I'm that guy, riding a bike that costs more than my car. But here's the thing, no one 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. 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. Here are the three keys to buying your first bike.
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How much do bikes cost?
Type of Bike
Average Price Range
Department store road and MTBs
$100 - $500
New entry-level road bikes
$800 - $3,000
New entry-level MTBs
$800 - $3,500
Quality mid-range used road bikes
$1,000 - $2,500
Quality mid-range used MTBs
$1,500 - $3,500
The above price ranges are what most first-time buyers will usually encounter when shopping for an entry-level or beginner bike. Here are some things to consider:
- Department store bikes are incredibly cheap, and that's reflected in their quality. They use cheap frames, cheap components, and usually aren't put together by professional bike mechanics. These might be fine for cruising around town, but for "serious" riding, it's better to seek higher quality bikes that are safer and built to last.
- New entry-level bikes have a higher price point than department store bikes, but are a better option for riders who intend to ride regularly and improve over time. To stay affordable, they usually use basic aluminum or steel frames, which weigh more, but are tough and reliable. They also use entry-level Shimano or SRAM components which work fine, but don't have the features of higher-end options.
- If you're shopping the used bike market, you can find quality mid-range bikes with much nicer frames and higher-end components, but spend the same as you would on a new entry-level bike. For most aspiring cyclists, this is the ideal option.
Experiencing sticker shock? Well, read on to learn why it might be worth saving up to spend a bit more on a higher-quality bike.
Rule #1: Spend $1,000-2,500 on your first bike
This 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 this on a bike to satisfy your needs.
Otherwise, 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. They will have frames and components designed to work reliably for years to come. This price range opens up a huge selection of good options for entry-level to mid-range 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.
Rule #2: Check a used bike's 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.
If you can spend a bit more on your bike up front, it will be a better investment in the long run.
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. Worst of all, bikes like this will be difficult, if not impossible to resell later because they aren't desirable. It will be very hard to recoup any money you've put in.
Read this story to learn more about how depreciation affects the price of used bikes.
Rule #3: Keep it current
We've already established that you should look for a pre-owned bike 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.
Bikes 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 latest equipment. But that is unreasonable for most of us and kind of unnecessary.
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.
Components from the last 5-10 years also have the added benefit of compatibility. 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 evolving, and older bikes generally don't handle as well as newer bikes. This is especially true for mountain bikes, which have seen a huge shift in geometry over the last 10 years. Spending more for a newer bike will ensure your bike benefits from the latest refinements in geometry and improved handling characteristics.
The story of my first bike... Spoiler: I didn't follow the rules
My own experience has shown me that getting a higher quality bike from the start 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 other outdated components.
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 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 again.
Owning a bike like this can be a fun adventure. But it's often just frustrating and unpleasant. For a broke college kid 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.
My Cannondale, the first "real" bike I owned was relatively affordable and it helped me 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 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 $1,000-2,000 range will facilitate your growth and make it easier to fall in love with cycling.
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If you’d like to see $1,000-2,000 pre-owned bikes in our inventory, check out the following collections:
[button]Entry-level road bikes[/button]
[button]Entry-level 'cross / gravel bikes[/button]
[button]Entry-level mountain bikes[/button]
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, take a look at our collection of buyer’s guides that explain the ins and outs of bikes.
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!
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!