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How Much Should You Spend on Your First Bike?

By Bruce Lin


Updated: December 7, 2020

I'm the guy riding a bike that costs more than my car. When friends ask me how much they should spend on a new bike, I can tell they're a little afraid to hear my answer. But here's the thing, I don't think they or anyone needs to spend much on a bike. In fact, you probably shouldn’t be like me. You can ride an affordable bike and be just as happy as me (and probably richer).

It’s no secret that cycling can be very expensive. Countless forum topics attract clicks with titles like “Why do bikes cost so much?” or “Are bike prices out of control?” The subject of rising bike prices gets people going, especially with so many halo bikes now costing more than $10,000. Explaining the economic and technological factors behind bike costs would take us deep into another rabbit hole. 

Instead, for you newer riders, I'm here to tell you how to buy smart and get the most for your money. I'll explain why you should spend a reasonable amount — about $1,000-2,000 — on a high-quality pre-owned bike, ideally made in the last 5-10 years.

Three people riding mountain bikes

$1,000-2,000 may seem like a lot of money to some. To others, it may seem like too little. But this is a good starting point for newer riders who are motivated to get into cycling but aren't ready to eclipse the cost of their cars. 

If you don’t plan on riding often, if you’re only doing brief rides and locking your bike up permanently outdoors, if you’re not sure you’ll take to cycling as a hobby, or if your life circumstances just don’t allow it, it’s entirely okay to spend less than $1,000 on a budget bike to satisfy your needs.

Otherwise, I believe the old adage of “buy cheap, buy twice” (or "buy once, cry once") applies here. Spending approximately this much will get you a good, pre-owned, recent model-year bike that won’t need many upgrades if any. This price range opens up a huge selection of good options for entry-level machines. 

A quick disclaimer: I work for a business that sells bikes. The Pro's Closet offers a large selection of entry-level bikes. I would love for you to buy a bike from us. But even if you don’t, I think you should always seek the best value possible. 

Buying pre-owned allows you to get a slightly higher-end bike with better components when compared to buying new. You can easily find great used bikes in this suggested price range from private sellers. But some of the added benefits we provide are a 30-day return policy, reliable shipping, a full inspection and tune, and a dedicated customer service team. We even offer Affirm financing that lets you ride a bike now and pay later.

Find the right bike and you can be confident it will hold its value better, have better components and technology, and will allow you to enter the sport with a solid foundation for growth.

Check the original price

Just like cars, boats, skis, and computers, bikes depreciate. The moment a new bike leaves the shop floor it loses some value. Our expert used-bike purchasing team here at The Pro's Closet has studied this phenomenon for years. They have developed a simple rule to follow when purchasing a used bike, which you can use too. 

As a business, we avoid buying bikes that have an original MSRP lower than $1,500 because bikes at and above that price are of much higher quality and will maintain their value and desirability for longer. A quick Internet search will help you determine the original retail price of any bike you're looking at. 

Understandably, a bicycle that costs over $1,000 is a big purchase. However, if you can spend a bit more on your bike up front, it will be a better investment in the long run. 

When you buy a bike on the very low-end of the price spectrum, the value simply isn't there because it is often in poor condition or equipped with components that don't function well or are prone to wear. Worst of all, bikes like this will be difficult, if not impossible to resell later because their desirability is so low. It will be very hard to recoup any money you've put in. 

Plus, bikes in the sub-$1,000 range are usually built with generic, bottom of the barrel components, or that have severely outdated designs. These bikes won’t function as well, they will be less durable, and they won't be as nice to ride. 

Read this story to learn more about how depreciation affects the price of used bikes.

Keep it current

Good affordable bikes have better components and technologyBikes are constantly evolving. New technologies and standards are introduced at an overwhelming pace. Some riders get a new bike every season just to stay on the newest equipment. But that is unreasonable for most of us, and in reality, it’s far from necessary.

We've already established that you should look for a pre-owned in the $1,000-2,000 range that had a new retail price of $1,500 or greater. But how old is too old when it comes to model year?

The third rule of thumb is to seek out bikes made within the last 5-10 years. These are more likely to have components and technology that work as well as any of the latest and greatest bikes. Drivetrains that are one to two generations older generally have comparable technology to the newest parts. They may not have all the bells and whistles, but they won't ruin your ride.

For example, my first "real" road bike had a 10-speed drivetrain when all the new bikes had 11-speed drivetrains. Did I miss that extra cog? Not at all. The bike still worked great and I loved riding it. 

As long as the componentry on your bike is from the last 5-10 years, it also has the added benefit of compatibility. Bikes are constantly being refined, new and improved technology is always trickling down from top-end offerings into more affordable options. If things do go wrong, it’s easier to get replacement parts if your bike is equipped with newer components that are compatible with modern technologies.

Bike geometry is also constantly evolving and older bikes generally don't handle as well as newer bikes. This is especially true of mountain bikes, which have seen a huge shift in geometry over the last 10 years. Spending more for a slightly newer bike will ensure your bike benefits from the latest refinements in geometry and improved handling characteristics.  

If you are unfamiliar with bicycle technology, I would suggest reading any one of our more detailed Buyer's Guides for Road, Gravel, Mountain, and Women’s bikes.

These guides cover bike design and component technology in much more detail. They also provide drivetrain component hierarchies that can help when comparing different bikes. Generally, any bike of acceptable quality will have a drivetrain listed in the component hierarchies of the Buyer's Guides.

Set a solid foundation for growth

My own experience has shown me that getting a higher quality bike from the get-go increases the likelihood that you will enjoy riding and continue to ride regularly.

Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes. I bought my first bike for $250 off Craigslist. It was an ancient Peugeot with six speeds, 52/42t chainrings, friction shifters, center-pull brakes, and various other outdated components. 

As my first bike, the Peugeot was troublesome because I had been hoping to do some serious riding. The stiff gearing and imprecise shifting didn’t help my novice-level fitness handle climbs. The petrified brake pads and weak, outdated calipers terrified me on descents. The wheels were impossible to true and I had trouble finding vintage 27” tires and six-speed chains at my local bike shops. Riding long distances on this bike was uncomfortable at best.

I now can appreciate the charm of vintage bikes, but I would never subject myself to riding this bike ever again.

Owning a bike like this can be an adventure. Sometimes it's fun. But a lot more times it's just frustrating and unpleasant. For a broke college kid just trying to get to class, the Peugeot was an okay option. But that's all I used it for. It wasn’t until I upgraded to the next bike that I truly fell in love with riding and felt like I became a cyclist.

I saved up and purchased a used Cannondale CAAD10 (from The Pro’s Closet actually, before I was an employee) for $1,500. At the time it was already a couple of years old with an aluminum frame and an older 10-speed Shimano Ultegra group. But it was lightyears ahead of the Peugeot. 

Cannondale CAAD10 Road Bike
My Cannondale, the first "real" bike I owned was relatively affordable and it pushed me to become the rider I am today. Here it is at the top of the biggest climb I'd ever done at the time. I was so proud, and my bike helped me get there. 

The Cannondale was fast, reliable, and refined — three things the Peugeot never was. The drivetrain shifted smoothly. The wheels were stiff and straight, and the brakes actually slowed me down when I was going fast. The geometry was modern and felt agile and exciting. Best of all, it didn’t weigh 30 pounds like the Peugeot. Spending more than I did on my first bike got me something that was simply better in every way. The Cannondale was plenty affordable and honestly, it rode nearly as well as any of my more recent $5,000 road bikes. 

The bike’s good qualities pushed me to develop as a cyclist. It made me want to ride more. I started doing longer more adventurous rides. It made me brave enough to take on group rides and the occasional race. I got fitter and became increasingly enamored with the sport.

Because I actually loved riding this bike, it helped me build a solid foundation of skills and fitness. Its reliability meant I didn’t have to think when I went out for rides. It just worked. I upgraded parts as they wore out or broke, and rode it for several years. It's now been replaced as my tastes have become more refined and I’ve come to understand what I really want. Still, I credit much of my development as a rider to this bike.

If you're determined enough, you can be happy and develop as a rider on a $250 Peugeot. If you can, then you're a tougher, more talented rider than I am!

But if your goal is to ride regularly and progress your fitness and skills, a bike in the $1,000-2000 range will facilitate your growth and make it easier to fall in love with cycling. 

Entry-level bikes

If you’d like to see $1,000-2,000 pre-owned bikes in our inventory, check out the following collections:

Entry-level road bikes

Entry-level 'cross / gravel bikes

Entry-level mountain bikes 

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, be sure to check back later because new bikes are added daily. You can also set a saved search to receive an alert when your dream bike arrives in our inventory.

If you’re looking for a new bike and are interested in learning more about all of the technology or terminology you need to know about to understand what you’re buying, remember to take a look at our collection of buyer’s guides that explain the ins and outs of bikes.

I do want to stress that ultimately the rider plays the biggest part in performance. An exceptionally fit and skilled rider on the worst, cheapest, most outdated bike can outride and beginner on the latest superbike. Though I suggest against buying sub-$1,000 bikes, it’s still possible to become a great cyclist riding one. But starting with a higher-quality bike will make progress as a cyclist so much easier and quicker.

Enjoy your journey as a cyclist!

Shop used bikes

What was your first bike and how much did it cost? Would you spend more or less if you could do it all over again? Do you have any other tips for riders looking for an affordable bike? Let us know in the comments!


  • Couldn’t agree more. Last year bought a older 2004 giant TCR carbon frame. Got a good deal on a set of zipp rims on clearance a new stem and a couple other things on there to suit it how I wanted it and the thing rides like a dream. It’s an older nine speed ultegra but it works like a champ, I ride in the flats of Florida so I really don’t really need or miss the extra couple gears on the newer bike. Sure eventually I’d like to get a new one but for 400 bucks that I paid for this bike no complaints

    Bob Hammer on

  • As an avid cyclist, I found my sweet spot with my bikes. So many people spend the big bucks fulfilling their dream – buying a bike that is very expensive that they never end up putting any miles on.

    People like me, buy these used bikes for 1/2 price or less due to the guilt and stress they caused by going so big, while I win every time. That’s why I’m here looking at used bikes.

    molly despondent on

  • I couldnt agree more! I bought 2 bikes from Craigslist. 1 was an old, heavy, outdated road bike for $300. I really wanted to learn to enjoy a road bike. I realized that was not the right bike for me (6’3 235#). Eventually I spent $1000 on a 2009 Felt Z25 and it opened up a whole new world for me. I now ride it as often as possible and am finally at a point where I may buy a newer (2012-2018) road bike to help continue my progress!!!

    David M Goergen on

  • I bought a 2005 Scott Speedster in 2011 at a pawn shop for $200. When new, it was probably about $700. I have since invested in a Brooks saddle and an aero handlebar (the flattened surface really reduces hand issues for me) for a combines price of around $400. The bike itself is still to this day capable of going faster and farther than I can make it go. The moral of the story for me is that there is no reason to avoid used entry level bikes from quality makers running entry level groupsets (e.g. Sora) that can be had for a few hundred dollars. You’ll want to upgrade your comfort on any bike you ride often, and saddle/stem/bar combos are very personal. Give yourself the headroom to do so.

    Brandon Gillette on

  • Thomas, you’re absolutely right – your brother doesn’t have to spend a thousand dollars on his bike. It’ll be his first bike, so in my opinion, it’s better to buy a less expensive bike and then change it after several time. He’ll know what exact bike he wants though.

    bikeandmore on

  • Thank you for helping me to understand that it is okay to spend less than a thousand dollars on a bike that fits your needs. My brother wants to get into road cycling but he is just thinking of doing it as a way to get more exercise. He will probably need to get a decent bicycle and he probably doesn’t need to spend money on a professional-grade one.

    Thomas Clarence on

  • Not counting the 10-speed I bought as a freshman in HS, I bought a Trek ion (Gary Fisher) for $900 off Craigslist in 2015. I agree, it made me want to ride more and more. Got better and and rode in several BikeMS events. Now I’m wondering do I find my next bike the same way or ……?

    Paul in Pittsburgh on

  • Still riding my 1988 Schwinn World Sport still being used after 32 years, I purchased this bike brand new and it still is a great bike to ride the trails.

    Carl on

  • I’m a bike junkie, so If I was buying a new bike today, I would probably spend about $3000-$4000. Bikes in this range have components that work very very well plus are durable and light and serviceable – they are just FUN to ride! I easily get 10 years – usually more – of solid service out of bikes in this range before upgrading to the latest technology. Assuming that I spend $4,000, the bike lasts 10 years, and it’s worth only $500 when I sell it, that’s about $7 per week for hundreds and hundreds of hours of good-for-you, good-for-the-planet fun. That’s less than the cost of two fancy drinks at Starbucks each week!

    Martin de Chico on

  • A 1970 Raleigh Record paid $75 which was a lot back then, rode it through High School, rode it through college, still ride it 50 years later. Burns a lot more calories than my fancy bikes easy to ride with no hands.

    Kerry OConnell on

  • After retiring, I picked up a 1998 Santa Cruz Heckler X for $225. I wasn’t sure that I would actually ride much. The bike was in very good condition and I’ve been riding it for almost 4 yrs.
    Here is the question… I’m thinking about getting a road bike. On Craigslist there are listings for: 1. 2013 Trek Madone 4.5, “excellent condition.” $1000(blue book is $850) New $2630
    2. 2005 Specialized Roubaix Elite, “good condition.” $800(blue book $800) New $6000. Which of these sounds more appealing, newer or higher end bike?
    Thanks. Joe

    Joe Wernet on

  • Hi Brian,

    It might be helpful to get some more information about your budget, experience, and goals for racing. That being said, among many racers here at TPC, less expensive aluminum race bikes like the Specialized Allez Sprint or Cannondale CAAD10 and CAAD12 are very popular. If you choose a light and stiff bike from any reputable brand though, it’s hard to go wrong. Two of our Cat 1/Pro riders have had great success racing the Allez for multiple seasons:

    Bruce Lin on

  • Hello,
    My name is Brian.What brand is the best in race bike? There are so many. Italia and American brand. Thanks

    Brian Do on

  • I think this article provides some very good and solid advice. I have lent one of my (good—they are all good!) bikes to many of my friends who want to get back into cycling. By starting with a good bike that works well they have all embraced the sport and moved on to nicer bikes of their own. You will never regret the extra expense of a better Groupset or a better frame once you start riding it. The combination of success, confidence and pleasure you get out of riding a bike that works really well is hard to put a value on. The only disagreement I have with this article is that there are some absolutely amazing classic bikes that provide timeless perfection. Speedvagen, Pegoretti, Moots, Serotta, Baum, Parlee, SWorks, etc. If you find a bike like this with reasonably recent wheels and Groupset (what’s wrong with DuraAce 10 spd.? nothing!) then that is a bike that you will truly enjoy for life. So the 5 years or newer rule only applies to me on mass manufactured bikes. Thanks for the advice!

    John OFfutt on

  • First bike? A 1970 green Schwinn Varsity. I think that bike weighed 40 pounds, and I rode it everywhere, including several 50 mile rides which as a teen-aged boy seemed huge. Miss the bike but miss the teen legs even more:)

    Robert Sigworth on

  • I bought my $250 Peugeot PX-10 in 1976, and paid extra for 27" clincher rims instead of tubular. That bike got me through RAAM’83, and I was no athlete. I got back into distance riding with a $50 garage sale 1976 Austro Daimler touring bike. A new 5 speed freewheel is under $20. Older road bike frames often accommodate wide tires, and they aren’t hard to find. Don’t overlook these beautiful, well-made, highly functional steeds.

    Gary DelNero on

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