If you’ve been riding at least twice a week for the past 18 months, you should be looking for the best bikes for intermediate riders to match your growth.
Entry-level bikes are categorized differently because they often aren’t as compatible with upgrades as higher-specced bikes are. You might also have noticed that the more you ride, the more selective you are with what parts you want in a bike, how you want your bike to perform, and what type of riding you are drawn to more.
Buckle up and peruse these kahuna entries for people looking to elevate their cycling pursuit.
- Specialized Allez Elite
- Boardman SLR 8.9 Disc
- Giant Contend SL 1 2021
- Triban RC520
- All-City Zig Zag 105
- Vitus Vitesse Evo CR Rival AXS
- Ribble Endurance SL R Disc
- Canyon Endurance CF 7 eTap
Although entry-level bikes might get a bad rep, some come with tremendous upgradability and specs that are decent enough to get you comfortable in this more challenging riding bracket. I’ve tried to balance the intermediary bikes and those that the industry still deems novice machines.
I’ve combined my cycling enthusiast eye with some industry authorities, customer reviews, and tested product reviews to develop an informational and fun concoction. I did rely a lot on some of my favorite sources that I trust, like BikeRadar, Road.cc, T3, and a few other gems.
8 Best Bikes For Intermediary Bikes
The draft version of this A-team list saw broader cycling categories which included a lot more touring, gravel, and mountain bikes, but I quickly abandoned that template for a more intuitive feeling list. The list now skews more towards road bikes with a sprinkle of some tasty hybrid machines.
At this level, you should also be checking in with a bike fitter so you can choose a bike size that best suits your dimensions and riding style. Although I don’t mention the geo chart numbers of the bikes, I do allude to their comfort level when on the saddle. However, the only way to fully enjoy these bikes is to get chummy with your local fitter.
1. Specialized Allez Elite
Specialized has designed this bike as the perfect springboard from entry-level to intermediary riding. The company has ingeniously combined decent components with a light and sturdy Specialized E5 Premium aluminum frame.
The Specialized Allez line has a couple of good machines to choose from their offering. Most of these bikes are catered toward entry-level riders, but we think that the Allez Elite is one of the bikes that overlaps with interest to invest further into the sport.
The bike’s frame lives up to the Premium title as it is beautifully crafted, with the welds almost blending out of sight underneath the new paint job. It’s not only the bike’s finish that’s superb but also the company’s attention to detail when it comes to the tapered Specialized FACT carbon fork.
The components, light frame, and fully carbon fork combination give the ride an added spunk. Despite the Allez Elite being nearly half the price ($1,700) of the race-focused Allez Sprint Comp, the bike does meet the company’s brief of making the Allez bikes value-for-money entrants.
Specialized equipped the Allez Elite with SRAM Rival 22 shift levers, rear and front derailleurs comparable to the Shimano 105 R7000 GS rear and front derailleurs and the Shimano 105 R7020.
Unfortunately, the SRAM Rival 22 components don’t grace the rest of the bike’s groupset. The cheaper and more cumbersome 11-speed SunRace cassette brings price and ride quality down.
Despite the Praxis crankset being reliable and cheaper, the Praxis Alba crankset is also heavier than the Shimano 105 R7000 Sprint Comp crankset.
Another blemish that shadows the bike is Axis 1.0 front and rear caliper brakes, which are far inferior, in our books, to the Shimano 105 hydraulic brakes on the Allez Sprint Comp. However, the
Although the Allez Elite is often advertised as a bike for beginners who won’t mind sacrificing some performance, we were swayed by the more affordable 2020 version for having more size options and some respectable specs.
2. Boardman SLR 8.9 Disc
The design team at Boardman went all out to improve their original offering of the SLR 8.9 by revamping the bike’s gearing range from the clunky 10-speed gears to the more refined 11-speed with performance-driven Shimano components.
The bike’s C7 carbon frameset has the frame aero-optimized for the most no-nonsense riding on the road. This means that the frame is aggressive enough not to take any shenanigans from the wind.
It is stiff enough to cut like butter and give you confidence while riding, but it is also light enough to make you feel like you’re floating over the tarmac.
The SLR 8.9’s Shimano 105 R700 components are a lovely surprise for a bike that only costs $1,700. This is mainly because the company didn’t skimp out and decided to use the last-gen Shimano 105 R5800 (you’d be surprised by some less reputable companies that only vie to have the Shimano brand on their specification).
There isn’t much bad to complain about with the SLR 8.9 Disc because the company listened to the people and added tubeless-ready rims with 700x28c Vittoria Rubino Pro G2.0 folding tires.
These tires are slightly wider, perform better on rainy days, and are lighter than the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro G2.0 folding tires on the cheaper SLR 8.9 Carbon. Even though there are some improvements, the tires do damper the full speed that you should be able to take the bike to.
Unlike the SLR 8.9 Carbon, the SLR 8.9 Disc has stellar brakes because of the Shimano 105 front and rear hydraulic disc brakes on 160 mm rotors.
Although the 160 mm rotors are a bit heavier than 140 mm rotors, if you will ride around 150 miles a week, having this size rotor will save you from forearm fatigue while giving you supreme braking power downhills or during dicey weather conditions.
3. Giant Contend SL 1 2021
The Contend SL 1 is engineered to be an all-rounder bike in performance. With sleek geometry that sits between an aggressive, aerodynamic fiend and a machine to sit up on and cruise through town.
The 19,84-pound weight of the bike (before being measured by a fitter) threw me off for a second because there are plenty of lighter road bikes that sit around the same $2,000 range.
The compact 34/50 Shimano FC-RS510 crankset is typical for the price but a one-up over the 2020 version, which mimics a professional setup that makes climbing hills more strenuous.
The Aluxx SL-Grade aluminum frame can take a beating and dampen a fair amount of vibrations and bumps traveling up to you during rides. Not to mention that I think the reach and stack of the bike will b prime for many riders who stubbornly refuse to get fitted by a professional.
Although Giant claims to be using a welding technique that’s stronger and less intrusive, the welds look like regular welds to me—with the sole exception that they do look smoother. The Giant Approach saddle is surprisingly comfortable for being such a streamlined design.
I also enjoyed the consistency of the bike when it came to the mostly Shimano 105 groupset. The gears are smooth, accurate, and efficient on cobble and tarred roads.
The even gaps between ratios further help the smoothness. There aren’t any massive, therefore jarring, jumps here.
I had no complaints about the 700x25c Giant Gavia Fondo 2 tires. The tires are durable, fast, comfortable, and provide superb cornering and all the traction you’ll need for many riding conditions.
It’s also helpful that the bike comes tubeless-ready and only needs a conversion kit to get things rolling in that regard.
The bike won't be demanding upgrades any time soon and it being such a good value deal makes this bike a contender for your affection.
4. Triban RC520
Decathlon doesn't seem to disappoint when it comes to churning out quality bikes at a fraction of what its competitors are selling them. The Triban RC 520 is no exception.
The bike might be considerably more expensive than the RC 500, but Decathlon has invested more comfort and longevity into this lovely offering. The company managed to tweak the head tube by pulling and elongating it for a more upright riding experience.
Still, they also relaxed the more pronounced frame angles that less racing-inclined riders were having issues with on the previous model.
The bike’s TRP hybrid disc brakes might not be as good as hydraulic disc brakes, but they provide tremendous stopping power in even wet conditions. They also require less hand strength than standard mechanical disc brakes because of that mechanically operated hydraulic piston.
The external cabling isn’t a clutter for people that are used to internally routed cables, and they provide easy access for upkeep.
A fraction of the components used on the bike would cost you almost half the $1,399 price of RC 520. The 6061 T6 aluminum frame has a lifetime warranty and is incredibly versatile.
You can install carriers and mudguards without affecting the performance of the ride. The frame is also built to accommodate up to 36 mm tires in cross-section. Suppose you’ll ever need to use the added wiggle room with the comfortable 700x28c.
The wheels are tubeless-ready and only need a conversion kit to get you going. The bike isn’t the lightest road bike on the market, but it is surprisingly sprite for being around 23 to 24 pounds, depending on the frame size that you buy.
The Shimano 105 group set has proven reliable and smooth enough not to be too hectically bothered by steep hills—even with the heavier frame. The gear spread is also not bad and is just a great cap to an already brimming buy.
5. All-City Zig Zag 105
Priced at a blistering $2,499, the Zig Zag 105 build has some good motivation for its price. The Zig Zag is engineered to go fast for longer, and the custom air-hardened steel frame is prime stuff.
All-City claims that the air-cooling of the steel frame lessens the chance of the material cracking from the heat-treating process. Like knife forging, a steel frame goes through the heat treatment process and cools back down slowly, which creates an all-around sturdier piece structurally.
The Whisky No.9 RD+ fork complements the steel frame. The combination of steel and carbon in the frameset is unique and works well in this case.
The steel frame stomachs bumps and vibrations at high speeds, and the carbon fork tries to offset the weight of the steel frame without throwing off the bike’s balance. The fork is super snappy on turns, and the performance-focused flared handlebars are the cherry on top.
At 19.84 pounds, the bike's weight seems pretty good, especially knowing you have a frame that can take whatever you toss its way while providing excellent comfort.
It's not only the aerodynamic slenderness of the frame that allows the bike to go faster than your run-of-the-mill road bike; it's primarily the 700x28c Teravail Rampart. I can take these tires from tarmac to gravel in the same session without compromising their resilient build. The tires seem to bounce off the road because of how light they are.
Of course, this speed and nimbleness are not possible without the predominantly Shimano 105 groupset. The drivetrain’s 11-32 Shimano R7000 rounds up this 105 groupset nicely with gear spread that should be more than enough for your intermediate needs.
The bike is not only spry, but it is also prudent. I don't want to rave too much about the all-powerful 105 R700 hydro brakes. These babies make it difficult to spend those extra dollars for “performance” Ultegra brakes because they work all the time and work well.
6. Vitus Vitesse Evo CR Rival AXS
This electronic 12-speed machine only weighs around 15,43 pounds for the medium-sized version, and if you aren’t taking it to some competitive competitions, then that’s a weight you’ll be satisfied with for a long while.
The Vitesse Evo CR isn’t cheap at around $4,999, but the entire build is a terrific value investment. The SRAM Rival eTap AXS alone is a beautiful addition to a bike at this price point.
However, the radio transmitter and receivers consume a fair chunk of the eTap AXS battery. You still shouldn’t notice it because the battery will be kicking for a while, but it's just something to note if you are familiar with how long the Ultegra Di2’s battery lasts due to it not having a radio function.
You’ll clock similarly priced and specced bikes equipped with mechanical setups, so an electronic setup is such a breath of fresh air.
The frameset is a seamless Vitesse Evo carbon with only the Prime Doyenne aluminum stem and handlebar parts being what seems a skimp on the bike. It’ll only feel like a letdown to people that are used to having builds that go the whole nine yards when it's a carbon fiber endeavor.
Tire clearance is ample at 30 mm and possibly even 32 mm, as Vitus claims. But I don't see many people messing with the stock 700x25c Schwalbe One Performance, tubeless-ready tires.
These tires have exceptional puncture resistance and can hold the ground well enough on rainy days without being too doting. These are solid workhorses for most of the terrain you’ll be riding on.
The SRAM BB386 Evo bottom bracket has a wider-than-usual shell with neatly packed bearings inside the bike's frame. This wider shell allows all the frame joints that meet here to be larger. This increased diameter of the down tube, chain stay, and seat tube create a more rigid build that slices through the air on those all-in sprints.
7. Ribble Endurance SL R Disc - Enthusiast
Ribble has several bikes under their Endurance SL R Disc line, and the SL R Disc - Enthusiast sits dead-center of the action. The Enthusiast is set apart from the cheapest bike (Sport) along this line because it is a 2x12 speed Ultegra Di2 instead of a 2x11 speed Shimano Ultegra R8000.
The electronic-only Ultegra Di2 groupset is as close as you can get to Shimano's top-level Dura-Ace groupset. The performance and value you get from this groupset exceed the asking price, making it a tremendous mid-level bike that will grow with your skill level.
Some people had issues with the bike's weight, which teeters around 15 pounds. But it’s half a pound lighter than the Vitesse Evo CR, offers comparable value, and is more affordable. The Ultegra Di2 groupset is lighter than the SRAM Rival eTap AXS on the Vitesse Evo CR.
Although the Ultegra Di2 is toe-to-toe with eTap AXS, the absence of a radio function does mean that the components are connected using wires instead of wirelessly. That adds to the reduction in weight and adds more room for things to go wrong.
Another thing to note is that this is not an endurance bike. It has that in its name, but it's more to show that the geometry is more comfortable than your typical, back-breaking aero bike. Rides are still comfortable, and there’s generous space because of the more extended wheelbase.
8. Canyon Endurance CF 7 eTap
You know those people with such warmly normative personalities that they get described as “a decent person?” That’s the Endurance CF 7 eTap. The seemingly uninspired matt black is nothing new, and because of that, it has a tried-and-tested simple sophistication.
The $3,999 price tag, carbon fiber frameset, and the SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset are all so-so in the best way possible. Everything about the bike is made to be inviting to new cyclists and mid-level riders looking for an upgrade.
The bike is an actual do-it-all endurance machine with laid-back geometry to support the claim. Although cables around the headset disappear into the frame as you go further down the bike.
The wireless shifting is smooth and accurate, and the 24-speed gear system has a solid foundation on the 10-36 cassette and 48/35 crankset. This gearing should be good enough for most of the hills you’ll be pushing.
Once you make the summit, the bike will see you blazing downhill and flattening similarly specced and priced bikes.
These are the bikes that didn’t make the team. Reasons being class redundancy on the list, having a sky-piercing price tag, or due to us being hindered from fully delving into the mythos of each bike from being pressed by the constant waning and waxing of the moon.
Trek Emonda ALR 5
The Emonda ALR 5 is more expensive than the Boardman SLR 8.9 Disc without really offering anything seismic to the rider. It has some notable and improved specs over the SLR 8.9, like the subjectively better Bontrager R1 tires, which are lighter and faster on the road.
Cervélo R5 Disc Force ETap AXS
One of the principal reasons why the Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS didn’t graduate into our main recommendation was the pricing of the entire line. The Force eTap AXS is the cheapest at $8,400 and has only high-end SRAM specs but aren’t that much more impressive than the more affordable Ribble Endurance SL R Disc - Enthusiast.
Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Dura-Ace
Like the plight of the Cervélo R5, the S-Works Tarmac SL7 Dura-Ace asks for some pro-level monetary investment. Although the marriage of some SRAM Red eTap AXS components with a light sprinkle of Dura-Ace makes the bike a contender, the overall piece doesn’t justify the price.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson