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Guide To Endurance Road Bikes

Words by Harry Archer

on 09/01/2018 10:34:01

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An endurance road bike, or 'sportive' bike, is a category of road bike defined by its focus on the comfort of the rider over long distances and varying terrain. An endurance road bike combines a revised and relaxed geometry with a variety of clever design features that all contribute towards producing a smooth and comfortable ride that is ideal for mass-start,long distance sportive and Gran Fondos where you're expecting to be in the saddle for a number of hours and comfort is the primary concern - within reason of course, it's all about the comfort-performance balance.

Starting with the original Specialized Roubaix over a decade ago, endurance road bikes have grown to become one of the most popular sub-categories of road bike. Most entry-level road bikes are equipped with endurance geometry as standard as it has been found to greatly increase the performance and enjoyment of new riders due to the upright riding position and comfort-oritented technologies. This guide will give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about endurance road bikes, covering everything from head-tube to cassette.

Road Bike Size Guide

Our most popular endurance road bikes

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Geometry

The geometry of an endurance road bike is characterised by the upright riding position when compared to more traditional race-orientated bikes. The upright position reduces stress on the back and neck by ensuring most of your weight is on the saddle instead of the handlebars. This is achieved by decreasing the length of the top tube, moving the saddle and the handlebars closer together whilst also increasing the height of the head tube. This reduction in reach, lowered bottom bracket and generally slacker angles throughout the frame create a bike that has a little more 'give', with the increased flexibility contributing to a more forgiving feel to the responses of the bike to your actions. Longer wheelbases are a key geometrical feature of endurance road bikes as this makes the the bike handle with stability on rougher terrain and feel responsive and accurate at increased speeds on the road. At the higher end of the ranges, extensive innovation of the carbon layups build flex into the top tube and seat-stays whilst working to stiffen other areas on the frame to ensure an efficient power transfer from rider to bike. Skinny seat posts are also starting to be seen more regular, again in an attempt to increase the overall flexibility of the frame.

Vibration Dampening

'Road buzz' is the term used to describe the vibrations that are transferred from the road, through the bike and into your body via the major contact points on a bike (such as your saddle or handlebars). Vibration dampening techniques are particularly useful in the UK where pot-holes rule supreme and you can expect to find generously padded saddles and bar tape on most Endurance road bikes because these vibrations have been proven to increase muscle fatigue and reduce overall performance and comfort for a rider. Different manufacturers have developed their own unique vibration dampening systems for use on their endurance bikes, each focusing on the same goal of increasing rider comfort and ride smoothness but with slightly differing approaches on how to achieve these goals:

  • Specialized Future Shock. Future Shock features up to 20mm of travel, and it's positioned above the head tube in order to move in a vertical path. So when the front wheel encounters rough terrain, the bike moves up towards your hands and preserves your forward momentum without slowing you down. Another important fact is that, because the Future Shock is positioned above the stem, the bike's wheels are held together rigidly by the frame. In other words, because the wheelbase isn't changing throughout the suspension's travel, like with traditional systems, you get the added benefit of extremely predictable handling.
  • Trek IsoSpeed. IsoSpeed challenges the traditional design of a bicycle frame. Devoid of the more favoured approaches to the compliance quandary (such as suspension systems, elastomers, or a vibration damper), IsoSpeed maintains the diamond-shaped frameset geometry but “decouples" the seat tube from the top tube, allowing the seat tube to flex with the forces of the road. The result is a bike that moves with the road while maintaining the feel and efficiency of the traditional race bike design. Over the years the IsoSpeed system has developed, and can now be found on both the seat tube and head tube, with adjustable versions on the latest models of the Domane and Madone.
  • Bianchi Countervail. With its patented carbon fibre architecture, Countervail® carbon material, embedded within Bianchi's unique Specialissima, Oltre XR4, Infinito CV, Aquila CV and Methanol CV carbon lay-up, immediately cancels vibration while increasing the stiffness and strength of the entire frame. The advantages of this are Maximized ride control and handling under normal to extreme vibration loads, Reduced muscle fatigue and increased energy savings in distance rides and Increased rigidity and peak power output over long distances.

These are the three most renowned systems of vibration dampening from some of the largest cycling manufacturers in the world. Other brands may use similar systems on their own endurance road bikes, each containing some element of technology that's working to reduce vibrations from the road negatively affecting the rider's experience.

Brakes

Traditionally all road bikes were fitted with rim brakes. Rim brakes are light, aerodynamic and remain a feature on most race-orientated bikes due to the advantages just mentioned. However, in the case of endurance bikes, disc brakes now reign supreme. This is for a number of reasons - disc brakes are not affected by dirt or water, ideal for the increased off-road capabilities of an endurance road bike. Furthermore, they are far easier to maintain than rim brakes whilst also offering more consistent braking in all conditions and better modulation, ensuring you won't have to pull on your brakes as aggressively as you would have to with rim brakes. It's important to make sure you get hydraulic instead of mechanical disc brakes as hydraulics are far stronger and more reliable.

Tyres

Many endurance road bikes will now come with 28mm tyres as a minimum, with the greater clearances afforded by disc brakes resulting in many models rolling on 32mm rubber. The use of wider tyres and rims increases rolling resistance and reducing acceleration rates, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives for the endurance cycling discipline. Wider tyres are smoother to ride on and can run at lower pressures, increasing grip on loose ground and reducing the vibrations reaching the rider through the road. The wider rims allow for a higher volume of air in the tyre, again increasing comfort for the rider. Endurance road bikes also have the ability to have mudguards fitted, increasing their versatility off-road and making them an ideal bike for winter.

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Gears

Having a decent group-set can make all the difference to the performance of a bike. Endurance road bikes are normally fitted with a wider gear range, with lower ratios than a racing road bike. This allows the rider to get up hills with less effort and keep the legs fresher for longer days in the saddle. It's likely that a compact chain-set will feature with typically a 32t or even 34t largest sprocket. Within an endurance bike range, many manufacturers will use the same frame and geometries, with price increases purely down to the level of components used and the quality of the group-set. Therefore it's vital to do your research, ensuring that you go for a group-set that is suitable for your needs and abilities.

Our top endurance bike picks

Trek Domane

Crafted for the cobbles of Flanders, the Trek Domane is synonymous with the career of Fabian Cancellara, who worked alongside Trek to create a bike fit for all-day endurance, plush comfort and race-winning potential. Experienced road riders who want an endurance beast will love the top end of the Domane range, which offers a dream bike with legendary racing pedigree. Club cyclists and beginners looking for a comfortable all-rounder will thrive on any of the Domane models, with plenty of potential for a wide variety of riding styles. Trek's innovative IsoSpeed technology increases compliance for efficiency over rough surfaces and a smoother, less tiring ride.

endurance-bike-guide-domane See the Trek Domane range >

Specialized Roubaix

The novel ‘Future Shock’ front suspension continues to redefine the genre of endurance road bikes, and push the boundaries of what riders can achieve. The Roubaix has an enviable reputation as a performance endurance machine, as you may well except with a moniker borrowed from one of the toughest races on the pro calendar. Used by professionals like Peter Sagan to nullify the impact of cobbled roads and ensure comfort over long races, the Roubaix range is equally well equipped to tackle questionable British road surfaces and would be the ideal partner for a long sportive season.

See the Specialized Roubaix range >

Giant Defy

At Rutland Cycling we’ve always been big fans of the Giant Defy. Designed to be comfortable without compromising on performance, the Defy platform launched a new focus, not just for Giant, but for the industry as a whole upon its release. It’s now Giant’s best-selling road bike and has won countless awards, including Bicycling Magazine’s prestigious Editor’s Choice award for five consecutive years.

See the Giant Defy range >

Liv Avail

Designed for female riders, with a tailored geometry and specific contact points, the updated Avail is capable of swallowing up the longest rides in complete comfort. With a wide range including the carbon fibre Avail Advanced, aluminium Avail, and the all-road oriented Avail AR, there's a bike to suit just about every level of budget and ability!

See the Liv Avail range >

Find your nearest Rutland Cycling store

You can browse the entire Endurance Road Bike range online, or you can get your hands on it in your nearest Rutland Cycling store.

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