I recommend that beginners purchase the highest-quality bike they can afford. Yes, that sometimes means the more expensive bike, but it will save money on future upgrades. A higher quality bike means better feel, lighter weight, and higher performance. Aluminum and steel frames (approximately $500 to $800 for entry level) are durable, sturdy and less expensive than carbon frames. They are a great option for the budget-conscious beginner cyclist. Carbon fiber components and frames are lighter and tend to absorb more road vibration, making for a smoother ride. Another economic option is to look at bikes with a combination of aluminum and carbon materials.
Tip: Buy a bike within your budget that feels good and fits you well. Remember, you'll have to add accessories like a helmet, pedals, tubes, shoes and apparel to your bottom line.
How much you should spend and what type of bike you should buy will be influenced by whether you're a weekend warrior or a competitive IRONMAN athlete set on bagging faster times. Assess your level of commitment to cycling and what you want from the sport. Like most, I knew I wanted to complete sprint triathlons and some weekend recreational riding, but I didn't have grand visions of riding the Tour de France. I wasn't concerned about speed as much as I was about having fun and being safe. That first aluminum road bike served me well for triathlons, multi-day and charity rides. After several years, I knew I was hooked and ready to upgrade to a full carbon tri bike. My sprint triathlons grew into IRONMANs and I began to train, not just ride.
At this point, I had learned a lot through racing and training. I asked questions. I test rode different brands. I sought out bikes that suited my petite frame. I stared at the myriad selection of bikes in transition on race day. It wasn't until I knew I was fully committed that I sought out top-of-the line materials and components.
Tip: Before you spend thousands of dollars on the fanciest bike, be sure you are committed to riding.
Buying a new bike is exciting, but brings with it a new set of equipment and rules that can be overwhelming as a beginner. Your knowledge and experience will also determine the type of bike you purchase.
Does the idea of riding in a pack frighten you? Have you practiced clipping in and out of your pedals? Are you comfortable in aero bars? Do you know how to change a flat? Can you maneuver gears for climbing and descending? These are some of the factors to consider when deciding on a bike. Competence builds confidence. It's true that you may never forget how to ride a bike, but you do lose confidence if you haven't done it in a long time. Buy the bike that makes you feel safe. If the idea of riding in aerobars scares you, don't start with a tri bike. If you're nervous about hill climbs, look at bikes that provide more gearing.
Tip: Buy the bike that will make you the most confident rider you can be. A well-fit bike will eliminate other distractions and allow you to hit the road and enjoy the ride.
More: 7 Tri Bikes on a Budget
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