We have many new riders joining our rides every week, and most start off on fitness hybrid bikes.
Occasionally, a new even rider rolls up on a mountain bike.
While we do offer no-drop rides three nights a week (you can show up on a tricycle, for all we care, and we’ll make sure you don’t get left behind.), trying to do longer distances on the wrong machine for it can be discouraging.
I decided to put together a quick guide on how to find high-quality beginner road bikes for bargain prices.
Buy Used Without Getting Screwed
Craiglist, Facebook Marketplace, and Pawnshops are the best place to purchase used bikes.
Avoid Buying Stolen
The risk of buying a stolen bike is always high.
Pawnshops are supposed to run the serial numbers before selling the wares, and, if they do sell stolen goods, they may be required to recompense you a certain amount.
It doesn’t hurt to double-check your local laws because it can still cost you money if you purchase a bike and then have it confiscated. I have seen this happen, once, where a rider showed up with a bicycle that had just been stolen two weeks before.
Buying from an individual gives the ability to check your gut feeling on the situation, which, especially if you are dealing with an upscale neighborhood and a believable story (their garage isn’t stacked high in tv’s), you are probably ok.
Avoid Buying Repairs
Bike repairs add up fast. Even used tires can run $150 if you don’t know how to change them yourself.
That garage sale bike project you just picked up for $25 could easily be over $200 by the time you get tires and brakes on it. (Of course, if you are mechanically inclined, this could still be a good option).
Purchase one that rides smoothly shifts reasonably well, brakes without shuddering and doesn’t have a flat ridge worn on the tires.
Wiggle the handlebars forward and back and check for head play. Then do the same with the pedals, looking for “slop” or looseness in the crankarms.
This should pick up most of the issues.
Buy Your Size
“Honey, look! This full-carbon Cannondale is selling on eBay for $400!”
Oh, but it is an XXS.
All too often, we have riders show up at these rides, huddled up on their cycles like a circus bear on a trike.
Road frames come in different sizes, and it is critical that you purchase your correct frame size.
These are measured from the top of the seat tube (where you insert the seat post) down to the middle of the crank arm.
Then, cross-reference it with a chart to find the correct size based on your height. There are some variations, but this system is about 95% accurate.
Some adjustments can be done to improve your fit, but, without the correct frame size, you don’t stand a chance.
Don’t get suckered into a good deal on the wrong size.
Success Buying Used
I will say that more beginners get started on the used market than anywhere else. With any luck, you’ll find one that the athlete has upgraded from.
Occasionally, you’ll get one that they just never had time to ride. Those are the best deals
How Much Should A Used Bike Cost?
Within a year old, you might pay 70% of retail. A good reason for this savings is that warranties do not transfer to the new owner.
The value further drops off to a 50% valuation right quickly and stays there for about 5-7 years.
Beyond that, you start finding outstanding deals as cycles become garage sale deals.
What Brand To Buy?
You want to stay away from those that look like a road bike but are not. The GMC Denali is an excellent example of one that should be burned with napalm. It is heavy, requires constant repairs and never works correctly.
Stick to the brands that are known, loved, trusted, and sold by the bike shops that have been around for decades in your community.
Here are some of the top ones:
There are probably some I’ve missed, but this should get your going. You can always call your local shop and ask “Is __ a good brand?” and then hang up. That should confuse the hell out of the shop guy.
Buying Bikes Online
eBay.com – One of the core considerations is that most manufacturers won’t honor the warranties of cycles sold through auction sites. Verify that they are a dealer and that the warranty is still good if purchasing new. For used, you have a little bit of a crapshoot, but sticking close to buyers with strong histories has worked exceptionally well for me.
Amazon.com – There are some excellent brands such as the Tommasso and Diamondback available. The trick is to get the right one. Dave’s list seems to be pretty up to date for US suppliers and he also reviews bikes from REI and Backcountry, so you get a broader swatch to choose from. Even on these sites, you want to make sure you are purchasing from authorized dealers and not from closeout stores, as closeout stores can void the warranty.
We try hard not to be bike snobs. And we have folks who have been riding their mountain bikes with skinny tires for years (one of them leads one of our nightly rides, now. On his mountain bike.)
But, for those of you who ask me where they can find a good deal, hopefully this list will get you started.
Look forward to seeing you on the route.