Having just gone through the process of sorting an affordable good bike for my neighbour- I have come up with a few observations that may help newcomers or those that want to get up to a reasonable bike in the near future.
Many reasons for just getting a cheap bike to start off with including "Not much money" and "Don't want to spend too much in case I don't like cycling" Of course there are those of us that can afford to get a respectable bike and ask here and get the Specialised Roubaix that would be the popular recommendation. Good on ya if you do as that is one mean bike that will last a newcomer or experienced rider for many years and longer.
But how about the rest of us? 5 years ago I was into mountain biking and had a 14 year old Kona Explosif and a 5 year old Bianchi Grizzly as my main rides. Both good bikes and at the low end of top quality when they were bought new. I also had the Offroad Tandem that was not cheap to buy and then cost a fortune to bring up to a top rate spec for the type of riding it was doing.
So I was used to good bikes but 5 years ago I decided to see what the "Darkside" was like and thought about getting a road bike. I knew nothing about Road bike specs and even less about riding them---- So down to my LBS and see what was about. Didn't want used as I had only ever had one of them and it fell apart pretty quickly.
So new bike and what was there about? My LBS is a Giant dealer and they recommended The OCR range. In fact it had just been upgraded to a new style of frame (Called the SCR over here) that was better than the old style. The base model had everything required- 2 wheels- bars- brakes and a triple crankset for our hills. On top of that- the same frame was utilised right through the range up to the OCR1 so was a frame worth building on. OK- The gears were only 8 spd Sora- about the lowest spec that was any good-The wheels were a basic Formula Hub with Alex rims and the rest of the components were a bit on the heavy side but this bike was affordable and from a good pedigree. I bought it.
Within 6 months I nearly gave up road riding. It was taking more effort than I thought it should and top speed was not much better than my Bianchi MTB with knobblies fitted. Took the bike into the shop to get them to see if I could improve it and a week later fitted a pair of Handbuilt wheels with Michelin PR2 tyres. What a difference- the bike was transformed. I now had a bike that was performing for me and it was so good- I took it on holiday to the Alps and it did not let me down. Mind you-I was a bit disappointed climbing Mont Ventoux as that slope made me realise that I liked Road riding and my competence was now above the quality of the bike. But for a basic bike it was a darn good entry into road riding. I had made the change to the wheels that had improved it but one thing you have to think about on the basic bikes- They are basic and a few parts on them "May" need upgrading.
Got back to the UK and within a week had Boreas built up from frame and forks and it made the $700 of the OCR look like peanuts.
But if a new Bike is out of the question- where do you start? I will upset a few here- and it will only be a few- and state do not get one from Wally Mart or other such places. The quality is not there unless you only want a Bike. It will work –for a while- but they will not give you a good ride.
Some shops do sell used bikes so check them out. But you have Craigs list and possibly E-Bay so that is your start point. Yard sales are also good but you may have to go to a few to find a sensible starter bike. If you are cycle experienced then you “May” be able to find a good bike at a good price. However if you don’t understand your Calliper brakes from your F.D- then beware or find a friend that knows bike mechanics. There are some bargains to be had and there are quite a few overpriced lumps of junk that someone is trying to offload.
My neighbour struck “VERY” lucky in a Jamis Ventura for around $400. Not a top grade bike but far better than I started with. It still has the problem of the wheels but they will be easy to upgrade, as he requires. You could be just as lucky.
Point I am trying to make here is that you do not have to spend a fortune to get into cycling. It may take some looking to get a bike you can afford and it may not be sparkling new or of the top grade that the Local Club riders tell you that you need- but it can be a good start. You may have to replace a few parts but there is a learning curve to cycling. You don't need a 15lbs latest spec C.F. bike to get out and enjoy yourself at first. As you gain experience and you become more competent- you May want the 1500gramme wheelset- you may want a tighter cassette to stay with the fast boys- or you may find that Your personal fitness does not need a better bike than your current one. But even that will quickly change.