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.