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Having never ridden a road bike before, I’m looking for my first one. I’m keen to get into triathlons but don’t want to spend thousands on a TT/tri one if it’s something I only do occasionally so thought that a road bike would be a good way to go. My budget is up to £1000 as I’ll be taking advantage of the Cycle to Work scheme. I’m 5’6” so not sure whether a women’s bike would be suitable? I’d be happy with either. Also happy to upgrade groupsets if needed as I go. I’ve done some research but my head is spinning with the choice, so I thought I’d ask some experts. 

As stated above, would be mostly using bike for triathlon training, so flat and some hills, circa 40-50k rides.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

9 comments

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dartmoorplugger [5 posts] 3 months ago
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Hi

Welcome to the roadie gang! If you've not ridden a road bike before, you are in for a pleasant surprise  1

There are so many bikes to chose, it's crazy, and you'll get just as many recommendations. I've not long ago got a Specialized Allez Elite, on the cycle to work scheme, and it's right at the limit of what you can get, £999. I think there is a female equivalent? I can highly recommend the bike, I use it for commuting duties as well as weekend rides up to around 80 miles (so far). The bike has been faultless - in my view the very decent frame (which has a lovely paint job, I have the sky blue one, super easy to keep clean!) with good spec of components, nothing cries out to be changed or upgraded. Personally I don't race (well, only myself!), but the general blurb on the bike is that it is suitable for a starter racer. It will also take mudguards and a rack apparently, but I haven't fitted any. I've been riding for many years, and have a few bikes, and this one deffo impresses.

Whatever you get, have fun and enjoy the ride  1

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kil0ran [1173 posts] 3 months ago
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You don't see many people training on their tri-bikes so a road bike is the way to go.

Women-specific bikes may come with narrower bars and a different saddle but that will be the only difference and at 5'6" you may have a wider choice. That tends to be a small to medium men's size but there's a lot of variation. A lot depends on whether your height is in your legs or your torso. 

A lot also depends on how low/flat you can tolerate position-wise. This is something you'll adapt to as you get used to road riding so it's tricky.

I'd strongly recommend either finding a friendly local bike shop or going to Evans if there is one near you. Evans offer a 30-day ride and return option, even under C2W. The other option is to join a club and see if anyone will let you try out a bike you're interested in.

The thing with buying a bike is that they're all more or less the same, particularly if you've never ridden a road bike. This means it comes down to practical things like "Am I comfortable?", "Do I have the right gearing?" and emotional things like "It's red, so it's immediately faster, right?" 

Don't get too tied up in specs and brands and materials - find a way to be able to chuck your leg over a few bikes and go from there. If you're doing 50-milers and Tris then more than anything the most important thing is that you're comfortable, and you'll only be able to find that out with a test ride of 10-20 miles. 

At a £1000 there is a ton of choice out there. Personally I'd go with a race-geometry rim-braked aluminium bike. Specialized, Cannondale, Merida, and Giant all have very capable bikes that will come in under the C2W budget. Stay away from discs because of your budget. 

Don't rule out the likes of Decathlon, Planet-X, and Ribble - something like this for example https://www.decathlon.co.uk/ultra-900-af-road-bike-105-id_8377261.html

 

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BehindTheBikesheds [2500 posts] 3 months ago
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kil0ran wrote:

You don't see many people training on their tri-bikes so a road bike is the way to go.

Women-specific bikes may come with narrower bars and a different saddle but that will be the only difference

Sorry but you're wrong, women spcific bikes have a different geometry in the same sizes to take into account what most women's bodies are like, that being longer legs for their height and shorter torso.

That's not to say that women cannot ride male specific bikes or vice versa or indeed that all women fit that prfile but Giant, Trek and most other big companies use the research so that they can get a better fit for women.

So there are significant differences other than simply a saddle and narrow bars as you've stated.

 

I wouldn't even advise a newbie rider to have narrow bars in any case and I certainly wouldn't advise buying something new either. Find something second hand for cheap money, there are thousands of decent bikes about that have had light use that are 30% and less of their original price.

Trek lexa/allez WSD, Giant Liv/Avail, Merida juliet, Scott Contessa, specialized Dolce, there's loads of women specific bikes about second user. Then when you get more experience and have a better idea of what you want, what your targets are and indeed what works/fits better then move on and buy a new bike.

You'll still get most of your money back on your second hand bike as the depreciation was taken by the first owner, you could indeed use that as a training bike and get a new bike to use for triathlons only and have them set up similarly. But buying a second user bike is the way to go IMHO, less outlay upfront and if you don't like the whole triathlon thing or even cycling as a whole then you're not left with a bike that cost you 3-4 times as much and a lot more 'lost' money.

 

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kil0ran [1173 posts] 3 months ago
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BehindTheBikesheds wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

You don't see many people training on their tri-bikes so a road bike is the way to go.

Women-specific bikes may come with narrower bars and a different saddle but that will be the only difference

Sorry but you're wrong, women spcific bikes have a different geometry in the same sizes to take into account what most women's bodies are like, that being longer legs for their height and shorter torso.

That's not to say that women cannot ride male specific bikes or vice versa or indeed that all women fit that prfile but Giant, Trek and most other big companies use the research so that they can get a better fit for women.

So there are significant differences other than simply a saddle and narrow bars as you've stated.

 

I wouldn't even advise a newbie rider to have narrow bars in any case and I certainly wouldn't advise buying something new either. Find something second hand for cheap money, there are thousands of decent bikes about that have had light use that are 30% and less of their original price.

Trek lexa/allez WSD, Giant Liv/Avail, Merida juliet, Scott Contessa, specialized Dolce, there's loads of women specific bikes about second user. Then when you get more experience and have a better idea of what you want, what your targets are and indeed what works/fits better then move on and buy a new bike.

You'll still get most of your money back on your second hand bike as the depreciation was taken by the first owner, you could indeed use that as a training bike and get a new bike to use for triathlons only and have them set up similarly. But buying a second user bike is the way to go IMHO, less outlay upfront and if you don't like the whole triathlon thing or even cycling as a whole then you're not left with a bike that cost you 3-4 times as much and a lot more 'lost' money.

 

 

Noted - and completely agree re the secondhand market. I guess the challenge for the OP is more that she's never had a road bike before, which makes it tricky to buy secondhand.

 

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fukawitribe [2600 posts] 3 months ago
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BehindTheBikesheds wrote:
kil0ran wrote:

You don't see many people training on their tri-bikes so a road bike is the way to go.

Women-specific bikes may come with narrower bars and a different saddle but that will be the only difference

Sorry but you're wrong, women spcific bikes have a different geometry in the same sizes to take into account what most women's bodies are like, that being longer legs for their height and shorter torso.

A number of manufacturers are now shipping road set-ups with the same frame with differing finishing kit (including at least one firm that I am sure used to have different frames for each gender).. perhaps they've realised that they can accomplish much of the desired average fit tweaks with that rather than going to the expense of different molds, testing, frame jigs etc

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Tri-girl [1 post] 3 months ago
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Thanks for this guys. Lots of ideas to consider. I didn’t know about Evans 30-day try-out, which is a great idea. 

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Canyon48 [1102 posts] 3 months ago
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A road bike would certainly be the best option.

In terms of frame material, given your budget, Aluminium is the only sensible option.

At the top end of your budget, you'll get Shimano 105 11 speed, I would recommend 105 as it really is fantastic. If you had a lower groupset with fewer speeds you'd end up wanting an upgrade pretty quickly.

In terms of braking, you won't be able to get decent (hydraulic) disc brakes within budget.

The women's specific side of things isn't too well catered for below £1000, unfortunately. Many of the womens specific bikes have downgraded components - this is something my other half had been really annoyed with when she was trying to by her first bike. 

What to look out for is what bikes have downgraded components, many manufacturers use lower spec brakes and chainset to save money. Tektro calliper brakes, in my experience, have the braking power of cheese compared to Shimano brakes! Cheaper cranks weigh a little more. I wouldn't scrimp on brakes, but a little extra weight on crankset isn't too much of an issue.

Trying out a load of bikes is the most important thing.

As others have said, Decathlon offer amazing value. Canyon offer similarly great value, in fact, even better. For £1k, Canyon gives you full 105 (including crankset and brakes) and a women-specific frame https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/road/endurace/endurace-wmn-al-7-0.html

Longer term, for TT/ triathlons, stick a pair of clip-on aero bars onto the bike to make the biggest difference!

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cowolter [3 posts] 3 months ago
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 All the major brands will have similar offerings that are more or less the same price.

In terms of what is ‘fast’, road bikes are broadly split into two categories: endurance and race. Endurance bikes are more upright and comfort-focused, whereas race bikes are more aggressive and have twitcher handling. As a general statement race bikes are ‘faster’ than endurance bikes, but ultimately you will be fastest on a bike that fits your body (taking into account strength, flexibility etc). Go to a bike shop and get measured up.

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gmac101 [218 posts] 3 months ago
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If you buy a bike with tektro brakes it's well worth replacing the brake blocks straight away with some swiss stops (my favourite) or Kool stops.  They are so much better than the original ones.  I've also found them to be better than the Shimano supplied pads on their tiagra brakes but others speak highly of the Shimano Ultegra pads.

Once you've done some cycling it  may also be worth replacing the tyres as thats the other point where suppliers cut costs on the lower end bikes.