Beg, borrow (don’t steal): Borrow a bike from a friend or a store (or rent one) and see if you actually like road riding. Road biking is hard. You’ll burn out on climbs. Your balls will go numb. Your calves will cramp up. Your lower back will ache. You’ll probably take a spill or two.
Buy used: If you’re still in, look for a used bike from last season. Chances are there’s some guy just like you who blew some cash on a great bike last year only to realize he doesn’t like the sport (or he upgraded – the more likely scenario).
Buy end-of season: Spring and summer are when manufacturers launch their new lines. This means some of last year’s models will still be on showroom floors at heavy discounts. The savings is great, but make sure you find a bike in your size. As tempting as it may be to grab that bike at a deep discount, if it’s not your size you’ll regret it down the line.
Buy up. This may sound like bad advice, but trust us on this one: When you’ve decided it’s time to finally get your own new bike, stretch your budget and get the next-best one. The better components, fit and comfort will pay off in miles and fitness later on.
Ben Chertoff, New York area bike racer and salesperson at Danny’s Cycles agrees. “Buy the best bike you can afford. Think about where you’re going to be six months or a year into riding. If you buy a bike based on your fitness today, you’ll end up buying two bikes.”
Who are you? Before you shop, think about what kind of roadie you want to be. “Lock in on what you want to do,” says Mark Cote, Specialized Road Category Marketing Manager. “Want to do a triathlon or get a first bike to commute to work? Knowing what you’re shooting for will help when you research online or talk with someone at your local bike shop.”
“Your first road bike should be one that not only fits your budget but also gets you excited to ride,” Says Maria Benson, Global Product Manager, Cannondale Road. “Road bikes start around $800. Spending the upper limit of your budget will help prevent the desire/need to upgrade your equipment within the first year of your inevitable love of cycling.”
It also may be tempting to buy a bike online. That’s fine, but keep in mind it will come delivered partially unassembled and untested. “There’s almost always a reason bikes are cheap online: weird sizes, obsolete components or awful paint schemes,” says Chertoff.
“If you do find that amazing online closeout deal,” he adds, “don’t forget to factor in assembly and repairs at your local bike shop. Most reputable shops include assembly and a service plan with their bikes; over the first year alone this could add hundreds to your eBay steal.”
Get fitted. A bike, like clothing, should feel natural. While that shiny new road bike may feel great right off the rack, tiny adjustments in seat position, stack height (how high your handlebars sit on the headset), and foot extension make huge differences on long rides and can reduce – even eliminate – injury down the line. A proper fitting will take at least an hour and can be done at your local bike shop. They’ll look at your knee angle while taking into consideration your skill level and general needs to help you dial it in. Fittings can be expensive (they’re often included with purchase of a new bike, so ask for that), but if you’re going to take road cycling seriously, a proper fitting is a must.
Avoid the on-the-spot upsell – to a certain extent. When you’re buying the bike, the salesperson will no doubt try to sell you a computer, water bottles, pedals, clothing, a bike rack, and pretty much everything in the shop. Come to the shop with a list of things you’ll need and then ask for a package discount if buying at the same time as your bike. Otherwise, ask them for a couple weeks’ grace period to research what you need and come back with the discount. Any LBS (local bike shop) worth its real estate will grant you that.