With the advent of biking culture, it can be easy to get caught up in the shiniest new models and accessories that are released every year. Particularly in biking-heavy cities like Portland, Seattle, or Boulder, choosing the best road bike can feel as arduous as the process of buying a car or a house, particularly when you consider that road bike prices can soar as high as $10,000.
To help you avoid the purchase panic associated with getting into a new road bike, we’ve created a quick list of some tips for finding the best road bikes for both your budget and lifestyle.
Choosing the Best Road Bike: Nail Down Your Budget
Most road bikes start at It should be noted that traditional road bike prices start around $500, with good models almost always landing somewhere closer to $1000. Don’t let the hefty price tags fool you though. Used bikes and road bikes made from lower quality parts may be available for prices well below $500. It all depends on what exactly you’re looking for, and how much you’re willing to spend. That’s why it’s critical to assess your budget before going on the hunt for the best road bike, as the prices and types of bikes can vary significantly depending on what you’re looking for. Listed below are the general tiers of price points when it comes to purchasing the best road bike for your needs:
$500 – $1200: Although this may not seem “cheap,” finding a new road bike for $500 or less will prove to be a significant challenge. At this price point, most road bikes will be a bit heavier than the ultra-light aerodynamic models sold at higher clips. Although high-quality parts are becoming more available as the biking industry grows, road bikes at this price range will still have a significant performance ceiling, and probably will fail well before bikes that are 2x or 3x the price.
That said, for beginning riders and commuters, often this price point is extremely comfortable, and many owners of bikes at this price point will attest to the value and quality of their bike, even though it wasn’t the most expensive on the market. Still confused on where to start? Sites like Bicycle Guider often come out with annual lists of the best bikes for the year, including road bikes on the cheaper end of the spectrum.
$1500 – $3000: For those that have purchased a road bike in the past, or are looking for a step up from the used bike they’ve been pedaling for years, the intermediate range is likely where you should shop, particularly if you’ve had experience on other cycles and have a relative understanding of parts, your usage levels, and your overall performance goals. There are a plethora of bikes within this price range, but the best ones will slide closer to $3,000. As with the cheaper price point, it’s best to delve into the research on the brands, styles, and durability prior to making a firm decision. That said, being open to purchasing a road bike at this price range opens up the options considerably compared to the lower price range, and riders should have a bit of an easier time parsing through the options to find the best road bike possible.
$3500 – $8000: While the ranges keep getting larger and larger, the bikes at this stage are mostly to be purchased by experts only. There are very few who would advise a first-time rider to invest several thousand dollars into a road bike. For bikes at this price point, each step up in the dollar amount usually coincides with a significant addition in terms of parts, construction, or performance. On the custom side of things (where bikes start at more like $7000 and range up to $12000), riders investing up front will be able to have a say in the way their bike is put together, from the parts used to the finishing touches, and they’ll have a guarantee that their bike is either hand-crafted or monitored extremely closely by a team of industry leaders in knowledge and practice. Bikes at this point are also usually fully tested, whether in wind tunnels or elsewhere, and thus designed for extreme performance and durability.
Choosing the Best Road Bike: Assess Your Lifestyle
Are you planning on becoming a dedicated roadie racer, or are you simply looking for a bike to get you to and from your place of work? Whether or not you’ve seriously considered it before, it’s important to decide what kind of roadie you’ll be before you look at purchasing your road bike. Too often, we encounter bikers who, for one reason or another, purchased a high-end road bike only to find that it doesn’t actually suit their riding needs. Finding the best road bike for your lifestyle will dramatically improve both the life and benefits of your bike, regardless of the type you choose. Consider spending a decent amount of time discussing your potential purchase with experienced riders, friends, and experts in the field, and don’t be afraid to stop by more than one location before your buy. Based on the type of lifestyle you lead, you may want to consider one of the following types of road bikes:
Hybrid: While not technically a full “road bike,” a hybrid may end of being the best road bike for your needs simply due to its versatility. Though they weigh more than the traditional road bike, hybrids allow for active riders to participate in both mountain biking and road biking without having to switch vehicles. Hybrids possess skinnier tires than regular mountain bikes, but hybrids themselves are often built with a sturdier frame than road bikes, along with a seat to handlebar position that provides a bit more comfort than the aerodynamic, lightweight roadies.
Commuter Bike (or Urban Cycle): Somewhere between a true road bike and a hybrid is the commuter style road bike, which offers a strong, durable frame prepared to handle the often tumultuous city roads, as well as tires suited to the urban environment. Some commuter cycles will even feature fenders to keep work-bound riders from getting mud or water kicked up on them as they ride. Commuter bikes have become increasingly popular as the urban biking trend has grown, and one can often find bikes of this style on the slightly cheaper side of things when compared with a traditional road bike.
Road Bicycle: The true road bike is designed for high speeds on consistent roads, and are thus designed for streamlined efficiency and high-end performance. They are often extremely lightweight, and built to last for long distances. The best road bike will fit the rider so that both pedaling motion and body position are uncompromised. “True” road bikes are primary designed for those interested in long-distance riding or occasional racing, and aren’t often recommended for the standard urban commuter.
Choosing the Best Road Bike: Take It for a Test Run
This might not always be an option depending on how you’re purchasing your bike, but just like a car you might purchase, it’s always advisable to take any bike you’re considering for a test run prior to buying it. A prospective road bike might look like the perfect fit, but might sit too low or too forward for your liking. In the case you’re considering purchasing a bike online, try to find an in-store model that matches or is very similar to the style and size of the road bike you’re looking at, and see if you can take it for a test run. Most shops will at least let you sit on the bike and pedal it around for a bit to ensure the fit is correct.
Choosing the Best Road Bike: Take Your Pick
At the end of the day, you can only do so much research. While it’s recommended that you exhaust all the sources you can find, picking the best road bike is ultimately up to you and what you feel is a perfect fit for your lifestyle, goals, and budget. Too often, beginner riders overthink the process of purchasing their first bike, and toil on a decision before the prospect of what they could have overwhelms them. Try to maintain an even hold on what your budget is and what your general expectations are for road bike performance, and then set a time limit for yourself on your overall search process.
As soon as you’ve decided on the best road bike for your lifestyle and budget, don’t forget to pick up your state-of-the-art Inno bicycle carrier!
Written by Tyler Wildeck