This Blogpost is still under construction. 😉
First of all, I’m glad you’re here. Maybe you posted your question on Instagram, maybe you found the blog via Google, whatever: I started riding a road bike in August 2017. Since then I’ve tried out a lot on the road bike and am currently training for my first ultra distance. So in the last 3 years, I got quite a few products got “under my butt”. But: just because these things fit me well or they work well for me, it doesn’t mean that they are the optimum for you. So when you read this article, always keep in mind that we are all different and that someone who claims to have found the “best product” is highly dubious.
The reason I am writing this article is because I read these questions a lot and receive the same questions over and over again on the net. And that there is a rather rough tone in many groups and forums, which is especially deterrent in the beginning, when you actually need the most help. I think this is probably the biggest difference to other sports: from a certain group of people, bike beginners are treated very badly at first.That’s a pity and would like to make a statement against it here. That’s why I will try to find an emphatically “simple” description for some things, so that those of you who have not been on the road for so long can understand them. If something should be confusing, just ask in the comments or via mail.
My first road bike purchase was a good 2.5 years ago and I still know exactly what a myriad of articles, tips, must-do’s, “definitely not XY” and whatever else you are facing. Most of the time you don’t quite understand everything and why some decisions can have a higher impact than others. I can’t tell you which model is right for you, nor which brand to choose. But maybe I can help you with the following questions:
- What is a good entry-level road bike?
- What do you have to spend to get something good for your money?
- Where can I save?
- What are the differences?
- Crosser/Gravel-Bike with road wheel set?
- Order it online or try it out?
- What else do I need?
It is important for me to emphasize that this is my private opinion. I have only been asked three times in the last week alone by friends if I had any tips. My answers were always similar and obviously there is a lot of interest, so I will make them publicly available here. Many things you should know before buying your first bike are already available on the net – I can’t formulate this better and therefore I link them to you. You can get a good overview for example in this blog of Carolyn (in german).
What is a good entry-level road bike?
I find it a little difficult to answer this question, because whether you stick with iyour new hobby and enjoy it depends very much on the choice of the right bike. That’s why I don’t think it’s right to say: “Oh, for a beginner one bike is enough for XY€”. Don’t worry, you won’t have to take private bankruptcy because of your first road bike. But especially in the lower price segment, a few 100 Euros will make a massive improvement in quality! This does not only mean that you will probably have more fun on your road bike from the beginning, but also that your bike and its components will last longer. Or to put it in better words for your family: you often save money by buying the better material directly.
With your first road bike you probably don’t know your optimal position on the bike yet (stop! It’s not necessarily the one that comes out when you do a bikefitting!). Therefore I would not buy a road bike which you have never sat on before. So the way leads to the local bike shop, to Koblenz or Munich or even to the Internet.
At the risk of making myself unpopular with some people here: not every bike shop is really good at advising beginners, but of course there are many local shops that are happy to cater to you. Because not every bike shop has all brands in its program, I would check out a few. If you feel comfortable and taken seriously, the shop has a few bikes in your price range (ask for last year’s models, sale offers or consignment goods! My 1st bike came back to the shop after only one week from the previous owner and so I could buy it several hundred euros cheaper) and you can reach the shop easily, it is probably a match.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, there are still the two big order companies from Germany. Again, one or the other will snort loudly in front of the screen, but that’s the way it is: here you usually get the “most” for your money, the list price of many bikes there is far below the sale price of equivalent bikes in local bike shops. If you decide to do so, I would personally spend a little time and money on the first bike to try it out in the outlets next to the factories. It is much more expensive to have to sell your bike after only a few weeks because it just doesn’t fit. And if you now shout “BUT THE LOCAL BIKE MECHANIC”, I have to tell you: if the local mechanic thinks he won’t service Canyon or Rose bikes, then it’s his loss and you go to another mechanic. Very few people have their car repaired exclusively in the workshop of the cshop where they bought it, and it’s not as if you don’t pay anything to a mechanic for servicing your bike.
Before I forget them: then there are the big sports chains, which often have one or two private label racing bikes in their range – at prices that sound very wallet-friendly. Maybe just the right thing for you, but maybe not. If you don’t care about the brand, “taking a seat on it” will certainly not hurt. However, there will hardly be a local employee on site who is somehow more familiar with road cycling. At Kik, nobody will advise you whether the shirt fits and how many years it will last.
Another way to get reasonable material at a good price is to look around the second-hand market. But be careful: This is only a good idea if you already have someone in your circle of friends who can help you inspect the used material and recommend a good mechanic who will fit it to you first.
Sure, most of us don’t have a “money poo machine” at home. To get the best for my money, I bought my first racing bike with 0% financing. I can personally recommend this, because the 70€ a month hurt me much less than to put up 2.500€ “on pump”. In July it is finally paid off and rides as good as on the first day. In total it was twice at the service, which was about 120€ each time. Could I have put 70€ aside since September 2017 to buy a bike in 2020? Sure! But I wanted to start riding a racing bike two years ago, not “back then in two years”.
What do you have to spend to get something good for your money?
I think that from 1.600€ you can get a very fine road bike that will give you pleasure for a long time. Of course it is also possible to get it cheaper, but then you might have to cut back on some things. For helmet, pedals, shoes, bottle cage, multi-tool, saddlebag and spare tube as well as chain oil or Dry Lube you should have at least 200€ on the side, more about this in the point “What else do I need?
Where can I save?
Once again a disclaimer, this is my personal opinion. Many people see it completely different than I do.
A bike with a Shimano 105 group (more about shift groups) and rim brakes is available from about 900€. From then on you pay more for
- less weight
- higher comfort
In order to weigh this up better, here are some of my criteria.
- Instead of an electronic gear shift, I’d choose disc brakes rather than a little “comfort bonus”. In a few years these will be standard on most road bikes and then it will be easier to get spare parts. Sorry, team rim! Also, you can control the braking much better, especially if you are not used to it yet. (No joke, in the beginning I had really sore muscles in my forearms.) They work reliably and with today’s state of the art technology they don’t add much more weight.
- Forget mechanical disks. I finally have to upgrade my crosser with mechanical disc brakes, because they are just annoying. If you’re very lucky, you’ll get a model that works really well – until you have to change the brake pads and you can’t screw the cylinders back far enough so that it doesn’t make any noise or other annoyances.
- Rather choose the lighter frame than the better wheels – at least for the beginner bike. You can still upgrade wheels in two years, get a new frame and rebuilding everything is really tedious and more for “enthusiasts”.
- Rather take lighter wheels than electronic gear shifters. A well-adjusted mechanical shifting system works very well and silently, and you can feel the weight savings of the wheels very quickly, because they are “moving mass”.
- Invest in reliable tyres. If you have a flat tire every 3rd ride, the new hobby will quickly turn into an annoying nightmare.
- Do not buy anything under a 105 shifting group.
- Do not use a “single crank”.
- For the beginning use a compact crank (50/34) and a 11-32 cassette. Otherwise it might not be much fun on the first climb.
You can find an overview of the gear groups, crank types and gear ratios here.
What are the differences?
They all have curved handlebars, whether race, aero or endurance geometry. But there are striking differences that massively influence the riding feeling and thus the fun of riding a road bike. You will notice this at the latest when you sit on different bikes! This topic has already been discussed on so many pages, I don’t think I could do better. My first racing bike, the BMC Roadmachine, and also my second in Team Alpecin were both Endurance racing bikes. Because of the quite upright position, as a beginner you don’t need so long to get your body used to the position. In addition, they have almost a 1:1 ratio in the lightest gear (i.e. the difference between the teeth on the rear cassette and the chainring on the front pedal). This way you can get up any mountain. Aero bikes like my current Orbea Orca Aero look nice and “aggressive” and are great fun to ride. Classic road bikes, i.e. race frames, are usually lighter than the other two mentioned and combine a little “the best of both worlds”.