So you are thinking about jumping in and buying a road bike. However, the industry is so saturated with different brands and components that it can be incredibly difficult for a newbie to find a great deal with a reliable bike.
This guide should clear everything up for you.
The very first thing to do is to work out a budget. Most entry level road bikes will start around $700, but in my experience you should want to spend a little extra money on a bike with components that will last longer. The lowest tear of road bikes usually have good frames but have cheap components.
2. Extra Costs
The bike is not the only thing you need to budget for. You will have to factor in the cost of: a helmet, gloves, apparel, and even things like road bike shoes and clipless pedals if you want those. Set aside around $150-$200 for these accessories.
You may also want to buy items such as a puncture repair kit, lights, lock, tire levers and a track pump to help keep your tires fully inflated (100psi for a regular 23mm road tire). Keeping $60-$80 in your pocket for these items would be prudent.
Although this won't be necessary right off the bat, riding a bicycle is not free. If you want your bike to last you are going to have to do regular maintenance on it to keep things running smoothly. Expect to have to pay for things like: new tubes and tires, a new chain, and maybe even tuning and deep cleaning.
5. Local Bike Shops
Sure, you could probably get a bike for a few hundred dollars less on the internet. Let's just forget about the fact that shipping a bike is risky and possibly unreliable.
Buying a bike from your local bike shop definitely saves you money in the long run. Warranty and after-sales service is something that is incredibly valuable. I have personally received hundreds of dollars worth of maintenance and repairs for free, simply because my loyalty to the shop has its perks.
Not only do you get the perks of local bike shop after-service repairs and maintenance and the safety net of warranty, you also get someone who is willing to listen and answer pretty much any question you throw at them.
6. Do Some Research
Before you step over the threshold of your bike shop though, make sure you have a firm idea of the extent of your budget. Keep in mind that most local shops will have deals on offer depending on the time of the year, and that they’re always keen to move last year’s stock. A great way to save a couple hundred bucks is to buy last year's model.
7. The Best Deals
Obviously the best deals to be had are found on the internet. However, if you are keen on going this route and not with a local bike shop then there are some things you should consider. First, be prepared to pay $50-$100 to get things sorted mechanically once the bike is shipped, and don't expect any free service from the bike shop.
There are some great sources to buy bikes that do offer warranty and are incredibly reliable, so this is really a matter of personal preference and budget. You can find deals easier online, but deals are out there in shops.
8. Buying from eBay and Craigslist
eBay and other auction sites are another obvious online option. However, if you are an inexperienced cyclist or a newbie then I do not recommend this option. I have personally found the most success with Craigslist. Living in an area with a high population of bicyclists means that many people bought a nice road bike and only road it a couple times. Usually you can find the best deals on here, and craiglist give you the ability to see the bike before actually buying.
9. Which frame material?
There are a lot of options: steel, aluminum, titanium, carbon. The material of the frame usually dictates the price of the bike.
Steel and aluminum are by for the cheapest. Steel is the most forgiving and the toughest, however, it is also the heaviest.
Aluminum is also a good choice as it is tough and light, but it has a rather short fatigue time.
Titanium is really a material you buy for life, as it will stand the test of time AND it is light, it cost an arm and a leg though.
Carbon fiber is the last option. Carbon is probably the most susceptible to cracking and breaking, and it is difficult to repair. Not to mention carbon bikes usually start around $1,500 and end up at $15,000, but it is light as a feather!
11. Extra Features
Such is the state of refinement and advanced technology in bikes today that virtually any widget or feature you could think of has been designed, tried, tested and put on the market, offering what amounts to an overflowing buffet of choice. These features include things like eyelets built in to mount panniers and mudguards.
12. Which gear system?
Internally geared hubs are bulletproof and require little maintenance. They’re available in various models with between three and 14 gears, but will add weight and cost to the bike. Derailleur gear systems are more widespread, offer up to 30 gears and are generally lighter – but because they’re more exposed to the elements, they require more frequent maintenance. With regular checks though, derailleurs are the way to go for easy riding.
14. Get The Size Right
Another deterrent to buying offline, you need to get a bike that is not too small and not too big. Bike shops will be able to measure you and match you with an appropriately sized bike. They will also adjust saddle height, saddle position, stem position, and even cleat position to ensure that you are properly fitted to the bike.
Bike fit is incredibly important. Not only does it allow you to transfer the most power to the pedals, it keeps you in a position that will not cause pain in your joints.
15. Go For A Test Ride
A test ride will help you to determine if your position on the bike of your choice is going to be comfortable or not, and experienced shop staff are trained to help you achieve this correctly.
16. Want a bargain? Wait for winter.
If you're after a bargain and are not in any particular rush to get your new bike, then it can be worth waiting a few months towards the end of the year when many companies will slowly reduce the prices of that season's bikes.