Hoping for some help buying my first road(ish) bike!

I was a bike cycler in my late teens, early twenties, riding trials and XC/trail stuff. Work and life got in the way but now getting back into cycling mainly due to starting a new contract where I'm now commuting via bike to their office 8km each way.

For the past year I've been riding my wife's 17" Specialized Rockhopper (26r) with slicks. It does the job but I'm being attracted to world of drop bars and bigger wheels, epecially when I can't keep up with someone who looks like they're putting in half the effort!

The ride is mainly on concrete bike paths and a bit on the road with a few pot holes and bumpy bits!

I also own a 2008 Specialized Epic Expert (26r) which I take out on the South Downs, Swinley Forest and also done a couple of trips to Morzine (uplift) on it. Again starting to realise its getting on a bit and bigger wheels and travel is probably needed. So looking at getting a big travel bike in the summer. 

What I'm looking at is potentially getting a Gravel/Adventure bike or a CX bike which would be far better suited to my commute but also capable of weekend bike paths with the family and maybe the odd foray on the Downs. Then have my bike travel bike for anything else.

I'm just really confused what to get, so many different choices and options! I've never really ridden a road bike so anything is going to feel quicker, lighter and easier than what I currently have!

I'm currently look at -

Cheap second hand roadie - forget the bike paths/downs just for commuting
2016 Specialized Diverge Carbon Comp - bike shop has one on sale for £1750 also seen a 2nd hand one
2013 Specialized Crux Elite Disc -  Seen a new one for £800
2018 Specialized Diverge E5 - either entry level or the one with future shock
Secondhand CX/gravel bike around - £500-1000

My question is for the older models, how much difference is there in the compentents? Say a 2013 Shimano 105 is that better/worse than 2018 Claris/Sora/Tiagra

How capable are the CX/gravel bikes offroad? How capable are the CX bikes on road?!

Any opinions/other options would be greatly appreciated!


alansmurphy [1465 posts] 6 days ago

Some good advice on this thread:




And I recommended a £750 bike which would be possible on C2W scheme. Basically, I don't think anyone 'needs' carbon when they are new to it and if you're commuting / off road I'd actually stay away from it, money better spent elsewhere on the kit.


If looking second hand I'd probably go Gumtree over eBay auctions so you can have a look, size it up etc. different manufacturers have different sizing and geometries; 56cm frames aren't all equal. I tend to find you can get a pretty new bike (someone interested and hasn't used) for 40-60% off rrp.


With regards to the trickle down, I have a Claris which is perfectly serviceable and fine - again if you're commuting or caking it in mud then all is good. The new claris is potentially equal in weight to a 5 year old 105 but I still think there's an attention to detail in what would have been high end kit a few years ago compared to low end now (think brake calipers etc.). Again, the bike i linked to has hydraulic discs (better than mechanical) and 105 which is smooth as 11 speed when shifting. You wouldn't be disappointed. A new bike with Tiagra on is going to be sound also, but as said, I think I'd favour 105 aluminium over Carbon with Claris/Tiagra. Others may say it's easier to upgrade opponents than the frame, I'd suggest if you hammer a bike for 3 years, get to find what you like and then relegate the old one to winter and get something shiny for summer...  

gmac101 [192 posts] 6 days ago

One advantage of using lower end 8 speed groupset for commuting is that the chains and cassettes are cheaper and you can pick them up just about anywhere if you need to.  If you end up with calliper brakes replacing the brake pads with swissstops or other high end pads does make a big difference to performance as OEM pads on Tektro brakes are pants

Sebjt [1 post] 6 days ago

Thanks for the input guys, super useful. 

I suppose my hang-up on the cheap kit is I've been there with MTB and seen how much better XT/XTR is. That said things have moved on a lot in the past 10-15 years so my XTR is probably equal to some entry level stuff now!

I'm looking at second hand unless I can find a really good deal. I'm self-emplyed with a limited company so ride to work is out unfortunately. Although I am VAT regestered so looking into putting it through the company. 

Still torn between gravel/cx/road I suppose it will probably come down to what is available and what ends up taking my fancy!

Thanks again.

alansmurphy [1465 posts] 6 days ago
1 like

Grand, to the point then:

Cross will often have higher clearance so you don't catch bottom bracket it cogs on rocks (again depends how far off road you go).

Look for thinks like mudguard attachments (if you want mudguards) and tyre clearance (if you want to put some 35s or knobbly tyres on).

Also, look at the teeth on the front cogs, cross will sometimes only carry 44T which may mean you spin out (haven't a hard enough gear) on the road.

Your budget will certainly allow you to get a decent bike. To be honest it'd allow you to get a couple really, second hand or new. A gravel or cross with Claris and then if you enjoy the additional road performance and start riding longer and quicker a more race oriented machine.

Also, don't write off a hybrid, some crackers out there...

Boatsie [16 posts] 5 days ago

Hi, I bought a cheap road bike nearer 10 years ago. Replaced the rear tire with more volume and no regrets. Still use it as spare reliable.
If cyclecross bikes were fashion and available I would have probably looked because with regards to more volume in tube; heaps worth the resistance on our not so flash paths.
I found Reid an excellent source, new bike, quality components, just lower budget not so light, fast, etc. Durable and smooth yes.
Might be worth a look. In Adelaide Australia, definitely worth a look. Free services, etc,
Best luck

LorilynJade [1 post] 1 day ago

I would not recommend CX bike as the roads tend to be quite messy, moreover you will definitely overpay for the brand itself. I might go better with a mountain-oriented bike, as it will definitely guarantee you safety both on the road and on the dangerous slopes. I myself use GMC Topkick for two years already without any consequences or difficulties on both gavel and asphalt, especially in combination with a good helmet. I actually see no reason to pay over $1000 for the secondhand CX when you might get Diamonback Overdrive instead. You might check in here for the review to be sure: http://bestadviser.net/reviews/mountain-bikes-reviews/top-mountain-bikes-helmets-and-clothing-review/

gonedownhill [173 posts] 1 day ago

I have a Kinesis pro6 mostly for commuting on and it's a hoot to ride, takes mudguards, bigger tyres are reassuring when it is pissing it down. Maybe a tiny bit slower than my endurance style road bike but if I were only to keep one then the Kinesis would be it. Only tried off road a few times and I'm by no means a mountain biker but I wouldn't like to push it too much.

I'd maybe look at an Orro Terra with 105 for £1200 or a pinnacle arkose or something. Or a Kinesis if you have the brass.

Single-track world forum has tonnes of gravel/adventure threads which might be a good perspective from a MTB side

Johnnyvee [130 posts] 5 hours ago

Why not get to a bike shop if you have one near you that will let you test ride a few. That way your contact points can help decide what bikes feel better for you rather than get a bike and spend time and money trying to make it fit you. If nothing else it should help give you some indication of what size frame to go for and you can always look at similar geometries to what you like. 

I ended up with a gravel bike - Jamis Renegade and with tubeless tyres I happily go on club runs which are 65 to 70 miles on road and keep up with the club averaging around 17mph.  I've done a few sportives with mates on road bikes and cyclo-cross bikes. I thought I wanted a CAADX but my body told me when I was test riding which was more comfortable and fun. I also have two sets of wheels and the other set has some cx tyres on for trail riding/exploring. 

Brilliant bike and I love it but I think you really need to try a few - if you can. Buy a bike you feel is right and you'll use it more and it's more likely to fit.

Other alternatives are if you have any mates with Road bikes...or some of those test days they do. 

Just my opinion so feel free to ignore.

Boatsie [16 posts] 44 min ago

With regards to components. I use a 9 speed. 7km flat commute. Often ride home via 20-50km hilly.
Works perfect. Would love 10 speed with regards to cassette having both a bigger and a smaller cog. Have read from others hence chain stretch 9 speed 75% change compared to 50% change.
My 6 speed spare bike getting the replaced 9 speed soon. At 7 km.. Flat bar wind resistance not to much difference and happy with an old 105 9 speed indexed shifter. (Being replaced with a microshift 9 speed to convert to dropbars).

What bugs me is that thousands of kms were done without puncture then this morning 3 in a row! ( tire fitting cause of 2 due to my ignorance).
Although heavier, the front is from my being built bike and uses thick tape between tire and tube as well as good quality spokes cover. Tire changes easier too.

The quality is there with regards to components such as Claris, Tiagra, 105.
A lot of the cheaper bikes don't appear to be of quality due to lube and cleaning not applied to many of them with attitudes such as Stiff Ship, why waste $20 on a bottle and a rag when I can just wear it out and replace the whole lot.

Without excessive effort I get about 25 kmph average on a tired 10 year old 6 speed $200 bike on a 7km straight flat run. When chain is catchy average nears 20kmph.