For many, bikes all look the same. But for a true biking enthusiast, this is not the case. While many think of road bikes as a lightweight bike with narrow tyres and drop handlebars, there's a whole lot more to them than that. In fact, road bikes can have major differences between them. A road bike is made up of multiple components, and you need to know about each if you're going to choose the best one to enjoy your road biking.
Road bikes are the ideal bike for a range of different riding types. Perfect for competitors, thrill-seekers, a simple adventure or keeping fit, this bike can meet diverse needs. However, as there are so many options within this bike category, understanding your specific needs is a must. Consider various questions as these will impact your final decision:
- What type of riding do you want to do? Is it race or sportive?
- What is your budget?
- What is your level of cycling ability?
From the frame, bike materials, geometry and more, we're going to take you through what you need to know to pick the best road bike for your needs.
What is a road bike?
Road bikes have several key features that help set them apart from other bike types such as MTBs, commuter bikes or hybrids.
- Position — athletic, designed to reduce your front profile. The bike as a whole adopts a lower position compared to more recreational bike types. This positioning means more of your muscle groups (glutes and hamstrings) are used.
- Drop bars — most road bikes have curled drop style handlebars, although some have flat handlebars. The drop style provides more hand positions allowing you to adjust your frontal profile depending on the terrain.
- Skinny tyres — noticeably narrow wheels and tyres ranging from 23mm and 25mm up to 28mm.
- Multiple gears — usually road bikes have two cogs on the front crank and as many as 12 gears for the rear cassette. With such a large span of gears (as many as 24), the bike provides efficient pedalling for descending or travel on the flat as well as lower speeds for climbing.
- No suspension — in stark contrast to mountain bikes, there is no suspension on a road bike. Road bikes are usually used on flat, smooth surfaces, which means the suspension is not needed for comfort. And, as these bikes err on the side of lightweight, any unnecessary suspension is removed.
- Frame — very lightweight frame as well as light components and wheels.
With these features in place, travelling for long distances is made a lot easier, and faster, than with other bike types. What's also great about this type of bike is that they are designed for a range of cyclists.
Road bikes are ideal for those looking to keep fit, as well as event and competition riders. For optimal performance, these bikes are suited to paved surfaces but should not be used on uneven or rough terrain. The design lends itself to further, faster biking though they aren't designed to carry heavy loads. However, they can have racks mounted, but it's not common to do so.
What to consider when picking a road bike as a beginner
As mentioned, there are several factors to consider when choosing which road bike is the best for you. Going through this detailed list will help you to think carefully about your needs and what components you need to consider.
Type of road bike and frame geometry
Depending on the type of riding you want to do, there are various road bike types available. A more sport geometry bike will have a more upright riding position coupled with relaxed steering. In contrast, a performance bike has a longer tube to stretch you out. Generally, a sport geometry bike is your best bet if you want one for regular riding. Only opt for performance geometry if you want to do road bike racing.
This is the best road bike in terms of speed. These bikes do not prioritise comfort in any way, nor are they concerned with weight. Instead, these bikes are designed to prevent drag and give you more speed. As such, they have large tube profiles and deep-section wheels. The larger tube profiles than those found on other road bikes are designed to make it more aerodynamic and subsequently reduce drag. This design also makes the bike stiffer, which is ideal for sprinters.
Integration of components is essential, with brake and gear cables hidden from the wind. Even more importantly, the overall profile is designed to conform with the wheel shape. And, it offers a lower, long, riding position.
Also known as sportive, this is one of the more popular road bike options thanks to its more relaxed geometry offering a stable ride and a greater emphasis on comfort. The endurance bike has a more upright riding position for better comfort and offers somewhat more stable handling.
This type of road bike tends to use disc brakes as well as a compact drivetrain. This setup means you can get bigger tyres and there are vibration dampening mechanisms in place to make the ride that much smoother. Gravel bikes are often similar in look and design.
For an all-rounder, or those looking for a race bike for a peloton, this is the one for you. It offers an agile performance by keeping weight down while increasing the power. These bikes are the lightest road bike and are best on ascents and descents. In terms of looks, these bikes are notable for not having an elongated headtube and wheelbase.
Heavier than most other road bikes, the touring bike provides comfort over a long ride. It also possesses the capability of carrying extra weight and gear. Typically, this road bike frame is made of steel due to its durability and the ease with which it can be repaired. It's also got an upright ride position which makes it more stable as well as improves the load-carrying capabilities over longer rides.
Frame and fork material
Road bikes are made from lightweight materials. However, each type of material does have a set of characteristics that sets it apart from other materials. Depending on which you choose, the cost, comfort, feel and weight of the road bike will differ. These days, many road bikes will combine materials with most entry-level bikes featuring an aluminium frame with a carbon fibre fork.
Easily moulded, this allows manufacturers to try out different shapes and designs for frame shapes and tube profiles. When it comes to the stiffness-to-weight ratio, carbon fibre is the best material for bikes, which is why it's very commonly used. Using a bike with a full carbon fibre frame and fork is better if you're looking for a lower-weight bike, but one with better lateral stiffness. They're light, offering greater speed.
A strong metal, it's good for stiff but light bikes. It's a cheaper material to work with than carbon fibre resulting in cheaper, cost-effective bikes. As such, it's common to find aluminium frames in beginner bikes. It provides a good balance between robustness and reliability.
Rarely found, this material is more commonly found on bespoke bikes. Like the other materials listed, titanium is lightweight. It's also durable and doesn't have the corrosive properties of steel. However, it's hard to mould compared to aluminium and carbon fibre hence the higher price point.
Usually part of a bespoke bike, steel used to be the main material used for road bikes. It can be expensive though, but it does offer a stunning handcrafted, classic look. That being said, it's generally been dropped due to its poor stiffness-to-weight ratio.
Combining the transmission and brakes, the groupset is an important specification to consider. Really though, it's what you can afford that will determine which you get. The higher the cost, the smoother the shifting, lighter the weight and greater the number of gears you'll have to choose from. Entry-level groupsets tend to be made from aluminium or steel, with top-quality groupsets made from carbon fibre or titanium.
The drivetrain includes the cranks, chainring, cassette, derailleurs and shifters. It's like the main engine of the bike. Similar to the groupset, the more you spend the greater the durability, efficiency and performance in shifting you'll see. And, all the while, the weight will decrease.
For the best road bike, you really want to opt for smaller chainrings at the front, with a larger ratio cassette at the back as this gives easier pedalling ratios through the wider spread of gears. Larger chainrings with a smaller ratio cassette are better for speed, which is really only needed if you're racing.
Good shifters help to reduce or even eliminate gears slipping or becoming misaligned. Typically, these days shifters are found in mechanical or electronic forms. Mechanical is the most commonly used in road bikes as it pulls cables in the derailleurs, which forces the chain onto the different cogs in the cassette. Electronic shifters are slowly becoming more affordable. They work in a similar way to mechanical, but instead of a cable, an electronic signal is sent to a motor which moves the derailleur providing a more accurate gear change.
Road bike wheels have a hub around which the wheel spins. Wheels need to be durable with strong hubs to enable good braking capabilities and stiff power transfers. More recently, road bike wheels have increased in width and depth, offering improved comfort. Larger tyres also improve rolling resistance thus improving the overall aerodynamics of the bike.
There are three different road bike tyres available for these types of bike, but each one requires a specific rim. Clincher, tubular or tubeless are the options, although most road bikes have clincher tyres with an inner tube. Tubulars are more for professionals, while tubeless is still a relatively new technology for road bikes.
There are two main options for road bike brakes. The difference between rim and disc brakes is simply where the braking force is applied.
For rim brakes, the brake force is directly to the side of the wheel. It's been the standard brake for decades and is popular on road bikes as it is simple and light. However, in wet conditions, these brakes are not as effective.
Disc brakes are a newer technology taken from cars and used on mountain bikes. This type of brake is great for consistent stopping power in all conditions. Within this category, there are hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes.
Ensuring that the size of road bike you get fits you properly is a must. We have a road bike size chart to make this step as easy as possible for you. It's important to note that each manufacturer has a different size and frame description.
Measuring yourself can be tricky, but you need to measure your height and inside leg length to determine the right bike size. We're here to help and can ensure you're properly measured up.
Which bike is best for you?
When choosing a road bike for women or a road bike mens option, there are no hard and fast rules. At the end of the day, the key is to pick one that matches your needs and that is the right size. Some brands, for example, do offer women-specific models with shorter top tubes and a taller head tube. But, until you try them out, you won't know if you prefer this type of model over a unisex one. The same is true when trying to pick out a men's road bike. It might be you simply prefer one that's a little heavier or has road bike pedals with a cage.
Renting and buying road bikes in the Canary Islands
Here at Free Motion Bikecenter, we have a range of different road bike rental options in place. We rent out high-end bikes to suit all your needs as well as offering bike shop and workshop services. With ten shops across three islands, we're ready to help you choose from over 1500 different road bikes, all from top brands. If you're looking to buy a road bike, we also have options. Check out our road bike sale options here.
And, we're going to make sure you have the best time as we also offer guided tours. All rentals come with the necessary safety equipment including a road bike helmet. Get in touch today with our knowledgeable staff to find out more.