Look for an aluminum frame, quality bike components, and a geometry that will fit your riding posture and body measurements.
Most beginning riders don’t know whether or not they will actually like the sport of cycling. Contrary to the past, cycling is not much of a poor man’s sport anymore. Purchasing a full carbon fiber frame bicycle doesn’t make any sense for a beginner because its use is specifically designed for those who want a low weight to strength ratio for racing. You may find you don’t have any interest in racing or cycling and this would not justify the extra expense of such exotic material. You may want to choose another material such as steel or titanium, but these materials, like carbon fiber, often come with a high cost. Steel frames normally come as a custom frame build and titanium is another exotic material – both can be very costly.
Once you begin to pedal on a bike, the components are what make it operate smoothly. Purchasing a bike with poorly made components will most likely result in an unsatisfying ride and possible operating failure. For example, on a road bike you should look for components comparable to Shimano 105 or Sram Rival.
The most important thing to look for is the frame geometry and how it fits you. Each manufacturer will have different bike geometry for each frame size. If you don’t know your measurements, have a local bike shop or bicycle fitting company help you find a bike that will work best for your body measurements.
Don’t just go out and buy a bike because it's cheap. In fact, in order to purchase a decent bike that you will enjoy, plan on budgeting close to $1,000. The reason for this is that most of the price tag on a new bike is for the bike’s components. Companies can save money by building a frame with less technique and skill and also by adding fewer performance-driven components. If nothing else, good components will mean the bike shifts smoothly, brakes properly, and doesn’t require constant maintenance.
If your bike doesn’t fit you properly, you will have soreness and possible injuries. Have your local bike shop fit you to a bike instead of selling you on a bike. Some bike fitting systems will ask for measurements of your legs such as inseam, from the knee to the floor, and the length of the femur. They will also take your arm length, trunk length, and overall height into consideration.
Where to Buy
You should purchase your bike at a local bike shop. Most of the time the bike shop will offer you some kind of free maintenance for buying a bike from them. You will need the free maintenance in order to keep your bike in enjoyable working condition. Bike shops can also use fit calculators to make sure your riding position and frame size are accurate so you are comfortable while riding.
As of September 2010 you will most likely spend between $800 and $1,200 on a starter bike with mid-range components. The price will go up depending on better components and frame material.