How to Choose a Road Bike

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how to choose a road bike

Road biking is an excellent hobby, and some even think of it as more of a lifestyle. Some people do it to get to work in a more environmentally friendly way, while others do it to meet new friends or just get a good workout in. No matter your end goal, you should pick a road bike that gives you all of the speed and agility you need. Your needs and lifestyle will ultimately affect which type of road bike is best for you.

If you’re just using the bike to get to work, it’s probably best to get one that can convert your energy into motion as efficiently as possible. Maybe you prefer to race on tight courses with your road bike, in which case you need something that has more twitchy, agile handling. In any case, you can generally identify the right bike for you by thinking about the frame geometry or frame shape, frame materials, and components.

What Is a Road Bike?

Before diving into how you can choose the perfect road bike for your needs, let’s take a quick look at what sets road bikes apart. Compared to commuting bikes, touring bikes, hybrid bikes, and mountain bikes, road bikes typically stand apart because of features like these:

  • The frame usually is exceptionally lightweight, as are the wheels and other components.
  • Wheels and tires for road bikes are especially narrow.
  • There won’t be a front or rear suspension.
  • The front fork on a road bike is almost always made out of a composite like carbon fiber.
  • Road bikes normally have drop handlebars (the curved kind), though some might still have flat bars.

These features allow riders to go farther and faster than most other types of bikes, especially if the road is smooth. As a matter of fact, road bikes are not at all recommended for unpaved surfaces, so they’re most suited for roads and smooth bike paths. Their feature set makes them appealing to fitness enthusiasts and competitive riders.

The lightweight structure of these bikes means they’re not ideal for carrying heavy loads. This is apparent when you notice that road bikes don’t have attachment points for racks, saddlebags, or panniers. Road bikes are still popular amongst commuters who don’t need to carry a lot to and from the office. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to bring all of your items with you in a backpack or messenger bag instead of strapping anything to your bike.

Road Bike Frame Shape

The frame geometry of a bike is more important than many people realize. Most people might not even notice when the frame design differs between road bikes. Most road bikes designed for recreational use have what’s called sport geometry. This shape leads to a more upright riding posture, which is appropriate for people who log under 150 miles per week and ride about every other day or less. The steering is slightly more relaxed when you choose this frame shape, too.

Performance geometry is more appropriate for the frames of road bikes that will be ridden by a competitive rider. If you’re regularly entering events, a road bike with a racing frame is what you should have. These frames demand a more stretched-out riding posture, which helps increase speed by improving aerodynamics. These frames are stiffer, lighter, and more expensive. They also normally give the bike more responsive steering.

Frame Materials

When you buy a road bike, you typically have two choices when it comes to the frame’s material:

  1. Aluminum – This is the less expensive option of the two, and it’s more than good enough for the average rider who just wants to get a workout and have some fun. The front fork will still probably be made out of carbon fiber to help absorb vibrations from bumps in the road and keep the ride smooth.
  2. Carbon Fiber – These composite frames typically absorb more vibrations to make the ride smoother and more comfortable. Good carbon fiber frames are better than aluminum frames (and we don’t carry bad carbon fiber frames), but they’re also more expensive.

Key Bike Components

Once you’ve assessed the frame itself, turn your attention to everything else that’s attached to it. There are many different components on each bicycle, and each one should be carefully selected to ensure it will work effectively with all of the others. If you’re trying to build a custom bike by yourself, you can achieve this by looking into a groupset.

Groupsets are sets of matching components from the same manufacturer. They all work together, and they also normally have the same looks and styling to create a consistent, uniform aesthetic appeal. If you really want to understand the bike as well as possible, though, it’s important to dive into the following categories of components individually.

Gearing

The gearing on a road bike is important, starting with the crankset. This is what transfers energy from the rotating pedals to the rear wheel via a chain. In other words, this is the key to turning your effort into motion. Triple cranksets offer the most gears at 27, double cranksets offer only 20 gears, and compact cranksets have the smallest range of gears.

Gear Shifters and Brake Levers

You can go between the different gears using your gear shifters, which are normally located right with the brake levers on the handlebar. It’s essential to make sure you like the style of gear shifters and brake levers on your bike and that you can use them easily. This will ensure you’re not losing control of the handlebar every time you hit the brakes or change gears.

Pedals

One of the biggest things that separate road bikes from most other types of bikes is that they don’t always come with pedals. This is especially true for the best road bikes on the market, though some less expensive options may come with pedals. This allows the rider to outfit their new road bike with their preferred pedal system. If it’s your first time buying a road bike, think about getting some cycling shoes and clip-in pedals to go with it.

Wheels

This is where the rubber meets the road, so it’s important to get the wheels correct on your new road bike. The size and weight of the wheels will impact the weight of your bike as well as its aerodynamics and handling. Very efficient wheels will also help you gain speed quickly and maintain that speed once you have it. When you’re building a custom bike, the wheelset is worth investing in. Even if you’re buying a bike off the shelf, the wheels are one of the first things people normally like to upgrade.

Find Your Next Road Bike for Sale in Phoenix

If you need more help buying the perfect bike, come to Curbside Cyclery. Let’s talk about how you want to use your new bicycle, then find you the perfect fit. You can be riding away on a bike from one of the top manufacturers within minutes. Better yet, let’s work together to build a custom bike that’s perfect for you in every way. Stop by today to get started!

Image Credit: Shuttershock/By sittipun punpang