The Top Low-Budget Road Bikes

Are you ready to become a “Roadie”?

Ok, so maybe you won’t be shaving your legs like the pros do, but you can still take advantage of the improved heart health, lowered joint pain, and weight loss benefits that come with riding a bike.

man and lady riding affordable bikes together

Whether you are returning to the sport or getting into it for the first time, there are some affordable options that can get you started riding this week. Even better, you can have the confidence that you are buying a bike that will last.

Click Here For My Top Road Bike Pick (#6 Below)

What could you do with twice the energy?

You are about to find out.

Which Budget Road Bike Is Best For You? (Quick Compare)

Road Bike:Gears:Shifting:
Tommaso Monza Road Bike2 x 10 (20 Speed)Integrated
Tommaso Tiempo Road Bike2 x 9 (18 Speed)Integrated
DiamondBack Century 700c Road Bike2 x 8 (16 Speed)Integrated
SE Bikes "Royal 16"2 x 8 (16 Speed)Integrated
Giordano Libero 1.6 700C2 x 8 (16 Speed)Integrated
Vilano Shadow Bicycle2 x 7 (14 Speed)Integrated
Raleigh Cadent Flat Handlebar Road Bike3 x 7 (21 Speed)Thumb-Shifter
Vilano 21-Speed Road Bike3 x 7 (21 Speed)Thumb-Shifter
Schwinn Prelude Road Bike2 x 7 (14 Speed)Thumb-Shifter
Merax Finnis 21 Speed 700c3 x 7 (21 Speed)Thumb-Shifter
If you purchase a lower quality bike than what is on this list, you risk getting a road bike that isn't reliable. Conversely, if your budget is much higher than this list, you might consider stopping by your local bike shop where you can get better service. Don't forget to read our sizing tips to get the right fit!

Where To Buy Affordable Road Bikes Online

image of cyclist demonstrating you can purchase cheap bikes online without getting swindled. I hear you. You see someone ride by (or your doc suggests that you need to be more active) and you stop by your local bike shop.
Their cheapest one is $850 (or somewhere around there!)

Ouch.

Now, those bikes are worth every penny.  They are going to last for decades.

But, right now, you aren’t sure that you will still be riding 2 months from now.

I got into road riding as a teenager. My brother and I shopped online for hours before we found our first road bikes.

We loved them, riding 30 miles or more every morning.

Studs.

Over time, we shelled out for nicer ones. But, by then we knew what we wanted. And, we had abused those poor “starter” bikes with our poor shifting and chain maintenance  (learning curve!).  Our next bikes received much better treatment.

I know what it is to shop with a limited budget. But I don’t want you to buy the first inexpensive bike you see.

I want you to get a one that is not only in your budget —  but that is also one that you will love riding.

See Also: If you think you might be serious about your riding, you might want to read my Best Road Bikes For Beginners article.

For this review,  I go over some of the cheapest road bikes available.  I explain the difference between each one, so you can spend your money on those elements that are most important to you.  And, I also touch on the importance of fit and give you some sizing guidelines to go on to make sure you get a correctly-sized bicycle.

In comparison to Mountain and hybrid bikes, these cost a lot more. And the question often comes up: “Why?”

There are two driving forces:

  1. Weight/Strength: You want these bikes to be light and fast. When you make something light, that tends to make it weak. So the trick here is that it has to be lightweight and strong. And then, to make things fun, we are going to demand that they also make them budget-friendly. You know, because we like to do the impossible over here.
  2. Cool Tech: Cycling is a world of millimeters. A little twist, and suddenly the brake or shifting doesn’t work. It takes real engineering to get all of those tolerances dialed in. Additionally, the STI (Shimano Total Integrated) brake/shifter combos contain dozens of tiny parts that must work properly together. It’s not unlike buying a high-end mechanical Swiss watch.

To help you stay on-budget, check out these reviews of low-cost bicycles below.

1. Tommaso Monza Road Bike: A Little-Known Brand Delivers Value…

Black Tommaso Monza With Tiagra

At the top of my list is a little-known brand. You aren’t going to find these in WalMart. And few local bike shops might carry them.

All of this spells opportunity for you.

By selling it online, there are much lower overheads. And instead of spending millions on advertising, Tommaso can reinvest that money into getting you more results.

Even better, they don’t do “yearly”  models like cars and other bike brands do. This lack of year designation allows them to make model changes whenever they make sense. Shimano has created a new shifter? HED has new wheels? If it makes sense for the consumer, Tommaso can have it incorporated on the bikes in as little as 8 weeks.

This means you can get the best bike on the market, no matter when you buy.

(We try to review their line and update these reviews every quarter to make sure we haven’t missed any important changes. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you see something big that we missed. )

What really excites me about the Monza is the Shimano Tiagra setup. When I was just getting started in the sport, Tiagra was a 9-speed system and the pros used an expensive 10-speed system.

Now, we’re seeing 10-speed being offered on an affordably priced model. And that excites me.

It’s actually difficult to find a budget-friendly bike with Tiagra on it, unless it has been severely discounted. Most of the competition is looking to maximize their profits and cut costs.

Making this ride even more of a rarity.

What does that mean for you? Reliable, crisp shifting. The integrated shifters means your hands never have to leave the brakes, even when you are shifting. It’s a setup that leaves you feeling like you are driving a spaceship.

But they didn’t stop there. The entire groupset is Tiagra. This means the front chainrings, the rear derailleur… all of it.

Most of the competition is mix and matching and throwing some Full-Speed-Ahead or other third-party brand.

When you spend the money to go “full gruppo” (as we call it in the industry), you get a setup that last longer and gives you fewer problems.

The Compact frame uses Small/Medium/Large sizing configuration. I find compact to be very comfortable to ride. Plus, each size fits a wider range of heights, which means that it is easier to find a buyer if you ever choose to resell the bike.

And the carbon fiber fork is going to give you that buttery ride you’ve been missing

I realize that if this is your first time shopping the road bike market, the price might scare you. Don’t worry, we have some real wallet-friendly rides coming up.

But this bike offers an unfair advantage.

If you are serious about getting into the sport, this is the ride that demands respect and pleads with you to ride.

Some Suggested Sizing

XS = 5’2″-5’5″
S = 5’4″-5’8″
M = 5’9″ – 5’10”
L = 5’11” – 6’1″
XL = 6’2″” – 6’4″

Click Here To See The Tommaso Monza On Amazon

2. Tomasso Forcella Road Bike

forcella in white

Two steps beneath the top is the Monza’s brother, the Forcella
There are a lot of people that tell new riders “You must get a bike with 10-speeds in the back”.  I understand why they say this. First of all, a 10-speed cassette (rear shifting cogs) shifts much more smoothly than the 8- and 9-speeds. And, you can upgrade them to higher quality parts with minimal costs since the highest end parts are interchangeable with 10-speeds.

And that is why you spend extra for the Monza.

It’s worth the investment. I keep watching folks fight with their Denali’s or whatever they bought online and give up on the sport because their bike sucks.

Based on my experience with the Schwinn and the Vilanos I review below, those bikes will definitely hold up to normal riding and help new folks get into a sport they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

But the Tommasso  brand is everything you could ever want.

And this Forcella expands their brand to more users.

The Forcella is a solid entry-level setup. It’s the kind of bike that you get as a college commuter and spend the next 10 years riding it every weekend. It’s designed for the athlete who wants a machine they can cross-train on.

Accordingly, it offers reinforced components and solid construction that can respond to your efforts. (Best bike for Crossfitter? Probably. Y’all are hard on stuff.)

For the newbie rider, it is a bike that will leave you hankering to ride every chance you get.

The frame is the 6061 Aluminum. This Aluminum mixture is known for being more comfortable than a lot of the other blends while staying lightweight. The frame is well-designed, with eye-catching lines that will have the rest of your local cycling club wanting to know what kind of bike you have and where you got it.

It’s also super lightweight, which gives an advantage to even the fattest rookie. (Yes, I just said the “F” word. We know who we are.)

The Carbon fiber fork is essential. Carbon fiber helps cancel out vibrations, which makes those all-day charity rides more comfortable. (I’ve tried it both ways, I definitely prefer a carbon fork.)

But what really excites me is the Full-Claris drivetrain.  The Claris is a solid shifter that has been on the market almost as long as I’ve been riding. I know and trust this shifter. This machine uses Shimano branded components all across the drivetrain, which translates into great consistency and reliability in its performance.

And, in classic Tommaso style, this machine uses Shimano-branded components all across the drivetrain. None of those mix and match games like their competitor’s play.(imagine a car manufacturer that mixes OEM with an aftermarket part. That is how most of the competition operates. This one only uses “OEM” components.)

This typically translates into greater consistency and reliability in its shifting performance and helps you avoid compatibility headaches between brands.

Whether you are still looking to complete your first century or want a daily cruiser, the Tommaso Forcella is an excellent choice — and one that most internet shoppers will miss,

There are a lot of sizing options available for this bike.    They seem to include really long stems and that makes the bike fit a little more challenging. You might end up doing some stem swaps to get it dialed in. But ride it as is for a few weeks and see what you think.

That said, it’s only expected to swap out stems and saddles and pedals as you progress to customize the bike and create the comfort you are looking for.

Just don’t tell everyone how little you paid for it…

Some Suggested Sizing

XS = 5’2″-5’5″
S = 5’4″-5’8″
M = 5’9″ – 5’10”
L = 5’11” – 6’1″
XL = 6’2″” – 6’4″

Click Here To Look At The Tommasso Forcella

3. Diamondback Century Road Bike

In years past, you could get insanely good deals on Diamondbacks, and their road bicycles have always had a spot somewhere on my list. At one point, they actually held 2 of the top spots.

However, as their brand becomes more recognizable (they are sponsoring the Optum road racing team this year), it is harder to find those close-out deals I was able to bring you guys in years past.

(And, it seems like their bikes are always running out of stock. grr.)

It doesn’t change the fact that these bikes are are some of the best value in the game.

Take this ride, for instance. You have a solid Aluminum 7005 frame — one of my favorites for how stiff and responsive it is. You feel like you driving a race car on one of these machines.

The Shimano Claris shifting system is a well-proven system that delivers consistent shifting. The 50/34 compact crank means that you have perfect gearing for climbing any hill — with the high ends you need to race down the other side like a maniac.

The double-walled wheels are peace of mind for those of us who are scared to get on a scale (yes, these rims will hold you.) and the steel fork helps absorb the road vibrations.

Compared to the models above, this one still has room for improvement.  You will still notice an improvement in ride quality and shift dependability by stepping into one of the Tomassos.

However, it is a vast improvement above the Giordano listed below. With this one, you are stepping up into an entirely new class. It’s analogous to the difference between turboprop and jet aircraft. The turboprop (those bikes I review next) will get you to your destination, but this bike and the ones above it will do it in such a manner that you never want to go back to the old way.

In all, it is the perfect choice for a beginning cyclist.  If you expect to be serious about riding, I will encourage you to step up to this model.

Click Here To See The Diamondback Sports Complete On Amazon

4. SE Bikes “Royal”

Available in grey or red. Gray color shown.

My first introduction to the SE Bikes brand was my neighbor’s BMX.

I was just getting home when I saw some kids come down the steps from my neighbor’s house and start skating away on a bike and a longboard.

…except the “skateboarder” kept falling off.

I went and checked with the house they had left. And wouldn’t you know, these kids had stolen his hard-earned SE branded BMX.

It’s no wonder. Looking at this Royal, I can see why people want to steal it.

I know that I have my “top choice” listed above, but if there was a “best value” pick, I think it would be this one.

Most of my readers are only planning on riding 2 or 3 times per week, right? So you want one that fits you well, rides smoothly, is capable of doing the occasional 100-mile ride, but mostly just needs to be able to get you down the local path or lets you hang with the local bike club on their nightly rides.

That is this bike.

You could likely buy two of these bikes for the price of one similar ride at your local bike shop. 

The frame is a pretty straight-forward aluminum setup. Surprisingly enough, the front fork is Carbon fiber. It may be the first time I’ve seen a carbon fork on a machine in this category. Thanks to all of the resin in carbon fiber, these forks are excellent at absorbing road chatter.


Royal 16 Vs. Royal 14: You may see both bikes and be curious about the difference. In simple terms, the Royal 14 is a 7 speed in the rear and a 2 speed in the front (“7-by-2”), while the Royal 16 has an 8 speed in the rear.

And that is an important distinction.

However, the more important distinction is that the Royal 16 has better shift levers and a “cassette” hub drive system on the rear wheel. This is more durable than the “freewheel” hubdrive that the Royal 14 uses.

I know I’m getting technical, but it’s a durability distinction that is worth making. Especially if you plan on doing a few long rides.


The shifters are one of my favorites. Labeled as the Shimano 2300’s, it is a system where the front lever shifts your gears one way and works as a brake (you can actually do both at the same time with some practice). The second shifter rides high on the inside and is super convenient for shifting with your thumb.

A super easy, high-quality system. Provided you don’t wreck, these shifters are apt to last you for thousands and thousands of miles.

This ine will be a little heavier than some of the nicer ones on this thread. I’m guessing about a 2-4 pound difference. But when it comes to keeping up with all of the other bikes on the road, I think you will find the difference to be quite negligible.

We do have some challenges with finding this bicycle in stock. So if one is available in your size, pick it up, ASAP.

Click Here For The SE Bikes Royal

5. Giordana Libero 1.6 Road Bike

black and red giordano

See that line above?

We’re drawing a line with this bike.

This is the level where the budget is starting to interfere with our ride quality. (That’s more honesty than you’ll find from any other bike blog. I guarantee it.)

This one (and all of the ones underneath it) are going to be good “starter” bikes.

And you’ll put more miles on them than I, in all of my cycling snobbery, could have ever imagined.

But those of you who get addicted to the sport will eventually want to upgrade.

For those of us working with a tight wallet, I think this bike is the best one on our list.

The Giordano has a fancy Italian name but is made by Kent, another common bicycle manufacturer.

I get a kick our of how many blogs praise this bicycle. One blog even says it’s good for racing. I mean, really dude? Have you EVER raced? That’s just a cruel trick to play on someone. “Here, race this!”. Gosh.

It’s clear that they are getting a commission. Simmer down, guys! (Yes, I get a commission, too.)

Here’s the whole deal: This one is heavy. It shifts decently. It will get you riding, but you’d be insane to do a century ride on it.

If you do pick up this bicycle, it might be fun to upgrade the wheels down the road. I can’t figure out if these wheels are double-walled. If not, this bike won’t be a good choice for those of us over 300 pounds (and those of us over 200 need to be cautious going over hard bumps). But you could spend $200 on wheels down the road and really transform the ride quality.

I’d also install better brakes.

At that point, I think you’d have a pretty decent ride.

I’m primarily ranking it higher than the Vilano because of the Shimano Claris shifters. It is a good shifter setup. I also appreciate their sizing options. Fit is everything, and Giordano steps up to the plate with a size for everyone.

If this is the top of your budget range, then, by all means, get this and ride the wheels off of it! You’ll be able to enjoy the camaraderie and freedom of this sport and be “one of us”.

Some Sizing Suggestions:

XS = 5’2″-5’5″
S = 5’4″-5’6″
M = 5’7″ – 5’10”
L = 5’9″ – 6’1″
XL = 6’2″” – 6’4″

Click Here To Check Pricing On The Giordano Libero

 

6. Vilano Shadow 700c Road Bike


You’ll see several Vilano’s on this list.  The company has very smartly designed all of their frames identically so that they can mass-produce an affordable frame, and then just add different components to match whatever price point you are shooting for.

Think of it like “Legos”.

This is the last model we are reviewing that has the one major component all  “real” road bikes have: STI Shifters.

STI Shifters are, well, the neatest thing since sliced bread.

Granted, cycling survived for 2 centuries without ’em.

But now, I don’t know what we’d do.  You see, these shifters are fully integrated into the brake levers.  This means that your brakes can also shift.

Practically speaking,  it means that your hands never have to leave your brakes. For safety reasons, this is ideal.

And it’s a lot of fun — like driving a space ship.

However, these shifters are not cheap.  There’s a lot going on and a lot of engineering required to make ’em work. And you’ve got to pay more for them. But they are worth it, not only in ease of use, but also in resale value.

Everything else on this bike is pretty much identical to the 21 speed Vilano we review below.

The STI shifters are worth the money for the upgrade and the double-walled wheels add the strength you need to trust this bike on long rides (or if you are overweight, like me!)

Suggested Sizing Chart:

Frame Sizes:
Small = 5’2″ – 5’4″
Medium = 5’5″ – 5’10”
Large = 5’11” – 6’1

Click Here To See The Vilano Shadow On Amazon

7.Raleigh Cadent 1 Flat Handlebar Road Bike

Raleigh Cadent 1

Every other bike on this page has the “ram’s horn” curved road bike handlebars.

There are a few reasons why we cyclists prefer this style of handlebar, not the least being it allows us to get low and avoid excessive wind resistance.

However, the integrated shifters (brake/shifter combo) common for this type of handlebar do a lot to drive the price up.

As you go further down on my list, I have a couple of bicycles that do not have the integrated shifters. They are great bikes, and will serve you well.

But I also wanted to introduce the concept of a “flat-handlebar road bike”. This hybrid is a favorite among fitness professionals, cross trainers and commuters. It is a lightweight machine that is nimble and fun to ride.

It is also designed to go the distance. If you suddenly decide to train for a triathlon or want to complete a century, you’ll have no problems doing so on this bike.

The Raleigh is a name we’ve known for decades, and you’ll appreciate the care this brand puts into their machinery. Their advertising isn’t as robust, so unless you have someone inside the industry finding these deals, you might not run across it. But my first road bike was a Raleigh, as was my dad’s. I’m glad to have them on this list.

This model is no-frills. Twenty-one speeds of solid drivetrain are designed to handle any amount of riding and gives you the confidence that you will have the gear for any hill. The wheels are double-walled (reinforced), so even if you are a heavier rider, you don’t have to worry about the rim bending on you.

If I had a family member who was thinking about getting into riding but wasn’t sure how much riding they were going to do, this is the bike I would recommend. It will handle 200 miles a week, and it isn’t so expensive that it will make you feel guilty if you have a week that is too busy to let you ride.

They also seem to have a reliable customer service team, so if you have any warranty issues, you should be able to get it resolved pretty easily.

Click To See The Raleigh Cadent 1 

 

8. Vilano 21-speed Road Bike

image of black vilano 21speed
What should an affordable, entry-level road bike look like?  If you are asking me, I’d say this is it. If I were to try to design one for first-time riders and college students, I think this model is what I would design.

      • Lightweight.
      • Strong.
      • Wide selection of sizes.

The 6061 aluminum frame is a better frame then you typically find at this price point. 6061 aluminum is a blend that is used on many $1,500 bikes. It’s is lightweight, yet strong. Including it on this bike — at this price point — is a refreshing change.

The Shimano, A050 trigger shifters are a good way to provide sound shifting without costing too much. This is the first bike we’ve reviewed that has non-integrated church shifters.

It’s a much less expensive shifter than you find on more expensive road models — but they will get the job done and I’ve seen similar shifters survive 5+ years of heavy riding with minimal maintenance.

As a bonus, you get an extra,  “super-low” gear that gives you options if you are scared of big hills (who isn’t?)  — a favorite among new riders.

Altogether, this bicycle only weighs around 25 pounds, which is another advantage for hill-climbing.

Triathlon. Commuter. Fitness. Whatever your goal, this bike will do it. And with a price this low, your budget should do it, too.

Suggested Sizing Chart:

Frame Sizes:
50 cm = 5’2″ – 5’4″
54 cm = 5’5″ – 5’10”
58 cm = 5’11” – 6’1

Click To See The Vilano 21-Speed On Amazon

 

9. Schwinn Prelude Road Bike

white Schwinn Prelude
This bike has improved so much since I started keeping this list 3 years ago.

For 2014, I’m excited to put the Schwinn Prelude in this spot.  I mean, everyone knows the Schwinn brand.  You’ve probably even owned a Schwinn before.

Now, the downside to Schwinn is that the brand has been sold several times in the last few years, and is nowhere near the same company it was decades ago. The bikes it produces today are definitely at a lower price point, and if you are unlucky enough to buy one at Wal-Mart, it is Schwinn in emblem only.

That said, they make a pretty good introductory model for a stellar price.

As one of the only road bicycles available this cheaply, the Prelude is a solid machine that fills a vital niche.

I’m actually impressed that they can offer this quality at this price level.

With this set up you have what you need to get you riding.  With this bicycle, I would expect that you would be able to train all summer and complete your first century.  You’d probably need to visit your local shop 4-5 times to get the wheels re-trued, and you’ll want to upgrade the saddle, but you could do it.

And the next year, you’d want to upgrade to a better, lighter ride. (This one is 30 pounds) After awhile you get tired of being the last person over every hill.

The big downside of this machine is that it is only produced in one frame size.  It is ONLY going to fit riders in the 5’6″ – 5’10” range. If you are much larger or smaller than the one size that they make, you’ll be dealing with knee injuries, back pain, and numb fingers anytime you try to do any distance.

It just isn’t worth the pain. Get a ride that fits.

I’ve suffered through enough heavy bikes. I am convinced that the enjoyability factor and incentive to keep riding is higher on a lightweight bicycle. If you can afford a lighter option, do it.

If it fits you, and your budget is tight, this is an excellent choice for getting you riding.

Click To See The Schwinn Prelude On Amazon

10. Merax Finiss 21 Speed 700c Road Bike

image of Merax Finiss 21-speed

I’m including this bike on my list more as an example of what NOT to buy.

When I was reviewing the other bloggers, I noticed that most of them had listed this bike near the top of their list.

You don’t have to hang around my blog for very long before you run into my concerns with the GMC Denali. It’s a heavy bike that isn’t built for serious working out. I’ve never seen one last for very long without needing constant repairs. Most beginners just get frustrated and give up.

From what I’ve seen, the Merax Finnis is not even as well built as the GMC Denali.

Sure, if you are only going to ride once a week, you’ll probably be ok. But if you plan on getting serious about working out and getting in shape, you need a bike that can handle those 2 or 3 times per week workouts without needing you to run new shift cables every other week.

You need one where the wheels aren’t going to bend every time it sees a pebble.

You need one that isn’t excessively heavy when climbing hills.

You need one  that isn’t going to be losing crank arms during one of its first rides.

Bottom line is that when you can get the Vilano 21-speed Shadow, why would you waste the time and headache with this bike?

My professional recommendation is that if you plan on riding more than once per week, you really should go with one of the machines higher up on my list.

 

How To  Assemble Your New Bicycle

These ship partially-assembled in boxes.

The challenge with assembly is that everything is cable activated.  And these cables need to be tightened (or loosened!) to the correct tension in order for the bike to shift and brake properly.

Additionally, the wheels may need a little “true-ing” and straightening.

Outside of the cables, the bike should be fairly intuitive to put together.  So it’s worth giving it a try.

Use Youtube videos to learn anything you don’t know.

If you do everything but the brakes and shift cables, your shop should be able to do those for about $40.

However, the shift cables do stretch a decent amount over their first 100 miles of riding, or so.  You may find that they need even more tweaking after you’ve ridden it awhile.

And that can be another $20-$40 to get those adjusted again.

So, just keep these costs in mind, and maybe call your local bike shop to double-check the costs in your area. You may find yourself paying $40-$140 for assembly and maintenance the first month.

After that, though, it really evens out.

Note: I recently had a reader write me, quite upset that they were unable to assemble their bike and had to take it to their shop. There is nothing wrong with enlisting the help of your shop. In fact, you should budget for it. Your local shop is a great source of information, and it will only help you if they stay in business!!

Insider Buyer’s Guide To Cheap Road Bikes

Even a cheap road bicycle is a large outlay of funds.

Online shopping becomes exceptionally dangerous for someone who has never seen these bikes up close. At a glance, what is the difference between a Pinarello and a GMC Denali.

Can you tell why one is better than the other just from looking at them?

It gets even more challenging when you are comparing the GMC Denali and something like the Schwinn Phocus. There really isn’t much difference even on paper. I end up having to rely on my real-world experience to suggest one over the other.

But then, for all you know, I could be a cat that knows how to type and this blog is my master plan to take over the world by giving everyone sore butts.

You just never know.

So let’s a take a second and dive in deeper. Let’s give you a deeper understanding.

In general, the more you spend, the better the components are going to be. Some people think that more money equals a lighter bike, but that isn’t always necessarily so. Up to about the 22-24 pound range, you’ll notice that more money makes a difference. Much beyond that, and you are probably better off playing the weight weenie game of buying the lightest parts. (There is an entire world of people trying to build the lightest bikes they can).

Personally, my main machine has 6-year-old Dura Ace on it. I love the way Dura Ace shifts. I probably am a couple pounds heavier than if I had spent my money on an Ultegra shifting system and chased lighter wheels. But for me, the butter-smooth shifting was something that I’m addicted to.

For commuting, we are seeing a lot of people focus on simplicity. Single Speed bikes are virtually maintenance free and don’t cost as much to replace if they are stolen. Plus, you can get a super-lightweight bike that is pure fun for getting around town on.

Which leads us to the next section: where and how do you plan on riding your bike?

What To Look For

When customers come into the shop, I ask them a few discovery questions:

  • where will you be riding
  • How many times a week do you see yourself getting this bicycle out?
  • who do you see yourself riding with?
  • what kind of bikes do your friends have?
  • where do they ride?
  • are you trying to achieve certain fitness goals?
  • do you have any limiting injuries?

This type of discovery helps you dig deeper into their own interest in the sport and help them narrow down on the best ride for them.

For all of my readers who want trouble-free riding, I would recommend that they purchase a bike that is of the SE BIKES Royal quality or better.

But sometimes the budget doesn’t allow for that. And so, get the ride you can afford and upgrade later. That is always an option.

Frame And Fork

This is where bike manufacturers try to innovate. And, especially with some of the high-end carbon fiber stuff, we are seeing some incredible innovations happening.

On the Aluminum frames, you either have the popular 6061 frame. This seems to be the way most of the companies go as it has a lot of flex and is a comfortable, lightweight metal.

The 7005 is favored by the Diamondback brand. I feel like it delivers a more explosive ride that is slightly less comfortable. Frankly, I don;t think most of us will notice the comfort difference between the two.

Steel is another popular material. Back in the day, you could find some nice Chromoly steel frames that road like butter. Now, most of the steel frames are just heavy and slow. I’d stay away from a steel bike unless you were able to spend closer to $1,000 in order to buy one that is a more comfortable, yet lightweight, ride. The Raleigh Tamland is a good example of this.

Carbon fiber helps deliver a more comfortable ride as it combines the resins and the fibers to absorb road vibrations without too much weight. However, I’ve been seeing some insanely cheap rides ($400-ish) range that claim to be Carbon Fiber. I don’t know exactly what they are getting at, but every one of these rides looks extremely suspect to me. Stick with the Aluminum rides.

However, Carbon fiber on the front fork is very common for creating a more comfortable ride for the upper body where your arms and hands are apt to tire from too many vibrations.

In summary, When you can afford it, Carbon delivers the best ride. Aluminum is an excellent half-way point between the ride quality of steel and the lightness of carbon. Chromoly Steel also delivers a smooth ride, but it is heavy. Cheap steel bikes are so heavy that it cancels out any ride quality

Wheels

The most important things you need to look for are double-walled wheels with a high spoke count. 

Instead, what you are going to find are manufacturers trying to sell you “Aero” wheels with “bladed” spokes.

This often code for “we were too cheap to make a good wheel so we made an awesome-sounding wheel instead.

The wheel is the weakest point of the bike. I’ve bent $600 wheels before. You hit something wrong — even a curb – and the next thing you know you’ve “taco’d” your wheel.

This becomes especially important for those of us over 200 pounds.

When you get a double-walled rim, it has two layers of metal, making it more forgiving to those impacts.

Still, ride smart and try to lift up the front of the bike when going over bumps. My personal methodology is to stand up, lift up the front of the bike, to take pressure off the front wheel, and then to lean forward to keep the weight off the back wheel. It is an easy, natural, body motion that works well for protecting the wheels.

Keeping your butt on the seat when you go over a bump means the full weight of your body is on that rear wheel. Havoc ensues.

Shifters and Brakes

This is where most of your money is going. Shimano is one of the biggest brands and has several has several levels that you will find when shopping.

Here they are, arranged from best to worst:

  1. Dura Ace
  2. Ultegra
  3. 105
  4. Tiagra
  5. Sora
  6. Claris
  7. Tourney

There is a significant jump in quality from Claris to Tourney. Claris is way better in my opinion. And then again sora and Tiagra are pretty similar but there is a significant jump to 105.

A lot of times these parts will be mixed-and-matched. I buy them based on the shifters. The derailleurs — the pieces that actually move the chain around — are relatively inexpensive to upgrade. But your shifters can be a limiting factor.

I’ve probably replaced more Tourney shifters than any other model. But they are also the most commonly sold model.  And they are super-affordable to replace.

Beyond that, all of the shifters are great. As long as you keep them adjusted, they all work well and last a long time. Claris seems to be the new affordable favorite for beginners who are doing their first century. They hold up well.  Ultegra and Dura Ace are the favorites of racers. The added money buys these guys faster shifting. Most of us don’t need race-car level shifting. You won’t miss the difference. but you’ll appreciate the cash savings of a Claris, Sora or Tiagra shifting system.

Comfort

I say “comfort,” you say _____

For some, it is the saddle. For others, low back pain.

Proper comfort starts with proper fit. If you are wadded up on your bike, then there is no way that you are going to be comfortable. And the longer ride, the more uncomfortable you are going to become.

For a down-and-dirty test, sit on your bike with one leg fully extended on the pedal. When you place your heel on the pedal, it should just barely touch without you stretching. Adjust the seat height until your leg is fully extended when your heel is on the pedal.

And then, for the torso, place your hands on the “horns” of your bike above the brakes. From this position, when you look down, the handlebar should block the front hub.

I bought a new bike last year and thought I had it dialed in, but as my riding increased, so did my shoulder pain. I finally realized that my handlebars were 5 mm too close. I swapped out the stems and it was a perfect fit.

If you have old injuries (like Me!) fit becomes doubly important.

You can also pay your local shop a small fee to have them adjust the bike to you if you are uncomfortable.

As far as saddle-soreness… padded shorts can help, but you simply need to ride for awhile until your butt “toughens up”.

Warranties

For the longest time, the standard industry warranty has been a lifetime warranty on the frame and 1 year on all of the moving parts.

And that system has worked out extremely well, in my opinion. granted, when Carbon was first coming out, some of those bikes were given shorter warranties (I think there are a couple of companies that do 7-year frame warranties), but often those shorter warranty programs have a frame buy-back program to help sweeten the deal.

In this new era of the internet, all bets are off. Some of these companies are sticklers about you being the “original” owner of the bike. This gets sticky when you buy a new bike online. They may trace that serial number and see that they sold the bike to a local shop, who then sold it to a clearing house who then sold it to you.

In this case, the clearing house became the “original” buyer.

This is especially common when you see those extremely nice bikes marked down to super low dollar figures. “Oh, look! This $3,000 bike is only $899!!”. And then two years later you are in warranty hell over a frozen brake boss (eBay sellers are notorious for this).

The trick here is three-fold: 1) Buy from a dealer. Brands like Tommaso, Vilano, and Diamondback are approved to sell online without voiding their warranties. Brands like Trek, Giant, Cannondale, Specialized, Orbea, Kestrel and Cervelo (and others!) may not be. 2) Read the fine print. Just Google the phrase “brand+ warranty”. 3) when in doubt, call the brand.

Granted, warranty issues are rare. But if it is an expensive ride you are looking to buy, you want to cover your bases.

 

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TIP OF THE DAY: How NOT To Ride Your  Bicycle

 

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