I've gone a few years without riding at all, and I'm getting back into cycling to improve my fitness. I've typically ridden light mountain bike trails in the past. I want buy a new/second-hand road bike for commuting but I don't want to spend a huge amount of money. I'm still new to riding on the road, and don't know if it's something I'll be able to keep up.

Recently I was told by someone I know to be a proficient rider not to spend any less than £500(GBP) on a road bike if I wanted anything worthwhile. However, I don't want to become a typical "all the gear, no idea" by blowing all my money on a bike that is way beyond my needs or ability. My problem is picking a bike that matches my needs and ability with limited knowledge of commuting by bike.

I guess you could translate my question to "What should a new road cyclist look for in a bike?"

For example: With a little shopping around I've seen this bike which is appealing to me: Woodworm White Lightning Road Racing Bike Would that be suitable?

  • 1
    Did you read the reviews on that bike you linked to? Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 18:36

4 Answers 4


My usual answer to the question of "What sort of new bike should a (relatively speaking) novice cyclist get" is "used". Better to ride a year or two on a moderately priced used bike than to drop a bundle on the WRONG new bike.

(Nothing wrong with your "light mountain bike", BTW, other than you'd want smoother tires, the suspension may be too soft, and maybe your bike can't mount a rack very well.)

Eventually you need to decide:

  • Straight bars or drops?
  • How many gears?
  • Rack?
  • Fenders?

The answers to these questions can only come after you find out how often/far you're going to commute. You may start out loafing along and discover that you like to sprint all the way (meaning drop bars would be a good idea). You may start out a fair-weather cyclist and get so into it that you're riding in the rain (where you'll really appreciate a bike with sufficient wheel clearance for fenders) or in the snow (where your current mountain bike, with studded tires, might be just the ticket). You may start out cycling just a half-mile each way to work, then discover that you like to take "shortcuts" of a few miles. (I ride 10 miles to work, but commonly take a "shortcut" in the morning that adds another 25.) You may discover that you bike to the grocer and to the theatre on weekends. You may carry a change of clothes in a small fanny pack, or you may need panniers to carry clothes and laptop/papers for work.

Or you may discover that you don't really like cycling that much and just do that occasional half-mile jaunt.

And it's also important to get a bike that FITS well, especially if you'll be riding any distance. This means the right height for your leg length, the right top bar length for your torso length, an overall geometry that suits the flexibility of your body (understanding, BTW, that excess avoirdupois significantly limits ones ability to lean forward and low on the drops). Some of this a good bike shop person can help you with, but to a large degree you must learn "fit" from trial and error.

  • 2
    Thanks Daniel R Hicks that answers a lot of what I was interested in :) Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 12:57

The bike should be comfortable and make you smile when you ride it.

Do some reading about bicycle fit (I highly recommend Grant Peterson's book Just Ride for a nice readable introduction to fitting a bicycle and all sorts of other information). Then buy a used bike that fits your needs as best you understand them – and that seems to fit. You'll be lucky if your first bike is "right" but it will help you figure out what you really want.

Towards that end I'd suggest going in search of your LBS (local bicycle shop) – not the one nearest to you, although they can be handy too, but the one that makes you feel like a welcome and valued member of the community. Part of their job is to help you figure out what kind of bicycles make you happiest…

A good LBS will sponsor rides and will be a focal point of the local biking community. If you're lucky you'll find a bicycle collective, or a co-op, or just a bunch of folks for whom the LBS is as much a mission as a paycheck.

Good luck!

  • +1 "...and make you smile when you ride it." Exactly right.
    – Simon S
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:56

Recently I was told by someone I know to be a proficient rider not to spend any less than £500(GBP) on a road bike if I wanted anything worthwhile.

I asked a related question, What bike+equipment for a long daily urban commute?

Based on answers to that question, I bought the bike which I describe at https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/3056/1097

The bike itself (functional but without accessories) cost about CAD$700 (which might be that much in the UK, I don't know).

Anyway, I found that brilliant. It's amazing how easy it is to reach, much higher speeds than I did on a cheaper 'mountain bike'.

All the parts are strong, run well (run endlessly: low friction), shift (gears) at a click or two.

I previously commuted for years: but for about 6 km each way, using a basically a cheap bike. When I got my new job, with a further commute, I either had to move house or get a better bike, for the daily distance.

So: part of the answer depends on what distance/speed you intend to use it for.

Also, for commuting I find that accessories like a pannier and fenders make my ride more comfortable.

I'm still new to riding on the road, and don't know if it's something I'll be able to keep up.

If you do or can spend more (or, spend enough) then you can enjoy it and it is feasible.

Conversely, it's not for everyone (some don't like it; even with good equipment).

Then again, any bike is a lot better than no bike, IMO.


Any bicycle is suitable for a beginner, as long as it fits!

Just like buying clothes, you want to look good, feel good and basically not feel the bike is under you (the nirvana of bicycle selection!).

Most cyclists (road & MTB) have incorrect bike sizes for their body. Their bodies ache and complain at first, but guess what? The body adjusts, and adapts to the changes, but the bicycle could be adjusting you into a bad position which could lead to long-term body and posture issues, especially back pain.

Back pain is the most common ailment of riding bicycles, especially ones that don't fit properly to you!

Before you buy a bicycle please get yourself measured for the right bike. Most bicycle shops claim to provide this service, but many/most I've encountered make a visual inspection, with you and the bicycle on a trainer, and then pat you on the back and on your way!

There are professional bike fitters that are purely dedicated to just this alone. To getting your bike fitted to you - not you to the bike! Although your body will change (loose weight, leg muscle strengthen, etc) due to the exercise of riding a bicycle, never forget that your enjoyment and pleasure of riding a bicycle most likely came about because the bicycle was the right fit for you.

I suggest you do your homework on what style of riding you want to do long term, not just occasionally a ride to the shops, to work or on weekends around the park.

If you're going to take cycling seriously, a road or a mountain bike is the way to go and if fitted properly to you, you will not regret the benefits of riding bicycles. Look at Copenhagen!

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