Modern road bikes have evolved to be versatile machines capable of many different styles of riding. Road bikes can be used for racing, long social rides, boosting fitness, commuting to and from work or heading out on mixed-terrain adventures. It’s not unusual to see road bikes split into such sub-categories as ‘race’ ‘aero’ and ‘endurance’ with subtle differences between each to give a different riding experience and performance. All of these road bike sub-categories are, however, defined by some common characteristics, namely drop handlebars, 700c wheels, relatively narrow tyres and lightweight frames. Ultimately a modern road bike is fast, stylish and efficient.
When you’re thinking of buying a road bike you’ll need to identify what type of riding you aim to do and consider factors such as how often you plan to ride and what do you want to spend? Are you planning to start racing on the road and are driven solely by performance? In which case a ROAD RACE bike will be suited to you. Or are you looking to explore further afield and don’t want to be restricted to super-smooth road surfaces? A GRAVEL ROAD BIKE is a great option for mixed terrain riding. Perhaps you want to ride socially, taking on all-day epics with friends or have targeted a cycle sportive event for your first challenge? A ROAD ENDURANCE bike is perfectly suited to this type of riding.
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 is typically made from aluminium rather than carbon fibre. The manufacturing processes involved in creating a modern alloy road bike frame are now so sophisticated that the finished product closely mirrors a lot of the properties found in a higher-level carbon fibre frame – superlight, stiff and strong. Almost all aluminium road bikes in this category will come equipped with a carbon fork which further sheds weight while improving compliance 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.
Most road bikes in the beginner category will feature caliper rim brakes, however as more and more higher-end road bikes now feature disc brakes we are starting to see this type of braking system filter down through the price ranges. Disc brakes are renowned for providing more powerful, consistent braking; they are easy to modulate and work well in all weather conditions. At this sort of price point disc brakes may well be cable activated rather than hydraulic. An entry level road bike will be equipped with a set of light but robust 700c wheels made from aluminium. The wheels will be finished with a set of fast-rolling roadworthy tyres – most commonly 25c wide with slightly wider and even more comfortable 28c wide tyres appearing more and more frequently.
Trek Domane AL 2
The very-best, most high-performance road race bikes are made from the lightest materials, are packed full of technology with aerodynamic features and are designed to excel in competition, giving a fast, exhilarating ride. Ideal for racing, these bikes feature an aggressive geometry which places the rider in 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 go-to frame material for the majority of road race bikes. Lightweight, stiff and exceptionally strong, carbon fibre can also be engineered into elaborate shapes that are aero-efficient to help you cut through the air and sustain speed with aero race bikes featuring deep, narrow tube profiles. Specialist aero bikes include the CANNONDALE SYSTEMSIX the CUBE LITENING and the CERVELO S5. For strong performances in more varied hilly terrain with long, challenging climbs we would advise the sort of lightweight road bikes designed to excel on this type of terrain such as the CANNONDALE SUPERSIX EVO the TREK EMONDA or the SPECIALIZED AETHOS.
If you’re looking for a truly versatile road bike capable of taking on all-day epic rides on unpredictable roads then an endurance road bike is a great option. This type of bike combines the speed of a traditional road bike with multiple comfort-enhancing features to help keep you fresh with less fatigued. 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 more aggressive road race bike.
Key features on endurance road bikes include disc brakes, clearance for wider tyres and frame-integrated vibration dampening systems. These clever 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.
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 restrictions of tarmac and explore further afield. With comfort-orientated geometry, disc brakes and clearance for wider tyres with a tread, gravel bikes are tailor-made for riding in the UK – perfect for exploring country lanes, bridleways and forest tracks. Suitable for on and off-road riding, a gravel bike will also excel as a commuter, a lightweight tourer, or even a winter training bike with mudguards fitted.
Purpose-built for long, all-day epic rides over rough roads, gravel bikes such as the SPECIALIZED DIVERGE, CANNONDALE TOPSTONE and KONA ROVE are extremely versatile and great fun to ride. If bike-packing is your thing then a gravel bike is ready to carry a load too; many feature rack mounts and multiple bolt-on bosses across the frame and fork to help you carry everything you need for multi-day rides. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous then a gravel road bike could be just the answer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org