What do you guys and gals look for when buying a new bike, assuming you’re money capped.
Frame, groupset, wheels, weight, ability to upgrade, the latest piece of tech that improves compliance?
I would guess frame, but then what do you look for specifically in a frame? with most frames trending towards an endurance/aero dropped seatstay feel look, what do you look for that separates them apart?
Any and all specifics helps, thanks!
What do you guys and gals look for when buying a new bike, assuming you’re money capped.
From functional viewpoint, groupsets are more or less equal (except 11sp, 12sp). Here you can save most of your budget.
IMO wheels are the most important aspect of the bike. A lighter wheelset impact the overall feeling of the bike at most. When I swap my bike to the race wheelset, it runs like hell, otherwise, with the winter wheelset (500gr more), it feels more like an elephant.
The ability to upgrade is also important, but with flat mount disc-brakes, you are future-proof enough for the next years.
I’m more of a MTBr than a roadie, but I think that the principles are the same. When looking for a new bike, there are a few things I consider:
Firstly, what type of riding do you want to use the bike for? If there is an obvious steer towards a particular type, such as XC racing, gravel riding, sportive or just recreational riding, than it you will have already narrowed down the type into a sub-category.
Second, look at LOTS of bike marketing/reviews for your particular category. Don’t worry about the groupset/components - Just try to find the bike that speaks to you. I’d take a look at the top end models too as a lot of the DNA of these bikes trickle down into the lower priced models.
Third - set your budget. Don’t just look at the bike itself, but also the cost of replacement parts. It’s no good getting a good deal on a bike with a high end groupset, only to find that the cost of a replacement cassette is out of your budget range.
Finally, match the bike you love to the components you can afford. You’ll then have a bike that will feel great to be on, with upgrade potential should you want it.
I’m not sure what it’s like in your area, but if you can find a local bike shop to speak to you may be able to test ride before you buy.
Good luck. Sorry if this is more fluffy than technical, but I buy with heart over head when it comes to bikes!
Frame - material and geometry, brake type, axels (QR or thru) then cable routing and BB (something common and servicable). Tyre clearance
Components - for a road bike, Rival/105, anything above depending on price. Hydraulic brakes maybe
Wheels - anything above entry level. If you want really good wheels, you probably have to buy them seperately anyway. If you have multiple bikes, look for compatability so you can swap between them
I don’t know if people still upgrade bikes. I find that ‘standards’ change so quickly now, and components are often not compatible anymore by the time you want to change something. Also whole bike builds just beat upgrading on price.
As I do most maintenance myself, I also like bikes that make that easy, and where components are similar to others I have, so I can use the same tools and maybe even swap parts
Frame (shape or weight depending on where you ride ie. flats or hills), wheelset (same as with the frame, either deep dish or lightweight climbing wheels), tyres, good saddle and a good bike fit that will allow you comfortably to stay in the most aero position for as long as you can
I don’t think you are giving us enough information to give you specific advice. You are not saying what kind of bike you want, what kind of rides you like or what your budget is. The best gravel bike is going to be a poor substitute for an aero road bike aimed at racers.
Here are a few generic comments:
(1) Frame fit >>> anything else
You don’t specifically say what kind of bike you want, so I don’t think I can give you any specifics. It’s like saying you’d like a car, give me a recommendation. A mini van makes for a bad sports car, but that doesn’t mean a mini van is a bad type of vehicle. In fact, you didn’t even say what kind of drop bar bike you’d want. What do you have in mind here?
If you don’t know, test ride as many bikes as you can. Try to find out what you like and don’t like. Especially with road bikes that all look very similar, the differences can often not be taken from the specs. One of my favorite road bikes to ride ever is BMC’s Teammachine. That thing is a triumph of engineering. It is like a Porsche 911: looking at the spec sheet, you may think you get few horsepower for too much money. But boy, once you have driven one, you understand why the 911 is the most popular sports car in the world. The Teammachine is more comfortable than my endurance road bike, loves to carve corners without being overly nervous and it is plenty fast. My point is less to want to sell you a Teammachine and more that things like ride feel are not evident from spec sheet comparisons.
On the other hand, you should be honest to yourself. Perhaps you like the idea of yourself on a pure race machine, but maybe the reality of that isn’t as great as you think. Comfort is really important, especially once you go for longer distances.
(2) Get a bike fit
Connected to choosing a frame that fits, you should actually know that the bike you are ordering fits. Be prepared to spend extra money for a new stem, handlebars, saddle and the like to get the fit dialed in. Especially handlebars and saddle are highly personal affairs, so your hands and bum may have different preferences than mine.
I see a tendency among many people to judge bikes based on their specs. They see Bike A from a traditional manufacturer, and then somebody says “Hey, have a look at Bike C, for the same price you get a better groupset, etc. etc.” It may not have the right geometry or you may get the size wrong, but it sports Ultegra rather than 105.
(4) Most people overestimate the importance of bike weight
The title says it all. Some people have a magic number in mind like “my new road bike should weigh less than 8 kg.” or some such. Weight matters very little.
(5) Versatility is underappreciated
I have two bikes, and my wife made very clear that I cannot have a third. So versatility is really important. There are many new road/gravel bikes, which are great of a lot of people, because they have been designed to accept wider tires. They often — but not always — feature a more relaxed endurance geometry. I reckon in a few years most road bikes will accept what we’d currently consider “wide” tires.
(6) Save money for ancillary equipment and bike clothes
The biggest upgrade to my cycling was getting Specialized S-Works shoes for Christmas. They replaced Sidi shoes I didn’t really love, and they make a world of difference. Thanks to the eminently stiff carbon sole, the pressure is distributed across my foot now, which IMHO is the actual benefit of a stiff sole. Ditto for a nice pair of bib shorts of jersey, I have 7mesh bib shorts and a 7mesh softshell jacket which are miraculous pieces of clothing. Nice cycling clothing is expensive, though, but makes a much bigger difference than going from 105 to Ultegra or Ultegra to DuraAce.
How I’d buy a bike given a budget
- In the cheapest range, I’d prioritize components until you reach Shimano 105- or SRAM Rival-level groupsets. In the lowest price bracket you will get an aluminum frame with cheap components. Cannondale’s CAAD13 is great, as is BMC’s aluminum Teammachines. I’d take an aluminum frame with 105 groupset over a cheap carbon frame with Tiagra groupset any day of the week.
- Starting from 105-level groupsets, I’d start looking at carbon frames. A good carbon frame with a 105-level groupset will be a great platform. Rather than upgrading to Ultegra, I’d actually consider buying e. g. nice cycling clothes or a new set of wheels.
- Go for disc and through axles. Yeah, yeah, in some corners of the internet, you will still see the rim vs. disc brake fight raging, but the reality is disc brakes and through axles are the future and the market is transitioning. So all new parts and nice wheels that are released will have disc brakes and through axles.
- Also note that most bikes you buy will come with crappy wheels. “Everybody” knows the difference between 105 and Ultegra, but with wheels the story is very different. Unless you are looking at the high end, most bikes come with OEM wheels. Very often these are not sold on the open market, so you don’t know whether they are any good and you usually can’t even find out basic information like weight and depth.
- Modern groupsets are functionally equivalent, starting from 105-level and up (with the exception of being electronic or not). In practice, the shifting performance of 105 is identical to DuraAce, the latter is just lighter. Rival is roughly equivalent to 105, and so forth. And IMHO the difference between Shimano and SRAM is ergonomics. I vastly prefer SRAM’s ergonomics, but this is my personal preference.
- 12-speed vs. 11-speed: well, I prefer SRAM ergonomics anyway, so the choice is supereasy for me. Plus, I prefer SRAM’s gearing (even on my current road bike with Shimano groupset I run a SRAM cassette).
- If you are not sure what kind of riding you want to do, have a look at something like 3T’s Exploro (or the old Exploro, which starts at $3k) or the Open UP. For example, the traditional Exploro is an aero gravel bike with a more aggressive position that accepts up to 2.1" mountain bike tires. If you put skinny road tires on a second wheelset, you can convert your gravel and light trail mile muncher into a pretty fast road bike. Plus, the price is right IMHO. Of course, there are other, similar bikes out there.
My apologies. I’m looking for a road bike. You’re typical endurance/aero compliant bike. Like bmc team or road machine, orbea omx, ribble endurance SL, Scott addict rc. That whole range. In the $5k range but would like to keep it under $4k if possible. Maybe buy a nice bmc frame add 105 disc and nice wheel set. Upgrade as I go.
Lots of advice here but the FRAME is the only bit you can’t upgrade…doesn’t mean it is the only consideration but you can’t change it. I have plenty of bikes - tt/road etc but my summer bike is a Ridley Helium - great frame - as used by Lotto Soudal…and I have climbing 1400g Campag Eurus clinchers on it with Conti GP5000 and latex tubes. Groupset is only Ultegra. It weighs 7kg and I could upgrade various bits but not the frame …so my advice is buy the best frame you can but budget a bit for replacement wheels because even top end bikes often compromise on wheels because manufacturers assume you will upgrade or have your own already…that said for 4k you should be able to get a great bike. If you can wait a bit for delivery get a Canyon Ultimate - that is a serious bike for the money and better value than the ones you mentioned…mind you it will be mail order.
Endurance and aero road bikes are on opposite ends of the spectrum. That doesn’t help much to narrow it down.
What kind of riding do you do? How flexible are you? How important is it to be comfortable vs. being fast?
In any case, for $4k-$5k you will get a great bike either way.
Endurance/aero as in something with a more relaxed geometry than a typical aero bike but with the thicker aero frame. Compare orbea orca aero (aero) vs orca omr (edurance) vs orca omx (endurance aero) or the trek domane vs canyon endurance. Both endurance bikes one build with aero more in mind.
As for what type of riding I do, I normally do 2-5 hour rides 5-6 times a week. I live in northern California where you can easily do 1000ft of climbing to every 10 miles. I also wouldn’t mind doing the occasional century or 2-3 day bike ride. Clearance for 32s if I wanted to do light gravel would be nice but by no means a deal breaker. But clearing 28s is a must. I would say I’m average flexibility for my age (28) i have no problems riding in any position for extended periods. Comfort is nice, I currently ride AL merckx blockhaus 67 on 25s. With the roads here it’s not the most comfortable so I assume anything will be more comfortable. Kind of a nice balance between the two. Hopefully that helps. Full disclosure I haven’t ridden any of these bikes. will doing a little loop around the block on teammachine v roadmachine really give me a good idea what the bike will feel like 50miles into riding? Seems like typically the saddle hight is adjusted and out the door you for for a test ride.
I was just going to get a ribble sl disc. you can grab di2 for $3.1K but people have been seeming to have problems with the company lately. Maybe ill grab a nice fram and start with 105s and a entry level wheelset. upgrade as i go. just need to figure out what frame and where.
Just went through the purchase process myself, don’t have bike in hand yet so can’t tell you how it will come out yet, and I was shopping an aero racing frame that suited my riding/racing style. For that:
Frame type: aero vs. lightweight vs. endurance. The lines here are blurring quite a bit, so it depends on priority and where/how you ride.
Looked at current frame geometry - this bike has lasted me 12 years and is comfortable enough that I didn’t feel compelled to upgrade the frame until the whole ride was a bit outdated by disc brakes, wide aero wheels, 11-spd Di2, and aerodynamics. It is a good frame for me.
Looked through stack and reach databases to see what bikes in what sizes lined up well.
Got a professional fit to get my numbers.
First priority once fit and frame type were settled was frame quality/carbon layup on an aerodynamic frame (my choice). Many of the 2020 aero frames have the highest end carbon at one level below their top end (e.g. Venge Pro vs. Sworks; Madone SLR7 vs SLR9). So I didn’t worry about top end stuff.
Next was wheels. I’m not planning to splurge on wheels for a marginal gain, so I wanted a good performing aero set to come with setup.
Then component groups: again, wasn’t going to pay for DuraAce or Red over Ultegra or Force, so it came down to Shimano or SRAM. Went Shimano because all of my current setups are Shimano for ease of maintenance and interchanging on trainer.
Last for me was color and such. Black is boring (JMO) but I also didn’t want a screaming bright red or purple bike. Some folks place this a lot higher and I get why.
Most things were a wash in a lot of ways, so weight played a role in my final choice (Venge vs Madone). I can punch up short hills and am somewhat light, so I didn’t want to lose that. Venge is lighter than my current ride, so that helped tip the scales. But weight wasn’t a huge deal in the end.
I’ve always built my bikes from scratch spec’ing all the parts. Sometimes I carry forward a set of wheels or other parts from my old bike. It’s weird but some companies seem to charge you more for building the bike and some basically give you a free groupset for buying the whole bike. It also depends on the price point.
For example: Specialized S-Works dura ace di2 - $11,000
$6000 left for wheels, bars, stem, saddle, tires??? That’s crazy.
If you had your heart set on a S-Works Tarmac of that caliber, one could hunt down a deal on a frameset, find the best deal on the group and maybe choose a $1200 wheetset to save a few bucks. You could basically have that $11,000 bike for around $8,000.
When you get to the lower tier price points then you’ll find it hard to shave 30% off. When you add it up, a $3000 Tarmac usually has exactly $3000 worth of parts thrown together.
Now, when you look at other brands like Giant or Canyon, you’ll save a lot over a brand like Specialized and you might wonder how they throw that collection of parts together for the price.
I looked into doing exactly this with my bike purchase, but since I wasn’t buying the S-Works anyway, it ended up being more expensive to custom build by quite a bit, and the gains would’ve been a watt or two on a wheelset. Purchasing the lower-high end meant all I’m changing are tires when it arrives. I agree though, if you want to go super high-end, I’d buy the top-end frame, top end wheels, whatever your groupset of choice is a la carte and go from there. Likely quite a bit cheaper. For his case, if you’re going in the $5K range, you can get a hell of a good bike off-the-shelf for that price; it’ll be tougher to build one up at a discount assuming you buy a new frame.
The real deal is if you can find a nice used frame… rim brake frames are getting easier to find cheap right now.
Yeah im definitely having a hard time figuring out if i want to buy a nice frame (like bmc roadmachine, orbea orca omx, chapter2 trere) and throw a 105 disc groupset and low/mid range wheels. Or i could build out something like a ribble with di2 custom paint and decent wheels for the same price.
Would personally prioritize the frame over all else. Get an awesome frame and you can upgrade as you go if you want. JMO.
I think I understand now what you mean. (Although I wouldn’t call the frame endurance/aero, almost all frames nowadays have aero features even though they are not full-on aero bikes. But that’s just me being nitpicky.)
Pretty much all disc brake bikes allow for 28 mm tires. Even some full-on aero road bikes (e. g. 3T’s Strada and the Venge) will accept up to 32 mm, so 32 mm tires should be an option for many, but not all frames.
The longer, the better, but yes, it’ll give you some idea. The Roadmachine is pretty sporty for an endurance road bike, so that may actually fit your bill.
Personally, I wouldn’t do that. You don’t know yet what you want and that seems too much focused on blingy components rather than a quality ride that suits your style. I’d test ride as many different bikes as I could, so you can get a feel for what is on the market. I made that mistake myself when I got my current road bike (a Cube GTC SL Disc). It was my first road bike in over a decade (I almost exclusively rode mountain bikes up until that point), and I didn’t know what I wanted). The specs are great, and it isn’t a bad bike. But I really dislike the frame geometry. (I live in Japan, and getting a bike in my size isn’t easy, especially on the used market. And I 100 % wanted a disc brake bike.)
Frame - it is the bit that can’t be upgraded. Thinks to look for:
- Geometry, and specifically does it suit YOU.
- Tire clearance - does it offer enough to clear the tires you might conceivably want to run.
- Manufacturing quality/bottom bracket tolerances. There are some manufacturers out there that are pretty sloppy in this regard - typcially this will show up in regular consumer reports of "creaking bottom brackets.
- Standard components - look at things like seatpost shape/diameter, headset diameter, intergrated handlebars, rear wheel spacing that might restrict you replacing/upgrading components in the future, or lock you in to just that manufacturer.
As others have stated, there is little functional difference between groupsets these days. But better groupset bikes sometimes come with better wheels. Sometimes it makes sense to get a 105 bike and use the money saved to get a good pair of wheels (the stock wheels can become your gravel or winter wheels). At the Ultegra di2 level, they can often come with brand name deep section wheels, which can be good value if that is what you want. At the Ultegra mechanical level, they often come with better but not great wheels, so you can pay more for the bike and still be lusting after some bling carbon hoops. (This will vary between brands).
When I bought my CX a couple years ago, I had a list of things I cared about, or at least I was looking for. It will be different for everyone…you need to decide what you care about.
For me…I was looking for hydraulic discs, thru axles, min shimano 105 groupset, internal cable routing. This stuff was a bit harder to find a few years ago. Had a cap of $2000 as well. Found everything I was looking for in my Focus Mares, and had it ordered from a shop that does a full on fit with every purchase. It might be a shade on the porky side…but I wasn’t really willing to sacrifice any of the above criteria to shave a pound or two off the bike.
For a pure road bike…personally I would care less about my CX criteria above, and a lot more about aero testing and comfort.
There was a guy on the weightweenies forum that had some teething problems with a Ribble frame. I think a Ribble could be a fine budget frame but you have to remember that it’s just an inexpensive Chinese frame. The teething problems were just have to sort everything out frame prep things like facing disc brake mounts.
If you don’t live in the UK I’d probably not take a chance on a Ribble. It would just be a paint to get support/service or very expensive to send it back.
I guess i really dont know what geometry suits me. I went to the shop today and rode the new roadmachine its it was really fun. huge upgrade from what a currently have, but everything is. I really couldn’t tell the difference between geometries without it being properly fit. I asked, “do you know if id be a 58 or 61” and they told me they wouldn’t know without fitting me to the bike, I cant possibly ask that of every bike a ride, right? I think im fairly set on investing more in the frame before any groupset/components but with a ton of brands with the some sort of whatever you call endurance/aero bikes what makes a bmc frame worth $4.4K vs a orca omx at $3.9K vs a ribble at $1.3K?