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7 Tips for Spending Your Cycling Budget Wisely

By Megan Flottorp

The struggle of balancing a bike budget is real. The many memes and references to hiding bike-related purchases from a spouse or partner are testament to the fact that spending on this sport can add up quickly. Throw in the pressure some of us feel to have the perfect ride or the coolest gear, and the money issue can become, well, just that—an issue.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way and with the right approach, you can find plenty of clever ways to stretch your budget while still maximising performance and comfort. We are firm believers that cycling should be accessible to everyone, regardless of the budget they have available to spend on the sport. So, until you win the lottery, here are some suggestions to help you prioritise the bike parts and gear that will genuinely make a difference and get the most out of your cycling budget.

When buying a bike, make sure you get a good frame in the correct size

If you’re starting from scratch and are currently in the market for your first set of wheels, remember that the frame is really all that matters. Everything else can be upgraded later, and you don’t need to shell out for it all in one go. Look for the best frame you can afford for the type of riding you plan to do. It is best to get someone knowledgeable about fitting to help you make sure the frame is a perfect fit for your body.

Group of cyclists
Look for a frame that will best suit the type of riding you plan to do.

Splurge on the following items

There are a few key areas where spending more money will make a more significant difference. Of course, depending on the type of riding you’re planning to do, these might not all be necessary. But here are some suggestions for where it makes sense to spend.

• Wheels: whether you’re into road riding or mountain biking, wheels will generate the biggest performance upgrade. With lightweight, aerodynamic carbon wheels, you can take a mid-level road bike to the next level. Likewise, a better wheelset will be more durable and provide much better handling on the trails.

• Bib shorts: if you’re planning to spend any significant amount of time in the saddle, bib shorts are a purchase worth making. You need to be comfortable to perform at your best, and quality fabrics will keep you cool in the heat, fit like a glove, and prevent any irritating chafing.

• Cycling shoes: if you’re looking to rack up the miles, comfortable shoes are essential. As a critical point of contact, you’ll be distracted during your entire ride if the shoe doesn’t fit or provide the support needed for better pedalling efficiency.

Don’t pay an arm and a leg for your helmet

Wait, don’t we want to protect that precious cranium? Yes, of course, we do. And the good news is that helmet manufacturers now offer fantastic mid-level helmets that provide excellent safety features without breaking the bank. At a certain point, you’re not getting more protection when you pay more, and as your helmet will likely end up scratched or dented and a little yucky from all the sweat— you’re better off opting for more frequent replacements at a lower cost.

Looking for speed? Get faster tyres

If you’re starting to find your groove in the sport and are looking for an affordable upgrade that will enhance your performance—think tyres. As bike parts go, tyres are relatively cheap and can make a big difference. Rolling resistance in durable, puncture-proof training tyres and thin, supple tyres designed for racing varies greatly! Of course, you still want to make sure you have some puncture protection but by shopping around for a tyre with the right balance of speed, comfort, weight and puncture resistance for your type of riding, you can make some serious gains in your performance.

Think a few years down the road about how much you want to invest in gear

When it comes to other items for your bike, you’d be well-advised not to make any hasty decisions. Cycling technology is evolving quickly, and, especially if you’re on a budget, it’s important not to let the marketing get to your head. Depending on the gear you have now, the amount you can spend over the next 2-3 years, and how you feel about adopting new cycling technology, the answer will be different for everyone.

Consider all your options when buying and selling gear

Of course, we are all for supporting your local bike shop. These beloved institutions play a critical role in the cycling community and meeting our product and service needs. That said, sometimes shopping online can save you time and money and simply provide better product selection, delivery speed, and user experience.

Also, don’t be afraid to buy used. Buying a used bike, wheelset or other gear from a cycling friend or online marketplace is always an option if you are working with a tight budget. It doesn’t have to be new and shiny to help you pedal better.

Invest in an online training platform to improve performance

An online training program can make a big difference if you want to kick your cycling game up a notch but don’t have much cash to spend on gear or components. There are several options out there, and they each have different strengths. If you pick one with options suited to your goals and stick with it, your performance and enjoyment will improve markedly. Sufferfest, TrainerRoad, Zwift, Strava, FasCat Coaching, and Peaks Coaching Group have packaged training plans you can choose from. In addition, Zwift, Sufferfest, and TrainerRoad have either interactive or entertainment components that will help keep you engaged.

At the end of the day, it’s about focusing on how cycling makes you feel inside and not getting hung up on having the newest or coolest bike on the road. The more time you spend in the saddle, the more you’ll come to understand your unique style of riding and where you can invest to see the most significant returns.