The best aluminium road bikes in 2023
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The best aluminium road bikes in 2023

Jul 14, 2023

Our favourite alloy road bikes, as rated by BikeRadar's expert testers

This competition is now closed

By Stan Portus

Published: August 20, 2022 at 9:00 am

The best aluminium road bikes can rival bikes with carbon frames; aluminium remains a great material for making bicycle frames.

At the entry-level end of the road bike market, aluminium frames are almost ubiquitous. That's because, generally speaking, aluminium frames combine a desirable stiffness level with low overall weight and relatively cheap production costs.

Bikes such as the Triban RC120 and Vitus Razor Claris prove that a quality road bike can still be had for under £500, while bikes such as the Triban RC520 show that road bikes under £1,000 can compete with pricier machines, too, with great specs and features such as disc brakes, which are available on more and more budget bikes.

Spend a little more and the prevalence of aluminium thins out in favour of cheaper carbon fibre bikes.

However, aluminium bikes at this price point – roughly between £1,000 and £2,500 – still regularly offer considerably better value, and sometimes a better ride, than similarly priced carbon models.

Fans of the pro peloton may have seen alloy come and go as the material of choice for the world's fastest racers, but that doesn't mean alloy frames have plateaued in terms of development.

Spend well into four figures and you’ll get access to the likes of Cannondale's CAAD13 – a showcase for the latest aluminium tech and a bike that can fight it out with all but the absolute best carbon fibre machines.

That's enough of the background, now let's crack on with our pick of the best aluminium road bikes, from budget bargains to alloy superbikes.

Every bike here has been tested and reviewed by our team and, in order to be included in this list, a bike must have scored at least 4 out of 5 stars in our testing.

There's a temptation when reviewing premium alloy bikes to suggest they’re particularly good ‘for a metal bike’, the subtext being that we all know carbon is inherently better.

Carbon makes sense for high-performance bikes because it's infinitely tunable. It lets designers target stiffness, strength and flexibility exactly where they want it by using different types and arrangements of fibres and clever layup methods.

Metal, by contrast, can be manipulated to a high degree, with elaborate butting, forming and heat-treatment techniques, but you can't fundamentally alter the mechanical properties of the material with such ease, because it's not a composite.

The latest premium aluminium bikes challenge conventionally held assumptions about working with metal, offering performance and specs that go head-to-head with similarly priced carbon.

While politics and the pandemic have conspired to ensure nothing feels as good value as it did a couple of years ago, the variety and sophistication of aluminium road bikes has never been better.

This is the cheapest bike in this list and yet it is one that is fully deserving of its five-star rating.

The RC120 should be the go-to bike for roadies with a modest budget thanks to its superbly considered kit and impressive ride.

Whether you’re looking for a companion on long days out or an urban commuter that can accept a rack and mudguards, the RC120 will do it without difficulty.

The Cannondale CAAD13 was released in 2019, with the brand revamping the previous CAAD12 to embody new trends, such as dropped seatstays, wider tyres and aerodynamics.

The bike comes equipped with a full Shimano 105 groupset (apart from Cannondale's own cranks), Cannondale finishing kit and wheels.

For the price, it isn't the best value, nor is it the lightest, but once you start riding it, all of that is swept away. It has accurate handling, a remarkably smooth ride and is a brilliant all-round performer. In fact, it gives many carbon bikes a run for their money.

If you want to experience the pinnacle of performance when it comes to the best aluminium bikes, then look no further than the CAAD13 Force eTap AXS. With its stunning handling and smooth ride quality, this bike can match the performance of the best carbon machines.

Only the luckiest of riders will find themselves on this spendy eTap AXS model we tested at the end of last year, but the CAAD13 frame is available for considerably less with builds starting with the Shimano 105 equipped bike above.

If you’re after an endurance road bike, the chances are you will already be aware of Canyon's superb Endurace range, and this particular alloy model with disc brakes hits a real sweet spot in terms of value.

The complete Shimano disc groupset, tubeless-ready wheels and sorted own-brand finishing kit make for an enviable spec sheet, but it's the composed comfort and ride characteristics that make this one of the best aluminium road bikes.

The 8.0 model with Ultegra we tested has been discontinued, but the £1,649 AL 7.0 model with 105 is very nearly as good – although it sees no cost-saving due to price rises.

The second Endurace in this list is once again here thanks to its outstanding value and ride quality. It's light at 8.4kg for a size medium and has the most impressive spec sheet in its class, although recent price increases mean it's not quite the bargain it used to be.

Component highlights include Shimano's superb R7000 105 groupset and Fulcrum wheels (a change from last year's Mavics) with quality Continental tyres.

We had to dig pretty deep in order to criticise this rim-brake model, but not everyone will appreciate its understated looks.

The Giant Contend impressed us a lot during testing and we rated its rewarding ride and slick components package. The aluminium frame is neatly welded and there's an all-carbon fork and Giant's D-shaped seatpost, which is claimed to reduce road vibration transmitted to the saddle.

The Contend 1 is fitted out with Shimano Sora 9-speed groupset, with ratios down to 1:1. Tektro rim brakes. Tubeless-ready Giant wheels and 28mm tyres are other spec highlights.

The front and rear mudguard fittings and rack compatibility make this ideal as a commuter bike too.

We’ve also reviewed the 2020 Giant Contend SL1, with a lighter SL version of the Contend frameset.

Rose's affordable alloy all-rounder received an update in 2020, with a move to integrated cabling and tweaks to the frame and fork that include a very tidy new seat clamp.

Although prices have crept up slightly, it remains a top choice, with a really solid Shimano 105 spec and a thoroughly likeable ride quality.

Unfortunately, Rose has withdrawn from the UK market for the moment, but the bike is available elsewhere in the world.

The Allez remains a brilliant choice for riders spending considerably more than entry-level aluminium road bikes ask for, as is the case with this excellent Elite-spec bike. It looks good, and offers fine performance and excellent versatility.

You’ll still get better overall value from direct-sale models, from the likes of Canyon and Rose, but with the Specialized you get the advantage of a physical shop to support you through the purchase.

We’ve also reviewed the entry-level Specialized Allez Sport if you want to compare specs and ride impressions, plus we’ve got the Tarmac SL7-inspired Allez Sprint Comp further down this page.

Just five years ago, it would have been difficult to fathom that a bicycle as well equipped as this Triban would be available for such a modest outlay. The geometry of the alloy frame sides towards endurance, making this a great choice for longer rides.

Spec highlights include a carbon fork, tubeless-ready wheels with 28mm tyres, and mechanical disc brakes – it really is superb value for money.

Don't worry about the Microshift gears either, we were pleasantly surprised by them. The compromise comes in the form of weight, with a size medium example weighing a portly 11.3kg.

The RC520 Disc astonishes in terms of value with its carbon fork, mostly Shimano 105 drivetrain and TRP's mechanically actuated hydraulic disc brakes.

The geometry is noticeably more relaxed than the likes of Specialized's Allez, meaning this is no racer, but it's an excellent choice for commuting, training or even as a touring bike.

The standard-fit 28mm rubber already makes for a plush ride, though there's room for up to 36mm tyres and the stock rims are also tubeless-ready should you want to open up gravel capabilities.

We recognise Boardman's SLR 8.6 as one of the best budget road bikes out there due to its lovely all-round ride and general practicality.

A notable spec highlight and something that's still rare at this price point is the tubeless-ready wheelset. The gearing is taller than some of its competitors though, so you may find yourself out of the saddle sooner on the climbs.

The frame is easily good enough to justify significant component upgrades, making this a bike that can really develop with you. It's received some subtle updates and a new paintjob this year, as well as a slight drop in price.

The Cube Axial is the women's version of the gender-neutral Attain, with Cube branding its Axial frame HPA, for High Performance Alloy.

The frame includes thru-axles for more precise wheel placement than quick releases. There are mudguard mounts and Cube sells mudguards designed specifically for the bike.

The spec includes a full Shimano 105 11-speed groupset, complete with its powerful hydraulic disc brakes, but the Axial range starts at around £1,000 for the lowest spec, fitted with Shimano Claris 8-speed.

There's plenty of gear range, down to 1:1. The 28mm tyres measure up around 30mm although the Axial's tyre clearance isn't as generous as on some frames.

Despite the "Race" in the name, this is an endurance-focused aluminium road bike, with a more upright ride position. The wide tyres and a comfortable saddle mean that it's ready for long-haul, hilly rides.

Forme says the Monyash is designed for tarmac, light gravel and year-round endurance riding. It's kitted out with disc brakes on its thru-axle wheels, with space for 35mm tyres to support that versatility. Plus, you get three sets of bottle bosses as well as mudguard and rack mounts.

The 2 spec of the Monyash comes with a Shimano Claris 8-speed groupset and we rated the wheels, shod with quality Schwalbe One tyres, although we’d up their 25mm width for extra grip and comfort.

We enjoyed the Forme's smooth, confident and controlled ride over a variety of not-so-good road surfaces.

The 4S Disc from Kinesis does a great job of being a bike for all occasions, so if you’re willing to snub the n+1 phenomenon then this could be the buy for you.

Available in road and gravel build options, the road-going version we tested goes without the flared handlebar and wider tyres of its sibling.

Despite this, the 4S Disc is loads of fun and is incredibly versatile, and we know it can work for year-round commuting, training, touring or bikepacking. If you’re not feeling quite so pink, there's a more subtle blue colour available.

The Kinesis Aithein Disc is an uncomplicated aluminium road bike that uses only standard parts. This is something quite refreshing in a world of proprietary headsets, aerofoils and dropped seatstays.

Racy intentions are at the heart of the Aithein. Reflective of that is a pretty familiar race bike geometry, maximum tyre width of 28mm and no mounts for mudguards or accessories.

Out on the road, the bike's stiff frame means it is great at climbing and descending. The ride is reasonably smooth but certainly firm. If you’re feeling strong, the Aithein will deliver an engaging ride that's undeniably fun.

Kinesis offers the Aithein as a frameset, but the build we tested with fitted Shimano Ultegra presented good value.

1× drivetrains haven't really caught on for the road, but their simplicity is appealing for a practical, all-weather bike.

The R1 is designed with 1× in mind and comes specced with SRAM Apex components. Thanks to an 11-42 cassette, the gear range is not lacking.

The R1 is a likeable and engaging ride that's well suited to putting in winter miles, particularly if you opt for the full mudguards upgrade.

In making the R2, Kinesis hasn't tweaked much from its predecessor, the R1, except for adding another chainring on the front.

Even with a 2x drivetrain, the R2 is adept across most terrain, including light gravel, thanks to 32mm tyres and Alex rims, which are designed for cyclocross.

Weighing 10kg, the R2 is never going to fly up climbs. But with mounts for racks and mudguards, plus hydraulic disc brakes, it’ll make an agile winter bike and it's zippy enough to ride all year round.

The Allez Sprint Comp borrows from Specialized's pro-level Tarmac SL7, with the same geometry and aero tube profiles. Specialized also claims similar ride characteristics and it's a bike that you’d be hard-pressed to tell from a carbon frame.

The ride is a great mix of stiffness when pedalling with smoothness and there's a fast, exciting feel. It comes stock with 26mm tyres, but there's room in the frame for 32mm rubber.

The groupset is Shimano 105 with hydraulic disc brakes and a 52/36t chainset with 11-28t cassette, but you could fit a wider-range cassette if you preferred. The Allez Sprint Comp would benefit from a wheel and tyre upgrade though, and its weight isn't competitive with similarly priced carbon bikes.

Although it's an entry-level aluminium road bike, you still get a carbon fork with front-end IsoSpeed on the Domane AL 2, a feature designed to increase bar comfort found on much more expensive Trek bikes. The alloy frame is nicely welded too. There's external cabling: good for maintenance, less so for consistent shifting once it gets dirty.

Spec-wise, there's 8-speed Shimano Claris with a non-series chainset and no-name brakes, which proved fairly ineffective, even in the dry. A change of brake pads might help improve things.

We were really impressed by the smooth ride and handling of the Domane, even on its 25mm tyres, although the wheels felt a little heavy. But with its mudguard and rack mounts, we reckon the Domane would make a great winter bike or commuter.

The RC 500 Disc is one of the best sub-£600 disc-brake road bikes that we’ve tested. Naturally, the RC 500 carries a weight penalty over a rim-brake bike at this price, but the Shimano Sora transmission components it uses are still commonplace on bikes costing a lot more.

It provides an engaging, comfortable and reassuring ride that's ideal for commuting or general road riding.

The Razor Claris from Chain Reaction Cycles’ own brand Vitus is a top value-first aluminium road bike or year-round training tool. Simplicity is key at this price point and Vitus didn't stray from what it knows works well.

The alloy frame of the Razor inherited its dialled geometry from more expensive bikes in the Vitus line-up and the 28mm tyres it's fitted with mean plenty of comfort.

The frame and carbon fork are ready to accept mudguards but not racks. Like other bikes at this price, it's pretty weighty, but that's par for the course.

It can be misleading to call an aluminium alloy bike frame ‘alloy’. After all, steel, titanium and aluminium-frame bikes will be made from metals that are alloys.

Despite this, calling a bike with an aluminium frame an alloy bike is still considered the norm.

One common misconception that surrounds aluminium alloy frames is that they provide a ride character that is excessively stiff.

It's true that some early aluminium frames were brutally stiff, but those days of experimentation have long since passed.

In truth, a frame's stiffness is dictated by far more than just the material it is made from, with sizing, tube shapes and material grade being some of the many other crucial variables.

Content editor

Stan Portus is BikeRadar's content editor. Stan works on everything from content strategy and breaking news to evergreen updates and long-form features on environmental and social issues in cycling. Stan started working in the bike industry in 2018, writing content for some of the sport's biggest brands, including Chris King, ENVE and Castelli. He has worked as a freelance writer and journalist for over seven years writing reviews, essays and interviews for many art, design and literature publications as well as appearing on radio. A road cyclist at heart, he can be found zooming along the lanes and roads of the South West and undertaking foolhardy pursuits such as overnight audax rides.

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