Cycling is one of those hobbies where there is really no limit to the amount of money you can spend on it. There will always be upgrades as companies are continuously developing enticing new products. Falling into the trap of new and improved, but short lived standards will force you into a vicious upgrade cycle. On the other hand if you have the will power there are ways to get started and even continue your hobby without selling a kidney or robbing a bank. In addition to no-name products other cheap skate tactics include buying second hand and trading up. Most important strategy is separating wheat from the chaff ie. recognizing industry trends that have actual longetivity.
The cheapest way to ride bikes is to keep using the bikes you’ve already got and upgrade only the worn parts. Undeniably resisting the temptation to splurge on a sexy new steed is difficult. One way to avoid the never ending cycle is to buy as expensive bike as you can afford in the first place. Another way would be to buy on the cheap during the off-season if you can live with one season old tech. The biggest challenge is avoiding the mania surrounding new tech on cycling forums or hype in the media. I think the best medicine is to regularly ride your bikes – all of them all year around. Less you are wasting your time on the blogs the less of a chance you have in coming up with new gear-related excuses for yourself.
When you have finally succumbed to the lure of a new type of a bike there is still things you can do. Either buy no-name brands or settle for a second hand bike from a well-known brand. I’ve been exploiting both of these tactics with great success. Obviously I’m quite fond of the economical unbranded alternatives, but as with cars second hand bikes from well-known brands do hold their value quite well. Only thing you want to avoid is buying expensive bikes with mediocre parts. It beats me why anybody would ride a bike with cheaper grouppo than Ultegra, Force or Chorus. Upgrading always cost more money and you end up cursing the otherwise good bike as the parts wear down fast.
Another danger with upgrades is spending more money than intended as purchases are spread out over time. One way to counter this problem is to create a table with costs for each part. I’ve used google docs tables with paid/estimate/sold columns with great success. Even rational bids or good scores can turn into a disaster if you fall into the stone/nail soup trap. The thing is that great frames only match with expensive parts. It is really easy to move parts from one bike to the next and lose count. Generally ít is best to buy bikes on the whole and offload parts rather than the other way around.
So in conclusion the key is knowing in which things you can be skimpy at and when to go all in. Amazing results can be achieved if you buy both second-hand off-season. If you spend your money wisely you can get way more from the hobby. Investing in actual value-adding things like clothing, travel and events will give you much more than any bike ever will. Cycling is a lifestyle and no bike will ever make you as satisfied as spending quality time on the saddle. With all this said I will now be off to scourge the net for a cheap 27,5 incher carbon wheelset.