A beginner’s guide to choosing a road bike

Looking to get your firstly road bike or perhaps upgrade to something fresh? Welcome! In this article( and video) we’ll discuss the broad steps to consider in your research, and hopefully, restricted your focus in what can be an extremely overwhelming purchase decision.

This article doesn’t go into specifics of exactly what bike you should buy. Rather we conjure the common questions a good motorcycle store employee may ask if you walked in and said: “I want to buy a street bike”.

We’ve broken this guide into three steps( with a fourth as a nice to have ), and you’ll find that these steps are often intertwined. Let’s get started.

Step 1: What type of road journeying are you planning to do?

The first thing to answer is why you’re interested in a road bike- and it’s important to be honest with yourself. Is it for competitive hastening and fast bunch drive, or for more amiable recreational riding to get the heart rate up? Are you would be interested to travel to work, or exclusively go out on weekends when the climate is nice? Or maybe you’re intrigued by longer journeys and gravel superhighways, in which case, perhaps something like a gravel motorcycle may be a better pick?

Road cycling can convey different things to many beings. There’s also a great deal of variance in what your regional arteries may be like. Certainly riding pristine tarmac mountains in Switzerland is different to tackling backcountry roads in Australia.

To add to that not everybody shares the same fitness, flexibility, or sporting ability. The motorcycle manufacture caters to almost all, but that doesn’t mean that every motorcycle is right for you.

Differing roads, going styles, and body kinds have all led to a great deal of diversification in the modern road bike. In the simplest sense most brands have their road bike series divided among three key lists:

All-around race

A modern all-around race bicycle is the type of bike you’d often see in the alps during the Tour de France, and as a result, some people call them climber’s bikes or general classification bikes. It’s a bicycle that aims to balance lightweight, stiffness, comfort( sometimes ), and often aerodynamics- all in the name of covering alter superhighways as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The Giant TCR is a good example of a modern all-around race bike. It has a low-pitched load and high stiffness as its priorities, but then melds in some drive consolation and aerodynamic designing, extremely.

These bike types often feature fast handling and aggressive fits that benefit more experienced and/ or sporting equestrians. They’ll also often feature 25 or 28 mm wide tyres and taller gearing. Almost every label selling superhighway bicycles has a bike like this, but popular illustrations include the Giant TCR, Specialized Tarmac, Trek Emonda, Cannondale SuperSix, Scott Addict RC, Merida Scultura, BMC Teammachine, and Canyon Ultimate.

Aero artery scoot

Sharing similar manipulate and are in line with the all-round racer, the aero road bike often transactions in absolute low-grade weight for aerodynamic income. These bikes are commonly the most efficient choice on flat or wheeling field, and often a good option for more powerful riders. As most all-around race bikes have become increasingly more aero, the dedicated aero hasten bicycle has lost some appeal.

Cervelo’s S5 is a machine purpose built for travelling fast. Aerodynamics come at the expense of increase heavines, abbreviated go comfort, and well, increased cost.

Specific examples of aero road bikes include the Trek Madone, Giant Propel, Merida Reacto, Scott Foil, Ridley Noah, and Cannondale SystemSix. This vogue of bicycle is also often considered a premium product and so won’t be suitable for more meagre plans.

Endurance road

The modern perseverance artery bike aims to take the jaunty sort of the All-round racer and make it more accessible, comfortable and versatile. The fit is more tightened, the journey is often more compliant, the gearing is lower( for easier climbing ), and the steer characteristics are often less nervous, extremely. These are road motorcycles for the masses.

It’s worth noting that not all endurance road bikes are the same( similarly for artery hasten bikes ). Some are more tightened and recreational in designing, while others trend closer to race bikes.

Endurance road bikes exist at all price degrees, nonetheless, you’ll find that most entry-level road motorcycle options generally trend toward being a bike of this variance. Some favourite examples of endurance road bikes include the Trek Domane, Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse, Giant Defy( and Contend) and Focus Paralane.

The Trek Domane Al Disc is demonstrated of how endurance-style superhighway bikes are changing. The Domane is ready for desegregated skin-deep journeying.

Recent years have met gravel bikes boom and superhighway marketings dropped. As a result, many of the latest endurance road bikes are attempting to tread the penalty direction between a artery bike and a gravel bicycle. Sadly the “endurance” category has lost some of its luster with buyers, and so in some cases( not all ), the all-road branding is the bike industry’s way of lending back a little sparkle.

All rounders, all-road, and how to tell them apart

While most road motorcycles are integrated into one of the three categories above, there’s certainly some clear convergence happening. Numerous race bikes now furnish generous tyre clearance, wider gearing wanders and even some decent ride comfort to be more appealing to a larger market. A number of brands have shaped their all-around race bikes more like their aero racers, and even loosened the fit and handled in these motorcycles, too. And as exactly embraced, some have propagandized their strength superhighway bikes toward gravel province.

The Cervelo Caledonia is an example of a modern all-rounder. It’s an strength bike with scoot bike characteristics. An increasing number of labels are offering do-it-all road bikes like this.

There are a few ways to help you cut through the marketing chaff and deduce where each bike sits. A enormous tool is the “trail figure” of a motorcycle which utters an indication of how quickly it steers. The lower the number, the faster the control. Very broadly speaking( there are many other factors involved that can impact this ), a trail illustration under 59 mm advocates the bicycle is intended to feel quick and race-like, while 60 mm and over “shouldve been” the bike feeling a touch more obedient.

Maximum admitted tyre clearance and asset width can be quite telling for the bike’s intended purpose too. Most modern scoot bikes will be furnished with 25 or 28 mm tyres, while fortitude and all-road-style bikes will typically be fitted with 30 -3 2 mm. Fender compatibility will also assist in whether the bike is cleared for racing or recreation. And the same proceeds for whether the motorcycle has an easy-spinning sub-compact or pact crank( 48/32 or 50/34 respectively ), or more race-like gearing( 52 or 53 T large-hearted reverberate ).

It’s also worth becoming acquainted with the bike’s stack and reach figures( covered in step three ).

The ability to run full-length fenders is often a must-have for those that live in wet climates. Most perseverance road bikes are designed to work with full-length fenders, while such a feature is rare on dedicated race bicycles.

Step 2: What’s your budget?

This second step will most probably be a key adjudicate factor in the bike you end up with. So how much are you willing( or able) to spend?

In the simplest sense spend more will got to get a higher-performing bike that is lighter, likely more aerodynamic, more durable, and perhaps even more comfortable. However, there are obvious objections to this, and no doubt the laws of diminishing returns play strongly in the road bike world.

Below are some key elements to consider. Many of these are far larger topics that each offer a rabbit flaw of studies.

Frame material

A more modest budget is likely to keep your buying decision to an aluminium make, or perhaps something made of steel. A bigger budget will open you up to carbon fibre or titanium.( Price ranges vary considerably from one local grocery to another .)

What’s important to note is that the exact type of material exploited affairs a whole lot little than how the material is used. A wonderfully engineered aluminium make can be far more enjoyable to ride than a poorly designed carbon make, and the same applies for all material options.

Carbon fibre volunteers some impressive engineering possible. Most patently it can be formed into contours that would be extremely difficult with metal, while the directional nature of the material can be used for tailoring stiffness and solace. Still, simply because a frame features carbon fabric doesn’t mean it’s better.

Put another way, almost all of the staff at CT would rather ride a great aluminium frame than a mediocre carbon explanation. And generally speaking, you should invest in a good make( with the freedom fit) before am concerned about the components bolted to it.

Brake type

The question of rim brake versus disc brake is one of the most heatedly contested debates in modern road bikes. In a nutshell, the most difficult symbols in the motorcycle industry have seen rim brakes as old-fashioned engineering and almost all investment in product development is being put into progressing disc restraint.

Rim brakes remain the lighter option and will provide you with a lighter bicycle for the same money. Meanwhile, disc brakes aim to offer increased stopping limit( especially in wet milieu ), open up clearance for wider tyres, and are fast becoming the only option on a number of popular motorcycles from big symbols.

For more, check out our complete FAQ to road disc dampers.

Motors matter

After the chassis, it’s likely the wheels( and tyres) that will fix the biggest difference to the ride. It can take an experienced see to tell the difference between pedals, but some key things to look for are rim thicknes( the trend is toward rims of at least 19 mm extent ), a high-quality build with even spoke frictions, and reputation for centre soundnes( e.g. DT Swiss and Shimano ).

Wheelset weight can also be a factor in how lively the motorcycle feels. Approximately speaking, superhighway motor sets over 1,600 g are considered on the ponderous area, and it’s common to see wheelsets over 2,000 g on entry-level bikes.

Shifting type and constituent ranks

Typically the more you waste the more gears the bike will have and the smoother they will function. And as with the majority things in cycling, there’s an inverse relationship between component weight and rate.

The vast majority of street bikes on the market today feature Shimano components, with entrants SRAM and Campagnolo appearing on higher-end bikes. Shimano’s component hierarchy, from cheapest to more expensive croaks as follows: Claris, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, and Dura-Ace. SRAM’s road hierarchy is Apex, Rival, Force, and Red.( It’s rare to find Campagnolo on ended bikes ).

Shimano Tiagra is a fairly entry-level groupset, but its shifting function is impressively good. The most obvious disadvantage is realized on the scale of assessments.

Those looking at Shimano Ultegra-level bikes or above will likely need to decide between mechanical versus electronic change( follow the link for a full discussed on this subject ).

It’s worth noting that the enclose and rotates will toy a greater role in how much you enjoy the bicycle versus what components are bolted to it. If given the choice, invest in a better enclose and wheels before going with better derailleurs and shifters.

Place of buy

The internet age has led to a relatively new decision for bike purchasers: buy from a local bicycle shop or do it yourself online? The onetime gives you hands-on service and perhaps access to a regional drive society, while the latter more than likely has a price advantage.

Buying consumer-direct likely means you’ll be get a motorcycle in a carton. The assembly and setup is one reason to go through traditional canals, but ensuring you get a chastise fitting bicycle is the most critical reason.

Personally I is confident that to purchase a bike online is best left to those who know exactly how they like their bicycles to fit and are able to do basic maintenance themselves. For everyone else the hands-on experience and work a good regional bike patronize can provide has the potential to make a substantial difference to your indulgence in cycling.

New or use

Closely following the last point is a decision over new and used. No doubt your fund can go further with a abused motorcycle, but there are always perils associated with this. Much like the last point, I’d suggest that buying use is only a good idea if you’re confident in your bicycle fit and understand basic upkeep in order to determine what milieu the motorcycle is in.

Budget for extras

If you’re brand-new to cycling then is ensured to plan for all the extras that are required to get pedalling. Almost all new motorcycles don’t include pedals, and you’ll likely also demand some shoes to go with them.

Then expense of all the other must-have items will immediately creep up too: a helmet, cycling short-spokens/ bibs, bottle cages, saves to fix a flat tyre, a run- the listing gone on.

Step 3: Fit is critical

Road cycling can be quite a fixed-position play and you’ll tend to ride with a regulate posture for long periods of time. Gone are the days of a superhighway bicycle being an ache to travel – you should be able to pedal without any discomfort. Get the wrong length or wrong setup though and you won’t exclusively be disagreeable, you may be putting yourself at risk of injury. Because of this it’s critical to ensure the bike fits you accurately.

Here it’s important to be realistic about your opennes and athletic ability, and pick the suitable bicycle. If you can’t remember the last time you touched your own toes then an vigorous race bike is likely not ideal. Endurance-style bikes are designed for the masses and most riders are likely to be most comfortable on this style of bike which offers a more relaxed riding prestige.

Racing bikes are intended to keep you in an vigorous ride situation with a reduction in frontal profile to the wind. By contrast, endurance-style bikes are more upright and with lower levels of a strain to the bars.

If you’re unsure of where to start then I’d strongly recommend discovering yourself a good regional bicycle supermarket. Experienced bike shop staff will be able to advise you on the chastise width bike and style for your needs.

When comparing across multiple firebrands it’s important to know that there are no industry standards for how bike sizes are named. A 54 cm frame in one brand may be equivalent to a 56 cm in another, and the same applies for those named with small, medium and huge.

Thankfully there is a pretty good guide for how a bike will fit and compare to other bikes: stack and reach representations. These two fleshes remain the most robust way of comparing the actual sizing between numerous bikes. We have a dedicated section about the importance of stack and contact in bicycle sizing.

Geometry plots offer insight on the sizing and handling of a bike. Some important elements are the stack, reach and trail representations.

Step 4: Measure travel if you are able to

This final step is something I ought to have been strongly suggested in the past, but current pandemic experiences have all but made this impossible.

Bike availability is so restraint at the moment that bike stores are no longer carrying demo sails like they would have in the past. If you can manage a travel around the block or even something longer, that’s huge, and I’d encourage you to do time that. Nonetheless, there’s a good chance you’ll need to buy your next bicycle without having researched it. If this is the case then listen to minds from parties you trust.

Case Studies

Below are some fictional samples based on non-fictional phenomena.

The first time beginner: Paul

Paul recently dusted off his old department store mountain bike after constantly examining from his occupation colleagues about how great cycling is. Paul did two rides and then connected his employment collaborators on a artery journey, he got spent, then get thrown, and then impersonated his bike had divulged so the suffering would intent. Paul is now haunted with cycling and requires a more appropriate bike for superhighway bunch travelling. He’s not interested in commuting and won’t be drive when it’s raining. Paul has a US $1,500 budget to do everything.

We believe Paul should look for an entry-level aluminium road bike with an endurance-type fit. Having wider tyres may be slightly slower but they’ll offer more ascertain and comfort. As Paul is a fair-weather rider and on a close-fisted fund, then rim restraints are likely to be a fine starting point. Bikes like the Specialized Allez, Giant Contend SL, Scott Speedster and similar should be on Paul’s radar.

Rediscovering road cycling: Sandra

Sandra used to be a competitive road cyclist but altered into running for a number of years. Sandra’s running is causing knee pain and it was suggested she dust off the hastening motorcycle and get pedalling. Sandra has a competitive intent and good fitness. That old-time bike still runs but feels tired. It doesn’t feel comfy anymore or are confident. Sandra is willing to devote US $4,000 for a brand-new bicycle.

Sandra is likely the title nominee for a lightweight all-rounder race bicycle. These brand-new bikes may not be lighter than her old one, but they’ll surely be more comfortable, more confident, and really easier to ride. Bike like those covered in our recent all-rounder race bike Field Test are well worth a looking.

Keen to explore: Leo

Leo is an fervent mountain biker looking to gain some fitness during the week when it’s not time-efficient to hit the trails. He’s expressed interest in exploring some of his neighbourhood gravel loops-the-loops and is open to the idea of overnight escapades. Nonetheless, Leo also wants to join his friends who ride road motorcycles in a group. Budget isn’t such an issue, but Leo craves one bicycle to do it all.

Leo is much like a number of riders looking to either simplify their bike accumulation or expand what cycling means to them. In Leo’s case, his demand for group superhighway journeying intends he’ll be best served by a motorcycle that’s still sporty and efficient to pedal. The report contains two tracks here.

One option would be to get a modern endurance road bike that offers charitable tyre clearance for the occasional gravel escapade. Many of these bicycles can now fit 32 -3 5 mm tyres without publication, and that’s fairly for most publicly accessible dirt superhighways. Bikes like the Trek Domane, Specialized Roubaix, or Cervelo Caledonia are well worth considering here.

The alternative is a fast gravel bike that was built with race in sentiment. The Cervelo Aspero comes to mind as a popular pick in this space, and is wonderfully quick on the road with the appropriate slick tyres. The Trek Checkpoint, Canyon Grail Al or similar are also well worth looking at.

If the versatility of a gravel bicycle entreaties to you then be sure to check out our guidebook to choosing a gravel bike.


Hopefully this article has provided you on a track to observe the right road bike. To recap, find a motorcycle that’s suitable for how you want to travel and make sure it fits you precisely. If you’ve got further issue, be sure to visit your neighbourhood bicycle browse, chat to a cyclist you trust, or invite us in specific comments area below. Good luck and glad drive!

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