Buying your first road bike can seem pretty daunting. The jargon, the technology, the specifications, the marketplace, there seems to be so many factors to consider. Where on earth do you start?
The first thing to remember is that we’ve all been there! Whilst some new cyclists have had the benefit of helpful advice from friends, family or clubmates, for many that may not be an option. So here’s a whistle stop tour of our top tips for buying your first road bike and some key considerations.
Where should you buy your bike from?
There are plenty of places you can buy a bike from. So let’s narrow it down for you:
- Online – there are hundreds of retailers and brands online. Whilst it’s great for researching bikes, it may not be the best option when buying your first bike. Nothing quite beats talking to a real human being for bespoke advice and the chance to test ride a bike before you buy it.
- Major retailer – major bricks and mortar retailers such as Evans or Halfords generally have plenty of stock and lots of different brands and sizes available. They have knowledgeable staff who can help advise you on the right bike for you in the right size within your budget. Many retailers also offer you the option to test ride the bike before you buy, in addition to a 6 week service to check all is well with your new steed.
- Local bike shop – often a very friendly environment with a more personalised service, local bike shops offer most of what the larger shops do. They may not have the same amount of stock and range of brands available to them, but this can also be a benefit as it helps narrow down your choice. The extra bonus is that they are local and we love supporting local businesses.
- Second hand – this can be a great option if you can find the right bike for the right price, but there are also risks involved. Look out for our blog post on buying a second hand bike next month for a more in depth look into this grey area. One major factor to bear in mind is that it’s very unlikely a second hand bike will come with a warranty. So unless you trust the bike seller, it’s often safer to buy from a retailer.
Our top tip is to do your research online first to understand what bikes might be available to you in your price range and then head to your nearest bike shop to browse, chat, test ride and hopefully buy!
What questions should you ask yourself first?
When you go into a bike shop it’s likely you’ll be asked a number of questions to help narrow down the options for you. Consider these ahead of time so you are well prepared:
- What type of road riding will you be doing? Racing bikes (built for speed) are very different to endurance bikes (built for comfort) for example. For first time road bike buyers, an endurance-style bike is most often recommended. Most riders are likely to be comfortable on this style of bike as they are designed for the masses and have a more relaxed riding position.
- How often do you ride? If you’re going to be riding regularly it’s worth investing a little bit more on your bike and its components to get good quality that will last.
- How long are your rides on average? If you’re going to be doing lots of long hours in the saddle, you definitely want to ensure you have a comfortable bike (such as an endurance style) and again opt for the best quality within your budget.
- Will you want to go adventuring on your bike? This is about comfort as well as practicality. Some bike materials are more durable and comfortable than others for example. There’s also the practicality of places to fix and mount bike packing equipment to consider.
- How much is your budget (see below)? The biggest and most important question! Research bike prices online to help inform your decision. Sticking to your budget can be hard when you’re standing in a bike shop in front of lots of beautiful, shiny new machines, but having a budget in mind will help shop staff steer you in the right direction.
How do I get a bike that’s the right size for me?
Road cycling is what’s known as a fixed-position sport. You may move around a bit on your bike, but generally you’ll ride with a set posture. The longer you spend on the bike the longer you spend in that same position.
Unlike when they were first invented, bikes these days are designed to be comfortable as long as you buy the right size for you. If you don’t, you may also be putting yourself at risk of injury so it’s critical to ensure the bike fits you correctly.
Sizing charts are generally available on bike manufacturers’ websites and there are bike sizing comparison sites too. But again these are often meaningless if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
This is where buying from a bike shop really comes into its own as they can advise you on sizing and you can also test ride the bike to check the size is comfortable.
Getting a bike fit is the best way to ensure the bike will fit you correctly. Many bike shops offer these with a specialist bike fitter for an additional cost. Although not essential, it can be a worthwhile investment if you’re planning on doing lots of miles in the saddle and also if you’re planning to spend a lot of money on the bike.
How much should I expect to spend on my first road bike?
How long is a piece of string?! But seriously, we advise you try and spend as much as you can afford, as you really will get what you pay for.
Road bikes come at a variety of different price points, with most falling in the £500 to £10,000 range, which is a massive spread. Some luxury road bikes can reach even loftier prices. However, there’s no need to spend every penny of your savings on a top end model. Many bikes around the £1,600-£2,000 price point share replica frames with those at higher prices in the same brand, albeit with lower spec components and materials. In theory, your ride experience won’t be too far away from that of a much more expensive bike.
It is definitely worth spending at least £500 on your first road bike, as anything under that really won’t be durable enough. The quality of its components will be lower and the bike itself will be very heavy and you’ll start to feel it on those hills! We appreciate that for new riders, £1,000 is a significant psychological hurdle, and typically the largest sum you might be willing to spend on your first proper road bike. But if you can stretch to it, or even slightly beyond there will be a much larger range of better quality bikes available to you.
The big brands such as Giant, Specialized, Trek, Scott and Cannondale all have entry level aluminium road bikes around the £1,000 mark. Smaller brands like Ribble, Boardman, Kinesis and Sonder also open up as an option to you. These all have very well-engineered, durable frames.
Expect most entry-level frames to be made from aluminium. A stiff, light material, it’s perfect for a first road bike. Other materials, such as carbon and titanium are also great options, but generally come at a much higher price.
Before you go…
There’s a lot more detail we could go into here on all of the above topics and more! We haven’t even talked about components, wheels or brakes, but we’ll quit whilst we’re ahead! We are trying to keep things simple after all.
There’s a tonne of information and reviews available online so do your homework then head to your local bike shop. Their staff are knowledgeable and love talking all things bikes so they will help you find the right bike for you. And if you can, don’t forget to talk to any cycling friends and fellow clubmates to get their recommendations.
Just remember a bike is an investment so it’s worth spending a little more on your first bike if you can. Plus if you look after your bike, it will last a long time and bring you so much joy!