TIPS FOR CHOOSING YOUR FIRST ROAD BIKE AT 1500 EUROS … OR LESS!

Whether it is in the form of recreational bicycles, gravel bicycles, cycle tourism, cyclosportives, or outright sports with participation in competitions, we cannot travel on our roads without meeting cyclists (not to mention mountain bikers), and this all year round. This raises security concerns, but that is not the purpose of this article.

Not all road cyclists are licensed by a cycling sports federation. However, as an example, it can be indicated that the number of graduates at the FFC stands at 119,280 in 2019 (all disciplines combined), that at the FFCT (FF vélo) at 125,500.

This population is not frozen, each year new followers take to the roads when others choose to stop for various reasons. All this to say that the market is not saturated, far from it. To move up the range or to have more up-to-date equipment, we are going to buy a new bike. There are also people of all ages who decide to ride a bike, so they will buy their first road bike.

Today, the electrically assisted road bike (EAB) is booming (2). Some look like classic racing bikes, others display their specificity without any complexes. Their interest lies in allowing older cyclists, sometimes older, or those suffering from injury or illness, for example, to be able to continue to follow their clubmates without difficulty. It’s very good that way. In July 2016, a group of Corsican cyclists even took a VAE tour of the Isle of Beauty (GIANT, Yamaha Evolution Line 250 W engine).

But in this article, I will limit myself to mentioning – in the case of bicycles priced at less than €1,500 – completely classic road machines, working only with calf power.  

Note: I would like to point out that the first draft of this article was written in 2015. Since then, I have updated the article several times. Today, I propose a modified and updated version according to the technical evolutions of the moment and the bicycles of the current market, hence this edition of January 2019.

Some figures

The following data show the vitality of this sector of activity in France.

2,782 million bicycles were sold in 2017 for a turnover of 1,278 billion euros, up 9.6% compared to 2016. This figure includes all categories of bicycles: road bicycles (leisure, sport and competition), mountain bikes, mountain bikes, mountain bikes, gravel, BMX, children’s bicycles, electric-assist bicycles (EAB), classic city bicycles and folding bicycles. It should be noted that the cycle industry is driven by EABs: 254,870 electric bicycles were sold in France in 2017, a result that is rising sharply. The number of racing bicycles sold remains stable.

These purchases are made at retailers (2775 stores in France in 2017, representing 55% of the market share in terms of turnover), in multi-sport stores (32%) and from Internet players (8%). Most of the other purchases are made in the general surface grades.

The average price in 2017 for some categories of bicycles is as follows: trip 1404 €, MTB 396 €, VTC 330 €, VAE 1564 €.

Some cyclists will find that this amount of €1,404 for road bicycles does not reflect the reality of the market about the significantly higher prices they see in stores. For others, the objective is to equip themselves for a smaller budget envelope, and if possible below a thousand euros. Of course, 1404 € is an average, but this covers a very wide range: from 600 € to more than 22 000 € (3).

Elements of choice of a first bike

In any case, it is not easy to choose your first road bike. The budget will, of course, be an important, sometimes essential, parameter. But the choice of this bicycle could also be affected by the image we have of the most famous brands (or those that shine on the Tour de France), the (almost) unavoidable material that carbon has become, the brand of the comrade’s bike, the information gathered on the Internet, the advice of the cyclist…

Every case is special, there is no single answer to the question: which bike should I buy to start the bike? This is what I say to people who ask me for advice, either from among my acquaintances or through this site. Indeed, the choice must take into account the

measurements and weight of the future cyclist (more than age), and especially what we want to do with him. Buy a road bike, yes; to do what?  That’s the big question. Because an inappropriate choice will have consequences that can go as far as rejecting the practice of recreational cycling.

We’ll try to figure it out.

The framework

The first element to consider is the framework. The composite material carbon has established itself on the market, to the detriment of the other three materials, aluminium, steel and titanium (in decreasing order by volume). Even for a bike not exceeding 1500 €, there are carbon frames. But in some cases, it is preferable to opt for an aluminium frame rather than an entry-level carbon that will prove to be poorly adapted (too stiff, not very responsive) to a beginner’s practice.

The transmission

Then, we have to worry about the transmission. I did not use the term “group” because, on entry-level machines, the manufacturer often prefers a mix of elements. Remember that the word “group” applies to an assembly integrating the front and rear derailleurs, the crankset with its chainrings and pedals, the cassette, the chain, the brake callipers, the brake/speed levers, the cable system. Mixing does not mean the low end, but looking for the best quality/cost ratio to contain the final price.

For the transmission, my advice is to trust the world leaders SHIMANO and CAMPAGNOLO. Their entry-level transmissions have long proven their worth. At the Japanese equipment manufacturer, the offer begins (not to mention the CLARIS with 2X8 speeds), with the SORA, the TIAGRA, and the classic 105. I deliberately leave out the top of the range here. At CAMPAGNOLO, we have the CENTAUR and the POTENZA (plus the top of the range). The American manufacturer SRAM has also established itself in the cycling landscape. Its entry-level RIVAL 22 is very interesting.

Additional question: double tray, triple tray or compact?

To start the road bike, I do not recommend the classic double tray (52×39), reserved for couriers. The question of the triple plate is almost solved since there are no more new bicycles equipped in this way. For the list of bicycles under 1500 € (and sometimes under 1000 €) that I propose at the end of this article, I did not find any. There are still the end of the series and the second-hand market…

In addition to 52×39, the market distinguishes 2 combinations: 50×34 (called compact) and 52×36 (called mid-compact). Generally speaking, cyclists equip themselves with 52×36 or 50×34, and cyclists with 50×34. For cassettes (often 9 or 10 crowns), several combinations are often possible, for example, 11×32.

The choice of frame and transmission is crucial for the future. The dilemma is as follows: either the choice of this bike is the first… and the last (well, before long); or the pleasure of the bike help, you will want to make it evolve, to “up-grader” it… If the frame/transmission base is worth it, it’s perfect. On the other hand, a heavy and inert frame, “badly cut”, does not deserve to see its equipment move up the range. That would be a waste.

Other equipment

Other equipment, all essential, includes pedals, wheels and tires, handlebars and stem, seat post and seat. I voluntarily leave aside the bottle holders, the meter and other possible accessories. A word about pedals: generally road bikes are sold without pedals because the buyer may already have them and wish they were installed on his new bike. And then, the offer is important and the choice is independent of the one of the bike. However, in the entry-level segment, some bicycles are sold equipped with traditional pedals with footrests. I will not dwell on the handlebars (handlebars) whose width must match the rider’s build, nor on the saddle which must fit both the rider’s buttocks and his or her design of the bike. Beware of stools that are too soft, which are certainly comfortable but do not transmit the energy generated by pedalling well.

There are still the wheels. The range of wheels is almost infinite, in quality and price. Wheels are the most common type of bike. A cyclist friend recently told me that wheels play a 40% role in the behaviour of a bicycle. It’s to give an order of idea, of course. Also, to obtain bicycles not exceeding 1000 €, it is certain that the running gear will not be the best. By going up to 1500 €, the mounted wheels will already be much better.

To begin with, we can settle for entry-level rims and see if we can bite on the bike later. With a little practice, we will notice that the wheels will have reached their limits, in terms of behaviour. So, if the chassis/transmission couple is worth it, the right plan will be to equip your bike with higher quality wheels, without having to change machines to improve your practice.

A few bicycles from the market at 1500 euros… and less!

Now that the bicycle components have been examined, I would like to suggest a selection (necessarily subjective and incomplete) of racing bicycles – Men and Women – at less than 1500 €, some of which are even less than 1000 €. I would like to point out, if it were still necessary, that I am not linked either directly or indirectly to any cycle professional, manufacturer or distributor.

At the end of this article, we will find the Internet links of the sites visited (4). The other models mentioned are from the special edition of the magazine LE CYCLE – Spécial Equipment 2019.

The big surfaces of sport

The generalists of big-box sports offer entry-level bicycles that satisfy an audience that wants to buy a road bike at very attractive prices. These same brands also sell bicycles in the higher ranges. Let’s not forget that B’TWIN has equipped the AG2R-LA MONDIALE professional team for several seasons.

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