When it comes to buying most things we tend to look at the price first and the quality second. Of course, price is an important factor, but there is a danger that it becomes the only thing we consider and when it comes to buying a bike, you really do need to consider the quality of the components and frame as well. Here are some of the things I recommend you take into account when trying to find the best road bike for your needs.
Used or new
These days, buying a bike is easy. Simply log onto the Internet, type “best road bike” into a search engine and you will be presented with hundreds, if not thousands, of choices in every imaginable category and price range. If money is a big consideration, then this is probably a great option for you, however, as with buying anything online it’s a case of buyer beware. After all, you don’t really know how well used the bike is or even what kind of condition it really is in. It may look clean in the photograph but the frame may be badly damaged, the tyres worn and rims bent and buckled and it may not be immediately obvious from the listing. When it turns up at your door in a sorry state, it’s often too late.
When buying any kind of second-hand bike online make sure that you, at least, check the components for any obvious signs of wear and if possible contact the owner and ask them about the kind of use the bike has had, whether there are any stress fractures on the welds, and if any of the components have been replaced recently.
Of course, faulty or damaged components can be changed, in some cases quite cheaply, especially if you’re willing to do the work yourself but getting a qualified professional to do the work will, of course, cost extra and should be factored into the overall buying cost of the bike. The most serious problem is, naturally, some kind of structural deformity, which can put you at serious risk of injury or even death.
Good bikes tend to fall into three price ranges, low mid and high. We’re going to discount the high price range bikes in this article simply because they tend to be the preserve of professional riders and serious amateurs and with prices starting at £3 to £4000 (or more) it’s pretty obvious that you need to be a specialist buyer in order to be considering this kind of bike.
Mid to low range road bikes tend to fall in the £2 to £400 category with the mid-range bikes going as high as £1200. This may seem like a lot of money, and it is, but considering the cost of professional road bikes is not actually that high.
So what’s the difference? Well, the quality of the frame, gears, brakes, seat, handlebars plays a big part as do the materials involved. Don’t expect to get a carbon road bike for £200. At the lower end of the price scale there will naturally be some compromises, but shopping around you might be surprised to find out that certain components, such as the derailleur tend to be common across all price ranges. If it’s just a decent good going bike for casual use, then it’s probably not worth paying the extra money for a mid-range bike but if you use the bike regularly for commuting then the better quality components will definitely be worth the extra money.
Cost of repair
An old friend of mine used to say buy cheap and pay dear and when it comes to bikes this is certainly the case. Cheaper components will of course break more easily and will be worn out faster so it’s important to factor the cost of replacing them into the overall cost of ownership of the bike. As you use the bike more, so the components will wear out faster so, again, it makes sense to pay extra for better quality components. For example, replacing the derailleur can cost anything between a hundred and £200 depending on the model you decide to replace it with. Replacing brakes and the crankshaft can be equally expensive. In the past, I have actually spent more replacing components on a bike than I the spent buying the original.
As I said, you buy cheap you pay dear.
For most people buying a bike needs a bit of research and consideration of your budget. However, do the work, take a bit of time and by the late bike and will be something you can enjoy for many years to come