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 bikes under £1,000 can compete with pricier machines, too.
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.
The best aluminium road bikes, in order of score
- Triban RC120: £399.99 / €450
- Bowman Palace 3 Ultegra R8000 Disc: £2,750
- Cannondale CAAD13 Disc 105: £2,250 / $2,300 / AU$3,499 / €2,299
- Cannondale CAAD13 Force eTap AXS £4,800 / $5,750
- Canyon Endurace AL Disc: £1,649
- Canyon Endurace AL 7.0: £1,349
- Giant Contend SL1: £1,249
- Rose Pro SL Disc 105: €1,749
- Specialized Allez: £725 / $900 / €86
- Specialized Allez Elite: £1,199 / $1,400 / €1,399
- Triban RC120 Disc: £429.99 / €500
- Triban RC520 Disc: £799.99 / €850
- Boardman SLR 8.6: £500
- Kinesis 4S Disc: £1,850
- Kinesis Aithein Disc: £2,680
- Kinesis R1: £1,500
- Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc: £2,200 / $2,300
- Triban RC 500 Disc: £599.99
- Vitus Razor Claris: £549.99
- £399.99 / €450 (£349.99 as tested)
- Our favourite entry-level road bike
- Capable as a fast commuter
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 rack and mudguards, the RC120 will do it without difficulty.
Bowman Palace 3 Ultegra R8000 Disc
- £2,750 as tested
- Outstanding ride
- A great alternative to big brands
From a distance, the Bowman Palace 3 looks like a fairly traditional aluminium framed bike. but on closer inspection, there’s a lot going on. The tubing varies in profile and the seatstays are flattened for compliance and greater comfort.
The build we tested was well-specced with 28mm Continental GP5000 tyres and Shimano Ultegra R8000. If you want you can buy the frameset for £845 (as tested) or upgrade the build we tested to carbon wheels for an extra £695.
Out on the road, the Palace 3 has a racy persona and is lovely for general or competitive road riding, but we did find that we had to go up a frame size to get the right fit.
Cannondale CAAD13 Disc 105
- £2,250 / $2,300 / AU$3,499 / €2,299 as tested
- Exciting ride quality
- Not cheap
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.
Carbon vs aluminium
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 tuneable. It lets designers target stiffness, strength and flexibility exactly where they want it by using different types and arrangements of fibres and clever lay-up 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.
Cannondale CAAD13 Force eTap AXS
- £4,800 / $5,750 as tested
- Stunning handling
- The pinnacle of metal frames
If you want to experience the pinnacle of performance when it comes to aluminium frames then look no further than the CAAD13. 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 Shimano’s 105 groupset.
Canyon Endurace AL Disc
- £1,649 as tested for Canyon Endurace AL 8.0 (closest model now Endurace AL 7.0, priced at £1,649)
- Great specification
- Powerful, all-weather braking
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 of this bike that truly shine.
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.
Canyon Endurace AL 7.0
- £1,349 (£999 as tested)
- Class-leading spec sheet
- Efficient yet comfortable frame
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.
Giant Contend SL 1
- £1,249 (£1,000 as tested)
- Great quality frameset that’s comfy and handles well
- Comfy 28mm tubeless-ready tyres
The Giant Contend SL1 impressed us a lot during testing, narrowly missing full marks.
The latest model doesn’t have gearing quite as low as the 2019 version did, but it’s still a great choice, offering great handling and all-day comfort.
The front and rear mudguard fittings and rack compatibility make this ideal for commuting too.
Rose Pro SL Disc 105
- €1,749 (not currently available in UK)
- Updated version of one of our favourite all-rounders
- Lovely frameset and great spec for the money
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 (you lucky people!).
- £725 / $900 / €869 (£630 / $840 /€799 as tested)
- Updated geometry
- Rack and mudguard mounts
The longstanding Allez remains a perfect introduction to road bikes thanks to top performance, sharp looks and keen pricing.
Its recently revised geometry makes it an ideal training and fitness tool and it’s pretty much perfect for sportives and longer rides.
Rear rack mounts and neat mudguard fittings make accessorising the Allez an easy process.
Specialized Allez Elite
- £1,199 / $1,400 / €1,399 (£1,050 / $1,350/ €1,299 as tested)
- An impressive all-rounder
- Practical and versatile
The Allez remains a brilliant choice for riders spending considerably more than entry-level models ask for, as is the case with this excellent Elite spec bike.
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.
It looks good, offers fine performance and excellent versatility.
Triban RC120 Disc
- £429.99 / €500 (£400 as tested)
- Great for longer rides
- A little on the hefty side
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.
Triban RC520 Disc
- £799.99 / €850 (£750 as tested)
- Exceptionally well equipped
- For those who favour comfort over speed
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 touring purposes.
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.
Boardman SLR 8.6
- £500 (£550 as tested)
- Tubeless-ready wheels
- Plenty of comfort
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 for 2021, as well as a slight drop in price.
Kinesis 4S Disc
- £1,850 as tested
- A bike for all occasions
- Supremely versatile
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 then there’s a more subtle blue colour available.
Kinesis Aithein Disc
- £2,680 build, as tested
- Super-stiff frame
- Great price
The Kinesis Aithein Disc is an uncomplicated 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 fitted Shimano Ultegra presented good value.
- £1,500 as tested
- Versatile road bike designed for a 1× drivetrain
- SRAM Apex drivetrain and optional mudguards
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.
Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc
- £2,200 / $2,300 (£1,900 / €2,299 / $2,200 as tested)
- Stiff frame with exemplary response
- Ripe for upgrades
As Specialized’s most advanced alloy chassis, the Allez Comp Disc is known for its efficient power transfer and responsive ride. It really is a treat for the criterium racers and riders out there who want to sacrifice minimal watts. It’s also a stunning looking bike.
Specialized proudly states that this bike is not only the stiffest it has ever made, but it’s also the stiffest alloy bike it’s tested from any manufacturer.
All that stiffness means this is not a great choice for all-day rides though, and the bike’s overall performance is blunted somewhat by the standard-fit and weighty DT Swiss wheelset.
Triban RC500 Disc
- £599.99 (£530 as tested)
- Confident all-weather stopping
- Generously specced
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.
Vitus Razor Claris
- £549.99 (£500 as tested)
- Comfortable 28mm tyres
- Proven geometry
The Razor Claris from Chain Reaction Cycles’ own brand Vitus is a top-value first 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 the other bikes at this price, it’s pretty weighty but that’s par for the course.
Common misconceptions that surround aluminium/alloy bikes
Aluminium or alloy?
It can be misleading to call an aluminium alloy bike frame ‘alloy’, after all, both 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.
“Aluminium bikes are excessively stiff”
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.