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I'm looking at buying a 2009 Trek Bontrager Madone 5.2 for $1200. This bike is basically new as it has under 50km on it. I'm new to the world of biking and have been looking for something within the $1000-$1500 price range. I can get a low end specialized new for this price point but is this deal worth it or is the technology gap too big?

Thanks in advance for your responses!!

  • Technology has made great progress in 10 years In your price range you can get quite a decent new bike. But there are other things to consider, so I won't post this as an answer! – Carel Jul 5 '19 at 16:03
  • Just FYI bicyclebluebook.com/…. Make sure you are not overpaying – Argenti Apparatus Jul 5 '19 at 17:47
  • @ArgentiApparatus At least in my area, BBB is notorious for being well below the actual value of a bike. As in, low enough that local bike shops will happily give you BBB value for your used bike and resell it with a markup. Just an FYI - I know that may not be true everywhere (indeed, that's one of the criticisms of it; prices can vary significantly depending on market). – Josh Doebbert Jul 5 '19 at 17:57
  • @JoshDoebbert I looked at BBB to see what group the 5.2 came with and noticed the significant difference in "excellent condition" value and what the OP quoted. That's why it was just an FYI so at least they have that as a data point. – Argenti Apparatus Jul 5 '19 at 18:05
  • @ArgentiApparatus yeah, not refuting. Just providing context. I spend a fair amount of time on a local bike reselling page, and BBB is widely disliked because it gives inexperienced buyers unrealistic expectations. I don't disagree that $1200 is probably a bit steep for the bike in question. – Josh Doebbert Jul 5 '19 at 18:10
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For context, my current road bike is a 2010 Cannondale Six Carbon, which would be a comparable model to the Madone you're looking at.

I would say you will still get much more bike from the used Madone than from any new bike in a similar price range. But to help you out, let's go over what has changed in the last 10ish years in the road biking world at the mid-high end, and how much of that has trickled down to more entry level models.

  • Groupsets: Drivetrains have moved from 10 speed to 11 and now even 12 speed. On the high end, electronic shifting has gone from rumored, experimental tech to near ubiquity, but this has not yet trickled down to entry level models, so it's not especially relevant to this discussion. As for the addition of the additional sprocket or two, it does generally give you a slight bit more range if you live in a very hilly area, but otherwise I expect you won't notice much of a difference. Note that some tech has trickled down in terms of design and machining, so the entry level components on a new bike are actually very similar in build quality to the midrange components the 2009 Trek would have.
  • Brakes: The last few years, the bike industry has made a significant push to introduce disk brakes into the road cycling world, and a new bike will probably come with disks rather than rim brakes. This change has actually been somewhat controversial, with many cyclists unhappy that they are being "forced" to move to disks and questioning whether there is actually enough benefit from disk brakes to justify the additional costs and difficulty in maintaining them. But that is a whole discussion on its own...
  • Frames: In general, carbon fiber frames have gotten lighter and more aerodynamic, although surprisingly not that much stiffer. The biggest difference is the introduction of vibration damping elements, such as Trek's IsoSpeed decoupler, which have increased the comfort of newer bikes without sacrificing other performance characteristics. Having said that, a high quality carbon frame from 2009 will still be lighter and better performing than an entry level aluminum bike from today.
  • Wheels: Fairly minor changes all in all, but most people have moved from 23mm wide tires to 25mm or even 28mm; as a result, rims have gotten slightly wider. On the high end, deep section carbon rims have also become much more popular, but any bike spec'd with carbon wheels is going to be several thousand dollars. Going along with the groupset point above, wheels from 10 years ago will probably not be able to hold an 11 or 12 speed cassette, which is often the limiting factor when upgrading an existing bike to a new drivetrain. Similarly, old wheels will not have mounts for disk brake rotors, for whatever that's worth.
  • Saddles: No groundbreaking changes to saddles, just minor refinements, but newer saddles are probably a bit more comfortable. This is a highly personal thing that's easy to swap out, though.
  • Cockpits: In the name of aerodynamics, integrated cockpits have become increasingly common on high end bikes. These certainly make the bike faster in the wind tunnel, but are proprietary and importantly may restrict the amount of adjustments you can make to find your optimal fit. Regardless, they have not (yet) found their way onto entry level bikes. Basic aluminum handlebars and stem are mostly unchanged in the last 10 years.

As you can see, while there have definitely been many improvements and technological shifts in the bike industry in the last decade, most of those improvements have not trickled down to the entry level, are comparatively minor, or may even come with their own drawbacks. On balance, I'd lean towards the old, high end bike, but with the awareness that standards have changed and it may be more difficult to get parts for it over time. If there's any reason to avoid the old bike, that'd be why.

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    It's not really surprising that carbon frames haven't got stiffer. It's easy to make something stiff; making it stiff and light and/or usefully compliant is harder. – David Richerby Jul 6 '19 at 9:21
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    THANK YOU for your comments. I really appreciate the time you spent on this answer and I feel much more knowledgable than before!! – Matt Cloutier Jul 6 '19 at 22:29
  • It amazes me that the industry pushes disk brakes, which are heavier (and harder to maintain), and at the same time pushes carbon fiber because it's lighter. (OK, it doesn't really amaze me, since both mark up the price.) – Daniel R Hicks Jul 7 '19 at 1:59
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One of the major advantages of buying a new bike is nothing is worn out. With a used bike you have to take into account the need to replace wear items: chain, cassette and possibly rings, as well as bar tape and brake and shifter cables. That does not seem to be a problem in your case, but I'd want to very strongly verify the 50km claim.

The other benefit of a new bike is getting new technology: 11 speed compact drivetrains, disc brakes, through-axles, internal cables etc.

Plenty of people ride bikes with rim brakes and QR hubs, and you may be perfectly happy with disc brakes. One upgrade you'd get with a newer bike that I would seriously think about is an 11 speed compact drivetrain, which will give you more range of lower gear ratios. That may be useful to you as you start out on a road bike, especially if you live in a hilly area.

Another feature that newer bikes tend to have is clearance for larger tires, and slightly wider rims which give the ability to run 25mm or even 28mm instead of 23mm or narrower.

A benefit of the older bike, especially a highish-end bike like the Madone 5.2 is it will be much lighter than a new bike bought for the same money.

Another advantage is you'll get a threaded bottom bracket which wont creak like a press-fit bearing one :-)

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  • Thanks a ton for your advice! since the bike has no real wear (~35kms) I'm hoping I dont have to do many/any maintenance! – Matt Cloutier Jul 6 '19 at 22:30
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    If that mileage (kilometerage?) is true you will not have to replace any drivetrain components. Maybe tires and tubes if they are dried out and cracked. – Argenti Apparatus Jul 6 '19 at 23:37
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    If one finds out a road bike isn't their cup of tea, they will be able to sell the old bike for nearly the same as it was bought for. In contrast, a new bike will lose about a third of its resale value on the first ride. – gschenk Jul 7 '19 at 15:32
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    A 10 year old bike will still need all-new rubber, even if it was never ridden at all. Rubber parts will harden and embrittle, so expect to replace tyres, tubes, brake pads and any gaskets like around bottle cage mounts. Maybe rim tape, saddle, bar tape and any light straps. Its unlikely any seals/dust caps in the hubs will need changing because they're closer to oils and tend to be more resistant rubbers. A lot comes down to if it ever got wet and was stored wet. – Criggie Jul 12 '19 at 5:19

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