Someone new to cycling would look to the internet for advice. What would they find?
Videos like this. The inference would be that if you take riding seriously you need a carbon fibre bike. There are advantages for sure, but the cheaper end of the market is not much better than metal as far as weight etc is concerned. Just because a bike is made from this wonder material doesn't mean it's much lighter. The frame is more expensive to produce so the other components tend to be lower spec.
A better video for anyone new to bikes might be this. I'd spend a little more, as they suggest, and get disc brakes.
Or you can buy second hand, as I did. I upgraded it as parts wore out. I did eventually buy a new carbon fibre bike. But that was because I wanted disc brakes and to compete in TT's. My old bike found a good home.
The road bike I have is more suited to recreational riding. When I ride into London I take the mountain bike. Another minefield of info is which style of bike to buy.
There are gravel, XC, touring, hybrids, cross country, racers and mountain bikes.
I have two because I returned to cycling with the intention of doing it mostly off road. As time went by I did this less often. I could have sold the bike but it was worth so little it didn't make sense. The Kona Blast is from 2006 and very much old school. Having said that; only the frame and fork are from then. It's now used on a Sunday to meet Matt for coffee; and to commute.
If you mostly ride to work and for errands then a cheap bike might be best. Especially if you have to leave it in a less secure location.
Buying an expensive bike has its advantages and disadvantages. The components might last longer but will cost more to replace. It's more likely to be stolen.
Then there is clothing. If you ride for long periods this is important for comfort. But the cost can be incredible. I initially rode with what I had already; but as the distances increased this became impracticle. So I bought specific clothing from the cheaper end of the scale. It was okay, but there were problems. It didn't fit that well and soon wore out. I couldn't justify the expensive alternatives, so settled for somewhere in the middle. Still expensive but I can appreciate the better fit and longevity.
Most annoying is that even the more expensive options fall short of their promise. I have yet to find gloves and socks that will keep me completely warm and dry.
Commuters can probably stop reading the post here.
If you are still with me lets talk food, indoor training, tech, events, and clubs.
I started by eating as I went along, from shops as needed. Then I carried food with me and adding powders to water. I bought sports nutrition as it's called. It was easy to carry, kept me energised and didn't upset my stomach. But it's expensive. Now I make my own or buy what are called breakfast bars. They taste okay and are much cheaper. On hotter days I'll still use electrolyte tablets in the water bottle, otherwise I'll just add sugar to the water.
When the weather is grim you move inside, or you don't ride. For me at first I just stayed in the house. But as I became fitter I ventured out in poor weather. See above about clothing. And I fell off more. I was given a simple trainer that a bike is bolted onto. I use it to this day. It's okay but it can be very boring. Here is were the spending can start once again. You start with a "smart" version of what I have for £100 or so. It links to a cycling computer and takes you on a simulated ride. Or it links to an online world through a web hosted service; monthly charges apply. From there you can spend up to many thousands of pounds on equipment. I'm sticking with what I have.
I use tech on my rides, do I want to use more? Maybe. I have a cycling computer, bought initially for sat nav duties. It can do much more and it use to record my rides for uploading to Strava. My sports watch does this now. I do use a heart rate monitor as well. But it can be linked to a powermeter to monitor my effort as well. The constant upgrades to all of this perpetuates almost endless waste. Manufacturers follow the same rules as all tech companies; telling us the equipment we have is no longer up to the job. Even though when we bought it they told us it was.
By events I mean what are called sportives. Rides over a set route with feed stops, signs and some kind of support. I rarely do them now, they can be expensive. Before cycle computers that provide sat nav a new destination was a hassle so having the hard work of route following done for me was great. Food stops less so, there is nearly always a shop or petrol station nearby. They do sell the illusion of being almost a race. Some participents ride like it is, they can take it too seriously. Another reason I'm put off. They can also use locations seen in pro races around the world. This encourages travel, mostly by air; which is highly polluting.
Clubs are a good choice if you want to expand your cycling world. They provide support and encouragement, new destinations and targets. Knowledge and advice is another advantage. Find a good one, the membership fee will be worth it.
I have participated in most of the purchasing encouraged by the cycling world. Some of it I still use, some not and some I judged not to be worth it. If you have the money to spare, indulge; except for the air travel.
Cycling is life improving and can reduce pollution. It doesn't have to be expensive.