Buy the best you can almost *not* afford

Hitanshu Gandhi    Updated
Spread the love


This came out of a discussion on – this is a standard newbie query. Why should I buy a more expensive bike? Let me “test the waters” first.

There are two levels of issues:
a. Long term commitment
b. Type of cycling

A. If there are commitment issues, the better approach is to reach out to the rider community, borrow a bike for a weekend from friends / relatives or from hiring shops like Pro Bikers.

B. In my case, I was outright in favor of a hybrid but the Ladakh bug was on my head. Last minute advise from the wife and another friend nailed it for the MTB in spite of my misgivings / research. It took about a month to make it clear that I was neither getting fitness nor a good enough workout from offroad rides (but I’d be assured of half a dozen punctures), and that my desire to ride to Ladakh was unlikely to happen soon.

That again can be solved by discussing with ardent cyclists and taking a test ride and some internet research.

But having said that, point 1 talks about something different – its a bit more subtle.

The challenge is often that people buy either unreliable crap (some of the Indian mfrs’ bikes) or the cheapest reliable bike (RR5). That’s the cycling equivalent of buying a 7-8k android mobile instead of a midrange or a flagship.

Sure there are people who are happy with their Galaxy Y, but then, IMHO unless you bought a nicer quadcore with good internal memory (16 gb) or decent RAM (1GB) or decent screen (720p) – you wouldn’t really enjoy it too much. I could technically do everything on a GY but with the S3, its much nicer. In cycling, if people bought some full-sus piece of crap sofa (or one of the equally bad indian cycles or this), it completely kills the joy of cycling. IMHO the ACT110 (except the seat post issue) or Firefox Roadrunner is the very entry level of the segment which is quality enough for someone to use it over a few years. But like training wheels you outgrow it soon enough, as folks often do.

Instead with adequate research and good friends, one is better served by buying a nicer bike upfront. My cousin borrowed my hybrid MTB for three months, then went ahead and bought a GT-GTR4 series roadie as his first bike. Three years out, he’s loved it. He’s extremely happy with the GT GTR4. That’s the best example of what I intend.

Further, this point 1 alludes to the fact that cycle makers have a set of standard frames for entry level bikes, with higher variants coming with better groupsets and more bells / whistles (e.g remote lockout for the front shocks). A little more gets you often a lot more smoothness till you reach the upper echelons and gravity fades (Ultegra / SRAM Red / Deore etc).

Coming back to my own case, I realized later on, that buying the Merida 40V (vs the 20V in my case) for 1100 bucks more would’ve been much nicer than settling for the 20V. Its all about the nuances – the details, the gear display window quality, the smoothness , ease of shifting under load etc

Similarly with the roadie. This time (2012) I went with the latest 10 speed Tiagra, which was claimed to be equivalent in performance to old model 105, something which i did not want to spend up to. However, it is still much better than the Sora or the 2200/2300 stuff (what is now Claris). I’ve never regretted my bike upgrade even though it practically doubled the bike’s price (from 21k to 40k).

So yes, if someone wants to “test the waters” – feel free, except the loss in resale is unnecessary and can be solved with good friends, trust, lots of research and seeking out experienced riders.