The Best $500 Road Bike: Specialized Sirrus

Jul 6, 2012
Outside Magazine

Specialized Sirrus    Photo: Courtesy of Specialized

Like almost every road bike in this price range, the Sirrus ($500) is equipped with flat bars, thicker tires, and other commuter-oriented features. It might not look like the quintessential roadie, but that’s just the point: The upright fit helps ease newcomers into the sport comfortably, and the crossover orientation means the bike will be useful around town as well as on the open road.

Aimed at comfort first and speed second, the Sirrus’ extremely tall head tube put us in a vertical riding position reminiscent of a cruiser bike. It was perfectly comfortable and made for slow, steady steering, but the true roadies among us complained that the position created too much drag to keep up when riding in a group. Back in town, rack and fender mounts and extra wide tire clearance make this a seriously versatile ride.

At first we bristled at the flat bars, which are seemingly anathema to a quick road riding position, but after a few tests we realized our complaint is less with the bars than the incredibly long, tall (20-degree) stem. We’re all for comfort, but the combo of tall head tube and gargantuan stem steers the Sirrus out of the road realm into the full-on commuter zone. When we swapped in a shorter flatter stem, however, the bike piloted more like the road bike we expected. The shifting was okay, braking power was a bit sluggish, but both functioned reliably well. Ditto the 32mm tires. We wish more manufacturers would spec fatter tires on enthusiast level bikes because, as was the case here, the smooth ride far outweighed any arguments about added drag. 

Specialized bills the Sirrus as being as comfortable on the open pavement as it is in the city. That might be true of the more expensive models (the $2,100 top-end Limited gets a carbon frame and damping features borrowed from even pricier bikes), but the base Sirrus we tried is definitely best suited to townie riding. For around-town errands and even long commutes, it’s a solid bet as the rugged frame and beefy wheel set will stand up to abuse. And if you’re willing to tinker with parts (especially subbing in a stem), it can pull double duty on casual road rides with friends. In that sense, the Sirrus is a good, inexpensive everyday bike that allows those curious about road riding to give it a shot without committing to more than one bicycle.

Filed To: Road Bikes