What is the real speed difference between high to low end road bikes?

The best bang for your buck road bike is?

  • The cheapest entry level road bike is satisfactory unless you are a professional race cyclist

    Votes: 11 14.5%
  • Claris road bikes probably deliver the best performance per £1

    Votes: 3 3.9%
  • Above Claris is the sweetspot, Tiagra, Sora etc

    Votes: 5 6.6%
  • Shimano 105 the groupset of the people - delivers both great performance and low running costs

    Votes: 45 59.2%
  • High end Shimano Dura Ace/Ultegra with a state of the art CF frame, fork and wheels, no compromises

    Votes: 12 15.8%

  • Total voters
I'm sure similar threads have been posted before but I've always been curious about this but despite so much information about bicycles on the web this information is not clearly stated anywhere. I.e. different riders on different levels of road bike and expected speeds they would get etc.

I saw this article;


plus this;


and I've also seen this video;

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow7MdsSVQuw

I've been left with an impression that there isn't much difference in reality but just wondered with so many people riding with Strava and having a higher spec summer bike and a lower spec winter bike if there is much user experience of the different speeds obtained with different level bikes.

What would be a realistic difference between lets say;

1) The very cheap basic steel road bikes, typically 14 tourney gears using a freewheel, 52/34x14-28T about 13kg
2) Step up Claris road bike based on an aluminum frame, carbon forks and maybe 52/34x11-32T about 11kg - 4% faster than above?
3) Performance budget road bike - open mould carbon frame and forks, Shimano 105,52/34x11-32T about 8-9kg 2% faster than above?
4) High end road lightweight road bike with ultegra/dura ace less than 7kg 1% faster than above?
5) High end aero lightweight road bike with ultegra/dura ace less than 8kg 0-1% faster than above?

Where is the sweetspot where you get the most bang for your buck? Are my guesstimate percentages realistic or completely out?

I notice in the all-time fastest strava bikes there is a budget 105 aluminium road bike but its mainly sold in the relatively flat Netherlands. You wonder if all the fastest bikes are sold in the Netherlands. You also wonder if all the high end bikes have high performance riders too. Many people buying their first road bike would also be relatively slow and unfit and buying a low end bike I would of thought, generally.

I guess the best source of information would be people who have two or more different road bikes from different price points and how their times vary on strava but I can't see where you get that information or is it all a big secret the bike industry is suppressing somehow.


East Sussex
It comes down to the engine driving it. If you put Mark Cavendish on my old school tourer, that old tourer if mine would be one hell of a fast bike, while if you put me on Cavendish’s bike you’d say it was a Halfords plodder…


Kilometre nibbler
You don't necessarily buy a more expensive because it goes faster. You buy a more expensive bike because it has features that you want. (Note, want, not necessarily need). Such features could include (but not limited to):
- Comfort
- Looks
- Ergonomics
- Range of gearing
- Type of component (eg if you prefer disk brakes)
- Carrying capacity
- Reliability
- Swank factor

If you just want to go faster then you just need to pedal harder.
Last edited:

Ian H

I am an ancient randonneur, & I often stop for tea
East Devon
"Professional road cyclist" suggests a race (pun intended) apart, whereas there is a continuum from local amateurs through 1st and elite categories toward earning money from racing.

Ian H

I am an ancient randonneur, & I often stop for tea
East Devon
Up to a certain speed. And then drag is everything. ;)
Except comfort is important, especially over any distance.
And I'm not riding a 600k randonneur event in a aero-tuck position.
Personally I found that frame material ie carbon, steel, Ti , alloy etc have the least difference. But group sets made a lot of difference as they involve mechanical movement. If you are heavy into cycling or regular commuter and consider cycling as a pleasure, it does pay to invest to enjoy the rides. The 2K price bracket is fine and probably the starting point. If you bought something at 1K or slight more and you realised that you enjoy riding, you will upgrade as smooth shifting is highly noticeable.


Legendary Member
I own an 11 year old Dolan Dual (originally summer), a Cannondale CAAD10 (summer) a Cervelo C3(summer) and a Kinesis ATRV3 (winter/gravel). In descending order of speed:

Cervelo 24/25mph
Kinesis 21/22
Cannondale 18/19
Dolan 18/19 just!

The difference between my Cervelo, which today would be £5000+ and the Dolan is significant.

While I agree in motorsports one can buy speed I don't believe this is true in cycling. However I believe the better the bike the more of the rider's ability is transmitted in to speed and performance.


Über Member
In terms of performance, once the engine is taken out of the equation (or given the same engine for all bikes), I dare say there's not much between really expensive and cheap but decent. Weight factors in acceleration, deceleration and climbing. Otherwise, inefficiencies will come from wheel/tyres/hubs, drivetrain (including gear changing), frame flex and wind-resistance (I think that just about covers anything significant). Talking specifically about the difference a groupset will make, then it comes down to drivetrain efficiency, I reckon. Assuming all bikes are well-maintained, correctly set-up and the pilot is good at making gear changes with minimum loss of momentum and maximising engine efficiency, then it really is down to how much energy is lost between the feet and the cassette. I'm sure there have been studies and stats gathered on this but I don't know of them but I dare say it's not going to be startling between Claris and Dura Ace/Ultegra.

The real test would be for a racing cyclist to use a cheap and an expensive bike on the same route(s) several times (to try to balance out any other influencing factors) and see the difference.

If the cyclist is not a racer (actual or wannabee - where small gains can be critical), then I would argue that the differences in terms of efficiency/performance between groupsets is small enough to not carry much relevance and other factors should take more consideration, like gear ratios (e.g. I dare say a lot of people would get more benefit out of a 25" over a 35" gear than a 129" over a 120" gear) and tyres (in respect of rolling resistance, comfort and suitability for riding conditions). The benefit of aerodynamics only really kick in at higher speeds - so unless you're a fast cyclist or pedal against a lot of strong headwinds, spending extra on aerodynamic components won't make a big difference. Weight might make a difference if you're doing a lot of climbing or can't maintain a constant speed but saving weight can get very expensive, especially the lighter you go. imho most cheap but decent road bikes are already fairly light and a lot of non-racing cyclist are already fairly heavy 😉 - any weight reduction has to be looked at in terms of total weight of bike, rider and luggage.

I am a slow rider and definitely not into racing, chasing PBs or Strava records. In terms of my performance, I don't think switching to a carbon frame with Ultegra goupset would make any difference that would be important to me - but then again, my road bike is a steel touring bike with mudguards, front and rear racks, a 20.8" bottom gear and dynamo lighting.
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