I'm looking to get a new bicycle (mainly for getting from point A to point B, but potentially deeper into the hobby). What are some recommendations or considerations if my budget is a couple thousand dollars?
The best thing is to just, start riding.
Don't blow all your budget on a bike, start with something cheap+used (or free if you can find something in your family/network)
As you ride more, things will become clearer as to your preferences. And you still have most of your capital left to pivot or dive deeper.
Consider that used bikes sell for about what they cost (very approximately) but new bikes will depreciate fast. A used bike is a fine starter.
I feel the need to offer an alternative answer here. Buying a "cheap+used" bike (or even "free") is fraught with issues for the beginner cyclist. Bikes almost always fall into the category of "you get what you pay for" and "cheap" in my experience rarely leads to cycling enjoyment. It usually leads to frustration.
I recommend that you ask around to any friends or relatives who are into cycling for a recommendation of an LBS (that's Local Bike Store) which is almost always an excellent place to start. You want to find one that is happy to spend time with a new cyclist and get them started off properly. With a USD/$2000 budget you will certainly have a wide range of options but I would hesitate to immediately go to that level. You can obtain a quality entry-level bicycle for $1000-$1500. You may want to spend the rest on important safety equipment like helmet, lights, water bottles, tire pump, clothing, etc.
The LBS staff should make you feel welcome, answer all your questions, and help you find the right bike for your plans. They should get you sized properly and adjust the bike so that you can begin riding it right away. If the staff doesn't make you comfortable with their attitude, go elsewhere. It seems that some LBS stores are staffed by cycling "snobs". These should be avoided in my view.
Are you expecting to do many km (miles) on your bike each time you use it or do you mostly expect to use it for a few minutes at a time?
If the first, follow the advice on buying a new bike which is quite expensive.
For mostly short rides, utility riding, so to the local shop, the pub, the odd half an hour into nature, you can follow the advice to pick up a cheap bike which is just good enough for the job. It might not get you into racing or day long rides, but it will do the job.
It is silly to buy a $1000 bike for someone who has not ridden at all or not ridden since they were a child and who does not know whether they will be able to ride. Better to spend much less, or nothing, on a bike for the first few weeks/months and then invest in a bike when you know what you want out of it.
I'd say consider where you are planning to ride and choose the bike accordingly.
- If you plan to ride mostly on roads for long distances, a drop handlebar is preferable as it allows a large variation of hand positions, allowing you to choose an optimal balance between aerodynamics and comfort
- If you are heavier and not so fit as most people, electric assist may be helpful but your budget doesn't seem to allow a decent e-road-bike -- if you nevertheless choose an e-road-bike I heavily recommend one that has a mid-drive motor and not motor in a wheel hub because wheel hub motors won't allow you to cheaply have multiple wheelsets
- If you plan to ride on non-plowed snow roads, you need a different kind of bicycle (fatbike) for these conditions; a road bike won't do, and you won't be using the fatbike during the summer because the rolling resistance and weight are horrible.
- If you may ride on plowed roads during the winter, you need at least 40mm tire clearance to allow studded tires (you won't be using those in the summer) -- note that quite many rim brake road bike allow no more than 23mm wide tires, although it has become more usual to allow even 28mm or 32mm tires on disc brake equipped bikes today
- If you plan to ride on soft gravel roads, you need at least 32mm summer tires because narrower tires would sink into the gravel and be unpredictable unless the pressure is so low they will pinch flat instantly
- If you may ride in the dark, you need lights and reflectors; my recommendation would be hub dynamo powered ones. Note some areas require reflectors too if riding only during daylight.
- If you may ride in the wet, you need fenders
- If you may ride in the wet, disc brakes are more consistent than rim brakes
- If you may do shopping with your bike, you need the ability to attach panniers, such a a rear rack or fenders with integrated pannier mounts -- and unless the bike has long chainstays, the panniers will hit your heels when pedaling so long chainstay bikes are preferable
- If your upper body strength is not as good as for athletes, you need a bike where the handlebar is higher than usual for road bikes; I recommend putting the handlebar at the same height as the saddle -- note most threadless headset bikes have very limited handlebar height adjustment range so you may need to buy a new high-rise stem to have decent handlebar height
- If you want the ability to quickly park your bike upright, you need a kickstand; if you want it to not be stolen you need a U-lock. A U-lock fits inside most diamond frame triangles, but fitting it with a water bottle may be tricky if you want to use a water bottle; alternatives are buying a bike with horizontal top tube to create more space inside the triangle than in sloping top tube frames, or ditching that water bottle
- If you want feet securely attached to the pedals but still want the ability to walk not like a duck, you need Shimano SPD pedals; if you want the ability to quickly ride to a grocery store one kilometer away without special shoes, you need SPD pedals where one side is the SPD side and the other side allows using regular shoes
- If you want the ability to quickly ride to a grocery store one kilometer away without having to worry your right trouser leg getting dirty in chain oil and without having to put your right trouser leg inside your sock, you need a chainguard (however, installing such a chainguard may prove to be very tricky; for some reason most bikes are sold without one)
- Unless you are planning to start mountain biking, your bike should have non-suspension fork and no suspension in the rear either.
Fortunately, the budget of couple thousand dollars (if US dollars) is just right to get some decent equipped gravel or touring bike that's useful in many different kinds of conditions. The most tricky problem is getting that hub dynamo in the front wheel. Most bikes are sold without a hub dynamo so a newly built wheel is necessary.
I also heavily recommend choosing sports clothing that is not made from cotton but rather made from wool or synthetic materials like polyester. As for tires, you'll want to use very low rolling resistance slick road tires. Avoid any tires with tread pattern as unnecessary tread patterns slow you down.
You have a good budget to start with and you'll be able to get a good quality bike, properly assembled and all the accessories you need. You should buy a bike from a well respected mass producer that sponsors a grand-tour team if you would like the benefit of good quality service & warranty backup through your local dealer. It's the safest route, though it's your choice.
Where and when do you intend to ride your bicycle? This is the question that indicates the most suitable type of bike. There are many bikes built with specific usages in mind that are not so good for general purpose use and some that have a wider range of abilities but excel at nothing in particular so it can be a little too easy to reach the limitations if your riding goes in a particular direction. Sometimes you can find this out only with riding time, but your first bike isn't a wasted investment.
Solely for fitness and recreational riding on paved road with no luggage, many poeple choose a road bike because it facilitates longer, faster rides at a higher effort but limits your excursion (generally) solely to that use. Gravel bikes have become popular because they imply a level of versatility in road suface (paved/unpaved) and balance performance vs practicality (fittings for mudguards and luggage racks).
Moving away from drop bars, if you want to spend all your time on singletrack or at a trail centre, you buy a mountain bike, knowing that this won't be ideal (or even very good at all) when riding on the road or for day to day use.
You can buy a hybrid bike if general purpose is the order of the day. Generally comfortable, upright riding position and versatile but not particularly exciting.
Why should you be asking this question at a decent bike shop (and not buying used)?
- They will help to find your answer to the first question
- They will assemble the bike properly and provide minor adjustments and correct any problems in the first few weeks
- The bike will be all new and there will be no ugly surprises or if there are, you have someone to take care of that for you
- your requested modifications or extras are fitted ready for when you collect the bike so everything is easy
- they may well offer trade in against a new bike in time if you really get into it and want to upgrade
- the bike will be the right size because they'll measure you
- you should be able to test ride bikes, especially in this price category
What are the pitfalls of buying used?
- If you are inexperienced it's easy to buy a bike that looks fine but is mostly worn out and will need a big-bill service in the near future
- Alot of people of varying ability enjoy putting bikes together and aftermarket parts can create a really horrible bike with mismatching controls, incompatible parts used together, forks the frame was never intended for, modified parts or frame, you name it.
- Adverts frequently misdescribe (usually not deliberately) the specification or size
The advantage of buying used if you are experienced is that you can get something very good much cheaper that you would new because someone else has taken the hit on the depreciation. The person buying the new bike at full price gets the benefit of the time, expertise and training that the bike shop provides. The person buying from online retailers doesn't get either of these benefits.
Hope that helps you.
If we are talking about american dollars, that budget is huge. Unless you would like to buy a ebike, in that case it would be just enough.
Go to a big name shop, selling only bicycle and ebikes, no walmart/target and the likes, ask to test ride some commuting bicycles, as a rough rule you must be able to find a decent commuting bike for <800 USD, with a dynamo for the lights, fenders and a rack.
If the shop is close to you (i.e. < 2 miles by walking) even better.
The advantages of going to such a shop are many:
- they allow you to test ride many different bicycles;
- they may be able to help you regarding size and posture (not always, keep in mind sometime they try to sell you the most sporty/flashy bicycle);
- they may provide a couple of check up in the first months/year;
- they sell bikes from recognized brands, so after 6 months/1 year, if you reach the decision the bicycle is not fitting you, you can recoup a bit of the buying costs by selling the bike second-hand.
Important final note: a comfortable bike is not one with a plushy large saddle. If you feel the saddle is too hard, it is probably just a matter of getting used (unless you feel it is too hard on its nose/on your frontal part, then it means the nose is pointing too much upwards).
I will throw a somewhat unusual answer: a folding bike. For the first bike and probably the only bike, versatility is the king.
10 years ago, after years of riding cheap $20 bikes, I bought my first road bike, a Cannondale Synapse. I was thrilled. It felt fast, sporty, and cool.
But over time, I grew grumpy. I can't install a fender and ride it in a rain. I can't install a rack and carry groceries. Oh I can't ride it to the super market because of it could be stolen. I can't leave it out of my sights. I can't install a child seat. I don't want to lean it against the wall and scratch its nice white paint, but man, it does not even have a kick stand!
Even worse, I didn't feel comfortable. My fingers were numb, my shoulders stiff, my back hurt, my neck sore, and my legs tired. And the saddle was killing me! My arms were bleeding, though I couldn't blame the bike. I was just too fast and too busy looking down at the road, and forgot to literally raise my eyebrows to see the stupid tree in front of me. The second bruise? That's nothing. My well-trained brain just spent 0.1 more second to decide which foot to unclip before I fell like a dead elephant.
Two years later I bought a used Dahon Speed D7. It is slow, but I took it almost everywhere. Offices, schools, supermarkets, fast foods, libraries, and trains. At the corner, my white Cannondale was proudly clean, but definitely jealous.
Eight years after I got my first road bike, I sold it, and bought a Trek Domane. This time, everything feels just right. With all the lessons I learnt and all the miles I put, I finally fell in love with biking. To be honest I regretted selling my Cannondale. If I still had it, I now know how to tune and adjust it. But that's a more recent lesson.
As a first bike, the Dahon offers great versatility and almost no excuse for not riding it. It has vast range of adjustment to experiment with your body, so you can learn and find out what feels comfortable. A normal bike, particularly a road bike, often requires sizing and fitting. And I've seen enough people riding incorrectly sized hybrid bikes on the road, and been wondering how lucky they are to miss the one (sometimes two) correct answer in S/M/L. A dice can likely do better than a newbie's judgement here.
So, get a folding bike for a few hundred dollars and ride it for a few years and decide what's next. Ride it a bit faster, a bit longer distance, a bit hilly, even a bit dirt. Abuse it, and love it.
If you still want a normal bike, buy one from a reputable store with friendly and knowledgable folks. Ask them to pick the right size and fit you. Test ride a few times before you decide. As the first bike, brands and models do not matter at all. You should only care about the size, fit, and paint. Set aside a few hundred dollars from your budget if you don't have an idea yet how the small things like helmet, jersey, shoes, glasses, bottles, tubes, patches, tools, lights would quickly add up.