When buying a road bike, these are some tips to make sure you get the best value.
Colnago – probably not best value. But, sometimes you just want to get the best.
Buy Last Years Models. A good time to buy bikes is in the autumn as manufacturers are introducing their new season bikes. The new season bikes will have improvements on last years, but, these will be relatively marginal. You can find a good bargain on getting last years discounted old model. The only disadvantage is that it might be harder to get your preferred size. However, never compromise on size just to get a cheaper deal. I bought my time trial frame (Trek Equinox in September for 50% off. It meant I ended up with an orange frame. But, I couldn’t justify spending an extra £500 only to get a different colour to orange. I’ve also noticed at major online stores there is a long period of being able to buy last years models at discounted price. For example, in April / May you can get upto 25% off last years models. The 2012 models will be better, but definitely not 25% better.
Buying Whole Bike. If you were to buy a bike in parts it would probably cost twice as much as buying a bike set up. It usually makes sense to buy a complete off the peg bike, rather than build it up yourself. There will be some components you want to change. But, there will always be use for spare wheels and components.
Doubling Your Money does not Double Your Value. A £5,000 Trek Madonne 6.9, has many similarities to a Trek Madonne 5.5 at £2,600. It uses the same frame and fork. The difference is mainly in the groupset which saves a little weight. Ask yourself whether the £3,000 is really worth the saving of 300-400grams and slight improvement of Dura Ace groupset.
Test Ride. The first road bike I got was a bike build from Ribble delivered mail order. The frame used to wobble when going downhill with hands off handlebars. Since it was my first road bike, I thought it was me, only realising too late the frame was not aligned correctly. These days, bikes are produced to high standards, and you shouldn’t have problems like that. But, if you do buy mail-order make sure there is opportunity for test ride and to send it back if any problems.
Where to Buy? Mail order can give big benefits. The likes of Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle and Evans Cycles can keep prices low through economies of scale. I know many people who have had a good experience buying mail-order. If things go well, it can be a way to save some money. However, especially if you are new to buying a road bike, there are definitely advantages to buying in a local shop and paying perhaps a little extra. You get more advice and the chance to take back for maintenance. Some bike chains like Evans Cycles offer best of both worlds because you can benefit from low prices but also take it into shop.
Bike Building Services
Some companies offer bike building services. Ironically after getting a dud first bike from Ribble, I went and bought another two from their bike building service. It was quite a cheap way of building up a low-weight bike. When I bought my top of the range road bike, I went for Trek’s bike building services. I could get best frame and components, but choose some cheaper wheels (as I already had some good ones)
Carbon Fork is the sign of a good entry level bike. Many entry level bikes like the Trek 1 Series, and GT GTR Series 5 come with a carbon fibre fork. A carbon fibre fork helps improve the quality of the ride by lessening shock.
Carbon Frame. A carbon frame isn’t everything, but good quality ones are very nice. Also, if you invest in good frame, you can always add better components to it later. Good entry level Carbon frame road bikes include:
- Trek Madone 3 Series from £1,500 – Carbon frame – Shimano 105 | Trek Madone 3 at Trek.com
- Chris Boardman Team Carbon – £1,299 – Excellent value carbon fibre bike. See Review: Chris Boardman Team Carbon
Some Brands Have a premium Price. E.g. You will pay a premium for getting a brand like Bianchi or Colnago. Now a Bianchi bike is great to have, but, other brands may give a slightly better value. But, supporters of Colnago may claim you are getting better workmanship – you can’t always compare bikes by a raw comparison of parts.
Second Hand. Buying a second hand bike can be a way to really save money. You just need to be more careful. However, if you can buy second hand from a reputable source, it can be a good way of getting a good value bike at upto 50% off shop price. See: tips for buying second hand bike