What is a Road Bike?
Road bikes (also known as racing bikes) are easy to recognise, with their drop handlebars, 28-inch (700c) wheels and narrow tyres - they're what the professionals use to conquer the mileage and mountains of races like the Tour de France. The large wheels and thin tyres of a road bike help it roll over tarmac very efficiently, while its light, aerodynamic frame helps you travel faster up and down the hills.
Why buy a Road Bike?
Road bikes are the perfect tool for going fast or covering longer distances on tarmac. They're ideal for club rides, road racing and fitness training, and are also a great choice for commuting. Developments in modern engineering mean most new models weigh below 8 kilogrammes (you can even pick up some with one finger). This makes riding up hills much easier and more enjoyable.
Are there different types of Road Bike?
Sportive / Endurance Road Bikes
Sportive/Endurance bikes are similar versions of the bikes used in races like Paris-Roubaix, where rider comfort is absolutely essential for peak performance. Their frames are designed to flex in key areas to reduce vibrations from potholes and rough roads, and some models feature disc brakes for efficient braking in all weather conditions. They often hit the sweet spot between speed, comfort and weight, making them extremely popular for regular riders.
All round road racers -
Ideal for traditional road riding, road race bikes combine the most up-to-date technologies to create lightweight, aerodynamic speed-machines. Frames are usually very stiff - made of high-end alloy or carbon fibre - to help transfer every watt of power from the pedals to the road, meaning handling is very responsive.
Aero and Semi-aero road bikes -
Aero road bikes travel the fastest along flat roads, with an aggressive, 'tucked' riding position, aerodynamic frame to reduce drag, and ultra-stiff handling. They are a little heavier than road race bikes, due to all the aero enhancements, so they'll be slower ascending the hills than an equivalent spec road race bike. The latest semi-aero road bikes borrow some features from the endurance genre, making them a less harsh ride, while remaining ultra fast and responsive. They can be ridden safely in a group (unlike time trial ('TT') bikes, which are designed for solo racing).
Gravel and Cyclocross Road Bikes
Gravel bikes - The latest trend to sweep the world of cycling, with wider tyres than the traditional road bikes coupled with wider bars - this bike is capable of going slightly off the beaten track without sacrificing much speed when it's back onto the road. This allows for you to keep up with the rest of your club on a Sunday morning ride but gives you the option to explore when they can't. Equip your gravel bike with the latest bikepacking equipment and spend days at a time traversing across the landscape.
What should I look for when buying a Road Bike?
The two most popular road bike frame materials are alloy (aluminium) and carbon fibre composites. Alloy is strong and lightweight and offers the best value for money. Different grades of alloy frame are available, with more premium versions having better compliance features, to give you a smoother ride.Carbon fibre is the more premium material. It's as strong as aluminium, while being significantly smoother and lighter. It's also stiffer than aluminium, making a carbon bike feel more responsive. Premium carbon composite frames use sophisticated engineering techniques to enhance carbon's natural vibration-dampening qualities, for an exceptionally smooth, fast and responsive ride.
Some alloy road bikes feature a carbon fork, bringing the added benefits of better steering control and a smoother, more comfortable ride over bumpy roads.
Steel and Titanium frame road bikes are also available and offer impeccable ride quality. The price point tends to be higher than an equivalently-specced alloy or carbon frame bike, as they are finely crafted and cost more to produce.
Groupset (also known as drivetrain) components encompass the bike's gears and brakes. The quality of groupset you choose makes a big difference to how the bike feels to ride, so go for the best groupset you can afford. Premium groupsets are lighter, with smoother, faster shifting and more gear choice. Electronic shifting is also available at the top end, to make gear changes very smooth. Road bike manufacturers feature groupsets from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo, each of which have a range of models, catering for different performance levels and price points.
In addition to component quality, it's also important to consider the range of your gears. Wide ranging gears - with smaller (50/34 tooth) chainrings at the front, and a larger (11-32 tooth) cassette at the back - allow beginners to spin the pedals easily or get up really steep climbs. Narrow range gears - with larger (52/34 or 54/34 tooth) chainrings and/or a smaller (11-28 or 11-25 tooth) cassette - are more traditional and are perfect for making small changes in cadence at high speeds, but you will need to work harder on the climbs.
Normal rim (caliper) brakes are still the most common and affordable road bike brakes on the market. On higher-end models, they are also much lighter which means the overall weight of the bike is kept to a minimum. However,disc brakes are becoming more popular on road bikes, due to their better modulation and versatility, as rim brakes can lose performance in particularly wet conditions. 2018 has brought about new legislation, making it possible to ride disc brake road bikes in competitions.
Wheels and Tyres
Wheels are one of the most varied components available. Usually, more expensive race bikes will have either lightweight or aerodynamic wheels to aid climbing or speed respectively (usually at a cost of one or the other). More versatile wheels have more spokes to increase strength and aid longevity, striking a good balance between climbing efficiency and speed on flat roads. Tyres are one of the fastest-developing areas of the road bike market, with the transition to wider road tyres proving popular for professionals and enthusiasts alike. Wider tyres (25-28c) offer a smoother, more comfortable ride and allow for greater flexibility in the terrain you can ride on, but some riders still favour a more traditional narrow tyre (23c), as they offer the least rolling resistance on smooth tarmac. Furthermore, increasing amounts of new models are being fitted with tubeless ready tyres that offer unrivalled puncture protection, allowing you to ride for longer and improving the lifetime of your tyre set.
Versatility and Details
If you want to use your bike for a variety of reasons and destinations, it is important to consider the details. For example, you might want a bike that can go quick at the weekend but also take you to work on Monday. On the other hand, you may want a bike to just enjoy the local roads and occasional venture onto some rough tracks. Look for details like rack and mudguard mounts, and tyre clearance (for example if you want to swap out for knobblier tyres, for winter riding or rougher terrain), as these will give you greater flexibility in your riding style.
Road Cycling Accessories -
Now you know the difference between each discipline and what to look for when purchasing your new road bike, it's time to enhance your experience and get you fully kitted out with accessories to make your ride easier and more enjoyable! To know what accessories to look out for then please read our blog below which will have all the information to get you on the road as soon as possible.Road cycling - Accessories to get you on the road