How To Get A Road Bike Groupset Cheaply – Insider Tips

Bikes are made of two major parts: the frame and all of the other parts that make it work.

If you are trying to find a cheap road bike, undoubtedly you’ve wondered if there was some way you could save money by building it yourself.

If you are handy, you definitely can. The trick is to know what is important to you, and where you can afford to cut corners.

Here are a few tricks to get the best deal out of your groupset.

Stick With A Name Brand

Sram and Shimano rule the day. Campagnolo is high-end but rarely found for cheap.

Don’t go for no-name Chinese brands. Compatibility issues are a real bitch when you are trying to spell out your part names in Chinese.

Go Old-School

This is the best-kept secret. The cycling industry has taken a page from Apple’s playbook: Newer is better.

Every year they have invented some new carbon-fiber-Teflon-coated-titanium-plated shifter with one more gear than we had the year before.

It’s a hedonistic treadmill.

Not to be a classical purist, but my grandaddy used to ride around with 5 gears on the rear and 2 on the front. Now, I can buy a bicycle with more gears on the rear cassette than he had in total combinations.

It’s like shaving razors: at some point, they have to stop adding blades.

If you can find a closeout deal on last year’s or the last decades’ hot system, you can save a lot of money. Most people who buy gruppos want the most cutting-edge equipment.

This gives you the opportunity to buy the “obsolete” equipment for a nice discount.

In my case, I found a groupset that was 3 years old. I got it for almost half-off. It is the same stuff the pros were racing on less than 5 years ago.

And, don’t worry. Replacement parts and seem to hang around for a good 20 years after they stop making a series (And, often aftermarket parts are available for a good ten years past that.)

Ditch The STI

Shimano Total Integrated shifters have become the gold standard. Both Sram and Campagnolo have their own version of this.

However, integrated shifters are the most expensive part of a groupset. All of those tiny inner mechanisms are like the parts of a fine Swiss watch (and are priced similarly).

Switching to a bar-end shifter configuration can save you 50% off the price of the groupset.

Sure, they aren’t as cool, but they last longer and are cheaper to replace.

Don’t Skimp On Wheels

Wheels effect ride quality. Don’t skimp here. If you can, go with a lower level of shifters and add a little more to your wheel budget. The best road wheels have, in my experience, an MSRP of at least $500.

I typically buy my wheels used. But then I tend to be a little lighter, and I have access to a truing stand to keep them true.

For the novice shopper who has is mechanically inclined, these are insiders tips on how to get a killer deal on a groupset.

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Cheap Road Bike Pedals

As a beginning cyclist, you may wonder why you would need a special pedal for a road bike.

There are three basic pedal types you can use. And there are advantages to each.

Flat pedal: We are familiar with this basic pedal type. The upside with these pedals is that you can use any shoe type and easily move your foot off the pedal when stopping. This pedal is cheap, simple and ideal for those who will be riding their bike in regular workout shoes. Many commuters also prefer this type of pedal.

Flat Pedal With Toe Cage: This takes a flat pedal and adds a toe cage to it. The toe cage helps keep the foot in proper positioning for the best power output and also allows the foot to lift on the upstroke, creating better power on longer rides. For the athlete who wants a better workout, these toe cages are a cheap way to do that.

Clipless Pedals: This last pedal type was invented after the toe-cage design and uses small cleats on the underside of a specially designed shoe to clip the shoe and the pedal together. Typically, these shoes have a stiffer sole to create better power transfer, and you can pull up on the upstroke to provide power throughout the entire cycle.

The clipless pedal is what all serious “roadies” and professional athletes use.

The first two categories are very simple to purchase. Any local bike shop or sports store will have them.

The clipless pedals, however, have a wide range of options. You can buy super cheap ones for about $30-$50, or you can spend $350 on a single set of pedals. (Not to mention shoes that can run over $400.)

The best option is to buy a shoe/pedal combo. The SPD set by Wellgo is extremely affordable, and you can often find shoe-pedal combos for under $100.

The SPD is a good pedal. It was technically designed for mountain use, but it works well for road riders and is less intimidating to use than a road-dedicated pedal.

It’s brother; the SPD-SL pedal is based loosely on the “Look” design. So you often hear people call them “look-styled pedals.” This refers to the “Look” brand who initially created a larger pedal that was than copied and imitated by many different brands.

The SPD-SL now has its own set of copycats, and most of them are reliable.

You do get what you pay for. If you can afford to spend $100 on a pedal than you will get one that is designed to last for years of use. Cheaper options might need to be replaced every couple of years.

But for the novice rider, you can’t go wrong shopping for a combo deal, riding it until it breaks, and then upgrading a couple of years down the road.

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Cheap Road Bikes For Under $100

Road riding is one of the most exhilarating sports you will ever get addicted to. There is something about the hum of the tires as the country views slowly pass by, that is incredibly relaxing.

There is something about curving through the countryside on almost invisibly thin tires that is liberating. It takes skill. It takes confidence.

Few understand just how addictive this sport is.

Not to mention, it is incredible the bragging rights you’ll collect and the friends you will make on this journey. It is not normal to ride 100 miles in a day. Completing a century is an empowering event. Raising money for the charity cause puts you in league with other large-hearted athletes in your community.

And we haven’t even discussed the fitness benefits. Riding three times per week for 30 minutes will let you meet the heart associates recommendations for working out. I love to get 3 hours per week of riding in during the summer. The clarity, improved sleep and weight loss are worth the time investment.

All of this — and more — are available to you if you have a bike.

Sticker shock is a real thing in this industry. It is hard to find a road bicycle for under $500. Even used, they cost hundreds of dollars.

For the college student who is hoping to get a bike they can both commute on and use as a source of exercise, the price can ruin their dreams before they start.

The biggest pitfalls for the budget shopper are the bicycles they sell at big box stores like Walmart. The GMC Denali might be the most well-known offender.

It looks like a road bike. It has the skinny tires and curved handlebars that you would expect.

Unfortunately, it is a very heavy machine. And, the parts on it are of the lowest quality. The result is a heavy “boat anchor” that shifts poorly.

The athletes who choose this route find their dreams killed, but in a disheartening manner that places the blame on them. When they find themselves walking hill after hill or having to save up for repair after repair, they tend to internalize those failures instead of placing the blame on the poor-quality equipment they are working around.

A better option is to find a used model. High-end bicycles will last for thirty or more years. And they are every bit as good as the day they were first sold. My first bicycle was a 1970’s model that I rode for 100+ miles a week. I upgraded because I wanted to, not because I needed to (and the upgrade was about 5 pounds lighter. That did entice me.)

Ebay has many reputable sellers who provide these models. Be sure to read their return policy and make sure they have good reviews. But some of these sellers have shops and mechanics who check out the bicycles and provide small repairs before they sell them.

The most important thing is to get a road bike that fits you. Each of the frames comes in different sizes. These frames are measured based on seat tube height.

So they measure from where the seat holder starts down to the middle of the cranks.

Some of the sizes are Small-Medium-Large, while others are in centimeters (inches are rarely used).

As the height increases so do the reach to the bars. But, for conveniences, we only base sizing on this one measurement.

It might be worth stopping by your local bike shop to do a test drive. This will give you an idea what kind of bike you can buy once you prove to yourself that you love the sport.

More importantly, it can give you an idea of what bike size is ideal for you.

An important thing for American shoppers to realize is that 2 cm is typically an entire size difference. Just because you can fit on a 54 cm doesn’t mean a 52 cm is workable. Once you know what your size is, you should stick to that size.

The wrong size can lead to pain and even cause poor performance as your body fights with the bicycle.

Pawn shops, garage sales, and Craigslist are excellent places to shop for cheap bikes. Carry a tape measure with you, and you can measure them to get the right size.

When you buy local, you get to inspect the bicycle more carefully. Look for cracked and worn tires and broken and frayed cables. These little repairs can add up quickly.

Don’t buy a bike that needs a lot of repairs. I know that is tempting, but bike parts add up quickly. I can’t tell you how many farmers have drug old bikes out of their barn because they “just need new tires.” At $30 a tire and $5 a tube, they are looking at $70 a bike just to get them rolling again.

Also, some of the older American-made bikes (Schwinn, and Western Flyer, we are looking at you) were excessively heavy. If you are buying online, you can ask them to weigh it, and if shopping locally, be sure to pick it up.

An ideal bike would weigh less than 30-32 pounds. You get much more than that, and the weight of the bike can dramatically slow your performance.

The bottom line is that shopping at the sub-$100 price point is challenging. Even at the sub-$200 range, you are probably looking at a bike that is 20+ years old.

But don’t let that turn you off. The sport is worth the investment, and, if you shop carefully, this sub-$100 bike will last you ten or more years.

When you finally get your machine, don’t forget to find someone to ride with. Meetups and local bike clubs are excellent for this. There is nothing better than enjoying all of the benefits of road biking with a friend.

It is genuinely life-changing to share your favorite sport with someone else. Lifelong friendships are formed on two wheels.