What Is A Road Bike? Everything You Need To Know About Road Bikes:
Looking to get yourself a new road bike and wondering where to start? Whether you’re a beginner or a more intermediate rider, having some basic knowledge of road bikes goes long.
But don’t worry, I’m here to guide you through.
From long-distance racers to commuters and everything in between, road bikes have always remained the most possible type of bike of them all.
Road bikes haven’t changed too much over the years; they still look similar to decades ago, but the technology has massively advanced, and the timeless classic road bike is more advanced than ever.
Now, wait, let me tell you something.
In this guide, I will be running through everything you need to know about road bikes, breaking down all the different types, and talking about all the components in a clear, straightforward guide.
So matter what you’re looking for or the components you need to look out for when looking for a budget road bike, I’ve got you covered.
Stay tuned. You won’t want to miss this.
What Is A Road Bike?
For those super new to the concept of road bikes (if you’re living under a rock) or just curious about what the actual definition of road bikes is, they are bicycles designed to be used on paved roads.
Some people also call them racing bicycles, but this has become a bit outdated in recent years because there are many different types of road bikes nowadays “race bikes” are relatively narrow.
Road bikes travel at high speeds and maneuverability while offering efficient power and agility.
Road bikes have skinny tires and drop handlebars that can be used for racing, commuting, and more nowadays. They tend to be much lighter than other models like mountain bikes and can be ridden on paved trails as well as the road.
Road bikes that can ride on paved trails tend to be equipped with a suspension fork to help smooth the ride and absorb shocks and vibrations into the frame to make riding for long periods and on rough terrain more comfortable.
Components Of A Road Bike:
Before we get into the different types of road bikes, the first thing you’ll need to understand is the components of a road bike and how they work together.
The frame on a road bike tends to be skinny and lightweight, especially in higher-quality models. Newer designs of road bikes have a sloping top tube design and puncture-proof tires that are more compact.
While the older models tend to have a flat top tube design and a short Seatpost.
Higher-end road bikes tend to have a carbon frame, but cheaper models often have an aluminum frame with a carbon fork which helps with vibration dampening while keeping the weight low.
Road bike frames don’t tend to have any suspension built-in, the front fork is usually made from carbon fiber components to help with vibration dampening on rough roads, but that’s about all.
The wheels and tires on a road bike are also known to be lightweight and have a skinny design. They often contain the fewest amount of spokes possible, and some models have fiberglass or carbon spokes that look like giant fan blades.
The wheels are designed this way because of their aerodynamics and low weight. The tires also have a slim design, with minimal tread to give them a better grip on the pavement and offer speed and power when riding.
Road bike tires, on average, are around 23mm wide, but newer models tend to be a bit wider because it helps smooth the ride and offer higher speeds.
So in newer models, you’ll find the tires to be around 25mm thick or wider; this width of the tire is ideal for road biking but not ideal for any off-road riding, which is where hybrid bikes come in.
For most road bikes, there is quite a vast amount of speeds in the gear systems, so you always have the right gear from hill climbs to sprints.
The chainset is the larger wheel that connects to the pedals, while the cassette is the collection or sprockets on the back wheel. Older designs tend to have two cogs, but newer models have three for more gear selections.
The only real difference is the number of gears on a road bike in comparison to a mountain bike or hybrid bike.
Road bike handlebars are the most recognizable feature on the bike, even more than the skinny tires.
Road bike handlebars tend to have a downward sloped design which is more conducive to leaning forward when riding so you can achieve higher speeds at decreased wind resistance.
The curved portion of the handlebars has one hand brake on the right for the back tire, whereas the standard part of the road bike handlebar will have brakes and gear shifters.
Road Bike Saddle:
The design of the road bike saddle may look slightly uncomfortable at first, but the design is much more comfortable for long riding periods.
It comes in quite a slim shape with very limited padding, but the design of the saddle is to help relieve pressure points and add comfort when riding.
The Seatpost is often at an angle that slightly leans backward, it takes time to tune the saddle and seat post to your right fit, but once you’ve got the right tuning, it will make your ride much more comfortable.
The most common brakes you’ll find on a road bike are either dual-pivot brakes or disc brakes. Dual pivot brakes are placed on either side of the wheel rim, and they offer quick and precise braking, which is crucial when riding at high speed.s
Disc brakes are common in mountain bikes but not so much in road bikes, but in recent years they have become more common; they offer superior stopping power in all weather conditions.
Disc brakes are engaged when pressure is applied to the brake; it squeezes the two calipers together using friction between rubber pads and the metal rim on the tire. This slows the bike down.
These kinds of brakes are also found in cars.
Different Types Of Road Bikes:
As the market for road bikes has increased over the years, there are now lots of different types of road bikes to choose from, there are six most common ones, but there are lots more out there.
When road bikes were first invented, they were also known as race bikes, but since then, there have been many different designs that have evolved, so the name gradually progressed to just road bikes.
Race road bikes were designed to ride at high speeds, and the geometry is designed to achieve this goal. The frame is incredibly lightweight and stiff; the wheels and tires are also very skinny to help keep the weight down.
There also tend to be no additional features like racks or fenders to ensure that this bike keeps the weight as low as possible. Race bikes are ideal road bikes for intermediate riders.
Commuter Road Bike:
Commuter bikes were designed for those around town trips; the clue is in the name. They can be used for commuting to work or just to ride around town without having to use a car or bus.
They have a road bike build, but they have numerous features which help focus on comfort and offer the best balance of speed and weight.
The frame is in more of an upright position instead of leaning forward. This makes this bike comfortable and safer than a flat bar when riding with traffic as the rider can focus on the road.
The frame also tends to be fitted with mudguards, racks, and fenders so riders can haul luggage and personal belongings on their journey instead of having to carry them on their back.
Since commuter bikes have added features like this, this also adds to the weight of the bike.
Commuter bikes are also more durable and sturdy than other road bikes; the frame offers better resistance to bumps and potholes. Commuters also have wider tires with a slight tread.
These tires also tend to be far more puncture-resistant, especially as they’re designed to roll over rugged, pot-hole-filled city streets– which also tend to have broken glass.
Handlebars come in two different designs; they’re either flat or offer drop style. Disc brakes are also popular in this type of bike to offer superior stopping power in all weather conditions– especially in muddy, rainy, and icy conditions.
There are quite a few different gears on a commuter road bike but not as many speeds as a racing bike.
Touring bikes are designed for comfort across long distances; they are often used for tours that last a few days at a time. They have a racing bike build but with additional features that make touring easier, such as comfort.
They also tend to have a more upright build which offers comfort and helps improve posture when riding for longer periods. But this frame also allows the rider to move back and forth with ease.
The frame is also a little bit thicker to offer a more comfortable ride for longer periods.
Sportive bikes are very similar to race bikes, but they’re far more comfortable. They are very popular in endurance racing and as a general run-of-the-mill road bike.
They are still pretty speedy, but a few tweaks make a difference in terms of posture and comfort. The bike is in a more upright riding position rather than leaning forward, making it more comfortable for longer rides.
This more upright riding position puts less strain on your back, so you can ride further and for longer while maintaining speed.
The gears offer high speeds, but there are also lower gears that help with climbing; it will help you get up steep climbs without losing too much energy, you might lose some speed, but this is a good compromise for comfort and endurance.
Disc brakes are also very common in these kinds of road bikes for superior stopping power in all conditions. This kind of bike still offers speed without compromising comfort.
Time Trial Road Bike:
Time trial bikes are very similar to racing bikes; they are designed to have even less wind resistance and more speed.
These kinds of bikes are commonly used in racing and triathlons; they are super fast. In order to achieve this kind of speed, this type of bike has to compromise comfort.
The frame materials used in time trial road bikes tend to have flat tubing with components hidden away to decrease wind resistance; the rider also tends to sit a lot lower.
In terms of the handlebars, there tend to be aero handlebars that extend in the middle so the rider can extend forward with their head downwards without compromising control.
Gears tend to be much bigger on time trial aero bikes, so with extra gears, the rider can achieve even more speed.
Wheels are always made with carbon fiber, with tires on the skinnier side. Carbon fiber is an ideal material over aluminum frames in a time trial bike as it keeps the weight down and makes the bike as aerodynamic as possible.
These kinds of road bikes are only really used in triathlon and road bike racing; they are very much performance road bikes and don’t tend to be used for recreational riding.
You probably won’t find this kind of bike at your local bike shop.
Aero road bikes have a very similar design to time trial bikes and share a lot of the same characteristics, but they are also very similar to racing road bikes.
They have the same design as racing road bikes, but they have the same aerodynamic features that are often found in time trial bikes, but they’re a little bit more comfortable.
Most of the bike frame materials used are carbon as they are lightweight and durable. The wheels are often very light and skinny too, but the gearing is very similar to a regular road bike.
It is the ideal in-between point between a race bike and a time trail bike.
Flat Bar Road Bikes:
Flat bar road bikes are also known as fitness bikes. They’re a type of hybrid bike which is optimized for road usage. They have a flat handlebar instead of a drop bar.
They have a conventional road bike design, and this kind of road bike is very popular for many reasons. These bikes are ideal entry-level road bikes as they combine comfort and efficiency in their ride.
These kinds of bikes also don’t put riders in an overly aggressive road bike position that many riders find uncomfortable making it the ideal road bike frame for all kinds of riders.
Gravel bikes are like drop-bar bikes that allow you to go so much further than the paved roads and onto more exciting terrain. They’re ideal for both racing and backpacking.
A gravel bike is designed to deal with tricky terrains.
The gravel bike frame geometry tends to have a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and slacker headtube angle making them stable for both on and off-road terrain.
Gravel bikes also tend to use flared drop bars that are a little bit wider for more control and stability, regular drop bars on a bike offer speed and efficiency, but for gravel bikes, you want traction and control on the front and rear wheel.
Endurance Road Bike:
Endurance road bikes are designed to make long days in the saddle that much more comfortable and offer a smoother ride. They protect your body from the vibrations passing through your seat post and saddle.
Endurance bikes are much more versatile than race bikes; they are also known to be much more comfortable than a race bike, with raised handlebars that offer easier reach.
It is ideal for those who want an aggressive position but struggle to find comfort.
Cyclocross bikes are another type of performance bike that is specifically designed for the rigors of a cyclocross race; they roughly resemble the racing bicycles used in road racing.
Unlike gravel bikes, cyclocross bikes aren’t good commuters or touring bikes as they aren’t very comfortable and don’t tend to have any mount points for racks or fenders.
They can, however, be used as tough road bikes if you want to ride on the varied terrain outside, but outside of cyclocross, they aren’t very versatile and don’t offer too much comfort on long rides.
Road Vs. Mountain Bikes:
Road bikes and mountain bikes are complete polar opposites; they have more differences than any other bike comparison because they’re designing for such different terrains.
Mountain bikes are designed for light to heavy trail riding and downhilling. They have a much thicker framing which is catered towards providing stability and shock absorption on rugged terrains.
They have more of an upright design, so even when riding at high speeds, the rider has more control over the bike as a whole when navigating through rough terrain and over rough obstacles.
Mountain bike frames have a shock absorption system, whether this is at the front or rear (or both in full-suspension designs) or even a built-in shock absorber located at the top of the frame’s rear, which allows the frame to flex.
With a downhill mountain bike, there is a complex suspension system that offers a couple of inches of travel, which helps provide comfort and control when taming rugged trails.
The saddle is also much more comfortable than a road bike, with wider coverage and shock-absorbing padding to add even more comfort to your ride.
Handlebars also tend to be straight rather than in a downward drop like on a road bike, allowing the rider to sit in more of an upright position which also adds to comfort.
There also tends to be a wider range of gears in comparison to a road bike because they need to be ready for everything the unpredictable mountain throws at you, from steep climbs to sharp twists and turns.
Now while in newer road bicycles, disc brakes are used, disc brakes are found in all mountain bikes as they perform better in rougher conditions and offer superior braking power no matter what terrain you’re rolling on.
Wheels are much stronger and more durable than on a road bike; tires also have more of a knobby design for better grip and traction while smoothing the rough trail.
A mountain bike can be used in the city, but they’re a lot less efficient than a road bike.
Road Vs. Hybrid Bike:
Hybrid bikes are created with a combination of the features of a road bike and a mountain bike. So you get the lightweight and responsiveness of a road bike but the riding stance gearing and durability of a mountain bike.
A hybrid bike frame is very similar to a road bike as the frame is very lightweight and offers speed and agility. But the frame’s shape is designed to give the rider a higher stance and a more upright feel.
The wheels and tires are closer to a mountain bike as they are much wider and have a tread that can be used for light off-roading such as a paved mountain trail.
The gears are also similar to a mountain bike, so you can easily conquer a wide range of terrain. The saddle is also much more comfortable than a road bike, making it the ideal choice for those who like to do both.
It is essentially a weaker mountain bike that offers similar speeds to a road bike.
What Frame Is Best For A Road Bike?
There tend to be four different commonly used bike frame materials used to create a road bike. As the price goes up, the quality of the bike frame increases too.
Aluminum is the most common material found in road bike frames, especially in more budget-friendly options such as road bikes under $1000.
Aluminum is an ideal frame as an affordable option as it is lightweight, stiff, and very durable. It is also highly responsive, making it suitable for road biking.
Some aluminum frames will also come with a carbon fiber fork to help with shock absorption and smoothing rougher roads; this is ideal as it has similar characteristics to a carbon frame but while keeping the price low.
Titanium is usually found on mid-range road bikes, it is known for its ability to absorb shocks at a better rate than other frame materials, but it is still much lighter than steel frames.
The titanium also offers a lot of flexibility, making it yet another affordable frame option that has some pretty incredible characteristics.
Carbon fiber is the top-of-the-range frame material on the bike market; it is made from numerous strands of carbon fiber which are woven and bonded together.
Carbon is the lightest frame possible which can also absorb a huge level of shock and offer a great level of vibration dampening.
Carbon fiber takes a lot longer to make and is a lot more labor-intensive in comparison to other frames, so the price is often quite steep, but if you’re a professional rider, it’s worth the investment.
Steel is the bottom of the range when it comes to road bike frame material; it is very heavy but offers a good level of comfort when riding.
Steel is often found on cheaper bike models because of its added weight, but you might also notice that a touring bike will have a steel frame as it adds comfort for long periods.
Steel is also easy to repair and extremely durable; the only downside is that it is open to corrosion.
Top Road Bike Brands:
So now you know the main components and all the different types, what are the top bike brands you can buy from your local bike shop to ensure you’re getting the best of the best components.
First up is Trek, which is a personal favorite of mine. They are one of the most well-known brands in the bike industry. They offer high-quality and reliable bikes at a reasonable price tag.
They are dedicated to producing top-quality components and in-depth construction of their bikes; they use components like Bontrager, Diamant, and many other famous bike brands in their products.
Giant is the world’s largest bike manufacturer, they operate out in Taiwan, but they’re best known for their affordable bikes that are available in a wide range of bike shops and online bike companies all over the globe.
Giant produces a massive amount of carbon frames at affordable prices and continues to create new designs each year to push their bikes to new limits.
Specialized is yet another well-respected road bike brand that has earned its reputation and name over the years when producing high-end bikes for both mountain biking and road biking.
This award-winning company continues to wow its customers with new inventive designs each year that use advanced technology and high-end components that really please their customers.
Cannondale Road Bikes:
Cannondale is another favorite of mine when it comes to producing high-quality bikes; each year, they create bikes that use above and beyond technology to make their bikes faster, more agile, and more versatile.
Cannondale was the first company to produce carbon frames, and they have even experimented with different types of suspension. But aluminum is the material most commonly found in their bikes.
Schwinn is a more affordable bike company on the market; they offer a wide range of affordable road bikes along with mountain bikes ideal for entry-level riders.
They were the main manufacturers in the US back in the 50s and 60s.
They offer lower-end budget-friendly bikes that are often found on their website or on Amazon, along with thousands of bike shops all over the world.
Fuji’s road bikes are also brilliant, and the innovative technology used in the road and touring bikes have massively developed over time. They have even created one of the first 12 speed bicycles.
Fuji is sponsored by many athletes all over the globe in both cycling events and triathlons, and it continues to offer high-quality components at affordable prices.
How To Measure A Road Bike Frame
On average most manufacturers measure the frame from the crank axle to the top of the seat tube; most road bikes are either measured in inches or centimeters depending on where in the world you’re buying from.
On the other hand, kids’ road bikes tend to be measured by wheel size rather than frame size.
Some manufacturers measure their bikes slightly differently; some will measure the center of the BB to the top of the top tube. At the same time, others will measure from the center of the BB to the top tube.
So the best piece of advice, make sure you measure yourself before buying specific bikes, as while most manufacturers follow the same measurements, others are slightly different.
How To Ride A Road Bike:
Now for some of us, buying a road bike may be taking the plunge into the world of cycling. You may be in your 20s/30s/40s/50s and still not sure how to ride a bike– and that’s fine!
Now while I will be running through this in a full guide of how to ride a road bike, for now, I’m going to give you some tips!
- First things first, you’ll want to raise the saddle to hip level. Road bikes are super easy to adjust to your height. Raise or lower your saddle, so it’s in line with your hips. If you can stand straight with one leg on the pedal, it should be the right height.
- Position your pedals horizontally before you mount the bike; this will help you get more power out of your downstroke when you start pedaling.
- It’s best to look forward and keep your head up, your neck should not feel tense, but you should not hang your head down as otherwise, you’ll go down. Extend your neck slightly lower than your chin.
- Relax your shoulders and hands, try to avoid hunching forward with your shoulders tensed up; you should try to let them hang and shrug them every so often to loosen them again.
- Ride with your elbows bent, as if you ride with your arms straight; this tends to put extra tension on your arm muscles, keep your elbows close to your body rather than poking out. This should help absorb shocks of bumps.
- Move your knees straight up and down as you pedal and try to resist the urge to bow your knees outwards; it will make pedaling less efficient and put a strain on your knees.
- Hold the drop bars when you’re going downhill. There tend to be three main positions on-road bike handlebars, and the lower curved position is the drop bar. It helps balance the bike when going downhill.
- Try to remember to begin braking before you get to the curve, especially when traveling at high speeds. You always want to remember to slow down for corners to prevent skidding or crashing.
- Remember to ride in the same lane in the same direction of traffic, don’t ride, so you’re facing oncoming traffic, being in the same lane is safer. Stay as close to the sidewalk as possible too.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about road bikes, different types of road bikes, and even how to ride a road bike. If you’re a beginner or just want to build your basic knowledge, then hopefully, this guide helped.
It’s super exciting getting into the world of road biking, getting all the accessories like bike shoes and a bike helmet. Entry-level road bikes are ideal for those who are just starting out.
Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly aluminum bike or looking to go all out with a carbon bike, just make sure you go for a lightweight frame; you don’t want the bike pulling you down when riding up a steep hill.
Enjoy road cycling, my friends!