While there is no clear cut answer to how much you should spend, there is information to help you decide exactly what you will get for your money. Based on your budget, you can make informed decisions about different price points, what you feel you can give up or gain from spending more or less.
First, there are 2 main categories, Entry level performance bikes and high-end performance bikes. Actually, there is a 3rd category of bikes that can range from $12,000 and up. If you have disposable income, you can spend as much as $25,000 on a bike…but I wouldn’t recommend getting one until you become a little more seasoned. So, let’s get back to the 2 main categories.
Entry Level Performance Bikes range from $1000 – $3000. These are mass-produced bikes with a grab bag of components from several different manufacturers. Although most of these bikes are more than adequate to get you out on the road and cycling, the rider’s position and the frame construction are built mainly for economy and aesthetics. Some manufacturers do offer some variety in positioning, but most mass-produced bikes tend to fit and match some rider’s handling, ride quality and long-term ownership needs better than others. You might get lucky and find an entry level bike that fits you perfectly…then again you might need to make some concessions.
Just keep in mind, it is very important to get a bike that fits your riding position with as little compromise as possible while addressing your riding style and aspirations. A well matched bike will promote maximum performance and comfort and you will likely not need another new bike for many years.
High Performance Bikes range $4000 – $10,000. Bikes at this level should not suffer from compromise. It is critical to select and prioritize the major components; price points can vary dramatically. Make sure any bike you are considering fits your riding position and matches your needs or you could spend a fair amount of money only to get a compromised end result.
The frame should always come first. As the single most expensive part of a bike, the frame has the greatest impact on your cycling. Do not make the mistake many make by letting their bike determine their riding position; your riding position should always determine your bike options.
After the frame, choose your wheel set. Because the wheels are rotating when riding, a pound saved in the wheel set is worth 2-3 pounds anywhere else on the bike. With the guidance of your fitter, select a wheel set that minimizes weight while addressing durability, serviceability, the ride qualities of your frame and your aerodynamic desires. A good aerodynamic can make add a great deal to performance, Wheels can range from $200-$6000. Note that wheels are one of the most frequent places where many mass-produced bike models save money.
Finally, select the rest of the bike components to meet your personal goals. In general, the more consistent the component selection is on the bike, the more reliable and functional it is. Many component groups are designed to work together. For example, if the bike is Dura Ace, make sure all the components are Dura Ace. Use caution as one way many companies also cut costs is by substituting aftermarket and “house brand” components. Common areas to find such lower quality substitutions are brakes, cranks and bearings.
When it comes to selecting the level of components that is most appropriate, you have options. The big three component manufacturers in cycling, Campagnolo, Shimano, and SRAM, all offer maximum performance, but that performance also comes at maximum cost. If you’ve followed the recommendations above, and invested the majority of your bike budget in your frame and wheels, consider the second highest groupos from the big three. These groupos offer excellent value as they have 95% of the performance of the top end components at 60% of the price. If you are choosing between getting parts on a more basic frame or getting a better frame with more basic parts, keep in mind that upgrading parts down the road is relatively inexpensive while upgrading the frame is far more involved.
There are 2 separate paths bike manufacturer’s take in this price range.
Mass Production High performance Bikes – Mass produced bikes at this level are usually come as a package (frame and all associated component parts) and are offered by some of the biggest brands in the bike industry. It is more than likely you can find a fit that matches you with very little compromise at this level. Be sure you work with a reputable fitter, your riding position should be optimized and established for comfort and performance before you buy your new bike.
Hand Built Bikes – Opposed to mass production bikes, hand built bikes are all about you…making sure it is designed to work ideally just for you. Many of these bikes are available in stock and custom geometry and are designed to maximize the fit, performance and durability by addressing the individual needs of the rider as comprehensively as possible. It is interesting to note that once you are at a certain level of frame quality, the personally tailored bikes from the hand builders do not cost more money than their production counterparts.
The biggest advantage of a production bike is there are local bike dealer in your area, stocking many different brands. You can test ride the bike and be riding it the same day.
Custom built bikes can take weeks, even months to be completed and takes some work on your part to research the different builders and provide all pertinent information to them. Most likely they will not be located locally to you.
While the bike is often the most costly piece of equipment, there is much more required to cycle safely and comfort. If you are starting from scratch, remember to budget 15-20% for a quality fitting session, accessories, and nutritionals.
Helmet – Entry level performance helmets start around $80 and lighter and better ventilated models run $125-$200.
Glasses – You should not ride a bike without glasses. Look for a full coverage pair that is light and designed specifically for active sports. Plastic lenses are recommended and having the option to change lenses is a good idea and convenient. Glasses start at about $50 for basic models and better glasses can run $120 and up.
Pedals & Shoes:
Clip-in pedals and cycling shoes allow you to pedal more efficiently throughout the entire pedal rotation. Entry level set-ups start around $120 and performance oriented set-ups start at $300 and go up from there. Necessity if you want to pedal efficiently.
Jersey’s, Shorts, Socks & gloves:
While none of these are absolutely necessity, they definitely make riding more enjoyable by wicking moisture and cushioning crucial contact points. For best results, be sure to get at least mid-level or better shorts with a quality chamois pad ($75+).
Flat Repair Kit:
Every rider should know how to fix a flat tire as no one can ride a bike flat free forever. A simple CO2 inflator or mini pump, hex wrench set, tire levers and spare tube in a seat bag runs $40-$60.
Tires should be inflated before every ride. If you ride regularly, plan on spending at least $60 to get a floor pump designed for the long haul.
If you want to know how far or fast you have gone, you will want a cycling computer. Basic models start under $30, while models with functions like heart rate and GPS can run in the hundreds and power meter equipped models often run in the thousands. If you are just starting off, consider getting a model that has cadence as that can help you develop proper pedaling habits early.
Ultimately, you get to decide what to spend on your new bike. Regardless of price, a carefully chosen bike facilitated by a fit professional will give you years of enjoyment. Isn’t that what it is all about in the first place?