First-Time Buyer’s Guide – Our Top Road Bike Picks

By Jiri Kaloc

Do you want to cut straight to the chase? Here you go. In this article we will go over our top picks for your first road bike, what you may want to upgrade, what you need in a commuter city bike and which accessories you should get right away. Let’s jump straight in.

Triban RC 120

The Triban RC 120 sells for around 550 euros at Decathlon and represents a truly amazing value for money. It looks and feels like a modern road bike, it’s fun to ride, beginner friendly, and really versatile.

You’re getting disc brakes for reliable braking, an 11-34 cassette to make climbing easier, and a carbon-fibre fork to improve comfort by reducing road vibration. As a nice bonus, the bike has mounting points for mud guards or panniers so you can easily convert it to a commuter bike or a bikepacking bike. And there is even enough clearance between the frame and wheels to convert it to a gravel bike with larger grippy tyres. You simply can’t get a better deal at this price.

Van Rysel EDR AF 105

Van Rysel EDR AF 105
Van Rysel EDR AF 105

If you are able to stretch your budget, you should seriously consider the Van Rysel EDR AF 105, which is currently on sale for 949 euros and normally for about 1,150 euros. What will you get for the extra 500 euros?

  • It’s a much lighter bike weighing only 8,8 kg compared to 11,2 kg of the Triban RC 120. You will notice this on climbs and longer rides. A lighter bike feels more premium and handles better. Its weight is close to some carbon-frame bikes that cost 2-3x as much.
  • You’re getting a full Shimano 105 groupset, which is the most popular enthusiast performance set on the market. That’s because it basically offers the same shift reliability and feel as the high-end groupset Ultegra, it just weighsa bit more. Also, the cables are routed under your bar tape so your handlebar area will look much cleaner. With the Triban RC 120, you’re getting a bit of a cheap look with cables sticking out from the handlebars.
  • This bike comes with better wheels, which will make a difference on longer rides. It’s also fitted with a more comfortable Van Rysel seatpost as well as a few other improvements that help keep the total weight low.

It’s fair to point out that the Shimano 105 groupset comes with rim brakes in order to stay at this price level. These are great brakes but the bike frame has extra space to allow for an upgrade to disc brakes in the future if you want. You can also consider upgrading the wheels down the line as the rest of the bike is really solid. Chances are, many cycling enthusiasts would be happily using this bike for their entire cycling career.

How about a commuter bike?

Triban RC 120
Triban RC 120

Road bikes often get converted to commuter bikes as cyclists grow out of them. The above-mentioned Triban RC 120 would make a killer commuter bike if your commute is relatively long. If your commute is shorter and you don’t have big hills in the way, you may be able to get away with something even cheaper.

When choosing a commuter bike, it’s important to realize that you don’t really need many of the things that you look for in a good road or mountain bike. Here is a list of what you most likely don’t need.

  • Suspension
  • Clip in pedals
  • Disc brakes
  • Carbon frames
  • Many gears
  • Knobby tyres

On the other hand, there are some things you would hesitate to put on your sports bike that significantly improve a commuter bike.

  • A rack and pannier bags to not have to carry a backpack
  • A kickstand to easily park anywhere
  • Mudguards to ride in any weather
  • Accessories: bell, lights, phone holder, very good lock, and a chain guard

Elops 120

Elops 120
Elops 120

With this in mind, you can see that for as little as 200 euros, you can get a bike that ticks most of these boxes. You’ll not be breaking any speed records but it will comfortably carry you around the city without breaking the bank.

And if you want to make sure you don’t break a sweat on your commute, you can consider the electric version of this bike, Elops 120 e, which sells for around 800 euros. Sure, that’s a lot steeper of a price but you get between 30 and 60 km of range without really using your legs.

Accessories you should get right away

As you can see above, Decathlon offers really good value with most of the bicycles they sell. But buying your first bike there has one more advantage. Decathlon bicycles come with a pair of basic pedals, a bell, and front and rear lights. You don’t need much more but there are a few things that you should save a bit of your budget for.

  • A helmet – Most other things will heal if you fall but you don’t want to risk your head.
  • A bidon – Get your first cycling water bottle to start practising drinking on the bike.
  • A pump – It’s enough to get your bike serviced once per year but you will need to regularly top up your tyre pressure throughout the year.
  • Padded bike shorts – These are not exactly a must but your butt will thank you for getting them.
  • Clipless pedals and shoes – These are definitely not a necessity but they make a huge difference in your cycling efficiency on long rides, especially for road cycling.