If you find yourself watching the Tour de France as it whizzes across England this weekend and thinking 'I could do that', then, well, you can't. Seriously, you can't. The Tour is over 3000 kilometres, a lot of it very steeply uphill, ridden at an average of around 40km/h. But straddle one of these affordable road machines, all of which have been ridden by Team Stuff, and you'll get a feeling for what it's all about, even if the reality is that your longest ride is a five-mile pootle to a country pub.
Boardman Road Sport (£450)
For several years the default answer to the question “what’s the best affordable road bike?” has been “probably a Boardman”, and the Road Sport explains why: an assortment of proper Shimano 2300 and Sora componentry on a surprisingly good 7005 aluminium frame makes this a proper road bike for very little money.
Raleigh Airlite 100 (£500)
Raleigh’s recent progress in high-end racing bikes for its professional team has developed into a much nicer range of consumer bikes. Like the Boardman is has an aluminium frame that will introduce you to the light, still nature of road bikes, some decent components and some nice finishing touches, including much nicer tyres (Schwalbe Lugano) and saddle (San Marco) than you’d expect to see at this price.
More after the break...
Genesis Equilibrium (from £850)
Many riders are of the opinion that while aluminium and carbon have their merits, nothing rides like a steel frame, and the Equilibrium is made from Reynolds 520 or 725 - widely regarded as some of the best iron around. Add a carbon fork, a decent set of wheels and well-chosen componentry and you have one of the best all-round bikes on the market. And if you’re a fan of retro looks, this British bikemaker’s steeds will have you drooling all over your Lycra.
Verenti Insight 0.3 105 (£900)
Offering a very different ride to the Genesis is this full-carbon bargain. Verenti (the own brand of online retailer Wiggle) has managed to add a Shimano 105 gearset and brakeset to the already impressive frame and fork, and while you can see where money has been saved on the wheels and bars, it’s a very nice ride – like most carbon frames it climbs well, but unlike many carbon frames, it’s assured, grippy and unrattled by steep descents.
Hoy Sa Calobra .003 (£1000)
Joining Chris Boardman in the pantheon of riders-turned-bikesmiths is Big Chris, the most successful British Olympian in history. Like Boardman, the Hoy range is backed by a big chain of bike shops and offers excellent components for the money - in this case it's Shimano 105, RS10 wheels and a stiff frame, extensively tested by the mighty legs of Sir Chris himself, that offers great power transfer when you’re standing on the pedals.