It’s time for a serious upgrade from your first road bike. You’re after a full carbon frame bike to take you to the next level. You’ll get something that’s lighter and is more focused on performance and speed.
Spending up to $2,500 on a road bike is a big financial commitment. In this article, we’ve rounded up some of the best carbon road bikes on the market.
- Van Rysel Ultra CF
- Wilier GTR Team 105
- Giant Defy Advanced 3
- Cervelo P2 105 R7000
- Trek Domane SL 4
- Vitus Zenium CRS Road Bike – Best Overall Pick
What Do You Get For $2,500?
Ok, so you’ve decided on a carbon fiber road bike – now, what kind of bike package can you get for under $2,500? There’s a balance that bike manufacturers need to maintain in order to keep within a certain budget figure. We’ve listed out some of the best in terms of a carbon frame, groupset, and value for money.
If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, you can check out:
- 5 Of The Best Entry Level Women’s Road Bikes
- Best Road Bikes Under $1,000
- Best Road Bikes Under $2,000
Carbon Fiber Frame
Before we discuss the frames, we’ll explain the raw carbon fiber material. It is made up of a long string of carbon atoms that have been bonded together. It is known to be extremely stiff, strong, and light. Perfect for making performance road bikes. As with all bike parts, there are different tiers of carbon fiber frames as well. We’ll keep it simple here, but if you’re interested in what goes behind manufacturing carbon fiber, check out this link.
As a result of the material properties, carbon fiber is the top-of-the-line material for frames. It’s far lighter than any of the metal frame options, making it the choice for speed and performance. Carbon fiber can also be molded, which allows bike designers to build aerodynamic racing bikes. This is much more difficult with metal frames which are constrained with round metal tubes.
Most brands come up with their own buzzwords for their own proprietary carbon construction methods. Advanced Composite (Giant), BallisTec (Cannondale), FACT (Specialized) and OCLV (Trek) are all examples. Don’t get too hung up on these as most raw carbon fiber is produced by six companies. It’s their engineering and design that determines the strength and stiffness of the carbon construction. Here’s a good video that explains the various carbon fiber grades.
Interesting read – How Long Do Carbon Bike Frames Last?
Just remember to make sure you’re picking the right size bike! You can check out our sizing guide.
As you continue to climb the price spectrum, you’ll expect to find better quality groupsets.
Entry-level bikes you’ll find that manufacturers mix and match to reduce costs. However, at the $2,500 range, bikes tend to have complete sets at around the mid-tier. For example with the Shimano groupset bikes, you’ll find the minimum to be a full Tiagra set on the Giant Defy Advanced 3.
The following are the major manufacturers and list of their groupsets from entry-level to top-end.
- Shimano – Claris, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace
- SRAM – Apex, Rival, Force and Red
- Campagnolo (Campy) – Veloce, Centaur, Potenza, Chorus Record and Super Record
Think of this as an inverse relationship – the more you pay, the lighter you bike. You may also start to see features that were included on pro bikes a couple years ago as well. All in the name of speed and performance!
Entry level road bikes are generally 10+ kg, however bikes with a full carbon frame are likely to come in at the 8-9kg range. We’ll go into more detail on each bike summary.
The Best Carbon Road Bikes Under $2,500 Roundup
In 2019, Decathlon rebranded their performance road bikes to Van Rysel. Being the in-house brand for Decathlon, they are able to use a direct-to-consumer model, keeping costs lower. They have definitely put together a great value for money bike here.
This is a full carbon road bike that offers great stiffness, handling and speed. At this price tag, they have also included a full Shimano 105 groupset which includes the brakes and chainset. Overall, a good fit for the majority of riders, whilst also allowing you to get into some aggressive racing positions. Added points for the nice looking black colorway as well!
- Frame: Full carbon Ultra RCR Evo Dynamic
- Groupset: Shimano 105
- Wheels: Mavic Aksium 17 C wheels
- Weight: 17.6 lbs in size M, without pedals
A premium Italian bicycle brand, the GTR Team is aimed at riders who need a road bike for multiple uses. They have described this as an endurance geometry. However, it strikes a nice balance between a performance race bike and a relaxed sportive bike. They’ve achieved this by introducing a 10mm higher stack than Wilier’s racing line to allow for a more upright rider position.
While not the speedest carbon bike, it is quite nimble and handles very well. The frame has a high quality finish to it and integrates nicely with the Shimano 105 groupset. If you have a preference for a little more comfort over speed and performance on a daily trainer, then this will fit the bill perfectly.
This comes in a matte black/white or glossy red, white and black colorway.
- Frame: Carbon Monocoque 46Ton
- Groupset: Shimano 105
- Wheels: Shimano RS100
- Weight: 18.7 lbs
Giant, the world’s largest bike manufacturer, offers excellent value with a full carbon frame bike at just over $2,000. This bike is made from Giant’s proprietary high performance-grade raw carbon fiber. This means it is lightweight, stiff and absorbs shocks very well. The Defy Advanced line is also engineered with tube shapes that are optimized to absorb road shocks and vibrations, allowing for a very comfortable ride.
The Defy 3 comes with a more upright rider position, with the handlebars slightly higher and closer to the saddle than performance focused racing bikes. Great for riders who want to rack up miles without the discomfort of a racing position for hours.
This comes in a reflective black or metallic blue colorway.
- Frame: Carbon
- Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
- Wheels: Giant S-R2 Disc
- Weight: 20.9 lbs
The Cervelo P2 is an entry level time trial bike, from a long lineage of aero tri bikes since 1996. Cervelo states that it’s been designed for time trials, short and long triathlons – an aerodynamic race ready bike.
In terms of frame geometry, the P2 is one of the more versatile frames. The seat tube angle really helps you get into that aero racer position to minimize any drag. The P2 is powered by the Shimano 105 groupset and works well together with the bike to form a speedy package.
Comfort is enhanced with adjustable aerobars and the extensions can be easily adjusted for length. The armpads also offer a wide range of elevation and fore/aft adjustment. It comes with a split nose saddle (ISM PR 1.0) which is quite comfortable for a tri-focused bike.
The Cervelo P2 offers a high level of aerodynamic performance, a comfortable ride and good quality components at a reasonable price. It also comes with the added benefit of a lifetime manufacturer warranty on the frame.
- Frame: Carbon Fiber, Cervélo All-Carbon, Tapered P Fork
- Groupset: Shimano 105
- Wheels: Shimano RS100
- Weight: 19.9 lbs
The Domane SL 4 Disc is Trek’s entry level carbon road bike model. The OCLV carbon frame with double IsoSpeed allows for better handling and a more compliant ride. Trek explains IsoSpeed as “IsoSpeed diminishes the fatiguing impacts of the road, allowing the rider to remain fresher longer.”
With such a quality frame, the Domane SL 4 is equipped with the Shimano Tiagra drive and a Praxis Alba M30 chainset. It gets the job done but doesn’t always feel very smooth when shifting. The wheels, tyres and finishing kit are all Bontrager.
Weighing in at 21.8 lbs for a size 56, it is one of the heavier bikes in this round up. The Domane SL 4 comes in two colorways, a Slate/Radioactive Red and Voodoo Trek Black.
- Frame: 500 Series OCLV Carbon and Domane SL carbon fork
- Groupset: Shimano Tiagra with a Praxis Alba M30 chainset
- Wheels: Bontrager Affinity Disc
- Weight: 21.8 lbs
In 2019, the Zenium line up received a carbon makeover. The 2020 version builds on this and has been designed to be an all rounder bike. The compact geometry and short head tube still balance comfort and performance. This setup does allow for quite an aggressive rider position, making you a bit more aerodynamic and speedy.
This is the only bike in this round up with the Shimano Ultegra groupset and hydraulic disc brakes. This will have a very smooth shifting experience and incredible braking performance. The hydraulic disc braking is slightly heavier than rim brakes, but the braking consistency in all weather conditions more than makes up for it. The Prime Baroudeur wheelset is not the lightest, but gets the job done and performs well.
- Frame: UD Carbon T700
- Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 11-Speed and hydraulic disc brakes
- Wheels: Prime Baroudeur Aluminium Disc
- Weight: 18.5 lbs for a medium
If you’re ready for the next step in your cycling journey, you should definitely check out one of these entry level carbon bikes. It’ll give you a taster of premium bikes without breaking the bank.
Overall, our #1 pick is the Vitus Zenium CRS Road Bike. It’s a good value all-around road racer that comes equipped with great components. Zipping around in a fast red bike ain’t too shabby either! 🙂
Hopefully that was helpful, thanks for reading! Check out this article if you still need help picking the perfect bicycle.