Prices have rocketed recently but you still don’t have to break the bank to get a bike that you can happily use day in, day out.
The best budget bikes aren’t the cheapest ones available. It’s always possible to find a bike that looks the part and costs less. What defines a good budget bike is that it will do its job well enough that you’ll enjoy riding it and will keep using it, instead of consigning it to the back of the garage to gather dust. It’s a proper bike of its type.
At a given price point, the simpler a bike is the better quality it’s likely to be. That’s because the money the manufacturer saves by not using extra or more complicated components can be spent on getting the basics right. So, for example, a budget hardtail mountain bike will be better quality than a full-suspension mountain bike at the same price, and a cheap singlespeed will generally be better than an equally cheap bike with gears.
Here are ten of the best entry-level bikes. Colour choices are as shown unless stated.
Folder: B’Twin Oxylane 100 £199.99
French sports retailer Decathlon’s own-brand bikes are great value across the board. They could have filled two-thirds of this list. Their cheapest folder is a spartan steel singlespeed with 20-inch wheels. It’s no Brompton rival, of course, but it’s a fraction of the price. If all you need a folder for is a two or three mile trip to the station, followed by a train journey and a ride across town to work, it will do the job just fine. There are quirks: the single gear is so spinny it’s difficult to exceed 12mph; the short wheelbase and steep head angle give twitchy steering; and the seatpost is only long enough for riders up to about 5ft 9in. Yet it’s comfortable to ride, easy to fold, and even comes with battery lights. Just add a pair of 20in-wheel mudguards (from £12.99). One size.
Singlespeed: Forme Atlow Fixie £329
Part of the appeal of a fixie or singlespeed is the minimalist aesthetic. Forme’s Atlow gets that right, using skinny hi-ten steel tubing. The frame and fork will accommodate 28mm tyres – and the Atlow gets good ones: WTB ThickSlicks. They roll well, are fairly durable, and in this width won’t pinch-flat as easily on potholes. The chainset has shorter (165mm) cranks. It’s easier to pedal at high cadences with these, and you’re less likely to clip a pedal when cornering if you ride fixed-wheel. That’s optional: the Atlow has a fixed sprocket and a freehweel, both with 16 teeth. With a 44-tooth chainring the gearing is fine for flat cities like London and Cambridge but a little high elsewhere, where an 18t sprocket would work better. You’re somewhat limited in terms of mudguards you can fit; SKS Raceblade Long or Crud Roadraer Mk3 would be good picks. If you’ll ride fixed, get pedal straps to keep your feet in place. Sizes: 53, 56, 58cm.
Hybrid: Raleigh Strada £475
Raleigh’s Strada stands out from similarly priced hybrids because of its large volume tyres. They’re WTB Horizons in 650x47B, which means slightly smaller diameter, 47mm wide tyres. These are much more comfortable than thinner tyres on less-than-perfect roads or gravel tracks yet they still roll well. An aluminium frame and mostly aluminium components mean the Strada isn’t too heavy (13.5kg). It comes with mudguards and can be fitted with a rear rack. It is missing disc brakes but the V-brakes it has are fine and help keep the weight and price down. The 3x7 Shimano Tourney drivetrain is admittedly basic. It does, however, offer a decent range. The Strada is available as a step-through (pictured, sizes 36-53cm) or with a top tube (sizes 40-56cm).
Gravel bike: Merlin Malt G2 Claris Gravel Bike 2022 £599
Reduced from £699 at time of writing, online retailer Merlin’s Malt G2 Claris would still make this list at the original price. Its aluminium frame and carbon fork employ modern standards – 12mm thru-axles, flat-mount discs, and a tapered steerer – and have fittings for mudguards and a rear rack. The gearing is basically the same as the Vitus Razor below: 2x8 Shimano Claris. Bottom gear is a little high for off-road hills but okay on tarmac, and the entry-level STI shifters work well. As with any on/off road bike, the lightly treaded 35mm tyres are a compromise. Those staying mostly on road might want to swap them for slicks like Schwalbe Kojaks, while those clocking up off-road miles will be more comfortable using wider tyres – up to 40mm will fit. Sizes: 47, 50, 53, 59cm.
Road bike: Vitus Razor Road Bike Claris £599.99
Like most rim-braked road bikes with a butted aluminium frame and carbon fork, the Vitus Razor is lightweight. It tips the scales at a very respectable 9kg. Unlike many such bikes it’s designed to accommodate conventional, full-length mudguards. As well as hidden mounts there’s more space for the guards to fit, thanks to the bike’s longer reach Tektro R317 brake callipers. The gearing is 2x8 Shimano Claris, which has integrated brake and gear levers that enable you to shift gear while you’re holding the brake hoods or the drops. The chainset sits on an ‘old-school’ square-taper bottom bracket: this should easily outlast the pressfit units on pricier bikes. To get the full road bike experience, you might want to invest in clip-in pedals and faster rolling tyres – although the 28mm Kenda Kwik Roller Sport tyres fitted are fine for commuting. Sizes: XS-XXL.
Mountain bike: Boardman MHT 8.6 £650
Suspension fitted to the cheapest mountain bikes is seldom worth having, adding significant weight for dubious, pogo-stick-style performance. This entry-level Boardman has a 120mm travel air-sprung fork whose pressure and rebound can be adjusted for your weight and riding preferences. You could happily ride this bike around a trail centre red route. Its 29er wheels will roll over bumps better than 650B and 26in wheels, and they’re tubeless compatible. If you wanted to ride to work on the MHT 8.6, the frame will take a rear pannier rack and the fork can be locked out. The 1x10 Shimano Deore gearing is intuitive and wide range, while the brakes are effective hydraulic discs. It doesn’t come with a dropper seatpost but the aluminium frame has cable routing for one when you’re ready to upgrade. Sizes: S, M, L. Colours: red or grey/green. Also available in a women’s version, sizes S, M, L, colour blue.
Touring bike: Bristol Bicycles Touring £683
Most touring bikes cost well over £1,000. There’s a couple of reasons why this one doesn’t. The first is the Bristol Bicycles ethos: they sell unpretentious, practical bikes with relatively inexpensive aluminium frames and steel forks. The second is that it uses a butterfly handlebar, like German trekking bikes, rather than a drop handlebar. Flat-bar shifters and brakes are cheaper than their drop-bar equivalents. It’s nevertheless a fully fledged touring bike, with a long wheelbase frame that’s suitable for big panniers, a wide-range 3x8 drivetrain, and sturdy wheels. The exact specification is up to you. An online bike builder lets you swap parts – changing the handlebar, saddle, brakes, gears, etc – or add extras, such as dynamo lighting. The example pictured is the default Touring spec, minus the front pannier rack. With a rear rack and mudguards, it’s commuting as well as touring ready. Sizes: S-XL (with top tube); step-through S or M.
Cargo bike: Yuba Kombi £910+
The Kombi is a ‘longtail’: the rear of the sturdy steel frame incorporates a large, integral rack. This will carry a couple of children (with optional deck, side boards, and bars) or a huge load; the bike is rated to carry 200kg. The wide-range 1x9 drivetrain should be sufficient for gentle hills, although for steeper ones you’d want the more expensive electric-assist version (Kombi E5). Thanks to its 24in wheels the Kombi is compact despite its long rack, with an overall length of 191cm. It comes with commuting essentials such as battery lights, mudguards, and a kickstand, and has a huge range of optional extras – including a rear rain canopy for kids. There’s a handful of UK stockists; follow the ‘dealer locator’ link on the website. It comes in one size, to fit riders form 5ft to 6ft 5in.
Tricycle: Pashley Tri-1 7-speed £995
You’re not just paying for an extra wheel when you buy a trike but also a more complex drivetrain. Trikes are made in smaller numbers too, so prices are higher – particularly for the lightweight ones favoured by members of the Tricycle Association. This step-through trike from Pashley is a more affordable option for day-to-day transport. It has 7-speed derailleur gearing, low enough to get what is a fairly weighty trike up most urban hills. There are two brakes: a weatherproof drum brake and a V-brake. A button on the lever holds the drum brake on when parked, so the trike won’t roll away. The Tri-1 is commuter-ready, with mudguards all round and a luggage platform between the rear wheels. It takes up less space than many trikes because the frame folds – not small enough for a train but sufficient to fit in the back of most cars once the handlebar and stem are removed. Sizes: 15in, 17in. Colours: black, burgundy, or turquoise.
E-bike: Tenways CGO600 £1,499
Lower priced e-bikes are often hernia-inducingly heavy and look like the electric assistance was an afterthought, due to external batteries and cabling. The Tenways CGO600 couldn’t be more different. It weighs just 15kg and the – admittedly smaller – battery is hidden away in the down tube. Like any UK-legal e-bike it provides assistance up to 25kph (15.5mph) from a 250W motor, which here is the rear hub. The singlespeed drivetrain uses a belt drive that’s virtually silent and won’t rust. One gear isn’t the athletic workout it is on a conventional bike because of the motor, whose three assistance levels will get you uphills as well as whisk you along the flat. Claimed range is 43 miles but that will drop if you’re using higher assistance modes a lot. It’s equipped with hydraulic disc brakes, robust 40mm tyres, and lights (the front wired into the main battery), and there are fittings for mudguards, a rear rack, and a kickstand. Tenways sell direct from their website but the bikes are also available from some Cyclescheme retailers. Sizes: M, L. Colours: black, lime green & black, light grey, white & arctic blue, sky blue.
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