A racing bike, often also known as a road bike, is built for travelling at speed along surfaced roads (tarmac or paved). The range available is very diverse and top-end competitive racing bikes can cost several thousand pounds. Often cyclists will buy a frame and then all the parts and components to achieve a specification that they feel will give them competitive advantage. Despite this, affordable racing bikes can be bought that offer a good specification and the advantages of this kind of bike over hybrid or mountain or off-road bikes under certain conditions.
Is a racer right?
Anyone who is unfamiliar with racing bikes & is unlikely to risk a heavy capital outlay on a machine that they may not be suitable. The aerodynamic forward position that racing bike frame geometry creates takes some getting used to.
A good entry level racing bike will cost more than an equivalent hybrid or mountain bike. So before discussing what affordable means in racing bike terms, it’s a good idea to answer some basic questions. Are you:
- New to cycling?
- Interested in touring?
- Thinking or commuting to work/around town?
- Want something more challenging than your current ordinary bike?
- Into improving fitness with medium to long rides?
- Training for an event?
- Getting into road racing or triathlon?
What makes a racer affordable?
This depends on the circumstances of the purchaser as the value of the bike in real terms. The key thing to be aware of is that there can be significant improvements in the specification with a little extra investment. Somewhere around the £500-800 mark sees an improvement in the range and performance of the bikes and the component sets they use.
For example, a Dawes road bike under £500 will have steel forks; but an extra £100 will buy an edition of the same bike with carbon forks, a more highly specified chainwheel, saddle and other detailed differences in components.
To understand the significance of the different elements and what they add up to both in performance and pounds sterling, we need to look at the main component systems in turn.
The Elements of a Racing Bike Explained
Frame and forks
Road bikes are designed to be fast. Therefore they have to be as light as possible and to be stiff enough in all the right places to enable the maximum power transfer from the legs to the back wheel, whilst offering some flexibility to increase rider comfort. Different models offer varying amounts of racing stiffness and all day comfort, and that depends on two factors:
- the frame geometry
- the frame and fork materials.
Geometry: The head tube is the part of the frame between the handlebar stem and the top of the forks. The top tube is the top of the frame’s triangle, often called the cross bar. Road race bikes have shorter head tubes and longer top tubes, an arrangement which tilts the rider forward into a crouching more aerodynamic posture. The exception is a variety of race bike called “sportive” with a taller head tube and shorter top tube to give a more upright riding position, which many will find to be a lot more comfortable for the back on longer rides.
Materials Racing bike frames are made from four alternative materials:
- carbon fibre.
Titanium frames are priced upwards of £2,500 and full carbon fibre upwards of £1,500 because of the cost of the material and the extra work the frame makers have to put into fashioning the frame:
Aluminium: This is what most quality bikes are made from these days and is consequently relatively cheap. It’s very light and very stiff which makes it a good choice for the main frame of a performance bike. Aluminium isn’t strong enough for bikes by itself; aluminium frames are in fact alloys with other materials shown on the product description, for instance, double butted A1 aluminium on the Specialized Allez Compact.
Steel: Very durable, steel also has an elasticity which makes for a springy comfortable ride. But it can rust if the paint is chipped. On quality bikes, expect to find branded steel alloys, such as Reynolds 520 Chrome-Moly, which have a higher strength to weight ratio; the basis of a very light bike. But these can push the price up.
The front fork connects rider and road via the front wheel as it rolls along. The fork needs to have both strength and resilience to iron out uneven surfaces. Aluminium is a bit too stiff for comfort; steel is a little too heavy. Carbon fibre is a popular material for forks because it has a natural ability to absorb shock while offering fine handling.
Tip: In the affordable price bracket; look for an aluminium frame with carbon fibre forks.
Wheels and Tyres
- Wheels The lower the wheel weight, the better a bike's climbing, acceleration and handling. This happens because wheels are a rotating weight, the kind felt most by the rider. In fact, a few hundred grams reduction at the wheels feels more like suddenly shedding 10 pounds of bodyweight. That’s why the rims should be aluminium, and double-walled to be both lighter and stronger, accelerate quickly, and provide the most comfort on a variety off roads. Stiffer aero profile rims are more expensive and more suitable for time trials on smooth surfaces.
- Tyres Typical tyres on an entry-level racing bike are 7000X26c, giving a narrow, slick profile to the road for least resistance. Narrower widths (23 – 25c) wear more quickly but add to performance. One important difference is bead type. Beads are found in both edges of the tire and grip the rim to hold the tire to the wheel. Less expensive tyres use wire beads. Tyres with Kevlar (a super-tough fabric) beads are lighter, but unlikely to be found as standard equipment on an affordable racing bike.
This is the set of components that allow the rider to drive the racing bike forwards. These provide the gear changing options which allow the cyclist to adapt to conditions such as gradient, wind and road surface. It is made up of crankset (the chainring and pedals), chain, rear hub and gears. Two names dominate drivetrain components – Campagnolo and Shimano. Look for Shimano Sora at entry level. Campagnolo parts are probably out of reach in the affordability stakes.
Regardless of price, it won't be much fun riding the bike if the gearing isn't appropriate for the rider’s fitness level and where and how they pedal. The crankset comes with 2 (called a ‘double’) or 3 chainrings (called a ‘triple’). Attached to the rear wheel is a set of cogs of different diameters clustered on a block or cassette which drive the wheel as you pedal. Depending on the components on the bike, there will be from 8 to 10 cogs on the rear cassette.
To work out the total number gears there are on a bike, simply multiply the number of chain rings by the number of cassette cogs. For example a model with a triple chain ring on the crankset and a 10-cog cassette has 30 gears. Reasonably fit people riding on flat to rolling terrain will probably be fine with a double chain ring and 8 to 10 rear cogs.
People getting into shape or in hilly country might prefer a triple chain ring and its easier gears. Even some competitive riders favour a triple. It can be a lifesaver at the end of a long ride when a tough climb stands between rider and home. More closely spaced gears (compact) are good for racing and training because they make it easier to fine-tune the pedalling effort. Wider gearing offers easier low gears.
Choosing an Affordable Racing Bike
Having mastered the basics of what constitutes a decent racing bike, the next step is to choose one.
For a new bike the affordable price bracket £400 to £600 is a very competitive area, so might prove to offer good value. Most of the main players like Giant, Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Ridgeback, Scott and Dawes (all usually decked out with Shimano gears) aim to have a road bike of repute at the entry level range. Playing safe could pay off. Aim to buy once. It’s less expensive to get the frame, wheels and components in a complete out-of-the box bike – than to upgrade later or add parts piecemeal.
Another option is to buy a used road bike. Many cyclists sell because they want to upgrade. This means it’s possible to get a relatively new bike in good condition with a service history at a very reasonable price. That could bring a thoroughbred racer within reach – complete with carbon fibre or high end alloy frame, Campagnolo components and other fancy trimmings. Or if the buyer is sticking to a budget of, say, £250, a lightly used reputable racing bike can be a practical proposition.
Start by searching for racing or road bikes on eBay. Get to know the market price levels, make a short list; study the product descriptions and pictures. The photograph should be of the actual bike not a stock shot lifted from the manufacturer’s website. If you’re not satisfied with the any aspect or want to know more about the bike’s history or reason for selling then do not hesitate to ask the seller.
Buying an affordable racing bike on eBay
Go to eBay to research and buy affordable racing bikes. While you shop, don't forget Clothing, Helmets & Protection. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click Cycling.
The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Bike Parts, Bikes, Clothing, Footwear & Helmets, Cycling Accessories, Trophies and Other Cycling. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.
Use the Racing Bike Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, model and condition. (new or used)
Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find a new racing bike, type the keywords "racing bike new" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.
If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search oon My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.
Buy an affordable Racing bike with Confidence
Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.
Know your item
- Read the details in the item listing carefully.
- Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.
- If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.
- Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.
- Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or Moneygram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.
Know your seller
Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.
- What is the seller’s Feedback rating?
- How many transactions have they completed?
- How many positive responses do they have?
- What do buyers say in their Feedback?
- Are they positive about the seller?
- Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.
- Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
- What are their terms and conditions?
In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.
Anyone accustomed to a run-of-the-mill town, mountain or hybrid can expect a very different ride experience on a racer and the choice and buying priorities are also very different. A buyer does not have to be a road racer to enjoy the stripped down style of the racing bike. Many people that commute or want to exercise in their spare time but want to be outside and covering distances of over 10 miles may find that a racing bike is the most appropriate type of bike and eBay is the perfect place to find one at a good price and from a trusted source.