Looking into buying a new road bike can be a daunting experience. Whilst the pro’s might be riding £10,000 bikes this doesn’t mean a bike that is going to break the bank will be right for you. Let us here at Hoops help guide you through the jargon and considerations you need to have a think about when buying a new road bike.
Firstly there are a few questions to ask yourself before buying a new road bike:
What type of riding do you do?
What type of riding do you want to do in the future?
Where will you be riding?
What budget do you have?
What is your cycling ability?
This will help you decide on what type of road bike you should buy, whether that’s an endurance bike or a race bike, a bike with flat handlebars or drops, what material the bike is made from and what components are important for you.
For example, if you just want a bike for commuting to work and recreational riding, a heavier bike with perhaps flat handlebars might be suitable for you. If you live in a flat area, an aerodynamic bike might be better suited for you than a lightweight bike with loads of gears for climbing. If you are an aspiring club rider or enthusiastic about improving your riding and have more money to spend then perhaps you do want to go all out and get the bike of your dreams!
What is a road bike?
It’s important to understand what sets a road bike apart from touring bikes, commuter bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids.
Features of a road bike include:
A lightweight frame, wheels and components.
A drop (curled) handlebar, though some have a flat bar like a mountain bike.
Narrow wheels and tires.
Road bikes have been designed for fitness enthusiasts and competitive cyclists in mind. They have been designed for paved surfaces and are not great on gravel or trail paths. Road bikes also don’t often have attachment points for luggage which are used on touring and commuter bikes to carry your gear.
Endurance (sportive) bikes vs race bikes
Most road bikes fall into two general categories; race and endurance.
Race bikes put the rider’s into a lower, more aerodynamic position and typically have more aggressive geometry for quick handling.
Endurance bikes put the rider in a more upright position and the frame angles are a little more relaxed for stability and long-distance comfort. These are sometimes also known as sportive bikes.
Most road bikes will have been designed with a sport or recreational geometry. These bikes are great if you plan to ride up to 3 times a week, if you are logging 20 - 150 miles a week and if you fancy doing a couple of events or group rides each year. The riding position is more upright and the steering more relaxed than on a performance bike.
Performance or race bikes have a geometry that appeals to competitive riders are they improve aerodynamics with the rider being more stretched out and the steering is much more responsive. Performance bikes have a stiffer frame, higher end components, are often lighter and more expensive.
Unless you are into road racing or getting into triathlons a bike with a sport geometry is usually sufficient.
Drop vs flat handlebars
Most road bikes will have a curled / dropped handlebar which allows for better aerodynamics when going downhill. However some road bikes have a flat handlebar which puts the rider in a more comfortable upright position, which is much more suited for commuting or longer endurance rides as they make it easier to look about and observe traffic.
Bike Frame Materials
Most road bikes are made from steel, aluminium or carbon fibre.
Steel was the dominant road bike frame material until the 1980s and is more often found on custom bikes and those designed for touring because of its ability to hold weight and provide a sturdy ride for long bike tours.
Aluminium frames are the most common material for road bikes under around £1000. This is because its inexpensive and creates great stiff light frames giving you a smooth and comfortable ride.
Most aluminum-frame road bikes come with a composite (carbon fiber) front fork to absorb some road vibration and give an improved ride quality. .
A carbon-fiber bike frame generally provides a more comfortable, vibration-absorbing ride than an aluminum frame. However they are more expensive than aluminum-framed bikes.
However when looking into Carbon fibre frames, there can be a big difference between cheap and expensive carbon fibre, down to the type of fibres used, how it's manufactured and other important factors that make a big impact.
If you're facing a choice between a bike with a carbon fibre frame, and another with an aluminium frame, don't dismiss the aluminium one. Often you will get an aluminium bike with higher grade wheels and components than you could get on a carbon bike of a similar price, and that will actually contribute to a lower overall weight.
If you are looking for the lightest and stiffest performance bike then a carbon fiber frame is most likely going to be the one for you. If you are just riding for fun and fitness then an aluminium frame will tick the box!
The groupset is a set of matching components from the same manufacturer. A road bike with a matching set will ride better and feel more stylish than a bike with lots of different components. Deciding on a groupset will also have an impact on the overall cost of the bike.
Entry-level groupsets are made up of mostly low-grade aluminium and steel, which move to the higher-grade alloys, and then the highest-grade alloys, carbon fibre and titanium for the top-of-the-line options.
Talk to us in store or online if you are interested in more information about which groupset might be good for you!
The drivetrain consists of the cranks, chainrings, chain, cassette, derailleurs and shifters. The drivetrain is a closed circuit which propels the bike and as you spend more money the efficiency, durability and shifting performance increases while the weight decreases.
Road bikes used to be called 10-speeds, which referred to the two chainrings up front multiplied by the five cogs in the rear.
Now most road bikes have two chainrings in the front and between 9 12 or 13 cogs in the rear.
On an entry-level bike you'll usually find a compact double chainset, with 50 and 34-tooth chainrings to give low ratios that make getting up hills easier.
In general, endurance bikes have smaller gears, meaning it’s easier to get up hills, while race bikes have larger gears for higher top-end speed.
Bigger chainrings mean more outright speed (and effort), and smaller chainrings mean less effort but less speed.
Wheels and Tyres
Another key thing to think about when buying your new road bike is your new wheels and tyres. The wheels will really influence how your bike feels, rides and responds to you! Whilst you can easily replace the cheaper components the wheels will take up a big chunk of the cost of the bike and can be very expensive to upgrade so it’s best to invest from the start.
There are three types of tyres that you can use on a road bike and this will also affect the type of wheel rim you need. There is a clincher, tubular or tubeless and the wheel with specify which tyre it will be compatible with. Clincher are your standard inner tube tyres, tubulars are often what the professionals use and tubeless is super popular amongst the mountain bike community and is starting to filter into road bikes.
Disc or Rim Brakes
As well as thinking about what gears and wheels you might want, you will need to choose whether you want disc or traditional rim brakes.
Rim brakes are still lighter and more aerodynamic, but the difference is dropping. Disc brakes provide better power, are less affected by bad weather and if you ding your rim they will still continue to work.
The Extra Bits...
Most bikes will come with a set of pedals but for most road riders a clipped in pedal is prefered. Pedals that clip to your road bike shoes give you more power, less wasted energy on the up stroke, more control and stability over the bike and allow you to pedal more fluidly as your legs become an extension of the bike.
There are two main types of system, the SPD-SL which is mainly used for road cycled and the two bolt clip in system which is mainly used for mountain bikes.
The SPD-SL system has a large plastic cleat which attaches to your shoe with three bolts. The clip-in mechanism on the pedal is one-sided only, so you need to ensure the pedal is the correct way up to clip in. These provide a more stable platform and can enhance power transfer and performance. However, because the cleats are large and protrude out of the tread on the shoe, these are not great for walking in.
The two bolt system which is more used for mountain biking and touring and the clip-in mechanism on the pedal is on both sides; making it easier to clip-in. As these cleats are smaller, they can be recessed into the tread of some shoes, making it easier to walk around when off the bike.
It is important to consider which brand of road bike shows you have or want to buy. Most brands will be compatible with both types of cleats but some will be specific, be sure to check before you buy!
Pump, extra inner tube etc
When buying a road bike you also want to think about the extra little bits that you need when on a road ride. This can include a pump, spare inner tube, tyre levers, water bottle cage and perhaps even a small saddle bag for your spare bits if you ever get a puncture!
It’s really important you get the right frame size for you, this will not only affect how comfortable you are on your bike but also your performance on the bike too! Most road bikes come in up to 6 different frame sizes, with women's specific frames often offered as well. It is important to get the right frame size for your body geometry.
If you are unsure about what size frame you should buy, pop into one of our stores and we can help fit the right bike for you, or just give us a call and we can offer you some advice.