Traditionally known as a mountain bike brand, Kona's road and cyclocross bikes have grown into a force to be reckoned with. The Zing's parts spec is highlighted by its durable Shimano wheels, shod with Continental tires. A mix of 9-speed Shimano Sora and Tiagra drivetrain parts provide smooth, reliable performance, and a Dedacciai carbon fiber fork helps take the edge off rough roads. While most bikes on this list come in six different sizes, the Zing is available in just five—so make sure you get a proper fit from a qualified bike shop, and be prepared to BYO pedals, because the Zing doesn't come with any.
Bike company product managers love to keep the price down by mixing and matching drivetrain components, so hat's off to Giant for spec'ing a full-complement Shimano Sora 9-speed drivetrain for smooth, confidence-inspiring shifting performance. House-brand Giant wheels and tires help keep the rest of the bike’s price down and a slightly taller head tube delivers a comfortable, slightly more upright fit. Don't be fooled though, this is no comfort-cruiser—the Defy's butted alloy chassis provides a lightweight and responsive ride that belies the (relatively) lowly price tag.
The Satellite Comp is the only steel frame in this group, and kudos to Jamis for not giving up on the superbly supple ride characteristics of the classic, ferrous frame material. The company also offers a comparably priced alloy-frame bike in its Ventura Comp, but we love the durable, versatile flavor of the Satellite series. The bike's triple-ring crank isn't the best pick for an aspiring racer, but for a recreational rider looking for double-duty performance of a commuter bike, look no further. This bike's low-range gearing will come in handy when the bike is loaded down with panniers. An amply padded saddle and slightly wider 25c tires deliver a comfortable ride, and its clever NVO adjustable stem makes it easy to dial in proper fit.
Just because it's an "entry-level" model doesn't mean it has to look the part. The CAAD8 shares plenty of race-proven DNA with its more expensive siblings, but offers newer riders smart details like gel-backed handlebar tape and a a slightly taller headtube for a more forgiving ride. If you're looking for bike to pull occasionally commuter duty, though, look elsewhere—there's nary a rack mount to be found on this performance-minded model. A Shimano Sora 9-speed drivetrain and FSA compact crank offer plenty of get-up-and-go, and because it comes sans pedals, the bike's eminently reasonable $940 price tag leaves plenty of extra coin for a par of clipless pedals.
Although this bike sits next-to-last in the company's substantial road bike lineup, its good genes shine through in its sculpted lightweight aluminum frame. Specialized has a whole division dedicated to fit science, so it's no surprise the Allez Sport comes with a Body Geometry saddle and a clever four-position aluminum stem, which makes it easy to dial in fit for a new rider, and equally as easy to re-adjust as said rider's flexibility and comfort level improves. The bike's Shimano Sora 18-speed drivetrain delivers reliable, predictable performance, and a three-piece compact Truvativ crank helps stay on top of grades and stomp out climbs. Just don't forget your pedals because this bike only comes with flat Nylon test-ride pedals.
The Rubaix 3.0 is the only bike in this lineup to offer a tapered headtube—a performance oriented frame feature usually reserved for higher-end bikes that stiffens up chassis significantly. The frame is fitted with a performance full-carbon fork and rear-end frame stiffness is shored up by an oversized seat tube. Liberal use of generic Fuji-brand parts (wheels, brakes, cranks), and Fuji's "Oval" house-brand components (saddle, oversized post, handlebar and stem) keep the price of this aspiring racer in check, making it a great candidate to grow into with strategic parts upgrades down the road. Pedals not included.
Trek is the biggest bike company operating in the U.S., and Joe Consumer benefits from that economy of scale with this very well-equipped ride. Note the 1.2 is available in a whopping eight different frame sizes to help fine-tune fit, and also witness its up-spec'd Tiagra rear derailleur—a thoughtful upgrade for what is the workhorse of the drivetrain. The 1.2 conforms to Trek's middle-of-the-road "H2" fit standard, with slightly more forgiving geometry than the bikes Lance rides. Bontrager gel handlebar tape and carbon fiber fork help take the sting out of long rides.