Buying a Bike – Should You Pay More Upfront or Upgrade Later?
Buying a new bicycle can be exciting and intimidating at the same time. Many people ask:
“Should I buy the expensive bike now, or buy the cheaper model and upgrade the components later?”
We believe you should maximize your budget to get the most value and enjoyment from your purchase as soon as you decide. To help you make the best decision possible, we will explain why we believe it is better to pay more upfront, if you can.
It’s worth noting that price doesn’t always mean quality, so make sure you research or consult a trusted professional to make sure you’re spending your money wisely.
Why Pay More Upfront?
Bike Parts Are More Expensive Individually
Upgrading each part of your bicycle with new ones is generally more expensive because retailers sell individual components at a higher markup.
The price difference between a low-end and medium-end bike is usually less than the cost of upgrading each component.
- Related: The Real Cost of a Bicycle
You May Have to Pay Labor & Delivery Fees for the Upgrades
Depending on how much mechanical ability you have, upgrading parts may require the help of a professional. Bike work can be costly depending on the size of the job.
You may have to order your new parts for delivery if they’re unavailable locally. The delivery cost can add up, making the price of your part higher than just the part itself.
Purchasing a higher-spec model from the beginning is more expensive, but you may save money in the long run if it is within your budget.
Better Parts Hold Their Value and Are Easier To Sell
Better components hold their resale value if you decide to sell your bike. In addition, better parts last longer, saving you money on repairs and replacements.
Buying a bike with low-end components with a plan to upgrade later will make it challenging to sell the individual parts to recuperate some of the cost. This is because most people upgrade from low to medium or from medium to high-end parts.
The higher the quality of the components you purchase from the outset, the more value they hold for resale if you eventually decide to upgrade.
You Will Get Maximum Enjoyment Immediately
Higher-quality bikes are almost always more enjoyable to ride.
Better components absorb road vibrations more effectively, make bike handling better, and require less effort to cycle than cheaper versions (due to weight and force transfer).
Whether your bike is for recreation or competition, all the above factors make for a better experience. So why suffer a mediocre ride if you have the budget for something better?
Consider a used/second-hand bike if you want a better bike but don’t have the budget for a new medium/high-end model.
As mentioned, well-built bikes keep working for longer as long as they’re maintained properly. Used bikes (or components) will be significantly cheaper than new ones.
When the local bike shop (LBS) sells second-hand, they should ensure all parts are functioning perfectly, often like-new. Call around your LBSs to see if they have used bikes and components that fit your needs.
By doing this, you may be able to get a better bike or upgrade yours without paying more upfront.
Converting to A Single Front Chainring
Many mountain bikers looking for a mountain bike at the $1,000 mark will be forced to use a 2x drivetrain. 1×10, 1×11, and 1×12 speed drivetrains are typically only found on mid, and high-end bikes.
To convert from a 2x to 1x drivetrain, you would have to swap out the front crank, rear derailleur, and cassette, which is a costly job. In this example, getting a more expensive bike with a 1x setup is favorable.
Thankfully, single-chainring drivetrains are getting cheaper, such as MicroSHIFT’s new Advent X MTB drivetrain with a 1×10 setup.
Potential Reasons to Pay Less & Upgrade Later
There are some instances when it may be better to pay less upfront and upgrade later:
- You can buy used parts for the upgrades
- You can install the components yourself
- The parts you want to upgrade are widely available (such as wheels/tires)
- There is more choice for customization if you’re upgrading
Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure you ride regularly and take good care of your bicycle to enjoy it as much as possible.