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Buying a Bike – Should You Pay More Upfront or Upgrade Later?

By Jordan Grimes   /  Last updated - April 5, 2022   /  Blog
drt mountain bikes

For $400 extra you get a dropper seat post, single front chainring, and a better front suspension.

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 that you should maximize your budget to get the most value and enjoyment from your purchase as soon as you make the decision. To help you make the best decision possible, we will explain some of the reasons 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 individual part of your bicycle with new parts is generally more expensive. This is because parts are sold at a higher mark-up.

The price difference between a low-end and medium-end bike is usually less than the cost of upgrading each component.

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 mechanic. This can be costly depending on the size of the job.

You may have to order your new parts if they’re not available locally and have them delivered. The cost of delivery 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 if it is within your budget, you may save money in the long run.

Better Parts Hold Their Value & It’s Difficult to Resell Basic Components

Better components hold their resale value if you decide to sell your bike. Better parts are designed to last longer, which means you will save money on repairs and replacements.

Buying low-end components with a plan to upgrade later will make it difficult to sell the basic components to recuperate some of the cost. This is because most people upgrade from low to medium, or medium to high-end parts.

The higher the quality of the components that 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, they make bike-handling better, and they require less effort to cycle than cheaper versions (due to weight and force transfer).

Whether your bike is for recreation or competition, all of the above factors make for a better experience. Why suffer a mediocre ride if you have the budget for something better?  

Second-Hand Bikes

If you want a better bike but don’t have the budget for a brand new medium/high-end model, consider a used/second-hand bike.

As mentioned, well-built components work well for longer. While they hold some resale value, 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, oftentimes 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 the single front chainring

single double front chainring

Many mountain bikers who are looking for a mountain bike at the $1,000 mark are facing a dilemma to either get a modern x1 chainring or a x2 drivetrain. While the 1×10, 1×11, or 1×12 speed drivetrain is the most used version among most mid, and high-end bikes, there are a lot of mountain bikers who are thinking of upgrading the whole system.

With that in mind, the conversion is rarely that simple to only swap out the front crank as the rear derailleur and cassette need swapping out as well.

In that example, which tends to be the most common concern, it is reasonable to get a more expensive bike with a better set-up, as the upgrading will be cheaper.

Potential Reasons to Pay Less & Upgrade Later

upgrading bicycle

There are some instances when it may be better to pay less upfront and upgrade later:

  • You can buy used parts to upgrade with
  • You can install the components yourself
  • The parts you want to upgrade are widely available (such as wheels/tires)
  • Aftermarket parts have a wide range of components for each taste of preference

Regardless of what you decide to do, just make sure that you ride regularly and take good care of your bicycle so you can enjoy it as much as possible.

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One thought on “Buying a Bike – Should You Pay More Upfront or Upgrade Later?

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