Cheap Road Bikes

Ready to ride? Here are some good bikes at lower costs.

Diamondback Overdrive

It is virtually impossible to find an authentic mountain bike for less than $500, but the Overdrive ($600) comes pretty close. This 29er hard tail sports the same aluminum frame as the Overdrive Pro, a $1,750 bike, but it depends on cheaper parts to hit this budget price. The result isn’t a perfect bike, but it’s plenty fun on smooth to semi-technical trails and it would be hard to get more bike for the cost.

The riding position is lower than most bikes in this realm, which makes you nicely stretched out and well centered over the wheels for fast cornering and surprisingly nimble handling. Unfortunately, though the frame is aluminum, when you add up all the lower-priced (read: heavier) parts, you get a pretty hefty bike at 32 pounds.

The Tektro brakes were decent, but not grabby, and the wheels are pretty heavy.

Result: A good, cheap bike that performs well, but heavy

Cheap Road Bikes

Jamis Exile Comp

With its swoopy tubes, upright geometry, and cola paint job, the Exile Comp ($1,100) looks more femme than freeride. But as with all Jamis bikes, this bike holds far more value than its looks and price tag suggest—and it rides pretty darn well, too. Jamis may not have the cachet of other big brands (yet), but they build bikes that keep up.

Aluminum bike, funky build. The low-slung top tube appears a bit strange, though all that extra clearance makes it very easy to maneuver in technical terrain. Combined with an extra tall head tube (bigger than the Diamond Back), it makes for a very upright position, not unlike a cruiser bike. The bike is a lighter than the Diamondback, too, weighing in at a trimmer but hardly svelte 31 pounds, and it has niceties normally reserved for more expensive bikes like a tapered head tube, which definitely aids in steering accuracy and handling.

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Trance X4

We’ve long said that buying a full-suspension mountain bike for less than $2,000 is a waste of money, but the Trance X4 ($1,550) proves us wrong. This is hardly the most supple or nuanced bike, but given its pedigreed geometry and more-than-adequate-for-the-price suspension, it ripped up the trails—especially downhill.

The aluminum X4 has five inches of travel in both front and rear with 26-inch wheels (perfect for this trail riding application), a relatively slack 69.5 degrees, and a good amount of stand-over height, the frame is built for stability on tricky trails and descending. Still, this is the most hardworking and agile setup we’ve found at this price.

The Adage that you get what you pay for is certainly true in most cases, but in these three bikes, the low cost vs. performance issues prove that you can get a high-performance bike at a lower cost.

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