Author Topic: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?  (Read 18217 times)

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Offline John Driz

What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« on: January 27, 2010, 07:45:04 pm »
So what is the best new or used road bike for under $400?  An idealistic newbie needs to know.  Thanks

John
« Last Edit: January 27, 2010, 10:00:31 pm by John Driz »

Offline paddleboy17

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2010, 12:16:46 pm »
I don't think you can get a new road bike for $400.  If you find one, I'll bet it is not worth owning.

When I upgrade one of my bikes, I always sell off the old one for half of what a new bike would cost.  I always overhaul the bike first, and make sure that I am selling a bike in good mechanical order.

I would think you could by a used touring bike for $400 - $500.  Try your local Craiglist.  There are used bikes in the classified section of this web site, but factor in some money for shipment.  It would help if someone competent could look at bikes with you.  Buying a used touring bike for $500 only to discover that it needs a new drivetrain is no bargain.
Danno

Offline John Driz

Short lever shifters to brifters. Is it possible to convert?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2010, 11:29:59 pm »
I really didn't expect that I could find a new bike for under $400 but wasn't sure if someone had heard of some amazing deals out there or new up and coming brand.  I had read so many places that building your bike was always going to cost more than buying it from you LBS but I finally sat down and priced it out.  Even using modest parts where possible and buying everything off of Ebay my ride would run $865-$965 before shipping costs. 

As a novice road rider I would rather spend some time on an older aluminum frame until I build up my skills.  But one thing I know I'm going to miss is having brifters rather than the short throw lever shifters.  Is it possible to covert an older lever shifter system (excuse my terminology) to brifters?  I realize I'm at least looking at spending another $130, but is it possible?

Offline paddleboy17

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2010, 12:19:51 pm »
Yes, it is possible to convert from down tube shifters to both barcons and STIs (aka brifters).  I have done the STI conversion on an old road bike of mine.  My STI shifter kit came with a fitting the converts the down tube shifter brazon to a cable stop.  You will need to do come research to see if your shifters come with the fitting or if you have to get your local bike shop to round one up for you.

I might steer you away from used aluminum frames.  There will be others that disagree with my position.  I will give you my reasons and let you decide.

The act of riding flexes the frame. The stress of these inflections is concentrated where the frame is welded.  Titanium frames are least likely to crack at the weld, and aluminum frames are most likely to crack at the welds.  The performance of steel is close to titanium. 

So you need to know how heavily used and abused an aluminum frame is to evaluate how much life is left in the frame.  Steel is more of a no brainer, although you do need to check for rust.  Either way you need to check for cracking and fatiguing.
Danno

Offline waynemyer

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Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2010, 04:49:59 pm »
Buying a production bicycle will get you rolling sooner.  Building up your own bike, in my experience, is cheaper in the long run when you know what you like and want

Looking at some of the steeds on BikeDirect.com, you can get a workable whip in your price range.  Some of the touring bikes sold at BD even rate favorably in some of the stories on Crazy Guy on a Bike.

Integrated shift levers are definitely going to add to your bottom line.  Bar-end shifters give you a lot of durability and much lower entry cost.  You might be surprised how workable and enjoyable they are.
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Offline John Driz

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2010, 03:33:07 pm »
Thanks for the great advice Paddleboy17.  It's just my personality type to want to build my bike myself so I have have a close sense of ownership.  I did the same this when building my VW Westfalia from the engine up.

From what I've gathered Shimano 105 9 speed components seem to be the industry standard and reliable.  From how I've priced it out
-Shimano 105, 172.5mm crankset costs $37.48 with shipping
-Shimano 105, 5500 or 5501 Rear Derailler $30 with shipping
-Shimano 105 5500 Front Derailler $20 with shipping
-Shimano 105 12x25 Cassette $31 with shipping
-Shimano 105 brake set $30 w/shipping
-Shimano 105 Brifters $130 w/shipping
-Handle bar $28
-Stem $26
-Mavic 700C wheels $50 each
-Continental Ultra Race 700x23 tire set new $45
-Shimano Dura Ace 7701 chain $15
-Shimano PD-R540 pedals $30
-Cables $25
And I think thats it.  TOTAL approx. $498

So any ideas on how to cut costs?  Maybe switching to RSX components?
It's looking like more and more a used Cannondale or Trek is the way to go.
A Cannondale R600 1999-2003 is between $400-$550.
A Trek 1000 circa 2000 with Sora components runs approx $315 on the low end.
An early 90's Trek with down tube shifters and 105 components probably had for $250-300 with shipping

Any thoughts or ideas on what to do?
« Last Edit: January 30, 2010, 03:39:53 pm by John Driz »

Offline whittierider

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2010, 01:10:18 am »
Quote
I might steer you away from used aluminum frames.  There will be others that disagree with my position.  I will give you my reasons and let you decide.

The act of riding flexes the frame.  The stress of these inflections is concentrated where the frame is welded.  Titanium frames are least likely to crack at the weld, and aluminum frames are most likely to crack at the welds.  The performance of steel is close to titanium.
A German lab did frame-breakage tests years ago, simulating hard, out-of-the-saddle climbing a mile a day for a couple of years.  The original web page is no longer up, but Harris Cyclery picked it up and put it on their site.  Unfortunately they reduced the size of the pictures so you can't see as much detail as you could on the original site; but basically, the steel frames broke first, followed by titanium, then aluminum.  None of the carbon broke, except that an aluminum inner lug broke on one of the carbon frames, and I don't think anyone puts aluminum lugs in carbon frames anymore.  Since the time of those tests, steel has gotten frightfully thin in an effort to keep up with the other materials weightwise (making it more fragile and harder to repair), but otherwise the metals technologies have been mature, and one can't expect to see much more improvement there.  Carbon fiber OTOH has continued to improve quickly.

As for bikesdirect.com, I should mention that they have a terrible reputation.  They have a disproportionate number of customers who are very angry with them for a wide range of reasons like very delicate paint, substituted parts, false advertising, improper assembly, irresponsiveness to customer complaints, and in one case I read about, even a cracked frame right out of the box-- never been ridden.  There are some customers who have had good experiences with them, like, I believe Paddleboy17 above; but be warned.  BD does seem to be trying to improve, but I expect it will be quite awhile yet before I'm comfortable recommending them.  Buying online also brings the issues of fitting and lack of support.

Offline John Driz

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2010, 02:15:10 am »
whittierider I found the link you were talking about and here it is:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/EFBe/frame_fatigue_test.htm

I assumed steel "was real" and the toughest like most folks at least over aluminum since it is easier to tack a weld with steel. 
As I get closer and closer to pulling the trigger on my final purchase I wish I new if I could fit some 700x32's or 35's on Cannondale R400 or 600 series or maybe even a Trek 1200.  It would really help me seal the deal. 

Offline whittierider

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2010, 04:04:57 am »
Quote
whittierider I found the link you were talking about and here it is:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/EFBe/frame_fatigue_test.htm
Ah, yes, my apologies-- I meant to include it, and just forgot, even after I had copied the address.

Offline staehpj1

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2010, 10:26:53 am »
Looking at some of the steeds on BikeDirect.com, you can get a workable whip in your price range.  Some of the touring bikes sold at BD even rate favorably in some of the stories on Crazy Guy on a Bike.
If you can dig a bit deeper in your pocket than your $400 figure, I would go for something new in the $600-1100 or so range.  There are a number of nice touring bikes in that range and I think the bang for the buck is very good.

Three of us rode Windsor Tourists ($599) from BD on the Trans America and a lot of subsequent riding (both touring and commuting) and are quite happy with them.  Another option might be the Novara Randonnee from REI.   It is out of stock right now, but I am sure they will have them in again soon.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2010, 12:19:35 pm »
Your component choices would be fine on a road bike for club rides, but maybe not enough gear-inches for a touring bike.  This is a touring forum, so my assumption is that you are looking for a touring bike.  You might want to clarify...

105 is a great group.  If you ever need to put a big cassette in the back, the 105 deraileur won't be able to span it.  This may not matter on club rides, but humping up a 6% grade for hours will make you see things from a different perspective when the bike has your camping gear on it.

I like SRAM chains because of the masterlink.  Being able to break a chain is a very handy feature, especially when you can do it without tools and hyperguide pins.

Danno

Offline paddleboy17

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2010, 01:29:04 pm »
A German lab did frame-breakage tests years ago, simulating hard, out-of-the-saddle climbing a mile a day for a couple of years.  The original web page is no longer up, but Harris Cyclery picked it up and put it on their site.  Unfortunately they reduced the size of the pictures so you can't see as much detail as you could on the original site; but basically, the steel frames broke first, followed by titanium, then aluminum.  None of the carbon broke, except that an aluminum inner lug broke on one of the carbon frames, and I don't think anyone puts aluminum lugs in carbon frames anymore.  Since the time of those tests, steel has gotten frightfully thin in an effort to keep up with the other materials weightwise (making it more fragile and harder to repair), but otherwise the metals technologies have been mature, and one can't expect to see much more improvement there.  Carbon fiber OTOH has continued to improve quickly.

Hi whittierider, we butt heads again.  You have changed my opinions about carbon fiber, but you have not won me over on metals.  I might add that I respect whittierider a lot.  If he ever comes to Michigan, we should connect.

I did read the the Harris Cyclery article, and I must confess that I don't quite know how to interpret it.  Yes they made frames crack, but is the testing methodology representative of riding?  I could not figure that out.

For those of you who don't know me, I am an engineer by trade.  I do not have a mechanical engineering degree, but I did take the same materials classes that they did.  So I sat through those classic lectures on why Liberty class cargo ships spontaneously crack in half and about how unsafe early European passenger planes were.  Some basic material properties are not open to debate: aluminum is 1/3 the weight of steel.

Titanium should take the most duty cycles.  As the article points out, there are fabrication details:  source of the alloy, weld quality, braising issues, etc.  So the skill of the frame builder is important.  And there are always surpises in metallurgy.  I don't know why Reynolds 953 is as good as it is, stainless steel used to be so floppy and stretchy.

My original advice was an attempt to be general.  I still think saying that you should not buy a used aluminum frame without knowing its history is good advice.  It is probably true for other frames as well, since you are trying to establish a value for the frame.
Danno

Offline whittierider

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2010, 04:11:39 pm »
I totally agree that knowing the history is important.  I guess that's a major reason that used bikes' market value starts at half the new price and goes down from there-- the simple fact that you usually can't know what kind of treatment they've had.  I'm an electronics engineer, not mechanical, and I'm pretty ignorant about metalurgy except that I'm very detail-oriented and hate making all but the most minor purchases without researching the thing to no end.  (Salesmen hate me because there's no way to get me excited enough to make a quick decision to buy!)

It is my understanding that steel has a threshold of how far it is flexed, below which you can flex it any number of times and it will never fatigue.  It makes sense then that if someone is not doing the kind of uphill sprints simulated in the lab tests (the kind that broke my nice steel frame in only 10,000 miles with frequent hard efforts in the hills), or even non-sprinting out-of-the-saddle climbing, and they keep it rust-free, the steel frame will never break.

It is also my understanding that aluminum has no such threshold, so even if an aluminum frame is never ridden hard, it will, with enough pedaling cycles, eventually crack.  However, the lab tests show the aluminum to be a lot better than I had thought before I saw the test report.  Of course ideally they would test at least 10 of every model of frame on the market, but that would be basically impossible, at least from an economic standpoint.  However, I have seen aluminum frames develop big cracks over the course of a few weeks where they got a somewhat innocent-looking dent.  I have not seen this happen with steel.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: What is the best new or used $400 road bike?
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2010, 11:51:17 am »
I just might be barking up the wrong forum since I'm looking for a road bike with cross bike tires.  I simply picked this site since Adventure Cycling is based in my town and they have always been great folks to talk to.  I really wish I could do some touring, but with a fiance' who isn't much of a biker, and no friends who are into biking, I'm sort of on my own without much expertise or friends with experience or interest.  Guess I better get new friends... the fiance' has to stay.

Once upon a time, light touring bikes were also ridden as cyclocross bikes.

Since then, the cyclocross bike has evolved.  It now has a higher bottom bracket, and I believe that the wheel bases are now shorter.  It is not my sport, so I can't tell you what other changes have taken place.

My wife is not a cyclist, but she is still charming.  I would never advocate a relationship change for you.   :)

Your local bike shop's would be good places to check for weekly rides.  These are good places to meet and get to know other cyclists.

Good luck with your project.
Danno

Offline John Driz

Did I make out ok on my first road bike? $340 1999 Trek 2100
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2010, 07:10:49 pm »
So I finally bought a road bike.  After lots of research I bought a Trek 2100 I found last minute on Ebay for $340 with shipping.  I couldn't find any reviews but I went for it anyway.  Did I make out ok?
1999 Trek 2100 hardly used
http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/BikeSpecs.aspx?Year=1999&Brand=Trek&Model=2100T&Type=bike
Bicycle Type   Road race & triathlon
Sugg Retail   $1,199.99

Frame & Fork
Frame Construction   TIG-welded
Frame Tubing Material   6061 T6 aluminum
Fork Brand & Model   ICON Carbon Classic
Fork Material   Carbon fiber composite
Rear Shock   Not applicable

Components
Component Group   Road Mix
Brakeset   Shimano RSX Dual Pivot brakes, Shimano RSX STI levers
Shift Levers   Shimano RSX STI Dual Control
Front Derailleur   Shimano RSX, bottom-pull/clamp-on 31.8mm
Rear Derailleur   Shimano 105
Crankset   Shimano RSX, 30/42/52 teeth
Pedals   ICON clipless
Rims   Rolf Vector, 20-hole/24-hole
« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 08:13:21 pm by John Driz »