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ROAD BIKE BUYING GUIDE

Everything you need to know about the wide range of road bikes we have available.


What Type of Road Bike Should I Buy?

Whether you are commuting from A to B, touring, fitness training or simply popping out to see friends, getting out on the open road on two wheels can be exhilarating and, done often enough, the sense of freedom can even become a bit addictive. However, with so many different styles of road bike to choose from, selecting the right type and model to suit your lifestyle can leave you feeling confused. Here we give you an overview of the different types of road bike available and what kind of riding they are best suited to.

Endurance Bikes

ENDURANCE BIKE FEATURES:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable frame geometry
  • Relaxed riding position 
  • Advanced tech with robust materials
  • Drop Handlebars
  • Vibration dampening frame technology
  • Wide-range gearing for extra help on climbs
  • For sportives and long-distance riding

Endurance bikes – sometimes called sportive bikes - are built for maximum stability and comfort, which makes them ideally suited to long distance rides and a great choice for cyclists less concerned with shaving a couple of seconds off their PB than enjoying their time in the saddle.

GEOMETRY

Compared to all-out race bikes, endurance bikes feature a slack seat stay angle, short top tube, and extended headtube, placing the rider in an upright position with a reduced reach to the bars. This puts less strain on the back and helps you to ride for longer, in greater comfort.

FRAME AND BUILD

A longer-than-average wheelbase and increased frame clearance allows for wider, 25-28mm tyres for increased grip and shock absorption.

 

Suspension or dampening systems are now commonplace on new models, designed to limit the transition of vibrations from the road to your body, and some manufacturers have even gone as far as to incorporate elastic polymers into their frames in pursuit of the ultimate smooth-riding experience. 

GEARING

Endurance road bikes typically come equipped with wide-range gearing to give you that extra bit of help on steep climbs. This usually means a compact, 50-34t chainset and wide range cassette, with sprockets up to 32t. 

BRAKES

Hydraulic disc brakes and rim brakes are both readily available on endurance bikes. Rim brakes have the advantage of being lighter and more aerodynamic. Hydraulic brakes deliver more stopping power and better modulation than rim brakes, they work efficiently in the rain and don’t suffer from a build-up of mud and muck but they do tend to be more expensive and require regular maintenance.

Race and Aero Bikes

RACE AND AERO BIKE FEATURES:
  • Aggressive riding position
  • Aerodynamic frame geometry
  • Narrow-range gearing (to save on weight)
  • For competitive races and going very, very fast

The supercars of the road bike world. Built to deliver maximum power transfer, key features of race and aero bikes include: an aggressive riding position; responsive handling; cutting-edge aerodynamics; and a stripped-back, super-lightweight design. Unsurprisingly, this performance comes at the expensive of some comfort, but if speed is your main concern then a race or aero bike is the bike for you. 

GEOMETRY

In contrast to endurance bikes, race and aero bikes feature steep angles on the fork and seat tube as well as a shortened chainstay, seatstay and headtube, placing the saddle well above the handlebars in height. This has the effect of minimising your aerodynamic profile by creating an aggressive, stretched-out riding position; reducing drag and helping you to ride faster.

FRAME AND BUILD

Almost all performance road bikes on the market today are made from high-grade carbon fibre. This is because carbon is exceptionally lightweight whilst also being very strong.

 

Race bikes tend to be stiffer than endurance bikes as any flex in the frame has the effect of reducing power transfer through to the pedals. Historically, this has made for a rather uncomfortable ride but increasingly manufacturers are finding ways to balance both comfort and performance, meaning the trade-off is less than what you might think.

 

Aero bikes feature oversized tubes and a deeper wheel profile, which allows air to flow more smoothly over the bike, reducing drag. Larger tubes mean more frame material and a heavier bike, but as most race courses are relatively flat, the advantage gained from better aerodynamics is greater than the price paid for increased weight. 

GEARING

As with endurance bikes, most race and aero bikes feature a compact, 50-32t chainset. The cassette, though, is typically a narrower 11-28t in range, on the basis that the average road race course is less likely to include extreme hill-climbs.   

BRAKES

You’ve heard of marginal gains, right? The idea that lots of tiny improvements can add up to a big advantage. Well, it’s for this reason that lightweight and aerodynamically superior rim brakes are still favoured over hydraulic disc brakes by manufacturers for race and aero bikes, even though hydraulic brakes deliver more power and continue to function better in the rain.

 

If you’re looking for an edge, rim brakes will give you one; if you’re more concerned with stopping distance than speed, hydraulic disc brakes are the right choice for you. 

TT and Triathlon Bikes

TT AND TRIATHLON BIKE FEATURES:

  • Ultra-aggressive riding position
  • Extended handlebars
  • Aerodynamic frame geometry
  • Built specifically for triathlon and TT events

With a highly-aggressive riding position, extended aero bars, and cutting edge oversized tube profiles for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, TT and triathlon bikes are some of the fastest bikes available on the market.

 

It’s worth noting that, whereas manufactures are free to make tri bikes in any way they please, TT bikes must comply with an extensive list of UCI regulations to be eligible for use in competition, including restrictions on weight and aerodynamics. So, if you’re going to be competing in competitive time trial events it’s important you get a time trial-specific bike. 

GEOMETRY

TT and tri bikes feature an ultra-steep seat tube angle - typically 74-80 degrees compared to between 71 and 74 degrees on regular road bikes. This has the effect of pushing the rider further forward on the bike, harnessing pedal-power from the glutes and hamstrings more effectively and taking some of the workload from the quads, leaving them fresher for the running leg of the race.  It also allows the rider to ‘tuck in’, with a reduced frontal profile, forming an ultra-aggressive aerodynamic position. A longer top tube and extended handlebars help to further stretch out the rider and distribute weight evenly on the bike. 

FRAME AND BUILD

Time is of the essence. So, as with aero race bikes, that means oversized tubes and deep wheel profiles on to reduce air turbulence and drag. Larger tubes mean more frame material and a heavier bike, but, as most TT and triathlon courses are relatively flat, the advantage gained from better aerodynamics is greater than the price paid for increased weight. 

GET A GRIP

Most tri and TT bikes are equipped with distinctive, centrally mounted handlebar extensions, complete with arm rests. These allow the rider to assume a super-streamlined, in-line riding position and relieve some pressure on the wrists and hands. 

GEARING

Triathlon and TT bakes share the same size gearing as race and aero bikes, with a compact chainset and narrow cassette - typically 11-28t.

 

Electronic shifting is a recent and welcome edition on more expensive models, as it allows you to change gears without moving from the brake to the aero bars. 

BRAKES

Rim brakes are preferred to hydraulic disc brakes for their superior aerodynamic profile, and some manufacturers will even go so far as to integrate the front calliper into the fork in pursuit of marginal gains.  

Touring Bikes

TOURING ROAD BIKE FEATURES:

  • Relaxed riding position and wide
  • Vibration dampening tyres for maximum comfort and improved grip
  • Wide ratio gearing for attacking hills under heavy load
  • Robust alloy frame
  • Best for long distance rides over varied terrain, but an excellent all-round-bike for cycle commuters and leisure riders

With wide tyres for extra cushioning and traction, hill-eating triple chainsets, and rack and mudguard mounts, touring bikes make the perfect pack horse for multi-day adventure-rides over difficult terrain. Although they share many of the characteristics of a road bikes, such as drop handlebars and frame geometry, touring bikes are built with comfort and stability as a primary focus, rather than speed. This generally translates as a heavier, less responsive bike, but one better suited to carrying heavy loads over long distances. 

GEOMETRY

Like enduro bikes, touring bikes feature a slack seat stay angle and extended head tube for an upright riding position that puts less strain on your back and more weight on your backside than a traditional road race bike.  

FRAME AND BUILD

Carbon fibre has an incredibly high strength-weight ratio, and is extremely rigid - great for road bikes, which need to be super stiff, and mountain bikes, which have high-travel suspension to soak up the bumps, but not so great for touring bikes, which need to be super comfy. Touring bikes typically have either a steel or aluminium frame, as these work well to soak up vibrations and can withstand the wear and tear inherent of multi-day adventure-rides.

GEARING

Touring bikes are equipped with wide ratio gearing for the obvious reason that you’re likely to be travelling long distances, up and down hills, with a heavy load. In contrast to modern road and mountain bikes, triple chainrings are commonplace, and cassettes typically range from 11-32T, allowing you to put the pedal the to the metal on flat terrain then shift down to a MTB-esque ‘granny gear’ for steep climbs.     

BRAKES

Hydraulic brakes are an obvious advantage when it comes to stopping under a heavy load, but rim brakes are easier to repair – a big plus-point when you find yourself stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Going off the beaten track?

If you’re planning some serious adventure cycling in developing countries or places where cycle workshops will be few and far between, choose a bike with v-brakes and a steel frame; hydraulic brakes spares are hard to come by, even in cycling hotspots, and steel is easier to weld than aluminium.  

Fitness Bikes

FITNESS ROAD BIKE FEATURES:

  • Less than £1000
  • Excellent entry-level road bikes

The fitness bikes category is our selection of the best road bikes on the market for less than £1000. At this price point, most of the bikes feature an alloy frame and come equipped with rim-brakes, which are less expensive than hydraulic brakes. If you’re just starting out in the sport and looking at buying your first road bike, then this category is an excellent place to start. 

Still Confused? We're Here to Help

If you are still a bit unsure as to which type of road bike is best for you, we’re here to help. Just pop into one of the Cycling Surgery stores and our expert bike gurus will be more than happy to help you.  As cycling enthusiasts ourselves, we can point you in the right direction to a style that will suit your cycling activities. We have lots of great road bikes from market leading brands for you to try out, so come and take a look.


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