. Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon £1,000.00
The Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon is a quick and dynamic road bike with practical features that make it suitable for year-round riding, and it offers very good value for money.
The highlight is the new frameset, which is good news because that’s the heart of any bike. The frame was developed with the use of CFD (computational fluid dynamics), the idea being to provide improved aerodynamic efficiency. You wouldn’t call this a full-on aero road bike but you do get features designed to reduce drag. The down tube, seat tube and fork legs have truncated aerofoil profiles, meaning that the trailing edge is cut off square – a design technique that’s widely used in the bike industry (and elsewhere).
The SLR 8.9 Carbon offers a high level of stiffness for its price point. Okay, you’ll probably notice a bit of frame flex if you absolutely hammer it in a quad-twanging sprint for a town sign, and a little from Boardman’s own alloy tubeless-ready wheels, but that’s about the extent of it. The tapered head tube gives the front end a pretty solid feel that makes carving through the bends a whole lot of fun.
The handling is quick but a way short of twitchy. You can manoeuvre yourself easily enough without any sense of skittishness. This is a bike that’s simple to control – well, pretty much, although the Tektro R315 long arm brakes, which have been specced to allow the use of mudguards and 28mm tyres, don’t have quite the punch of Shimano equivalents.
One thing that will surprise you is the level of comfort on offer here. Boardman has dropped the seatstays on this model so that they meet the seat tube low down, while the seatpost is a slim 27.2mm in diameter and its clamping point is low – it’s a wedge-type design in the top tube/seat tube junction.
All of this helps to make for a reasonable amount of movement at the saddle; not so much that you bounce around when laying down the power, but enough to take the edge off holes and bumps in the road and to filter out a lot of vibration.
If you want to fit mudguards, the SLR 8.9 Carbon comes with eyelets. The ones on the inside of the rear dropouts are hardly noticeable when not in use and those on the outside of the fork legs aren’t a whole lot more conspicuous.
Why it’s here Really impressive road bike that’s built around a corker of a frameset, and the price is very good too
1. Triban RC 520 Disc £729.00
The new Triban RC 520 Disc offers awesome value, easygoing handling, and plenty of practicality.
With a super-tall head tube and compact top tube, the Triban bike sits you more upright than an entry-level race bike or even a fair chunk of the endurance-specific market too. It fully justifies its do-it-all tag.
For first time bike buyers after a good build at a reasonable price, or experienced riders after a great value winter bike or commuter, it’s hard to look past the Triban RC 520.
What’ll surprise you most about this bike is just how easy it is to pedal at moderate speeds with the feeling that you’re just cruising along. Whether you’re commuting into town or going for a spin in the country, it’s supremely easy bike to get on with.
If you want sharp and direct responses above all else, this aluminium-framed bike isn’t the one for you, but the easygoing manner lends itself to almost any other kind of road rider.
Cornering in any situation is confidence-inspiring, and it rolls incredibly smoothly too. It takes poor road surfaces in its stride, with a good amount of all-round compliance keeping things comfortable. Try to climb or ride out of the saddle and the frame’s weight begins to pendulum around a little, while the finishing kit isn’t exactly geared towards lightweight performance, but it climbs moderately well when you remain seated.
What goes up inevitably must come down, and the steady handling allows you to have a lot of fun on descents. The Triban is able to make technical and sometimes fast descents feel absolutely fine.
You get a plethora of eyelets and mounts for mudguards and pannier racks, and there’s clearance here for 36mm tyres if you choose not to fit guards.
Shimano 105 R7000 derailleurs are at the heart of the drivetrain, while the disc brakes are TRP’s HY/RD open hydraulic system with 160mm rotors. You’re working a hydraulic brakeset, but through a mechanical actuation.
The Triban 520 is a value-packed endurance bike that has bags of reliable quality and flexibility. You can use it as a very decently specced entry-level road bike, an everyday commuter and general workhorse, and it’ll get on with the job with minimal fuss.
Why it’s here A superb value, fully competent workhorse road bike with plenty of practicality thrown in