Buying a Road Bike - Looking for Advice

  • Nonesuch

    Posts: 13

    Jul 01, 2013 7:50 PM GMT
    I've been thinking about getting into a real road bike for a while. I have enough income to buy something decent but don't want to overspend b/c I'm not sure how deep I'll get into it. Looking at endurance style frames over race. Should I really jump up to a carbon fiber over aluminum frame, 105 shifters over tiagra? From what I can see, those two elements push the price point quite a lot. I'm still in the process of looking at different brands and only tested a Felt z85 (aluminum)so far. It was nice, but didn't awe me.
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    Jul 02, 2013 1:00 AM GMT
    PM Paulflexes. He's the bike guru around here.
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    Jul 02, 2013 1:07 AM GMT
    What kind of roads will you be riding? Rough or smooth? Urban or rural?

    Aluminum is lighter than most steel, but transmits more road vibration and shock. Do you have a budget? A good carbon bike is gonna take you from near $2000 to over $12k. Shimano 105 is good, their DuraAce better. Bike manufacturers really make mainly the frame, almost everything else (rims, hubs, handlebars, brakes, gears, cranks, saddles, etc) come from component manufacturers.

    A big topic. I kinda favor the major makes, you can find lots of bike shops that handle them: Trek, Cannondale, Specialized. Giant has a following, but I have other issues with a Chinese bike, even though their prices are attractive.
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    Jul 02, 2013 1:29 AM GMT
    i'd love to buy a road bike myself but i can't afford it this year ( house renovations took precedence).
    but i know i will buy 105 on an aluminum frame. Best quality/cost compromise IMO. The brand is more or less important.
    I'd probably get a Argon18, DeVinci or Opus since they are Quebec brands. Guru would be nice but beyond my budget i guess.
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    Jul 02, 2013 2:53 AM GMT
    Well, you found the major price point cut-offs, so you at least have an understanding of where the trade-offs are. My general advice to anyone who is looking to get into cycling is to buy the bike you think you will want in a year if you decide to stick with it. Usually, this means a bump up by one upgrade either in frame construction or components. You'll be unhappy with a cheaper bike if you get into it than you will be with a better bike you can still afford that you occasionally ride (or can re-sell) if you don't.

    If you're looking for an endurance bike, then that tells me you are thinking comfort but with performance. If you go with aluminum, at least get a carbon fork to absorb some road shock. The best endurance bike in my opinion looks like the Trek Domane. It's all carbon and has a seat post that is decoupled from the frame with a rubber bushing around it to further absorb road shock. It's still light, with a slightly more upright geometry, and it can be upgraded to your delight. I haven't ridden one yet (but will in a couple weeks in France), but the people I know who have love them. The base model is also aluminum and in the same price range as the Felt you mentioned. Also check out the Specialized Roubaix.

    As far as 105 over Tiagra, I have Tiagra on my first road bike and it still works fine despite not taking good care of it like I do with my bikes now. The shifters did wear out before I bought my newer bike. My recommendation would be upgrade your frame and you can always swap out components later if they wear out or you decide you deserve better.

    Aluminum vs carbon? Carbon is definitely lighter and rides more smoothly. It's your wallet, so you'll have to decide whether the cost is worth it for you. Don't make the decision because you think carbon is inherently faster--when I ride my steel bike, I only slow down on climbs vs when I ride my carbon bike. I'm just as fast on flats and descents.

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    Jul 02, 2013 2:59 AM GMT
    105 is a good jump over tiagra.. The price difference in ultegra is not worth it at your point in cycling, IMO. My Trek is an aluminum mainframe with carbon fork, rear stay and seatpost. Still, really rough roads are just that. Plus, a new set of rims and the right tires can breath life into an older bike

    A good fit is really important in choosing your bike. All the little details like - the saddle position, the length of the top tube, the frame "size", the stem length, handlebar width, etc combine to make your ride more efficient and comfortable. Most manufacturers offer different frame designs for racing, touring or commuting.

    Read a bunch of blogs and search websites such as: bicycling.com, roadbikereview.com, coachlevi.com for info on bike fit, carbon vs aluminum and other topics. Be informed before you go to buy. And when you find your bike have fun! Join a local club to learn rider skills, go on group rides and make friends. It's the best!
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    Jul 02, 2013 3:28 AM GMT
    A good bike shop will have a measuring jig to get your personal dimensions. After riding road bikes for 50 years I know my size already, and can look at model spec sheets and know which bikes will fit me best. I prefer a longer wheelbase for stability and comfort, but need a fairly low standover height due to my short legs, among other measurement criteria.

    But newer riders should be measured. Some shops, however, charge quite a lot for this service, which they may apply to the bike you buy from them, above a certain selling cost.

    Bikes can be heavily discounted when dealers want to clear their inventory, but if it's already in the store it may not be the best fit for you. Your ideal bike may need to be ordered from the manufacturer with a delivery wait, while custom-made frames can be much too expensive, something you're unlikely to consider at present.

    So don't buy it just to get what appears to be a good deal, or because the dealer is pushing you into it. I'd be wary of a dealer who says merely adjusting the seat post will be all it takes to fit you to a bike - it's all about the frame, and that's fixed to certain dimensional sizes. Like a pair of shoes, a bike that doesn't fit you properly is a bad deal at any price.
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    Jul 02, 2013 3:36 AM GMT
    That's good advice from Art--I thought I got a good deal on my first road bike because it was in my budget and they lowered the price for me, but now I know it's way too small of a frame. It looks like I'm riding a kid's bike. I got the bike I'm on now in January when they were closing out the prior model year so it was deeply discounted. If you look around, you might still be able to find some 2012 frames on sale in your size.
  • Nonesuch

    Posts: 13

    Jul 02, 2013 3:40 AM GMT
    Thanks for all the terrific feedback. I originally thought around 1,500 which could get me on aluminum frame, carbon fork w/105 for most of the major brands. To go full carbon will bump up the price a few hundred w/tiagra. Seems like option #2 might be the way to go.I will mostly riding New England back-roads which can be rough & moderately hilly

    Erik911sd, great advice I'll definitely be testing the Domane and Roubaix. My closest lbs carries Trek and Specialized. Would love to hear your thoughts after you ride the Domane. I'm taking my time since end of season sales are around the bend and I'll be away for much of July.
  • Nonesuch

    Posts: 13

    Jul 02, 2013 3:47 AM GMT
    Totally agree that the frame is key. I tested several MTB's before I purchased. When I hopped on it, it just felt right. A very basic Gary Fischer Marlin.
  • Montague

    Posts: 5205

    Jul 02, 2013 3:49 AM GMT
    oh, I thought this was actually going to be a cool bike thread.. get a Ninja
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    Jul 02, 2013 7:03 AM GMT
    A good frame that fits right can last you a life time. Get some good test rides and decide what you really want. Components can always be upgraded down the road.
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    Jul 02, 2013 10:27 AM GMT
    Buy used. There are countless bike shops that sell used, hi-end equipment. You'll get far more for your money. The point has been made to buy the rig you'll want in a couple years. This is good advice. If you take to cycling and begin spooling up mileage you'll quickly become dissatisfied with low-end equipment. Of course, you'll need patience shopping for the used bike. My strongest bit of advice: get fit for your new ride. Find out the bike shop's reputation in this regard. A proper fitting bike is a key part of cycling enjoyment and performance.

    PS: don't underestimate wheels. Budget wheels common on bikes in the $1k/$1.5k price range do not perform well.
  • DanOmatic

    Posts: 1155

    Jul 02, 2013 11:32 AM GMT
    I've been a cyclist for nearly 30 years. Here is my basic advice:

    1. Buy new, and get fitted for your bike. This means that the bike tech takes a good long while with you getting your measurements--not just inseam and heel-to-pedal measurements, but also your torso and arm length, since these all factor in.

    2. Carbon or aluminum are personal preference. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Just do some comparisons in advance of the models you're considering. Lots of reviews are available online.

    3. I would not go anymore basic than 105. 105 gets the job done. Ultegra is tons better, though. No need to go DuraAce or top shelf SRAM unless you're going to be riding thousands of miles per year over the course of many years.

    4. You'll also need to think about pedals and shoes. Pedal systems are personal preference. I like the platform "LOOK" style pedals. Others like Speedplay or Shimano. You can get some decent basic bike shoes for under $100 if you bargain shop, but eventually you'll figure out which shoes are best for your needs.

    5. Of course, it goes without saying that you'll need a helmet. Count on spending at least $100. Also get some good bike shorts. I like bib shorts. With time you figure out what brands suit you best. Again, count on spending about $100.

    6. After you have had a chance to take your new bike out for a few rides, go back to your bike shop and have your bike tech make any adjustments, as shifter and brake cables stretch a bit. Also, he/she can fine tune your fit, moving your saddle forward/back or putting in spacers in the headset to ensure that you have a comfortable and efficient position on the bike.

    Minimum cost of bike: $1500 (aluminum/105) - $2500 (carbon/ultegra)
    Pedals: $150
    Helmet: $100
    Shoes: $100
    Shorts: $100


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    Jul 02, 2013 11:50 AM GMT
    Nonesuch saidTotally agree that the frame is key. I tested several MTB's before I purchased. When I hopped on it, it just felt right. A very basic Gary Fischer Marlin.
    It's been years since I owned a road bike; but I love my Trek Mamba MTB (Gary Fischer line, same frame as the Marlin). Although it's now highly modified with Mavic rims, tubeless tires, carbon stem, Crankbrothers 50/50 pedals, Sram cassette on the rear, and will soon be getting front and rear XT derailleurs and shifters...haven't decided on the bottom bracket and cranks yet, but those are getting replaced, too.
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    Jul 02, 2013 12:32 PM GMT
    If you're just getting into road biking, try craigslist in our town or city. There's no reason to spend thousands of dollars only to realize that road riding is not for you. Go to a bike shop, find what size bike would work, buy that size on craigslist or eBay and then bring the bike back to the shop you trust to get it tuned and fitted.
    After a year of riding and falling madly in love with road miles, then invest in a higher quality bike.
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    Jul 02, 2013 12:36 PM GMT
    Like berkco01 said, used can be a very good option. Just make sure you have a good idea of your size before you start shopping. You can generally tell from the condition of the bike if it has been taken care of. Check craigslist.

    I just sold my Litespeed that way- it was a great bike but it was just hanging on my wall for the last 2 years.

    If it is something you're really into I'd say go with a 105 grouppo minimum. Also don't overlook steel frames- a good steel frame(Bianchi, for example) doesn't weigh much more than aluminum and they ride very comfortably. The price of titanium has sky-rocketed lately, which is why I got a good $$ for my Litespeed even though it was an '05.
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    Jul 02, 2013 1:05 PM GMT
    I have a road bike and I love it... BUT, if I went back and did it again I'd probably do a few things differently I'd choose aluminium over carbon fibre because aluminium has a little more flex in its frame than a carbon fibre set up. After doing only 20km I just about have no butt left riding on the roads around Western Australia icon_sad.gif (I ended up fixing this with a different seat that had a taint hole and the seat is almost non existent, I don't know why it worked but it just did) I also would have waited a bit longer and got the felt F5 that I was looking at (though it was considerably dearer than my Orbea) I have 105 and it is entry level race set up. Are you buying a road bike to compete or just for your own fitness? If you're competing go with the 105 if not stick to tiagra. the next thing that is quite important are you rims, I did want mavic's but they are EXPENSIVE so I ended up with the Shimano rims that came with, they seem to be ok.

    You want something well made and smooth if you're going to do endurance. I have one of the last proper Spanish made Orbea's (they're now made in china and although Orbea tried to convince us all that the quality would still be great I just wasn't convinced having seen first hand factory workers in China) I tend to stay away from Trek a little, i feel that their quality too has tapered off along with Giant's over the years but I have a bike made friend that swears by Trek (I've yet to meet anyone who swears by Giant)

    I know this probably hasn't helped you, I suppose the best advice is take your time, try different frames and piss you bike guy off by making his life a living hell with finding the perfect adjustments when you do buy! THEN have fun dodging traffic! icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jul 02, 2013 2:04 PM GMT
    Some words about pedals:

    Don't be surprised if a better bike is delivered new without any pedals, and your first mandatory additional expense is buying a pedal and shoe set to get you out the door and riding. Although some bikes will be delivered with at least a set of platform "demo" or "test ride" pedals, made of plastic or cheap metal and meant to be discarded upon purchase.

    Pedal choice is personal enough that manufacturers leave that up to you, plus riders may already have an investment in a particular form of binding system with their existing shoes. But if you haven't used clipless pedals before, on a brand-new type of bike with which you have little experience, you may be taking on too much all at once. You should spend time out of traffic learning how to release and engage your shoes until it becomes second nature, otherwise you're a disaster waiting to happen.

    Being "old school" since 1962 I learned on toe-clip pedals, which are platform pedals with a cage or "clip" and often a tightening strap to hold the outside of the shoe. Hence the name "clipless" for the modern system using attachment cleats on the shoe bottoms, which themselves seem to clip into place, and cause some confusion over the term.

    I use both types of pedals on my bike, having the proper tool to swap them for different riding. Around town and for short rides I use toe-clips, because they let me use almost any kind of footwear, even my moccasins. For longer rides I change to Shimano pedals with SPD binding, wearing Bontrager shoes (I often say boots) with Shimano SM-SH 156 M cleats. Those cleats give an easier release, too easy for more powerful riders than me.

    Even though these Bontragers are supposed to be friendlier for walking than some other racier models, they really aren't, and neither the metal cleats themselves nor someone's easily scratched floor surface will like you walking everywhere in them. That's why for daily use I use the toe-clip pedals. Clips may be your best choice for a first pedal, though they do take some practice like clipless, and are cheaper than having to get the cleated boots, as well.

    Here's a modern toe-clip pedal:

    file-144.jpg
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    Jul 02, 2013 9:46 PM GMT
    Unintended said
    From an engineering perspective, the frame, in most cases being a classic doubel-diamond design, contributes very little to flex and vibration transmission. In fact, most of a bike's "feel" come from the wheel set (rim, tire, tube and tire pressure).

    You might find some dispute with your frame statement. A frame like the Specialized Roubaix, carbon fibre with Zertz inserts in the fork and seat stays, is designed for controlled flex and vibration absorption. Because the frame does transmit vibration, and controlling that vibration can be designed into the frame.

    45702?$Grid$

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/road/roubaix/roubaixsl4procompact
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    Jul 03, 2013 1:59 AM GMT
    Another road bike accessory I recommend: a car bike rack. I like a rear bumper rack, rather than a roof rack, easier for me to mount the bike on it. And of course the natural choice for those with SUVs or pickups with a hitch is a rack that uses it, unless you're positive you'll always have room for your bike inside the vehicle.

    Uses for a rack include driving out to clear roads or paths, when your own immediate neighborhood is a biking nightmare. If it's dangerous to ride a bike from your front door, then don't - rack it to a safer and/or more scenic place.

    Another use is recovery if you have some mishap that strands you. Whenever I go out (usually from our front door in my case), I have the bike rack in the car trunk. If I get stranded I phone my husband, who'll drive the car over to me. I mount the rack, load the bike and home we go.

    Yet another rack use is my longer 1-way rides, like to Key West. Gotta get the bike home somehow. And finally, of course, is just getting my bike over to the dealer for some service when it stays there for a while.

    So for anyone considering serious road work with a bike, I believe a bike rack is an essential. And many good brands are out there. I have a Saris I like, but there's also Thule and Yakima, known for their ski racks and roof pods.
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    Jul 03, 2013 3:35 AM GMT
    ART_DECO saidAnother road bike accessory I recommend: a car bike rack. I like a rear bumper rack, rather than a roof rack, easier for me to mount the bike on it. And of course the natural choice for those with SUVs or pickups with a hitch is a rack that uses it, unless you're positive you'll always have room for your bike inside the vehicle.

    Uses for a rack include driving out to clear roads or paths, when your own immediate neighborhood is a biking nightmare. If it's dangerous to ride a bike from your front door, then don't - rack it to a safer and/or more scenic place.

    Another use is recovery if you have some mishap that strands you. Whenever I go out (usually from our front door in my case), I have the bike rack in the car trunk. If I get stranded I phone my husband, who'll drive the car over to me. I mount the rack, load the bike and home we go.

    Yet another rack use is my longer 1-way rides, like to Key West. Gotta get the bike home somehow. And finally, of course, is just getting my bike over to the dealer for some service when it stays there for a while.

    So for anyone considering serious road work with a bike, I believe a bike rack is an essential. And many good brands are out there. I have a Saris I like, but there's also Thule and Yakima, known for their ski racks and roof pods.
    I couldn't live without my Saris rack. I bought it last September and use it almost every day. When the bikes not on it people ask what happened to the bike icon_lol.gif
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    Jul 03, 2013 4:02 AM GMT
    Any entry level group set is fine tiagra or SRAM's etc. Don't worry about that. Aluminum is also fine. Like you observed bike price goes up significantly based on how light it is and each gram costs more and more and is irrelevant to 99% of riders.

    Most important thing is buying from a real bike shop that is reputable. Ride different bikes and by the one you feel the most comfortable on - they'll guide you through the choices.

    No point in dropping $4000 on a carbon framed racing bike your back hurts on and you don't enjoy. You'll just stop riding.
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    Jul 03, 2013 4:12 AM GMT
    paulflexes said
    I couldn't live without my Saris rack. I bought it last September and use it almost every day. When the bikes not on it people ask what happened to the bike icon_lol.gif

    Yeah, I do like the Saris rack. And it works with our trunk spoiler.

    But I don't keep it on when not in use, afraid of vandalism & theft. I got to know the Saris regional rep, cute guy (but I think he's straight). Whenever I see him at bike shows he comps me some Saris-branded ankle socks, that I also wear with my golf shoes. Seems like a nice US company, they mostly make their stuff up in Wisconsin.
  • Nonesuch

    Posts: 13

    Jul 03, 2013 4:14 AM GMT

    "Any entry level group set is fine tiagra or SRAM's etc. Don't worry about that. Aluminum is also fine. Like you observed bike price goes up significantly based on how light it is and each gram costs more and more and is irrelevant to 99% of riders.

    Most important thing is buying from a real bike shop that is reputable. Ride different bikes and by the one you feel the most comfortable on - they'll guide you through the choices.

    No point in dropping $4000 on a carbon framed racing bike your back hurts on and you don't enjoy. You'll just stop riding."

    Agreed.

    Geometry/positioning/comfort/ride are the main factors. That said, if a lighter bike feels better under my butt, I may decide to spend more.

    I have a shop really close that has a great reputation, but find that their level of service and attention really depend on who you talk to and how busy they are.