Road biking presents a lot of fun, it helps improve your fitness in addition to meeting up with new individuals and absorbing the environment at a slower pace compared to being in a speeding automobile. Road bikes offer speed, efficiency, and agility. Before you make a decision on buying a road bike, you will need to consider a few things. First, you need to determine whether you need a purebred race bike or you prefer a more relaxed geometry sportive bike that gives you an upright position when riding.
Second, you need to determine whether you will go with an aluminum alloy frame or carbon frame. In addition, look at the groupset like gear set that you will need. Last but not least, you want to examine if you need a disc brake bike or a traditional caliper brake option.
In this guide, we look at how you can choose your preferred road bike that suits your biking needs. We will look at the things that make road bikes different from hybrid or mountain bikes, the features of road bikes, the cost and the best brands of the bikes you can opt for when seeking one.
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Road Bikes vs. Other Bikes: What’s the Difference?
While for a first-time road bike buyer it may not be obvious on what distinguishes road bikes from other kinds of bikes like touring, commuting, mountain, and hybrid bikes, there are certain things that differentiate these bikes from others.
Features of Road Bikes
Road bikes often have the following features:
- Have narrow tires and wheels
- Have lightweight wheels, frame, and components
- Have not front and rear suspension
- The front fork is made of composite material or carbon fiber
- Have a drop or curled handlebar, but some may have a flat bar as with a mountain bike
- They come in different sizes and styles including women’s and men’s styles
When it comes to the functioning of road bikes, they possess the following characteristics;
- They are designed for event riders, fitness enthusiasts, and competitive riders
- they are not recommended for unpaved or rough surfaces, they perform best in paved surfaces like roads or bike paths
- They allow the riders to speed fast compared to other bikes
- Although suitable for vehicle-supported touring, they are not designed to take heavy loads
Something to mention here is that many road bikes lack the rack attachment points found on urban, touring as well as commuter bikes. However, this doesn’t mean that you can commute using a road bike – it just means you may have to carry the gear in a daypack of in rack-mounted panniers.
Your Road Bike: Is it Sportive or Race Bike?
When choosing a road bike, you want to ask yourself, “It is Race or Sportive bike?” If you will be using your road bike for racing, you will need to be an appropriate aero position. Your bike will have a low front end with a long reach. When it comes to new riders or people whose joints may not be as flexible as they used to be, a more relaxed, upright position can allow more comfort when riding. This is where Sportive bikes come in handy – in the past few years - there has been growth in sportive-type bikes of different performance levels including entry and high.
You can spot a Sportive road bike by looking at the head and top tube lengths. A bike with a longer headtube but a shorter top tube offers a more upright position. If you’re a seasoned racer, you want a road race bike. It has an aggressive geometry that gives you an aero advantage as you ride.
Which Frame and Fork Materials to Choose
An important thing to consider when buying a road bike is the kind of material used in making the frame and fork. You will have to decide if you are going with carbon, alloy frame, or aluminum. You will find that most entry-level bikes have frames made of aluminum with a carbon fiber fork. With these road bikes, they have a good balance between the alloy’s frame robustness and its reliability. Besides, the bikes have vibration absorption offered by the carbon material used in making the fork.
For bike users wanting to have a bicycle with greater lateral stiffness and lower weight, they need to consider a full carbon fork and frame. Road bicycles that are carbon-framed tend to be lighter, more comfortable since they are more compliant. This means that they can move faster.
Aluminum frames tend to be reliable and robust with great value. Carbon fiber is among the coveted bike frames for road bikes. It's expensive compared to other frame materials. However, a quality alloy frame can have better lateral stiffness as well as more vertical compliance in addition to a similar weight to that of cheap carbon. A quality alloy frame will also be less expensive while being durable than cheap carbon.
If you want the lightest, yet the strongest bike, you want to consider a carbon fiber frame. On the other hand, if you wish to ride for fitness or fun without being inclined to riding the fastest, you may want to go with an aluminum frame.
Keep in mind that carbon fiber frames are not created equal, though. You may find a big difference between expensive and cheap carbon fiber. The types of fibers used may also be different – also the way they are manufactured could differ. Bike manufacturers can easily manipulate the designs of the carbon fiber frames to suit a particular design need. For example, the designers can alter the carbon fiber to create frames that have a specific balance of properties they are seeking to achieve in their bike designs for instance comfort, stiffness, or low weight.
When you find yourself undecided or not sure about what frame material to opt for between carbon fiber and aluminum, you don’t have to overlook aluminum. You may often g
The Groupset - Comprising the Transmission and Brakes
If you aren’t aware of what groupset stands for, it refers to the brakes and transmission of the bike. There are different manufacturers of groupsets with different kinds of groupset models designed to suit different riders from basic to pro bike users. The high-end groupsets offer smooth shifting, overall lightweight, and more gear choice compared to low-end groupsets. When purchasing groupsets, you should go with what you can afford.
Also, when it comes to brakes of the road bike, you want to assess if you will go for a disc brake or caliper brake.
'A disc brake is more of a modern innovation compared to the caliper traditional rim brake for road bikes. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the systems. With disc brakes, they have a steady stopping or braking power in dry and wet conditions. They will stop the bike consistently even when you have sprays of dirt and dirt splashed by the bike onto the wheel rims- it’s possible you will smoothly brake with your disc brakes in such situations. On the flip side, rim brakes tend to suffer in grimy and wet conditions – however, you will get them at a cheaper price. Rim brakes are also easier to maintain and offer more wheel upgrade choices.
The right Bike Size to Choose
Buying the right sized frame for your bike is important for enhancing performance and allowing enjoyment of rides. It also helps reduce the chances of picking up injuries. If you are purchasing your bike online, it may seem challenging to know which size to pick. The reason you want to ensure you have the right-sized bicycle is that the continuous repeated movement you use to drive the bike’s pedals can cause problems. If there is excessive strain brought about by an improper cycling position due to choosing an incorrect size of the bike, you will exacerbate the strain and muscle pulling. A bicycle of the right size will help define the cycling posture you take whether or not you are efficiently and safely riding it.
Different bikes have different riding position tailored for comfort and performance or speed. A road bike, for instance, is designed to have a lower riding posture to allow for speed and power, but a sportive or endurance bicycle can have a shorter, more upright position allowing for stability and control. A bike that fits properly and allows for your riding posture should be able to allow:
- You to stand over its top tube with about two inches of clearance
- You pedal with a small bend in the knee at the lower end or bottom of the stroke
- You comfortably reach the brake levers and handlebars
There are basically three measurements you can use to help in choosing the size of a bike that suits you and they are – the body shape, the inside leg measurement, as well as your reach. The inside leg measurement determines your stand over height – the clearance occurring between the bike’s top tube and your crotch when you are standing in front of the saddle. The clearance should be at least two inches to allow you to hop off easily and quickly.
In the event that your height, as well as the inside leg measurements, don’t put you in a particular size, it is advisable that you use the upper body to decide the best size for your bike. The dimensions of the upper body determine your reach – it helps determine how you are stretched out. In determining whether you have a short or long reach, you need to evaluate your Ape Index, which is the arm span less height.
What About the Frame Design – Geometry?
Road bike models may look alike, however, there are subtle differences that you may not notice at first, especially if you haven’t compared the bicycles before. There are bikes that have a sporty or recreational geometry. These are called sportive bikes and they are ideal for individuals who plan to ride around 3 times every week and log about 50 to 150 miles in a week. These bikes with sport geometry are also intended for longer, organized events occurring a few times a year. The bicycles have a riding position that is more upright. The steering is also relaxed compared to performance bikes.
When it comes to road bicycles with a racing geometry, they are designed for the competitive rider. The bikes ask for a more flexible yet stretched out body position in order to enhance the aerodynamic. They are also much more responsive to steering input. There are also the flat-bar road bicycles which though similar to sportive geometry, they have a more upright position when riding. These bikes are suitable for commuting – you are able to look around as well as observe traffic with much ease compared to the geometry styles. Unless you plan to use your road bike for racing or triathlons, you want to consider going for sport geometry.
Standard, Compact, or Triple Chainrings – Which One?
The part in which the pedals attach to is called chainset and it comes with varying sizes of chainrings. An entry-level bike will often have a compact double chainset comprising 50 and 34-tooth chainrings. This combination gives low ratios that make it easier to get uphill. Cyclists who intend to race prefer the standard double chainset. If a cyclist is aiming for high speed racing in a bunch, a larger chainring pair of 39 and 53 is more suited for the riding. There is also a new chainring development referred to as mid-compact or semi-compact. It has sizes of 52 - 36 teeth – it’s ideal for fast speeds in hilly terrain.
If you are looking for the broadest spread of bike gears, you can think triple chainset. It’s called a triple chainset because it comprises three chainrings. Although triple chainsets are now rare because compact chainset can perform in their place, they are also ideal for riding in steep hills or carrying luggage and riding in the mountains.
The Wrap Up
If you are looking forward to buying a new road bike, it can be daunting considering the sheer variety of bike steeds available. The effect of technology has further made the aspect of deciding what road bicycle to settle on a difficult thing. Many buyers are often spoiled of choice. However, there are three price points you expect to encounter when shopping for your road bike. For the entry-level bikes, the ranges from $600 to $1200 – these bikes have an aluminum alloy frame that’s lightweight.
Since the frame isn’t the only thing you want to consider, you should look at other things like the groupset. Think of big three manufacturers of the groupsets – SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo. The components by these manufacturers can make entry to mid-level bicycles.
The middle price category is often referred to as the proper bike territory. In this price group, you would get the road bikes costing about $1200 to $ 1700. In this territory, you begin to see more carbon fiber frames appearing. Carbon has overtaken aluminum as the choice of material for high-end bikes. However, there is a caveat that bike buyers need to know – carbon isn’t all created equal. It can be manipulated to meet the designers' needs. If you are purchasing bicycles at this price range you should be careful. You need to look at other specs and features of the bike. In fact, a low-grade carbon frame with compromised specs on the bikes can mean an inferior product compared to an aluminum frame with high-quality bike specs.
There is a third price territory, which is over $1700. Here buyers begin to enter the dream machine territory for road bikes. Besides the use of full carbon fiber, you also have specs that offer a perfect blend of compliance, lightweight, and shock absorption. The groupsets used in the bikes within this price range are of higher quality.
The biggest difference in bikes within these price points is seen in the wheels. The bikes have lightweight as well as responsive wheelsets that replace the clunker hoops that are chunkier and often seen in the entry and mid-category levels. Finishing kit also steps up in terms of quality in this category. Here, you begin to see carbon fiber material being used in other parts like the saddles, seat posts, and tires. In essence, this price range comes with overall improved ride quality.
A piece of advice here is that, when purchasing a new road bike regardless of the price point or territory, you need to consider the best frame you’re able to afford. Don’t be lured by the shiny parts of groupsets – the frame is the heart of your bike, it can give you years of a ride even when other parts have long worn out and replaced.
Remember that there are so many road bike brands and among the popular ones are Pinarello, Specialized, Bianchi, Colnago, Trek, Giant, Cannondale, and Canyon. The list is endless, you need to do your research and see which brand seems to impress you with its design features.