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I am about to buy a new bike. Not a second hand one; a brand new. I am looking at specifications and webshop prices to get an idea about what should and could buy, but the spectrum is too wide to check every single one in a shop. I noticed, that most brands have models with different components, and the maxed-out version is 3-4 times more expensive than the cheapest one. There are minimal differences in function, but not on the price tag. Like this cross bike: Kross Evado 1.0-7.0. Local brands tend to be cheaper, but they do not have high-end machines on their palette, so I am a little bit concerned about the quality.

Most LBS here sell 2-3 brands only, so it's really hard to do a side-by-side comparison in real life, and I am not too familiar with component levels.

What is a good heuristic to find the best value for my money? What to look for when comparing two bikes by their specification only?

(To be more specific: I am currently looking at hardtail MTB's and cross (hybrid?) bikes, mostly from the lower end. I think I know my preferences fairly well, but I've never had a bike with discs or suspension and do not know what to look for.)

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    You'd want to ride them. Thats the big thing. And know what you actually want to do with them. – Batman Mar 13 '17 at 2:42
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As someone who has recently done the same thing, I'll think I can help with this. The biggest trap I fell into was overthinking it.

Some of this might sound a little backwards but it's my thinking at least. As a starting point, you need to work out your budget. No point considering anything that's outside that. Sounds like you already have your intended use sorted, but that's a pretty big thing to nail down Next thing I would suggest is pick an pick a bike shop that seems to know what they are talking about and not just flood you with marketing jargon. Find out what sort of follow up service etc they have. As a starter, you're probably going to need some help with setup & maintaining the bike so pick one who will. After that, take a couple of options from that store in your budget for a ride, see what you like. Then buy the bike.

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Adding to @hursey's excellent points, you want to try the style of bike before committing to a new one.

Personally I did a couple hundred km on a borrowed road bike, and then bought a slightly newer used road bike then did 7000km on it. Still saving for a new one, but I have decided that a low-low climbing gear is important to me, which leads to a triple or a compact chainring+mountain-sized rear cassette.

Purpose is important too. If you want to commute (and lock it outside) then a flash bike is probably a bad idea.

The high-end bikes are sold for a lot more than less well-known brands. The cost of the name "cannondale" or "trek" or "madone" or "cervelo" can price their product higher than a "giant" or a "raleigh" for example.

A bike that does its job and gets used, is a better bike than a garage-princess.

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    +1 Agreed. You can either buy a used bike and then sell it for much the same price as you bought it, or borrow from a bike fiend/friend (we tend to have multiple bikes and are looking for an excuse for n-- so that we can n++). – RoboKaren Mar 13 '17 at 18:30
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    Note that the Madone is a line of Trek bikes, whereas the other names you list are manufacturers. – David Richerby Mar 18 '17 at 13:40
  • @DavidRicherby good observation, but the point remains. An E-type is more desirable than an Escort, as a Jag is more desirable than a Kia. I guess the underlying point to OP is "clarify to yourself if you want a bike to ride, vs a bike to be seen riding." That will help narrow down choices. – Criggie Mar 18 '17 at 21:47
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That first bike purchase can be a nightmare so my advice is set a purpose for what you will use the bike for the most and then set a budget. That should narrow things down considerably. Go to a few bike shops and ask for their advice. There is nothing wrong with asking them for advice even if they only sell higher end stuff. Chances are they will have lower end stuff and clearance stock that may be last 2-3 years old but still new. It's the advice you need and sometimes it's worth paying a little extra for that at the LBS. You will find most shops have a lot of enthusiastis working in them and they will often give you great advice. They will also give you advice on bike sizes. From the kross bikes you mentioned, there's not a great deal of difference between them and I honestly suspect they all ride much the same. Some have disc brakes and some have v brakes. Nothing wrong with cheaper v brakes in my opinion.

Usually higher spec components will weigh a little less and be built and manufactured to higher tolerances but you probably wouldn't notice much difference at this level.

Try to borrow a few bikes from friends and see how you like or dis like them and soon you'll get a feel for what you want.

Also ask the guys or girls in the LBS what they ride and why. You may be surprised to hear they own 3-4 bikes and have a special commute bike.

Don't worry too much about bike weight. It's doesn't make too much difference unless you are racing for medals and even then it really is negligible.

Nothing wrong buying second hand as the resale value will be close to what you paid but you always will run the risk of something going wrong as you will never be 100 % on the history regardless of what the owner tells you. If you want to buy second hand then go check it out with a bike friend that knows what they are talking about, but even then they might not spot potential problems in a bike. If you don't have such friends then I suggest you stick to a friendly LBS and save yourself a potential $$$$ black hole and headaches if things go wrong.

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