Riding a road bike is a great activity that keeps you active as well as providing a unique way of meeting new people and enjoying your environment. It’s also a great way to stay fit at any age due to the lack of impact on your muscles and joints. When it comes time to select a road bike, the options can be daunting. To help you make an informed decision we’ve created this guide to help you find the bike that’s right for you.
To start, ask yourself these questions:
- What type of riding are do you enjoy now?
- What type of riding do you intend to enjoy in the future?
Some of these questions are easier to answer than others, and some will impact the final decision more so than others. For example, if you just need a solid commuter bike for work and perhaps some recreational riding on the weekends, then you can afford to be thrifty and forgo the bells and whistles. And if you’re not a high-level cyclist but very enthusiastic about your riding and have the money to spend, why not go all out and get the bike of your dreams?
How does a road bike differ from other bikes?
Road bikes have:
- Lightweight frame: road bikes have a relatively light frame when compared to other cycling disciplines.
- Skinny tires: tires on a road bike are typically 23mm or 25mm, with some endurance orientated tires at 28-30mm.
- No suspension: Unlike mountain bikes, road bikes typically do not feature suspension. Most surfaces covered on a road bike are flat and smooth, not requiring the extra comfort that suspension provides. If road bike users require additional comfort, it’s normally in the form of wider tires or built in compliance to the frame and fork.
- Multiple gears: Road bikes will normally have two cogs on the front crank set and up to 12 gears on the rear cassette. The large span of gears allows riders to cover any kind of profile no matter how steep and make riding easy (or hard) if they choose.
These features make traveling large distances on a road bike easier than on other bikes, faster too!
Types of Road Bikes
There are many types of road bikes available to specifically cater to the terrain and type of riding you do. There are aero bikes for flat roads, lightweight bikes for hills, endurance bikes for long rides, gravel bikes for adventure riding, and recreational bikes that are just for fun.
Aero Road Bikes
Aero road bikes are built for one thing… speed! They are not overly concerned with weight or comfort. It’s all about cheating the wind and saving watts. Aero road bikes are distinguishable from other roads bike by their large tube profiles, deep section wheels, and component integration.
Tube profiles on aero bikes are generally larger than other road bikes to create a more aerodynamic profile and are shaped to reduce drag. This causes the overall weight of the bike to be greater than other road bikes. Deep rim wheels are another feature of aero road bikes.
Integration on aero road bikes is key. Everything on an aero road bike is hidden out of the wind (cables, brakes, etc). The tube profiles are often even molded to conform to the shape of the wheels.
Thanks to the larger tube profiles, aero road bikes are typically also incredibly stiff, making them the bike of choice for people that race and like to sprint. They come with a narrow wheelbase, short headtube and aggressive geometry.
Our Top Aero Road Bike Recommendations
Endurance Road Bikes
Endurance road bikes are fast becoming the most popular form of road bike with their relaxed geometry, stable ride and focus on comfort. Endurance road bikes are distinguishable from other road bikes by having a longer wheelbase, longer headtube, relaxed geometry, and in recent times, often come with disc brakes. In addition to those qualities, endurance road bikes will also typically have a compact drivetrain set-up (scroll down for more details on ‘compact’ set-ups), greater clearance allowing for bigger tires, and additional vibration damping mechanisms to further smooth out the road.
Endurance road bikes are sometimes called ‘Sportive bikes’, as they are perfectly suited to endurance road riding and Gran Fondos.
When you think endurance, don’t think slow. Very often a manufacturers endurance bike is made from the same material as the top of the line lightweight or aero bike and shares similar groupsets and wheelsets. The additional compliance (bike lingo for comfort) is what sets endurance bikes apart from others.
Our Top Endurance Road Bike Recommendations
Lightweight Road Bikes
Lightweight bikes are the bike of choice for general classification contenders in the pro peloton and riders who enjoy seeking out some elevation.
Lightweight bikes are agile, high-performing machines that focus on keeping weight down above all else. They don’t have the aero tube shapes and profile of an aerodynamic bike or the elongated headtube and wheelbase of an endurance bike. Instead, they have featherlight frames and are designed to perform at their best when climbing mountains and attacking on the way back down.
Many lightweight bikes from manufacturers are under the UCI’s minimum bike weight of 6.8kg as the public aren’t required to conform to these regulations. As a result, a mini arms race is taking place to achieve the lowest weight possible, some even falling below 5kg.
Our Top Lightweight Road Bike Recommendations
- Trek Emonda
- Scott Addict
- Cervelo R5
Extremely new, Gravel or All-road bikes fall into a very broad category that allows the rider to access all types of terrain on one bike. In order to do this, the bike needs to be durable, comfortable and have sufficient performance features. Adventure or gravel bikes will typically have a higher bottom bracket to provide extra clearance for obstacles, great clearance for wider tyres, disc brakes for optimal performance in all weather conditions, and lower gear ratios to cater for easier riding or extreme profiles.
Touring bikes are a slightly different category to gravel bikes and not so focused on the performance aspect of riding. Touring bikes are heavier than other road bikes with the emphasis on comfort and longevity. Fenders and rack mount are commonplace, as are easy pedaling gear ratios. Steel is often used for the frame thanks to its durability, plush ride and low cost. A touring bike will often feature a more upright and stable riding position to help with loaded carrying.
For these type of bikes, the tires are likely to be 30mm or above, disc brakes are preferable, and they will weigh more than a performance orientated road bike. Flat bar or drop handlebars could be used and it’s not uncommon to see varying types of frame material depending on where the bike sits along the spectrum of performance, comfort and price.
Our Top Gravel Bike Recommendations
- Trek Checkpoint
- Cervelo Aspero
- Opus Spark 2
- Niner Magic Carpet Ride
Recreational or Fitness Bikes
Recreational bikes forgo the bells and whistles of performance road bikes (actually they do come with bells) and focus on comfort and practicality. They are best suited to new riders who are looking to be active and easily get from A to B. These bikes will typically have flat bars, wider tires, flat pedals and easy-pedaling gear ratios.
They are a great introduction to cycling or the perfect all-purpose machine for those who don’t take their cycling too seriously. We’ve covered such bikes in detail with our guide to how flat bar road bikes, hybrids and urban bikes compare.
Our Top Recreational & Fitness Bike Recommendations
- Trek FX Sport 4, 5, & 6
- Scott Metrix
- Felt Verza Speed