“It’s decided, I’m buying a racing bike! “Sometimes you can hear this sentence around you. Either the author wants to start this sporting activity, or he wants to replace his current bike with a move up the range. Indeed, as soon as you enter a store, you get lost if you haven’t prepared your project, the offer is so wide, and not only in terms of budget.
There are many points to consider; they can be grouped into 10 questions to ask.
Define your practice upstream
It is essential to know what you want to do with your future mount. It is clear that buying the first bike to start cycling as a leisure activity, then eventually as a cycle tour, and replacing your bike when you are already an experienced cyclist, is not the same thing. The first one will certainly be sensitive to the cost of the operation, especially since at the same time it is also necessary to buy clothing. The second will make its choice taking into account a host of parameters: material of the main components, mechanical properties of the frame and wheels (rigidity, nervousness, comfort, in addition to weight stricto sensu), equipment level (transmission, peripherals), maintenance, budget, etc…
Indeed, there is no need to invest in a competition or cyclosportive machine if the bicycle is considered as a simple leisure activity practised on holidays and from time to time on Sunday mornings. On the contrary, this practitioner would be disappointed by his purchase, which he would find too stiff and extremely uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than the feeling of driving on a “piece of wood”. An entry-level bike, rather comfortable (frame characteristics, saddle, tyres, seat and handlebar height…), at the contained price, will be perfectly suitable. This well-equipped bike will be a little heavy and not very responsive for more sporty use.
Choose the right material for the frame
Even if carbon has been on the rise for many years, we must not forget that frames can be made of steel, aluminium, carbon or titanium. Today, steel has almost fallen into disuse – yet it is very comfortable, but has the disadvantage of being heavy – and titanium remains relatively unaffordable. It is therefore often necessary to choose between aluminium and carbon. The latter is being used more and more often by manufacturers. However, about fifteen years ago, the aluminium frames that are now available at attractive prices were used to equip professional riders’ bicycles. Therefore, it is not advisable to automatically eliminate aluminium when buying equipment, as it is sometimes preferable for a comparable budget to buy a very good quality aluminium frame rather than an entry-level carbon frame.
Finding the right compromise between the frame and the equipment of the bike
At this stage, the dilemma is as follows: either I favour the performance level of the frame and I limit my ambitions about wheels, transmission and peripherals to contain the final price. This option has the advantage of being able to subsequently move up to a targeted range while keeping the frame and the transmission, for example. Or
then I make a consistent choice for all the elements that make up the bike’s equipment. In this case, if, suffering from the bicycle virus after a while, I want to have a higher level bicycle, it will be better to change the machine completely.
Do did not neglect the undercarriage
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the rolling train makes 50% of the bike in terms of behaviour, but not far. Indeed, I was able to realize in several circumstances how much the change of wheels transformed a bicycle in a very important way. Documenting the properties of the wheels, and if possible carrying out a test, are the steps to avoid regretting a choice. Leaving aside the special case of tubular tyres (as well as tubeless tyres, which are still not very common on the roads), the range of tyres is so wide (training, winter, rain, all-weather, top of the range, smooth or treaded tyres, etc.) that it is easy to find something to satisfy your needs and desires.
Everything is in the transmission
I want to say: show me your crankset, I’ll tell you who you are. Indeed, to make it simple, the competitor rides with a double platform (52 or 53/39), and the cyclist with a triple (for example 52/42/30). But over the past dozen years, the compact (50/34) has appeared. 52/36 followed more recently. These two combinations are a good compromise for cycling, especially when you no longer have the punch of a 25/30-year-old cyclist. However, as the offer in triple plateaus has become increasingly limited in recent times, we now see many cyclists riding in 50/34. For the rest, the differences from one range to another mainly concern the materials, weight and flexibility of the mechanisms. A particularity: the price of racing bicycles is almost always displayed without pedals, due to the variety of models used by cyclists.
Interested in all bicycle equipment
As for the brakes, they are often of the same range as the transmission, but there are combinations on the market – if you look closely – to contain the final price of the bike. Finally, the saddle and the handlebar grip are also important points to avoid regret.
This is the time of pruning
At this stage of the selection of your next bike, it is time to choose the right frame size. Today’s executives are, for the same practitioner, smaller than they were many years ago. A bicycle with a small frame is much more manoeuvrable than a bicycle that is too big. And then, anyway, to adjust the whole to the cyclist’s template, you can play on the saddle height, the recoil of the saddle carriage, the length of the stem, the height of the handlebars, the length of the cranks.
Generally speaking, it is customary to determine the size of the bicycle from a coefficient (0.66) that is applied to the length of the crotch. For example, for an 81 cm crotch, the size will be 53. This number corresponds, in centimetres, to the distance between the bottom bracket axis and the intersection between the seat tube and the horizontal tube. For sloping frames, this intersection will be brought back to the fictitious point of encounter of the tube if it had been horizontal.
Size also means a position on the bike. This can be determined by a postural study that various providers offer.
Where to buy
There are several ways to buy your bike, first from a bicycle dealer, but also in supermarkets, on the Internet, or in bicycle fairs that are organized here and there, usually in the fall. Each solution has its merits; it is up to each person to direct their purchasing process as they wish.
Trying it is adopting it… or not
The ideal is to be able to try out the bike you plan to buy before taking action. This possibility is far from being commonplace, which is quite understandable in practical terms. However, some major brands offer full-scale tests during events such as cyclosportives. However, this remains rather marginal, as the number of bicycles on loan is necessarily limited.
The account is good
In the end, whether the bike has been chosen as proposed by the manufacturer or supplier, or mounted on the card, comes the moment of the price. This will depend on how each of the above points is addressed. To give you an idea, you can find good bicycles to start cycling for leisure at 900/1000 euros, or even less if you have a promotional offer in-store or on the website.
We can also refer to the article I published on this question of the purchase price: Tips for choosing your first road bike for less than 1000 €.