The Non-Gearhead’s Guide to Buying Your First Road Bike

By May 24, 2010 Fitness No Comments

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends and teammates looking to buy their first road bike. The following guide is meant to help narrow the focus on only the most important qualities of a road bike, for fast commuting around town or as a precursor to a more serious road racing bike.

Although this is mainly for first-time road bike buyers, the following websites can help save anyone time and money if budget is a priority.

QBike will search the internet for you. Just pick your size and price range. Results will show listings from Ebay, Craigslist, and online bike stores, so this is a “one stop shop.”
Bikes Direct is also good.

Here’s what to look for in a bike. If buying an entry level bike, you may safely ignore everything else:

1) Frame Material. Aluminum or steel, sometimes with carbon fiber fork on a newer or higher quality model.

2) Components. Look for the words “Shimano Tiagra” or “Shimano 105″, and don’t worry too much about the details. The names just tell you the quality of the shifters and brakes. The order of quality, from shoddiest to best, is:

[other] < Shimano Sora < Tiagra < 105 < Ultegra < Dura Ace/SRAM Red.

Any other name like “2200″ or “Deore” means it is for mountain bikes (or it’s a lower quality bike).

3) Bike Fit. It doesn’t matter how good the bike is if it’s not the right size! Go to a bike shop and spend at least 15 minutes to find out your bike size. Ask for top tube and seat tube measurements. Most bike shops do it for free.

With your two special measurement numbers, you can buy online with confidence that a bike will fit, and no longer limit yourself to test-riding bikes at local shops. Compared to brick-and-mortar stores, online vendors (like TriSports) offer much deeper discounts and closeout sales, and you can take advantage of them by knowing your size while shopping.