Today’s question, a very common one, is about getting started in road biking and looking for a new bike…

What Bike Should I Buy?

I was wondering if you could direct me toward a new bike. I am a runner and have started biking as cross-training. I am currently using my father’s old Raleigh road bike from the 80’s. It is very heavy and I would like something lighter for longer rides. Any help you could give me would be great. Thank you

The whole “what road bike should I buy?” situation is way too common. Every spring when the weather gets nice, I get all sorts of variations on this question.

I would like to be able to answer this question for everyone, but it’s simply impossible. A lot of thought needs to go into getting the right bike for your specific needs, and sending me a little information over the internet isn’t enough.

All I can say is, “it depends.” Because really, any road bike today will fit the description of “a road bike lighter than an 80’s Raleigh.”

But, I can also give you this 5-step formula for choosing a good road bike to buy. It should help you out!

2013 specialized allez road bike

5 Steps to Picking Out Your First Road Bike

Here’s how to choose a road bike. Just follow these steps in order and you’re bound to get a good bike.

1. Determine your budget.

Determining your budget is the first step because it’s going to be a specific number that won’t change. It also narrows your search quite a bit, saving you time over the research process.

Generally you can get a decent road bike for under $1000, but you probably won’t find anything under $700. If your budget is under $700, you’ll probably want to look for a used bike.

I’d say $800 will get you a road bike that is fine and dandy for recreational riding. The 2013 Specialized Allez pictured above retails at $770. However, if you can afford around $1300, that would get you a really nice bike that will serve you well for years, even if you start racing.

You absolutely don’t need to spend $3000 on your first road bike!

2. Think about the type of riding you want to do.

Now it’s time to think. You need to think about what type of riding you want to do, because the buying decision will be based on this information.

You might want to ride really fast on the road. You might want to race. You might want to do really long rides, maybe even bike tours where you camp out each night. You might want to ride on dirt paths and rail trails sometimes.

Once you have it figured out, memorize it, or even better, write it down.

3. Tell this to someone at a bike shop.

Once you are informed, head to a local bike shop, and tell a salesman what type of riding you want to do. Any good salesman will absorb this information and ask any relevant questions. Then, combining their knowledge of bikes and the local area, they will show you a few bikes that fit your needs and your budget.

They should also be able to tell you why a certain bike fits your needs and why a different bike would not be right for you.

4. Test ride.

Test ride all the bikes you are considering. Even though the bikes may look similar, they can feel a lot different from each other.

5. Buy the bike.

By now, you should have found a bike that looks and feels right.

If the bike is right and the bike shop is nice, trustworthy, and knowledgeable, get the bike. Otherwise, go back to step 3, try a different shop, and repeat.


This formula is simple but usually works wonders. When you have more experience and can ask or answer more detailed questions, then it’s time to do lots of research and ask people online for help (if you’re looking at a popular bike, there are probably plenty of owners at BikeForums, CyclingForums, Weight Weenies, etc..) But for your first real bike, you won’t have that many options anyway, so use the 5-step formula.

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