Finding a road bike for a friend

I’m helping a mate find a road bike. I’m interested to see what people reckon the best way of doing it is…

My experience:
I got measured up by John Beasley for the kind of riding I was going to do.
A second hand bike came up for sale through a friend of my dad’s that was about the right size. I bought it. 2 and a half years later the only original parts left on it are the brake calipers and most of the wheels (respoked the rear). In the long run, this was a pretty expensive way of doing things but the bike is now pretty much perfect since the parts are hand picked.

I’m reluctant to recommend anyone buy an alloy road bike since I reckon steel gives a better ride but I dunno what sort of difference it makes when you’re riding 50-100km max. I don’t know of anywhere that will do a steel bike with only lower-midrange parts. My thought is that my friend should buy a cheapish bike (~$1000) with a view to upgrade a few parts over the next 12 months and ultimately buy something a lot better after a year once he has a better idea of what he wants in a bike.

Ultimately it needs to be reliable, comfortable, look good enough that it’s something he can be proud of but not be too much of a thief magnet. If it’s something he’ll love to ride rather than just a means of A to B, I reckon he’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of it and make it a life-long activity. Few things give me more pleasure than getting a friend addicted to cycling.

As long as they don’t keep asking me to service their bike (but I’m more than happy to teach them how to do it)

I reckon eBay might be a good place to look although it seems like it’s mostly el cheapos with shimano parts so bad they only have a model number designation and a bikes that people paid too much for a year or 5 ago and never rode and now expect to get what they paid for it. I guess getting a bike on ebay is really just a waiting game.

I took a couple of friends to bicycle recycle about a year ago and I reckon the more modern bikes were incredibly overpriced. I’ll take another look anyway since my mate lives down that way.

The Giant OCR range seems to be pretty reasonable value. I’ve no experience with Shimano road components so what do people think of Sora/Tiagra? Are they decent enough? How quickly do they start to fail? I assume regular maintenance does wonders for their lifespan but I dunno how often my mate would do it. What other big brand bikes offer similar value to the giants?

Where else has a constant supply of second hand bikes from other than trawling forums?

Lastly, does anyone have a ~52cm roadie they’re trying to sell?

Tiagra, Sora, are the lower end of the shimano groups, 600, 105, Midrange, and Ultegra, SL, Duraace, are the High end

pretty sure thats correct.

but im pretty thick.

Couple of questions:

  1. Is your friend new to cycling?

  2. Does it have to be a road bike?

  3. What sort of riding is this friend going to do?

Although Giant are generic and a tad boring, they do make some of the best value for money road bikes around IMO. And because they are common, you’ll be able to find the run-out models on sale.

Sora/Tiagra groupset would be fine for the weekend cyclist, but if they were riding hundreds of km’s a week you might want to invest into 105 I reckon. More durable and future-proof.
Like with most things, the difference between Sora and 105 is significant, whereas some might say the difference between 105 and Dura Ace is not as significant.

First up, I wouldn’t assume your friend will get the same out of riding that you do (he doesn’t ride at all now, right?). I mean, don’t be disappointed if he’s too ignorant to realise how good it is :wink:

And I wouldn’t write off aluminium either. He won’t know the difference and there are plenty of good aluminium roadies out there.

I’ve known plenty of people who liked the idea of having fun, getting fit, alternative transport etc but lots of people can’t get through the initial period where all your muscles hurt and you can’t keep up with your friends and you don’t have the road skills etc.

Unless he’s got loads of cash I’d go 2nd hand via the usual places. If the budget allows I’d look at CAAD7 or CAAD8 Cannondales too.

I am kind of going through the same thing. Trying to find a reasonable bike (as a starting point) that I can upgrade as I get more into riding.

The Sora and Tiagra groups are not good - the minimum Shimano group I would recommend is 105. The next best is Ultegra then Dura Ace. If you have Dura Ace on a bike it will be a thief magnet so forget that.

What I am looking for is a slightly older aluminum frame with carbon forks. With either 105 or Ultegra 10 speed group.

The idea being that I can move the group onto a new frame when I have had enough of the aluminum.

From my waiting around on e-bay so far a bike like this should fall in the $600-800 bracket.

Other then e-bay you can find bikes here.

600 briefly became 600/Ultegra which then became just Ultegra (as of 9 speed I think).

told you i was thick.

not sure how much you wanna spend, but a good strategy that was told to me is to find a bike on ebay just for the Groupset, could be a 49cm dog ugly merida, doesnt matter cos youll ditch the frame anyways. then find the right frame to attach your group.


Buy an OCR

Yes and no. Presumably he did a bit of it as a kid. He bought a second hand MTB few years and never really rode it much although he’s been using it a bit recently and ridden from st kilda to brunswick a few times. It’s not in great shape and I’m not sure it’s worth spending the money to make it suitable and reliable.

It probably doesn’t have to be a road bike. I think that’s more what he’s after though. I started on a Giant Rincon a few years ago and that was pretty good. Then i got a rigid SS MTB conversion that was awesome. I loved that I would take a lot of punishment and potholes and such weren’t an issue but I also wasn’t riding it that far. Back then I couldn’t imagine commuting on a 700c tyres but now I wouldn’t go back. If he’s going to ride it to work it’ll be a 15km commute so the easier the bike is to push, the more likely he is to ride it. Or the less unlikely it is that he won’t ride it…

What are the other options? MTB, hybrid, flat bar roadie?

My concern is that he’s not going to stick with it. He didn’t when he bought the MTB. I figure all I can do is minimise the barriers to him enjoying it and provide as much support and encouragement as possible. I know that when I started getting more into riding, the biggest barrier was getting on the bike. It always seemed like so much effort and driving sounded like a much better option. Once I was on the bike I was having a great time and was at my destination before I knew it. Now I shudder at the thought of getting in the car because of the headaches of driving, the hassle of finding parking etc etc etc. Now I’m in the process of selling the fucker since I never use it.

I figured that Sora wasn’t really worth the money, Tiagra maybe. 105 does seem to be the sweet spot of quality vs price but still might be a bit excessive unless I find a great deal, anything higher wouldn’t be worth it on a first road bike. The “problem” with 105 is it tends to push the price range up a fair bit since it means that all the other parts tend to be better as well. At lower levels, I reckon lighter wheels make more difference than a better groupset.

One thing I just realised is that Tiagra is 9sp. I see what you mean about future-proofing.

Can you get roadbikes with MTB drivechains on them? They’re a lot cheaper and more reliable and give you a wider range of gears.

Buying a bike just for the groupset sounds like more effort than it’s worth, since he’d only be after a midrange one.

I thought the trick was to buy a new bike with the frame you’re after and flog off anything you already have

don’t look past the steel road frames that float around both ebay and this forum for not much $.

Sora is the recreation groupset and is 8 speed. Plastic body rear derailer :frowning:

Tiagra is the enrtry 9 speed and it’s the first set to run the full STI patent shifters (the classic shifting mech from shimano).

105 is the full alloy group set and runs in 10 speed.

Ultegra is race ready 10 speed

DuraAce is all over the shop these days, 10 speed/11 speed and even electric! Get out of town he says! I KNOW!

Just make sure ya mate gets at least Tiagra. :wink:

Get good components,
The frame is the cheapest part of just about any bike in the price bracket your lookin’ at.
If possible borrow a couple of different bikes for a medium ride, say 10km so he can at least get some idea of what is right for him. I encourage noobs to ride at least a couple around the block so I can show them some differences. Then tell them to think about what fits their needs best or covers as many bases as they can. If he’s not going to ride on the dirt then buy a road bike or flatbar, not a hybrid. I have done heaps of conversions from drops to flat bar and have a pile of Allegro bull horns after converting them from new for customers.
Is he going to commute? Ride to the pub? 12hr solo mtb race?
Pick a bike type, set a budget and wait for it to come up or go hunting.

Blasphemy :roll:

9 speed now.
Looking at the revised Sora groupset, it isn’t actually too bad:

9 speed
Dual pivot brakes (virtually the same as Tiagra)
2-piece crankset, integrated BB (shares same Tiagra BB cups)

I’m not saying it is appropriate in this instance, but it’s amazing how much they have improved it. The only thing that lets it down is the ordinary brifters- I haven’t used them but they don’t look very durable IMO.


This is a tough one.

Generally because he has to spend $1000+ on a decent bike not knowing if he is going to like it in the first place. From your post it sounds like he primarily wants something to commute to work on? Perhaps it would be best to gear the bike choice towards that direction. Something like a flat bar roadie with wide range gears or a Nexus hub. Check out the Giant range of 2009 CRX bikes. The 2009 range of Felt bikes is quite impressive as well.

I think you’ll have a better chance of getting your friend hooked on cycling by providing a bike that first suits his needs. Once he’s hooked, he may then look into things like more serious road riding or MTBing. Getting the bike thinking that he MAY get more serious could backfire. It happened to me when I built my lady friend a single speed road bike. She didn’t like the aggressive road geometry. I got her a Nexus hub Giant City later and she loves it coz all she wants is just ride to work and the shops. It suits her needs.

As mentioned before, try before you buy. As for new or 2nd hand or build your own … I would buy a complete stock bike. They are usually more value for money and if your friend really doesn’t like it, are much easier to sell for a decent price.


1000 bucks is cheapish? :cry:

So my mate has decided to fix up his MTB a bit. Rigid forks, high-pressure slicks. I actually think this is a pretty good idea. Once he’s fitter and more confident riding on roads and such, 700c wheels aren’t so scary.

Thanks to all for their comments.

for new bikes $1000 is very cheap.

i’d definitely recommend ebay. there are some fantastic bargains to be had on practically brand new bikes. i got a full carbon, ultegra road bike, ridden 300km’s, looked brand new for $1400. that bike goes for $3000 new.

downside is that you have to look around a bit to find the right size and for it to be in the right location. took me a month and a half to find that bike. remember to get sized up as well.