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I've been commuting on a mountain bike these past 3 years. Now I want to get into road bike racing. Is it worth saving up money over a few months for a carbon fibre bike? Or should I just go and buy a good quality aluminum bike tomorrow?

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    One option is to get an aluminum now. If you later get a carbon you can use the aluminum for backup and training. – paparazzo Oct 27 '14 at 14:33
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    Generally, you have to spend significantly more on a carbon fiber bike to get comparable quality to an aluminum bike. Also, note that for a while at least, the type of bike doesn't matter - the rider does. – Batman Oct 27 '14 at 15:04
  • What @Batman says is quite true. Both carbon fibre and aluminum bikes can get quite close to the UCI weight limit of 15 pounds, and most of the weight is in the components and wheels, not in the frame of the bike. The frame and fork will only weight 4-5 pounds, and the rest of the stuff will take up the remaining 10-15 pounds. – Kibbee Oct 27 '14 at 16:18
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    Well, being close to the UCI limit doesn't make a difference, even for most racers (despite what they think in their heads). – Batman Oct 27 '14 at 17:56
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    Well, you probably should be somewhat close. You don't want to have a 50 pound road bike in a race. Probably anything under 25 pounds is sufficient to be competitive. Just about any quality road bike will fall into that category. You can actually find bikes made of steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon that are at the UCI weight limit of 15 pounds. You should choose the frame on other criteria such as budget, how well it fits, longevity of material, repairability and how cool it looks. – Kibbee Oct 27 '14 at 19:56
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There are two answers to this question:

  1. (Money no object)

Go out and buy yourself a carbon frame with all the trimmings. If you want to race, there is no better hardware option.

  1. (Money important)

you say you haven't even begun to race yet. How do you know you'll like it? How do you know you'll be any good? If you go down a carbon route, you're talking about a serious investment which could possibly end up gathering dust in your garage. Frankly, you should consider a steel bike at this stage. When you're losing races because of the weight of the bike, then it's time to upgrade.

Be careful with something like bike racing, it will eat up your every last penny if you're not careful.

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    +1: Buy what you can afford now, because if the bug bites, you will find a way to buy more bikes.... The feeling of beating someone on the "money is not object" machine on an old steel beater... the look on their faces, the silence - its golden and that memory will live with you forever. Given cycling is the new golf for cashed up middle aged execs, if you can't beat at least 1/2 the field of carbon frames on a beater, you should not be on a carbon frame (based on the question re need to save up). – mattnz Oct 27 '14 at 20:41
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    Well, a steel bike may not be cheaper than an aluminum bike depending on your market. But a cheap bike of decent quality is the way to start, then upgrade when you're sure. – Batman Oct 28 '14 at 13:32
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A good rule of thumb is: if you spend less than $2000 get aluminium instead of carbon as you'll get more bang for your buck. A good quality aluminium frame with some nicer wheels will generally give a better/faster ride than an entry-level carbon bike (bought just for the sake of having carbon!).

The slight performance/comfort benefits of a more expensive carbon bike are of no concern to an entry-level racer. The most gains for you will simply come from more regular and longer rides.

  • As Eddy Merckx said "Ride lots" :) – JenSCDC Oct 31 '14 at 10:41
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For a novice racer, frame material doesn't matter. As for the groupset, Tiagra's fine. The differences in Shimano's groupsets is mainly weight, plus so durability. I'm speaking from experience here- I would swear that my Tiagra equipped cross bike shifts better than my Dura-Ace road bike!

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