Very often, people who are interested or want to pick up cycling as a sport is often confused with the many varieties and brands of bicycle available on the open market today. Moreover the many different materials and components makers all add up to the confusion of the market. Here are some tips and different explanations of materials, components and bike types to simplify things.
When buying a bicycle for the first time always must have certain things in mind before starting out
Cannot emphasis the importance of this. Always remember to set a budget so that you do not overspend. Remember to set aside some money aside as well for the non-obvious cost as well (lights,helmets,pedals,basic maintenance tools, tubes,air pump) and really optional item (speedometer,cycling shoes)
So what is a good starting budget to start with ?
I am not too sure about mountain bikes but for first hand road bikes, I would say that S$1k would be enough to get a decent road bike. Coming with thumb shifters and basic parts, it should be suffice to get a basic bicycle. Looking at the second hand market, a budget of S$800 should be enough.
For Budget of S$1K-1.5K
Expect an aluminium frame mostly with 9 speed tiagra/sora parts. Some brands may use even use house-brand parts to further lower the cost down.(while not necessary bad) and some may even skim on the not so critical part such as brakes and cranks.
For Budget of S$1.5k-3k
Here we can finally see 10 speed groupset comes in. Expect to see either very good-branded(aka Cannondale CAAD series) aluminum frames or some rather medium-end carbon frame. 10 speed groupset are better IMHO because the parts between the entry-level and top grade groupset are interchangeable which is more flexibility when choosing parts.
For Budget of S$3k-5k
If you are new and have set aside this amount. I think you are spending too much money for a first bike. At this level, expect to see mostly carbon fibre frames and exotic materials such as titanium, steel etc. And ultegra level/Sram force rival groupset. Also much better wheels and tyres than those from the lower budget.
For budget of S$5k and above
Well, should not be asking this if you have this kind of budget. you should know what bike you want to buy.
Currently there are 3 major bicycle groupset maker in the world. They are Shimano Campagnolo and SRAM with SRAM being the newest of the lot. Each has its own specialties and Shimano dominates the market in Singapore at least. Campagnolo requires its own set of special tools for maintaiance whereas Shimano and SRAM is more or less has compatible tools so first time buyers might wanna buy Shimano so that your friendly bike shop is able to do maintaiance for you.
Personally I have only used Shimano STI system and not others. It is quite easy to shift on the drops and the higher end Dura-ace groupset has almost instantaneous shifting. It is almost like you do not feel a thing when you are shifting the gears.
Heres a rough guide of where which groupset are from low end to high end
2200(8 speed)/Sora(9 speed)/Tiagra(9 speed)/105(10 speed)/Ultegra(10 speed)/Dura Ace(10 speed)/Di2(10 speed)
Centaur(10 speed)/Veloce(10 speed)/Athena(11 speed)/Chorus(11 speed)/Record(11 speed)/Super record(11 speed)
Apex(10 speed)/Force(10 speed)/Rival(10 speed)/Red(10 speed)
Does this mean that Campagnolo is more superior since it has 11 speed as compared to SRAM and Shimano which has only 10 speed? The way each groupset is designed means that there is no “the best” groupset overall. Each brand has its own pro and cons and has its own loyal followers/supporters.
There are bicycles made up of many different material in the market. But most bicycles frame are mostly made up of either Aluminum or carbon fiber. Of course there are bicycles made up of Titanium, steel and even bamboo!
For the lower cost frame, bicycle will most likely be made up of aluminum alloy; usually of the 6061 and 7005 variety. It is done mostly through wielding of different length and shape of aluminum tubing. Though aluminum frames are cheaper than carbon fiber frames in general, they are not as brittle as carbon fiber meaning a crash on your bicycle might not cause cracks in the frame.However, in terms of weight of the frame and stiffness of the bicycle, carbon fiber still takes the cake as compared to aluminum frame as it can be built lighter and stiffer for the same frame geometry and shape this does not mean that aluminum frames cannot be stiff . examples of pretty good aluminum frames include the Cannondale CAAD and the now out of production Cervelo S1.
This material is on almost all pro bikes that the pro peleton are using in Protour and in races. Carbon fibers are actually fibers (that is made of carbon duh) that are weaved multiple times to either form tubes or weaved to form the entire bike. It is more expensive as compared to aluminum and brittle. However, by building a bicycle frame with it, it is lighter than conventional metal materials and also could be built more stiffer by adding more material to the parts where stiffness is needed. Also, it is easier to shape it into an aerodynamic tube with it as compared to the aluminum tubes.
Baring all these factors in mind. A word of advice is that most of the time, your budget would be overshot. For those who are looking for value, feel free to ask around and compare the specification of bikes before making the purchase. It would be even better if you bring down a cyclist friend to help you make the judgement.