Originally Posted by Aodhan
I'm new to the forum and relatively new to cycling.
I'm looking to purchase a bike between £600 & £1000.
My fitness level is fairly high as I do a lot of running but i'm now looking to get into triathlons.
I did a bit of cycling over the summer, approximately 30-50 miles once a week.
I wouldn't be looking to go out for more than 50 miles per session at the moment, but I would be looking to get out more often and to work on my speed/pace.
Any suggestions on what would be a suitable purchase?
Most important thing is that the bike fits you properly. The world's most expensive bike isn't worth riding if it's the wrong size and not adjusted for you. Note that the only place you actually touch the bike is the handlebars, saddle, and pedals. Saddles, particularly, are the single most important component of the bike as far as comfort goes, so you may well end up swapping the one that comes with your bike with something else (and it may be more expensive).
Similarly, good clothing, particularly gloves, shoes, and bibs, are probably more important than the bike, in terms of your comfort and enjoyment on the bike.
Road bikes come in two main varieties - "race", and "endurance"/"sportive"/"plush". Race bikes are just that, though many people who don't race ride them. They tend to have quicker, twitchier steering, a low front handlebar, and a stiffer frame. Endurance bikes are a tad slower-steering, a bit less hunched-over riding position (though this is adustable whatever bike you get) and a slightly less stiff but better-riding frame. That said, I've seen people win races on "endurance" bikes; the differences are often pretty subtle.
If you're already an athlete you may prefer the out-and-out race bike, but you should try both types.
The next thing to look for is "groupsets" - the make and model of the mechanical components of the bike. The majority of bikes in this price range will have Shimano components, though a few might have SRAM or Campagnolo. All 3 manufacturers make decent components, but you have to know what you're buying. Whichever brand of components are fitted, you then look at models. Shimano's road bike component range goes Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura-Ace. Dura-Ace is what the pros ride, and out of your price range, and Ultegra is also likely not to appear on bikes in your budget. You're probably spending enough to avoid Sora. So you're looking at some mixture of Tiagra and 105. In my view, Tiagra shifters and derailleurs are to be avoided, as they simply aren't designed to cope with a lot of use.
You may also find, to save money, the manufacturer has specified cranks or brakes from another manufacturer. Alternative cranks aren't generally a problem; often, el-cheapo brakes are inferior to Shimano. That may or may not matter; if you're a lighter person and/or aren't doing many long descents it's probably less important. You can fix it later if needs be.
At this price, you will be faced with a choice between aluminium and carbon for the frame. Don't get hung up on carbon. Yes, it will be a bit lighter and (generally) ride a bit better, but a few hundred grams of weight is not a big deal and the ride quality may or may not be an issue for you. You'll need to figure that one out for yourself based on your sensitivity levels and local roads. Aluminium frames are cheaper so you'll get higher-quality componentry for the same money as a carbon frame. I'd expect a carbon seatpost at a minimum at this price, though.
Tyres fitted to bikes in this price range are usually cheap and nasty. II couldn't believe the reduction in punctures I had when I replaced the OEM tyres with something decent. If you're not racing I like the Continental Gatorskin. Lasts a long, long time with very few punctures, with not too much compromise in grip and rolling resistance compared to a race tyre.
Dealers are important, particularly if you're not mechanically inclined. A properly maintained cheap bike is far better to ride than an expensive one that's not serviced properly.
Brands? Oh, yeah. Brands. Don't get too hung up on them. All the major manufacturers make good bikes.
And don't panic about buying last year's model. Much of the time last year's model is the same as this year's model, except for the paint scheme. You can save a lot of money buying superceded stuff.