So you’re ready to invest in a road bike, but don’t have a ton of money to spare. No worries, we’ve rounded up what we consider the 5 best entry level, affordable road bikes for women — and they are all under $1,500.
These aren’t necessarily the lightest or fanciest road bicycles on the market, but they do provide the best bang for your buck. And if you’re a total newbie, we’ve also offered some tips on how to pick an entry-level bicycle.
Beginner women, get ready to rock and ROLL!
April 2023: Update includes new prices and additional photos.
|What We Like
|Trek Domane AL 2
|Liv Avail AR 3
|Good for on or off road
|Women’s specific touch points
Specialized is one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world. This economy of scale means they can buy components in bulk and pass down the savings to their customer’s. For nice bikes at a decent price, I always recommend Specialized.
The Specialized Allez is no exception. The fork on the Dolce, for instance, is made of carbon. It’s difficult to find carbon on bikes at this price point, and it provides a nicer, smoother ride than an aluminum or steel fork.
Because the geometry is more upright than many road bikes, this also happens to be a great bicycle for beginners. It provides easy handling and isn’t too twitchy when climbing or descending. If you plan on doing some long days in the saddle, this is a comfortable bicycle to do it on.
The components on the bicycle are all brand-name with a Shimano Claris drivetrain and Tektro brakes.
Trek Domane AL 2
Like Specialized, Trek offers high-quality components and design at an affordable price. While the frame on the Trek Domane AL 2 is aluminum, the fork is carbon which helps make the ride smoother and more enjoyable.
The bike climbs well thanks to a Shimano 16-speed drivetrain, and a relatively light weight for a “budget” road bike. It weighs in at 21 pounds.
Liv is the women’s-specific branch of bike manufacturer Giant. They make some of the best women’s bicycles on the market, and one of the most affordable. The base level Liv Avail comes in at $950.
The bike sports the brand’s proprietary D-shaped composite seatpost that helps dampen road vibration, meaning your bum will get a comfy ride. The geometry of the bike has been designed using data on female body composition with the goal of fitting as many women as possible.
Liv Avail AR 3
The Liv Avail AR 3 is a good allrounder. This women’s-specific road bike works well on pavement, but can wander off road as well. This makes it a great choice for women who would like to hit up rail trails as well.
It’s an endurance bike which means the geometry is a little more relaxed and stable (great for beginners). The tires are a bit wider than normal road bikes as well which also help with stability.
We also like that the bike has disc brakes for more stopping power.
The Roll A:1R (like the Liv Avail AR 4) above is a road bike that can tackle both pavement and gravel. Even if you only plan to ride pavement, this can still be a great budget option just expect that you’ll want to add a slicker tire later on.
For the price, you get a lot of bang for your buck with this bike. It’s built up with a SRAM 1×10 drivetrain and Tektro mechanical disc brakes.
We also like that the women’s version of the bike has women’s-specific touch-points like a wider saddle. Shorter women can also choose a lower step-thru frame.
Comparison Chart: Entry-Level Road Bikes for Women
|QR or Thru-Axle
|Smallest Frame Size
|Trek Domane AL 2
|Liv Avail 3
|Liv Avail AR 3
|Tektro mechanical disc
|Tektro mechanical disc
Other Options For Affordable Road Bikes
Not all of these bikes are women’s specific, but here are some other entry level bikes that you might want to look into.
- Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1*. $1,299. This is the REI brand and is a good deal especially if you have an REI dividend to use.
- Canyon Endurance 6. $1,499. Direct-to-consumer company offering a budget road bike that is reasonably light–under 21 pounds.
- Polygon Strattos. $1,299. Reliable Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes.
- Scott Contessa Speedster. $1,499. Women’s specific model.
How to Choose Your First Road Bike
Not sure what you should be looking for in a road bike? Here are some tips to help you choose the right bike within your budget.
Women’s-Specific Bikes Versus Unisex Bikes
Just because a bike isn’t marketed as a “women’s” bike doesn’t mean that you should automatically discount it. In fact, the best bike for you might be a unisex bike.
That said, there are plenty of reasons you might want to opt for a women’s-specific bike. If you’re on the smaller side, a women’s-specific bike might fit better. They often come in smaller frame sizes and with other components better suited to smaller riders, such as shorter crank arms and a shorter stem.
The other “nice to have” item on women’s-specific road bikes are women’s bike saddles. If you end up choosing a unisex bike, you can always upgrade the saddle later on.
To learn even more on this topic, and decide whether a women’s-specific bike or a unisex bike makes the best sense for you read our article on women’s vs unisex bikes.
Sub-$1,500 bicycles are going to be heavier than their more expensive counterparts. That said, it’s still wise to look for the lightest bicycle within your budget.
The lighter a road bike is the faster it is, the longer it will take you to get worn out, and the easier it is to maneuver. Road cyclists tend to be big weight weenies, and there’s a good reason for it.
You can use the comparison chart above to compare weights. Make sure if you look at other bikes that aren’t on this list to get their weights too.
The bikes on this list come in two categories: those with traditional caliper style (rim) brakes and those with disc brakes. Road bicycles have traditionally come with caliper brakes and most bikes you see still have these rim brakes.
That said, more and more bikes are being offered now with disc brakes. Disc brakes are generally found on road bikes at higher price points, but we’ve found a couple in the sub $1,500 category as well.
Disc brakes do a superior job of stopping when compared to rim brakes. This becomes particularly true in wet weather, so if you live in a rainy climate this might be something to think about seriously.
The drawback of disc brakes is that they usually weigh a bit more. Still, when given the choice between rim brakes and disc brakes, we’d always go with the disc brakes.
The bike on the left has disc brakes, while the bike on the right has traditional caliper/rim brakes.
Nearly all the bikes on the list come up with the same entry-level drivetrain components, so there’s not much differentiation here. Shimano Soris is a step up from the Shimano Claris drivetrain.
If you can afford it later, you can always upgrade when it is time to replace drivetrain components. And by drivetrain components, we’re talking about the chainring, cassette, shifters, and chain.
- Read: A Guide to Bicycle Gears
Frame and Fork
The frame and fork are perhaps the most important thing to look at when buying a budget road bike. Why? Because nearly everything else on the bike can be upgraded and replaced over time if you get more serious about road biking.
Carbon is generally the most comfortable and lightest frame material, but you won’t find any full-carbon frames at this price point. Still, you can look for bikes that offer a carbon or composite fork as you’ll still get some of the benefits of a smoother more comfortable ride.
Quick-Release Skewers Versus Thru-Axles
Most bikes at this pricepoint have traditional quick-release skewers on the wheels. Borrowing from more modern, higher-end bikes, however, you’ll notice a few have thru-axles instead.
Thru-axles provide a more stable ride and are a bit safer. (You don’t have to worry about your quick-release coming loose mid-ride). I wouldn’t worry too much about this feature, but it is nice to know that you’re bike has the latest technology.
Tubeless wheels are one of the best things to ever happen to bicycles. Don’t like changing flat tires? Who does.
Tubeless tires are exactly what they sound like–they have no inside tubes to pinch or get punctured. This greatly reduces the number of flats you’ll get.
While not many bikes at this price point have tubeless wheels, if you really hate changing flats, you might want to look for bikes that have tubeless-compatible wheels. Many of these won’t actually be set up tubeless, but they are easy to set up–especially if you ask your local bike shop to do it.
More Stuff To Get You Started
- 9 Best Women’s Road Bike Helmets
- 9 Best Padded Bike Shorts (Cycling Shorts) For Women
- Cycling For Beginners: Everything You Need To Know
About The Author
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.