The Best Road Bikes For Beginners – Top 5 Of 2024

Decathlon RC120 and giant contend 3 road bikes

This is our review of the best road bikes for beginners of 2024.

The best road bike for a beginner is one that’s affordable enough to give cycling a try without breaking the bank, but good enough not to put you off the sport because of a bad experience.

When I was looking to buy my first road bike, I was a student with an empty wallet.

Clearly, I had to think carefully about my future purchase.

I spent weeks compiling a list of the most important things to consider when buying your first road bike and came up with a list of the best bikes for the job. Since then, I’ve tested several of them and I’d like to share my impressions with you.

I present in this article what I have selected as the 5 best road bikes for beginners. At the end, you’ll also find the essentials to bear in mind before making a purchase.

Overall, the Decathlon Triban RC120 is the best compromise between quality and price. This is the first one I’m going to tell you about.

Our Best Entry Level Road Bikes

5 Best Road Bikes For Beginners

Triban RC120

RC120 road bike overview
  • Aluminum frame
  • Carbon fork
  • 8-speed Microshift transmission
  • Mechanical Disc brakes

This is my personal favorite on the list, and with the Triban RC120, you can’t go wrong.

Decathlon is a French brand developing sports products of impressive quality at unbeatable prices, and this bike is one of them.

For beginner road cyclists, the RC120 ticks all the boxes you’re looking for.

RC120 handlebars

First of all, the bike is very comfortable. The position is natural thanks to its relaxed geometry, and all this comfort means you can easily attempt a few longer rides (I’ve done several 90-mile rides without any trouble).

RC120 Microshift components overview
RC120 levers

I didn’t know about the Microshift transmission before my purchase, and I can tell you that it’s an excellent surprise, with absolutely nothing to complain about. I have occasionally skipped a gear when using it, but this has not been a frequent problem for me.

Of course, purists may grumble at the absence of a Shimano 105 on the bike, but for the price range Decathlon is targeting with the RC120, there’s really nothing to criticize.

Close up view of RC120 disc brakes

The mechanical disc brakes work perfectly and are a real plus at this price. Dare I say it, they’re normally impossible to find at this price.

As for the tires, they’re just right for beginners, and those who want to go even wider for even greater comfort will be able to change them easily and even go tubeless! The wheels are tubeless-ready, which is normally a costly purchase requiring new wheels.

RC120 front tire

My only negative point (there has to be one) concerns the pedals, which I strongly recommend changing for automatic ones.

So, for less than $500, the Triban RC120 is, in my opinion, the ideal road bike for beginners. Inexpensive, fun to ride, and reliable, it’s a lot of quality for very few drawbacks.

Another bonus: Decathlon’s after-sales service is top-notch. It’s easy to contact them and they’re always happy to help.

Giant Content 3

Giant Contend 3 overview
  • Aluminum frame
  • Aluminum fork
  • Rim brakes
  • Shimano Claris groupset

I hesitated to put it in first place because it’s been my own bike for so long, it has a special place in my heart.

The Giant Contend 3 was my first bike when I started out on the road. So? I highly recommend it.

But to be objective, compared to the RC120, the price argument made the difference.

It’s more expensive than the previous road bike, it’s true. But coming out of the factories of Giant, one of the biggest brands on the market, the bike’s price is amply justified by its features and components.

Giant contend 3 saddle
Giant contend 3 handlebars

The Giant Contend 3 rides well, very well. With its compact, lightweight, and rigid geometry, you can easily learn to ride a road bike, but you’ll also be able to tickle a few sensations and performances that will make you want to switch to the range above. It’s a real pleasure to have a polyvalent frame.

The bike is made entirely of aluminum (Aluxx Aluminum, featuring 6061 alloy) but remains relatively light (25 lbs – 11.37 kg). Of course, you can’t expect to buy a carbon frame at this price.

Giant content 3 shimano claris groupset
Shimano claris rear derailleur

As for the drivetrain, the Shimano Claris groupset is a great addition, providing smooth, precise shifting. I have nothing to complain about on this matter, the brake levers are also nice to use. I’ve never had any unpleasant surprises.

Giant contend 3 front tire close up

The tires are 28mm, so you can ride comfortably and occasionally take a path that’s a little less smooth than the road. Of course, this isn’t a gravel bike, so don’t go too crazy.

Giant content 3 rim brakes

The rim brakes are simple and effective, and work as they should. I admit that when you see the RC120, you might think it would have been better to have disc brakes, but I think that’s my only remark.

Other than that, the bike looks great. With its clean, elegant finish, I personally think it’s a real eye-catcher. A special mention for the internal cables, normally visible on much more high-end road bikes.

The Contend 3 may be the most affordable endurance road bike in Giant’s Contend range, but it’s the one I recommend with my eyes closed. However, if you prefer a better groupset and a carbon fork, the Giant Content 1 is equipped with Shimano Sora and will meet your needs.

Trek Domane AL 2 Disc

Trek Domane AL 2 Disc on a white background
  • Aluminum frame
  • Carbon fiber fork
  • Mechanical disc brakes
  • Shimano Claris groupset

Trek is a bit of a holy grail when it comes to bicycle brands, so it may come as a surprise to see it on this list.

With the Domane AL 2 Disc, Trek offers an affordable endurance bike (albeit a little more expensive than the other models featured in this article) designed for beginners.

Let’s take a look at what the brand has to offer.

First of all, the bike is comfortable, with a design focused on this objective. With an aluminum frame and carbon fork, the bike is lightweight and its stability inspires confidence. It’s a pleasure to ride.

As with our previous road bikes, the Domane is equipped with Shimano Claris. Shifting gears is smooth and seamless, so you can be sure of good function in this respect.

The proposal of a bike fitted with disc brakes here is very interesting, as the model has a clearance tire allowing wider wheels to be fitted if you want to try out new practices.

Fitting wider tires for an even more comfortable, all-around ride is ideal when you’re just starting out and want to find out what you like by trying out new things. Of course, you’ll need to buy new tires (and wheels if necessary), which represents a cost not to be underestimated.

If you don’t see the benefit of such an option, Trek offers the Domane AL 2, fitted with rim brakes, for $70 less. Honestly, even if you don’t see the point now, trust me and pay the $70. It will be well invested.

In conclusion, while it represents a slightly larger budget than the others, the Domane AL 2 Disc is a product that gives you a taste of the upper end of the market. With a legendary brand name, internal wiring, and the finishing touches that go with it, this is a great bike for beginners.

Clearly, this is a nice gift for yourself.

Marin Gestalt

Marin Gestalt road bike on a white background
  • Aluminum frame
  • Aluminum fork
  • Shimano Claris groupset
  • Mechanical disc brakes

What I love about the Marin Gestalt is how pleasant it is to ride. Its comfortable geometry gives you an upright riding position, and its wider-than-average tires (32mm) make any terrain smoother.

If you’re even greedier, the bike has enough tire clearance to go up to 35mm, and maybe try gravel tires (the frame isn’t a pure gravel frame though, but if you want to test some dirt trails to try out new ways of cycling, do it! Of course, I can’t recommend buying a gravel bike enough if your initial goal is to ride everywhere).

As for braking, it’s interesting, especially at this price. As we saw with the RC120, disc brakes are always welcome if you want to widen your tires.

And speaking of tire changes, tubeless-ready rims allow you to try out tubeless tires if you feel like it. Tubeless tires are becoming increasingly popular on road bikes.

With a Shimano Claris groupset, there’s no need to worry about shifting gears or malfunctions. It’s a basic, simple but effective group.

Orbea Avant H60-D

Orbea Avant H60 on a white background
  • Aluminum frame
  • Carbon fiber fork
  • Shimano Claris groupset
  • Mechanical disc brakes

If you want to get your first taste of road cycling, the Orbea Avant H60 could be a great way to start.

If you do a little research, you’ll see Orbea everywhere, and that’s only to be expected – the brand deserves its reputation. The Avant H60 is the ideal road bike for beginners.

The Avant H60 is a versatile, relaxed bike for longer rides without difficulty. Its comfortable posture reduces body strain.

With an aluminum frame and carbon fork, Orbea positions itself at the upper end of the entry-level market, using high-quality materials to ensure reliability.

Like the other bikes on the list, the Shimano Claris drivetrain is a classic but safe choice. I don’t want to demand Shimano Ultegra, because, at this price of the bike, I’d be worried about the quality of the rest.

On flat roads as well as on more hilly sections, the gear ratios should enable you to do everything, promising great rides all over the place.

In terms of braking, I’m happy to see disc brakes that allow me to fit wider tires. The brakes are obviously mechanical, so unfortunately if you’re hoping to see hydraulic disc brakes, you’ll have to shell out a little cash and look for higher-end bikes.

For a price in the upper range of this selection, Orbea offers a nice entry-level road bike, with a beautiful finish and clean styling. As I like to point out, the internal wiring is a real plus.

A safe, reliable, and durable purchase.

Beginner Road Bike Buying Guide

This section lists the tips you need to know before buying your beginner’s road bike.

Think about your type of practice

Before you start, there are several questions you should ask yourself.

Why do you want to buy a road bike? To get to work every day or for long outings on weekends? Do you want to go out in a group? Are you planning to go shopping?

These questions are important because they will determine the type of bike you need. It may seem obvious, but it’s not necessary to buy a racing bike to go to work.

Generally speaking, if your goal – as mine was when I started out – is to ride occasionally to get into shape and enjoy some nice rides, I strongly recommend you buy an endurance bike.

There’s no need to look for geometries that are too specific or technical. If you’re just starting out, get a more comfortable endurance road bike, with a tall head tube and a shorter top tube.

Putting you in an upright position will allow you to familiarize yourself with the sport and avoid imposing constraints on your body (which some geometries do) that will make you hate road biking.

As the wise man said: “If it is uncomfortable you won’t ride. If it is comfortable you won’t stop riding.”

Set yourself a budget

When starting out on an entry-level road bike, it’s difficult to give an exact budget that meets everyone’s needs. To echo the previous paragraph, the type of riding you do has a lot to do with the price you pay.

In my opinion, finding a bike for under $1,000 is perfectly reasonable, and even some $500 models will do the trick. As an example, I recommend you buy the RC120.

In any case, don’t forget that your riding will evolve over time, you’ll discover what you like and don’t like, and it’s most likely that you’ll want to change your bike in the future to stick as closely as possible to what you really want to ride.

It will always be possible to change after a few months or years by reselling your purchase, you never lose your money.

Frame materials

There are 4 possible frame materials for road bike frames:

  • Steel frames
  • Aluminum frames
  • Carbon fiber frames
  • Titanium frames (way too expensive for us here)

Steel and aluminum are the budget-friendly materials of the range. On the other hand, they weigh more. For a cheap road bike, aim for an aluminum frame, as it’s lighter than steel.

Carbon fiber has the optimum characteristics for a road bike. A carbon frame is very light and there are many frame shapes to choose from, but the price is much higher (almost all high-end and expensive bikes are made of carbon fiber).

In our case, there’s no need to look for a carbon frame: for a small budget, only a carbon fork is an option.

The right fit

Before you purchase anything, take the time to find out what size bike is right for you. It’s the bike that has to fit you, not you to fit the bike.

Unlike bike components, once you’ve bought a bike, it’s difficult to change the size of the frame, so make sure you choose the right one for you.

Manufacturers provide numerous size guides on their websites or on distributor platforms, so take your time to choose the right frame size and ensure a good fit.

If you’re really in doubt, go into a shop and get measured to find out what you need.

Once you’re done, check out our article on how to properly sit on your bike.

Consider buying second-hand

As an affiliate, I could tell you to absolutely buy your first road bike on the Internet, but this would be dishonest of me. You should think about buying second-hand too.

Buying second-hand is recommended because it allows you to get a road bike that would be out of your budget (if new) for much less. It can be the opportunity to get a great deal on a nice little nugget.

There are many ways to find them:

  • Facebook Marketplace / Facebook groups
  • Ebay
  • Cycling clubs
  • Some bike shops

However, you need to be careful, because buying second-hand means buying a bike that’s already been used, and therefore potentially damaged. There are a number of points to bear in mind.

If you want to take up road biking, chances are your knowledge is limited, so I’m not going to go into the technicalities. Pay attention to what seems to be common sense:

  • Visually check the condition of the frame and paintwork, looking for snags, cracks, or any questionable marks;
  • Spin the wheels and check for distortion;
  • Move the bike, test it, and change gears, do you feel anything fishy?

Of course, you can’t expect the bike to fall apart all of a sudden, but if there’s a problem, you’ll feel it right away.

  • There’s no harm in being interested in the life of the bike, the reasons for the sale, etc… Feel free to ask questions;
  • What about the feeling with the seller?

By following these points, you can avoid bad surprises

Our Verdict

With a price that’s almost unbeatable and an endurance profile that’s ideal for starting out with comfortable rides, Décathlon seems to me to be offering a very tempting package.

For me, the Triban RC120 is the go-to entry-level bike on this list, an affordable road bike for beginners that also offers the opportunity to try out other things with the tire clearance that makes it possible.

As far as I’m concerned, you can go for it with your eyes closed, and if you’re curious to see what Décathlon is doing in the higher range, the Triban RC520 is the road bike to check out.

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