Gear Guy

What’s a low-priced road bike I can use for racing?

Sage of swag, I'm in the market for a road bike, and looking for direction. Initially, I'll be using it for fitness riding, but I anticipate riding in local road races in the future. I'm a family man with a limited budget for recreational toys. That said, I want something that's going to stand up—a bike that I won't have to replace or extensively or upgrade as I get into the sport in a bigger way. Is a bike equipped with Shimano 105 group the "minimum" I should be looking at? Which models should I be considering, and at what price point? Greg Basky Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Oh, no question what you need. You need a bike built on a Colnago C40 frame. It’s a lovely thing—carbon fiber, very light. Just the ticket for squirting around town for some exercise or spooling up to take on the local peloton. Cost: $3,800. For the frame, that is. You’ll also need wheels, drivetrain, handlebars, etc. Nothing less than Shimano Dura-Ace will do, of course, so that will add another $1,300, $1,600 if you pop for some high-end wheels such as Mavic Cosmos, which of course is what you should do! So there you are, about $5,400 for a bike that will be just right.

Excuse me? What’s that you say? Too much?!? Well, hardly. I mean, even a family man needs to have something that he can really call His Own. And this would be it! I’m sure your wife would understand if you have to A) empty the kids’ college fund, or B) alternate which child gets fed. No problem!

Still, I know how difficult these things can be. So maybe we should set our sights a little lower. Like down to around $1,000. In that range, it’s surprising how good a road bike one can get. An example: Trek’s 1200 ($1,050). It’s a great little bike: aluminum frame so it’s lightweight, Shimano drivetrain for reliability, and a triple chainring so you can grunt up those hills without too much effort while your legs get used to riding. Drop down a bit to $750, and you still can do OK—the Specialized Allez A1 ($760), which also has an aluminum frame and Shimano components (albeit a lower level component group than the Trek).

Go up to $1,300 and you can get a Fuji Roubaix Pro, a light, steel-frame bike which may be about the best buy in a good-quality road bike around. For one thing, the Roubaix has a full Shimano 105 group. Which is great stuff for the money—in some cases 105 is almost identical to Ultegra, the next group up, differing only in the polish quality on some of the parts. Overall, Shimano 105 is an excellent group for riders on a budget. But the minimum you should consider? No, I don’t think so. The Allez A1, for instance, uses the next level down—Tiagra—along with some 105. You pay a slight penalty in weight and “look” with Tiagra, but it makes the gears go click-click just fine.

So there you go. Run that Colnago by the family, and if they don’t salute, then you can look like a helluva guy by having some good fallback options.

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