Your guide to Road bikes.
In the mood to tear up some tarmac on two wheels? A road bike (also known as a racing bike) should be your arsenal of choice as they have been around for years and have only gotten sleeker and faster with improved technology within the industry. With ergonomic perfection alongside aerodynamic design, these bikes are what dominates the globe's roads.
Road bikes come in many different shapes and sizes with variable differences in the specification and geometry that make them better suited to different niche markets. However, the standard road bike look includes, drop handlebars, 700c (28” wheels) and narrow tires. The weight of a road bike is also significantly lighter in comparison to other bikes on the market and this is to ensure that they can efficiently climb hills as well as pushing the limit of what speed you can achieve on two wheels.
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 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 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 several days at a time traversing across the landscape.
What should I be looking out for when buying a road bike in terms of specification?
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.
Groupset (also known as drivetrain) components encompass the bike's gears and brakes. The quality of the 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.
Wheels & 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.