Efficient bike buying guide


New Member
Mar 22, 2013
I'm a College student. I just came from AD military over to Reserve component to become an officer and what not. Anyway, I have no real income at the moment, except what the military pays me to cover my tuition and some monthly money. My favorite thing in the world is biking. However, my whole life i've been around mountains and I've always enjoyed mountain biking. So I have like 3 different types of Mountain Bikes. Stationed here, turns out there are no mountains in Florida, so I really want to get into road biking, which I've always been fond of.

long story short: I have no road bike and I can't afford a nice road bike now. If i had the money i'd gladly lay down a thousand dollars for a beginner road bike till I got competitive, lay down some more. Any tips for what I can do, and what kind of bikes are good bikes below 700$, or ways how people get bikes and I guess either pay them over time, or idk, I'd just rather get started sooner than later.
Most bang for your buck will probably be to buy used, be it from a bike shop, off Craigslist, eBay or the local classifieds. Of course, test-riding is important once you determine that the bike is, or can be made to be, an appropriate fit for you.

Thanks for your service, and I hope you find something that works out for you.
Originally Posted by Kaiserstreet13 .

Any tips for what I can do, and what kind of bikes are good bikes below 700$, or ways how people get bikes and I guess either pay them over time, or idk, I'd just rather get started sooner than later.
If you do not find a suitable bike on Craigslist OR eBay, then to state what may be obvious, there are narrower "city" slicks which can be used on most MTB wheels ...

  • you will need new tubes for the narrower tires, of course.

If your bike has disc brakes, then you can install 700c wheels which are laced to disc hubs with a MTB frame ...

And, even if none of your bikes has disc brakes, you can use 700c wheels with a MTB frame ...

  • FWIW. Here is an old Hardtail frame which I had that I essentially converted to a Road bike (the location of the cantilever brake bosses on the seat stays are the tell that the frame is a Hardtail designed for 26" wheels ... probably a little less obvious, at first, may be the BB's slightly reduced "drop") ...
  • I laced a 700c rim laced to a MTB hub ...
  • the forward facing hole of the fender mounting hole was enlarged to accept a recessed nut
  • etc.
  • as pictured, the bike weighs less than 20 lbs ... not the lightest bike around by a long shot, but it was cobbled together with spare parts which I happened to have on hand ... with some nicer components (i.e., the crankset + seatpost are the most obvious candidates), it could weigh a little less -- if you can DIY & if you are a wise shopper then YOU could certainly replicate the above for under $700 (the rear hub, the top pull front derailleur, and the seatpost & seatpost clamp are the only MTB components on the bike, but I could certainly have continued to use more MTB components in the conversion)
  • BTW. With a Road fork, I measure the front head tube angle as being 73º -- that's the norm for many Road bike frames

Essentially, your ego is the only limitation as to what frame you might choose to use for a Road bike AND you can begin with a very modest bike & convert it to as nice a Road bike as you might want to WITH most of the components being suitable for a nicer frame in the future if you eventually feel a need ...

  • FYI. CAMPAGNOLO shifters are compatible with a variety of Shimano drivetrains ...

  • whereas most indexed shifters MUST be paired with a specific front derailleur (even so, there is some extendable compatibility with some Shimano shifters), most Campagnolo shifters are indifferent to the front derailleur which is used & THAT aids in cross-brand compatibility ... however, you are SOL if you want to use SRAM Road shifters due to the limitations of the SRAM front shifter's indexing (but, having said that, you probably don't need two chainrings on the crankset UNTIL you move away from Florida ... actually, a vintage bike which only has downtube shifters may be more-than-adequate since you may not need to shift that often OR if ever after you find the right "gear" combination for your fitness level).
BTW. Here is an example of another one of my Hardtail frames (pictured with non-slicks & sans cables prior to completion of the assembly) which was also set up for "Road" riding ...

Essentially, only the handlebars, shifters, and crank were changed ... THAT's easily done for less than $200 ...

  • the "city slicks" & tubes which are chosen will affect the final cost.

Of course, for Florida, you could either use a crankset with a SINGLE Chainring or a Freewheel with much tighter range OR possibly set up one of your bikes as a SINGLE SPEED.

I got lucky and found a remaining new 2012 model Trek 1.1. This was 3 weeks ago and got it for $560. Call all your LBS and see if you can find a 12 model left over. And yes thanks for your service!
Once was without a road bike and did what Alf did above - modded my hardtail MTB for use on pavement for a little less than $200:
1) Swapped the front end shock for an alloy Kinesis fork.
2) Changed knobby tires to slicks (Sadly the best ever 26" slick imo - the Vredestein S-lick, is no longer in production), and got new inner tubes.

I already had SPD pedals and kept the flat bars. Was still on the heavyish side but at least was able to do some laps with the group in my local park when I was in good form.

Unfortunately with some of the suggestions above, a number of bike shops don't take trade ins or sell used, so unless you know bikes make sure to get some qualified feedback if you go the used route. Leftover '12 models can often come with 15-20% off (or even more) which is another option. And despite what many folks think, anyone with the legs can be competitive on a sub $1000 bike. The Specialized Allez line is a prime example. There are other brands too, like the Trek 1 series mentioned above.
Craigslist. Sometimes the Exchange will offer some decent deals.

And another Thank You for serving our Republic!