Road Bike Guide

A modern road bike can be used for racing, social rides, boosting fitness, commuting and much more. Road bikes are designed to be ridden on the tarmac, minor differences make certain styles better suited to certain types of riding including racing, sportive riding, commuting or all-day touring. Defined by characteristics such as drop handlebars, 700c wheels, narrow tyres and lightweight frames, road bikes are fast, stylish and efficient.

There are a number of factors to consider ahead of buying a road bike. The first is to identify what type of rider you are and where you’ll be riding, this will help you choose what sort of frame you need and also help with component selection. If your goal is to compete in races or ride with your local club then a road race bike will be best suited to your style. If you’re riding socially and aiming to take part in a cycle sportive then a road endurance bike is the way to go. If you’re looking for a road bike for year-round commuting and some light touring or bikepacking then a gravel road bike will meet your needs.

Beginner road bike advice

If you’re looking at investing in your first ever road bike then there are several factors to consider. The main points to look out for in a road bike are frame material, components or gears and wheels. Depending on your personal budget, beginner road bikes will likely fall in a budget between £500 and £1000.

A beginner road bike frame will be made from aluminium or steel with some carbon framed bikes available at and just above £1000. An aluminium frame is light, strong and relatively cheap to produce for manufacturers and steel, although less common with modern road bikes, is comfortable, robust and sturdy. Many aluminium road bikes in this category will come equipped with a carbon fork which improves compliance and makes for a more comfortable ride.

The components or groupset on a road bike consist of the gears (transmission) and brakes. The most common road bike groupset manufacturers are Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo and an entry level road bike will be equipped with a 9 or 10-speed gear setup (this refers to the number of cogs on the rear cassette). Shimano produces five levels of road groupset with Sora and Tiagra the most commonly spec’d on beginner road bikes. A more expensive groupset will mean components are longer lasting, lighter and produce smoother shifting and more reactive braking.

An entry level road bike will be equipped with a set of robust and reliable 700c wheels. Aimed at providing stability and boosting confidence, the rims will be of shallow depth and made from aluminium. The wheels will be finished with a set of roadworthy tyres – the most common tyre width being 25c on road race bikes and 28c on more endurance orientated models.

Focus Izalco Race 6.9
Focus Izalco Race 6.9

Road Race Bikes

Road Race Bikes

The best road race bikes are made from the lightest materials, packed with aerodynamic features and designed for a fast, exhilarating ride. Ideal for racing, these bikes feature an aggressive geometry which encourages the rider into a low position to cut through the wind and overcome aerodynamic drag. This style of geometry is created by steep angles in the seat tube and fork which gives the bike a nimble and responsive handling feel. A short head tube and longer top tube puts the rider into a low position at the front with a flat back profile when riding in the drops.

Carbon fibre is the frame material for the majority of road race bike as it’s lightweight and stiff and exceptionally strong. A stiff carbon frame allows for optimal power transfer through the pedals to propel the bike forwards and upwards when sprinting and climbing. An aerodynamic race bike will feature deep, narrow frame tubes to cut through the air and are best suited to mostly flat races with shallower gradients below 10%. Specialist aero bikes include the Cervelo S5, Cannondale SystemSix and 3T Strada. For fast rides in mountainous terrain, we would advise a lightweight road race bike such as the Cannondale SuperSix Evo, Trek Emonda or Cervelo R-Series.

Cannondale SystemSix
Cannondale SystemSix

Road Endurance Bikes

Road Endurance Bikes

If you’re targeting a sportive or looking to ride your first 50 or 100 milers then a road endurance bike will be the most suitable type of road bike. Designed for all day tarmac riding with a degree of versatility, this type of bike combines the speed of a traditional road bike with comfort-enhancing features. Bikes such as the Cannondale Synapse, Trek Domane and Specialized Roubaix feature a frame geometry with a longer headtube, relatively short top tube and less-steep fork angle to put the rider in a more upright position when compared to a road race bike.

Features such as disc brakes, wide tyre clearance and frame-integrated vibration dampening systems are common on road endurance bikes. In pursuit of smooth riding experience, these features reduce rider fatigue and place less strain on the body, meaning you can ride in comfort for longer. An endurance road bike will come equipped with a wide range of gears, usually a compact 50-34 chainset and up to an 11-34 cassette, this will allow the rider to stay seated for longer when climbing and prove helpful when riding in steep, mountainous terrain.

Trek Domane
Trek Domane

Gravel Road Bikes

Gravel Road Bikes

Gravel bikes are very much on trend in the UK right now, you’ll struggle to find a bike manufacturer that doesn’t have at least one in their line-up. Versatile, rugged and adaptable – gravel bikes are for the rider looking to venture away from the tarmac and explore new avenues. With comfort-orientated geometry, disc brakes and clearance for wider tyres, gravel bikes are tailor-made for riding in the UK – perfect for exploring country lanes, bridleways and forest tracks. Suited for on and off-road riding, a gravel bike will do the job as a commuter, a lightweight tourer, a great winter training bike or simply a do-it-all machine to discover your sense of adventure.

Purpose-built for long, all-day rides over rough roads, gravel bikes such as the Specialized Diverge, Trek Checkpoint and Kona Rove are extremely versatile and great fun to ride. Many gravel bikes feature rack and mudguard mounts for all-weather, long distance touring plus they’re great for commuting through the winter months. Some specialist gravel bikes will feature wider handlebars than a traditional road bike for extra stability when riding off-road. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous then a gravel road bike could be just the answer.

Trek Checkpoint
Trek Checkpoint

If you’d like any further advice on the huge range of road bikes available then just give us a call on 01539 821443 or email info@wheelbase.co.uk