The Best of Budget Tech

I love my CAAD10 with 105. The Tiagra shifting on my wife’s bike is awesome. I have friends who have great bikes with Sora. I had a Bianchi Brava that I built up with Campagnolo 8 speed Mirage that I couldn’t fault.

I am never going to own a bike with Dura Ace, Super Record, Red Axs. The few carbon frames in my price range that I’ve even tried do not match up to steel or Al at the same level. I’m the kind of guy who gets more excited about this kind of gravel bike; Triban GRVL120, Gravel Bike | Decathlon
…than whatever comes with the latest Lauf fork.

So what are your experiences with the affordable end of biking? What are your favourite “you don’t need to spend more than this” deals out there? But at the same time, what are the bits where it’s worth even our meagre budgets to spend up on? When I see Conti GP5000s on sale, I grab them, because to me they are worth the price difference from other brands/price levels.

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Probikekit have the Look Keo Classic 3 for $45 right now.

I have the classic 2, and they’re great. Good solid click every time, I can see no reason in terms of functionality to spend more on a pair of pedals, if you’re into the 3-hole non-walkable cleat.

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Staying on pedals, Shimano M520’s are a design classic.

Indestructible pedals that are easy to use and perfect for the gravel bike or on the commute. You can get them with cleats for £25 and they’ll probably outlast the bike.

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All I would add to that is the M530s or M324 have the flat side/wider platform, so are ideal for n=1 if your main bike is also a commuter/errands bike.

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All my bikes are “affordable” since I build them myself out of mostly used parts that I have acquired from all around the world (a lot through Ebay)–carbon frames, Campy mechanicals, brooks saddles–one can easily build a great bike for about $1500 max–if new, they would cost 4 or 5 times that–currently I have a Storck CD 1.0, a Ridley Excalibur, a Ridley Fenix, and a Opera Leonardo FP (the original Pinarello Dogma), all built that way. You don’t need to limit yourself to the slow lane if you put some effort into it and build them yourself, buying parts in the aftermarket.

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I don’t disagree with your point; I have a Columbus sl frame built up with Campag Athena and Mavic wheels that I’m all into for less than a grand. And I rode it this morning and love it.

But some things (chains, cassettes, helmets, tires, socks etc) you don’t want to scour eBay for, or grab a pre-loved one. And sometimes that GRX group won’t come down in price, so it’s handy to know that a Microshift drivetrain will do pretty much as good a job, for a fraction of the price.

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I make my living from Tri, so go-faster toys are all the rage. But some of the biggest benefits are cheap. Like knowing that basic tacx jockey wheels will lift 105 (or Tiagra) to the performance of Dura Ace. Or that boiling your chain in cheap paraffin from an apiarist will get within fractions of the performance of the magic dust waxes.
Or that choosing where you put your bottle cage makes more of a difference to aerodynamics than the difference between an entry level frame and a superbike.
And that’s before we get to the impact of just choosing tight clothing or working on adopting a good position.
I see so much money wasted by not ticking off the fundamentals first - going straight to buying an expensive bike in the hope that it will magically impart speed.
Sometimes having a budget forces the rider to be smarter (obviously I think that listening to me is a first step on that front :wink:).
As for road bikes, if you spend the money to get the contact points right (bike to body, then bike to road) all the rest of it is of minor importance. I’ve fitted a lot of riders who did not enjoy their expensive bikes because they weren’t (previously) set up properly.

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Shimano SM-RT70 rotors on road bikes, cheap and perform well and I haven’t had any heat deformation ossues (admittedly I don’t have a lot of long descents in my area to really heat them up).

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+1 for the M520s, they’d survive the Apocalypse.
Mine’s a saddle: Charge Spoon, cost buttons but is insanely good, and really tough.

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DT460 rims

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I still use 2x9 on most of my bikes.
Over the last two years I have fitted 4 of them with Microshift Advent levers and rear derailleurs. The R9 levers use the same body and lever as Advent, and both can be purchased individually so I use the right Advent and left R9 (2X).
Love the lever body shape. Ergonomics of the shifting took some getting use to coming from old Ultegra.
Derailleurs are all metal.
It all shifts well.
Rarely need adjustment.
Cost for levers and RD is under $200.

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As a long time user of Dura Ace and Campa Record, i must say that the 105 is great!
Switching between my bikes with DA9000 and 105 R7000 there is litterally no difference. Yes, the marginals gains on weigth do add up on a bike, but i use money on good wheels and frame. From now on it will be only* 105 on my road bikes.

*i do use ultegra chains and ultegra/DA pulley wheels.

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Budget is obviously relative, but the following strike me as offering an awful lot of the performance of more expensive rivals at a much lower cost:

  1. 105, as noted. It will do 95% of everything 95% of road riders will ever need it to do.
  2. Campag Centaur. Wonderful ergonomics and very snappy shifting for not much money.
  3. Ridley Helium SLA frameset. C.1200g, and can often be picked up for well under £1000 new, often less than half of that second hand.
  4. Michelin Power Road. The clincher versions of these can be had for £30, and they aren’t far behind GP5000s.
  5. 520 SPD pedals: £30, bombproof, last forever.
  6. Not tech, but related: carefully and regularly cleaning and lubing your drivetrain, and regularly cleaning pads and rotors/rims. Both are free, and massively improve performance and longevity.
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Not on-bike tech, per se, but I have been using baselayers from 32 Degrees. They are not sport specific, but I have their Air Mesh t-shirts and tank tops that I put on under my jersey or light jacket and they work nicely. I have super cheap deals on their website and I see their stuff in Costco frequently. I’m not sure if they are available outside the USA. In any case, I like to have functioning alternatives to +$50 Craft, Rapha, etc. baselayers that work just as well. They also have good sleep wear that I find improves my sleep and recovery. No affiliation, just like their stuff.

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Holy CRAP is their stuff cheap!!! I just bought some baselayers from pactimo on their Black Friday sales, but at these prices, I’m gonna grab a few more.

ETA - just ordered 3 LS baselayers (one of each weight) for $25 total, including tax. Stoopid cheap!!!

+1 on the Tacx jockey wheels, they’re good!

I bought some of these jockey wheels off AliExpress.

image

they have bearings in them! they seem to work well as tension pulleys but I’m unconvinced as yet if they work as guide pulleys - the shifting quality seems to suffer.

I think I bought a Shimano SLX 12 speed groupset with a chinesium 12sp HG cassette for <$200 bucks. Previous group was 10 speed Deore something or other that was originally 2x. Transformed the pretty basic Specialized Crave that I ride 10x per year during my annual MTB curious phase into something I could ride up bergs with a 1x. Shimano M4100 brake reservoir/levers as well think I paid 50 bucks for a set of two bleed them with some spare Hydraulic jack oil I have in the garage (don’t judge my cars are paid off) and a year later they’re still perfect.

A what?

I’m assuming it’s one of the lightweight cassettes available on Aliexpress for a good price.

There’s differing accounts as to how reliable they are as is often the case when buying from Aliexpress.