How to Road Bike on a Budget (Guide for Cheap Road Biking)
I got the idea for this road bike on a budget guide after writing my recent guide about hiking on a budget.
Road biking can be expensive. My basic entry-level race bike was over $3,000 when I bought it new. But it’s extremely lightweight, and riding it is super comfortable. Typical brand-name cycling kits (just the bib-shorts and jersey) cost you over $300-$500. Nutrition and sports drinks aren’t that cheap anymore, either.
The expense of road biking often scares people away.
And it’s a silly excuse to have because you can easily road bike on a budget if you play your cards right. This guide is all about how you can do just that, too.
Road Bike on a Budget with a Used Bike
Don’t make the mistake of buying a cheap bike from Walmart or even one of the sporting goods chain stores.
Instead, do this: Go to a local bike shop and get a bike fit. It’s usually free. A bike fit is when they measure you and tell you what size bike you need. Then let them show you some road bikes and tell you about the features. Thank them and say you might be back someday to get a bike.
It’s always nice to buy something from the bike shop just to support them.
But your bike buying strategy is going to be buying used. You also might go for a bike that is under the newer generations of what’s available now. That should help knock the price down. Just make sure you get the right size. The wrong size may lead to injury if you’re not careful.
You buy used bikes from the Facebook marketplace, yard sales, bike meets, eBay, Craigs List, and other online and offline used sources. Check that local bike shop first because they often have used bikes with good deals.
Don’t get a cheap, no-name bike that’s going to fall apart in less than a year. Get a good quality name-brand bike, but just buy a used one so that it’s cheaper.
An aluminum bike will be significantly cheaper than a carbon bike, but it will weigh more.
If you play your cards right, you can get a decent starter road bike for less than $500 used. You just need to know your size and look around at all your options.
Become Your Own Bike Mechanic
I recently took my road bike in for some maintenance and component replacements. I paid around $700 for all the work.
It was because the local bike shop only had certain components and brands of parts. I didn’t get an option of what to buy. I was fine with that because they do a good job, but if I was trying to road bike on a budget, spending $700 might have been a painful price to pay.
How do you overcome that spending?
You overcome it by doing the work yourself. There are plenty of websites, books (affiliate link), and videos on becoming a bike mechanic. There are even paid online courses showing you how to become one.
Teach yourself how to perform maintenance on your bike, practice, and get good at it. Then, you can choose your components and parts based on your budget and then fix things yourself.
You can save a lot of money doing it this way.
Instead of working on and practicing on your own road bike, I suggest buying a cheap used bike from a yard sale or something like that. Make it your project bike. It’s the bike you use to tinker with and learn mechanics for. Then, practice working on it, fixing things, and upgrading components.
Once you’re able to do your own repairs, you’ll be able to have your own budget when it comes to fixing your bike’s issues.
Stock Up on Used Components
If you come across any used components that will fit your bike, buy them up.
This is better if you take the advice above and learn how to work on your bike yourself. However, even if you take your bike to a bike mechanic, you could provide the spare part for them to use instead of having to use a brand new, more expensive component that they recommend.
But it works out cheaper if you can do the work yourself.
There are many different components that you might consider snagging up if you get the chance.
The components I recommend grabbing up are wheels, tires, chains, chainrings, cassettes, derailleurs, and bearings/bottom brackets.
While you’re at it, look for various bike tools that are used and selling for a cheap price. Most bike repairs take specific tools made for repairing bikes.
Get Cheaper Cycling Apparel (Even Made in the USA)
I got a kit sent to me recently for some digital marketing work I did for a company out west. The retail price for the bib-shorts and jersey combo was around $380.
That’s a lot of money for a pair of bib bike shorts and a jersey, but apparel isn’t cheap.
Well, it is if you look for cheaper alternatives.
Now, with that being said, I bought a pair of bib shorts from Wish once. When I squeezed them on, both sides ripped out immediately. The bib-short and shipping total cost was around $12, so I got what I paid for, which was junk.
So, there is definitely such a thing as being too cheap.
But there are cheaper options available. And if you want to buy American, there are still options available to ensure you can road bike on a budget.
Two apparel manufacturers I suggest are Aero Tech Designs and The Black Bibs. Both companies are American-made. They have very durable and comfortable cycling apparel. It’s so good that it feels like it should be more expensive.
If you don’t care where the apparel is made, Baleaf is a good brand for cheaper cycling apparel. They’re one of the more well-known, cheaper sports brands, too. They have a reputation for being a decent company and using ethics in their manufacturing trades.
And, of course, there is always the option of buying used. You can buy used from yard sales, thrift shops, and even individual cyclists.
And finally… Pay attention to sales pages around Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Labor Day, and other holidays because you can get pretty good deals on apparel, usually around those sales events for the more expensive brands.
Make Your Own Nutrition
There are many different options available for cycling nutrition and hydration.
You can buy food replacement, supplements, gels, chews, powders, bars, and everything in between for just about any sort of cycling endurance and hydration needs.
There are many brands and options for nutritional items. There are many price tags on them, too. Most of the price tags are rather expensive, but they’re made with quality and precision geared towards endurance athletes like most road cyclists.
And nutrition and hydration are very important for road biking.
But if you road bike on a budget, that means you want to save money.
My suggestion is that you make your nutrition yourself. There are plenty of videos, articles, and even books available to show you how to make your own nutritional products and hydration powders. And it’s typically dramatically cheaper to make your own stuff.
But it does require your time, and that’s where most people fail at. It’s easier to spend the extra money and buy it rather than take the time to make it.
Group Rides versus Event Rides
One of the best things about road biking is riding all the bike events around your area.
I live in rural southern Illinois. In my area, there are at least 10 different bike events throughout the year. Typically, it costs $30 to $50 to participate in them. That adds up! I could only imagine the number of events that are around bigger cities with better cycling infrastructure.
But riding with others is so satisfying.
So, what do you do?
Find you a group or a cycling club and ride with them. You’ll be able to become a better cyclist and be able to stick with the group. You’ll make friends. You’ll have more riding opportunities that don’t cost anything. It’s cheaper than paying to ride your bike with a big group of strangers.
Most of the time, you can find group rides and cycling clubs on the internet and social media and advertised at local bike shops.
If you find multiple groups to ride with, you’ll always have people to enjoy the bike with, all at no additional cost to you.
Cheaper Gear Recommendations
There is other gear you need to have as a road cyclist.
Most road cyclists have a saddle bag full of things used for emergency repairs. That kit typically includes a spare tube, portable air pump, multi-tool, tire levers, chain breaker, and a patch kit.
Patching the hole in your tube will be more less expensive than replacing it with a whole new tube. A patch kit typically costs less than $5, and a tube is usually more than $10.
Don’t be afraid to buy cheaper gear in this area.
You can go to chain retail stores like Walmart and others to get your saddle bag, tubes, repair kit, and other emergency repair tools. You don’t have to buy the most expensive brand.
I saw a saddle bag with a water bottle holder attached to it for $80 on REI. Walmart had one just like it (but a no-name brand) for $25. I bought the Walmart one, and it has worked great ever since. The first time I used it, I rode 101 miles that day. It’s still like new.
Cheap gear can work out for the best if you take care of it.
Start Your Route from Home
One of the biggest expenses of road biking is using gas in your vehicle.
Back when I lived at my old place, I would drive about 30 miles to a local state park to road bike 20 miles.
I drive a full-size pickup truck. It took a little bit of gas to get there. I drove more than I rode. I could have saved money by just biking in the park. I could have easily planned a safe and pleasant route to the park. And then I could have got more miles in.
Instead of driving to your ride starting point, bike to it. You can make the ride as short or as long as you want.
But think about all the gas money you would likely save.
And think about how healthy it would be to bike instead of drive.
That sums up my tips on how to road bike on a budget. If you’d like to see more articles like this one, consider leaving me a one-time donation or becoming a monthly supporter. You should also subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for more road biking tips and resources.
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Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman