How to choose a road bike: Buying Guide

What is a road bike?

A road bike is a bike with drop handlebars and 700c wheels. It is what many refer to as race bike because it is focused on efficiency and performance. But these days, it has become much more than that. The road bike category is now a very segmented family in which you’ll find bikes designed for casual riders as much as road racers, and everybody in between.

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The very aero Trek Madone 9 is designed for speed

Why choose a road bike?

In short, the reason you would choose a road bike is for the increased efficiency it offers. The combination of a better fit, lighter weight and better components contributes to optimize the cyclist’s performance.

If you wish to imorove your performance, the time you spend on the bike or the intensity of your rides, the road bike is the better choice. Its sportier fit is more comfortable when you’re riding hard and when the kilometers start to add up.

Also, a road bike is substantially lighter than a hybrid or mountain bike, which makes for serious performance gains when climbing or accelerating. Basically, you’re saving energy.

Since road bikes are usually more expensive, their parts and components are also better quality. This means you get increased durability and shifting performance. Their gearing is also better suited for the faster speeds you reach on the road.

Road bike categories

Endurance

The endurance bike offers a more relaxed fit, a comfortable frame and increased stability. The higher headtube means you can sit in a more upright position and the stable geometry inspires confidence. It’s the perfect option for the recreational rider.

Choose if: Comfort is important for you. You’re not looking for pure performance, but enjoy longer rides and prefer your bike to be confidence inspiring.

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Performance

Performance road bikes feature an aggressive geometry and a stiff frame. The shorter headtube puts the rider in a lower riding position for increased performance and aerodynamics. These bikes are often referred to as climber’s bikes because of their light weight and optimal efficiency, but they are also amazing all-rounders.

Choose if: You like performance and want a light and lively bike.

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Aero

This is a pure race bike designed to optimize aero performance. On an aero bike, components like brakes and cables are usually integrated in an effort to provide maximum aero gains, while the aggressive geometry puts the rider in a very performance oriented position. This bike is at home on flat roads where speed is crucial and where you want to outsprint your buddies. 

Choose if: Speed is all you’re looking for and you want to push yourself to the limit. 

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The Trek Madone 9 is a thoroughbred racing bike

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Gravel bike

Very versatile, the gravel bike is a basically a road bike with bigger tires, disc brakes and a longer wheelbase to allow you to wander off the beaten track. Coupled with an endurance geometry, the gravel bike is perfect for long days in the saddle. It offers great comfort on paved and unpaved roads. The gravel bike is also a great alternative to the endurance bike.

Choose if: You seek a worthy commuter, you often ride on unpaved roads and want ultimate versatility.

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Triathlon

A triathlon bike is designed specifically and exclusively for triathlon or time-trialing. Thanks to its aero bars and specific geometry, it puts the rider in a radical position in order to maximise aerodynamics and performance.

Choose if: You’re a triathlete or a racer who needs a time-trial bike.

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Cyclo-cross

Often mistaken for a gravel bike, the cyclo-cross is in fact a true race bike intended for cyclo-cross racing. It has a race geometry, specific racing ratios and knobby tires to deal the muddy conditions of cyclo-cross. Its longer wheelbase improves stability.

Choose if: You’re a cyclo-cross racer or a rider in need of a sturdier road bike.

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Touring

touring bike is designed specifically for traveling and carrying your stuff around. The long wheelbase allows you to carry quite a lot of weight with stability, while the wide gear ratios let you climb those hills with ease even when the bike is loaded. Steel frames are still very popular in this segment because of their high durability.

Choose if: You need a sturdy bike to travel and carry your stuff around.

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Kids’ road bikes

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Just like a regular road bike, but in a reduced size for younger riders. 

Choose if: For a youngster who wants to try bike racing or just wants to follow you on your road bike.

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The various frame materials

Steel: Rarely used on new bikes these days, steel once was the material of choice for road bikes. While it offers great comfort and sturdiness, its heavier weight and tendency to rust made the industry choose aluminum.

Aluminum: Light, stiff and affordable, aluminium is found on most mid-range road bikes. Its stiffness is great for optimal power transfer, but it transmits more road vibrations than carbon.    

Carbon: This is the most common choice for high-end road bikes, because manufacturers can produce very lightweight frames that offer excellent rigidity and great comfort. Carbon is more expensive though and it’s more fragile than steel and aluminum.

Titanium: Titanium frames share the same aesthetics as steel, which explains why some purists choose it over carbon. While its riding characteristics resemble those of steel, its weight is more comparable to aluminum. The very high production costs explain why there aren’t that many titanium frames on the roads.

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    2 Responses

    1. It sure was nice to know that although carbon is one of the most expensive types of bicycle frames, it is a good thing to consider because it is rigid and offers optimal support. I am planning to buy myself a new bike soon, and I am considering the type that I will get. Since support is important to me because of my body, I might check this one out. Thank you!

    2. When it comes to speed, style, and efficiency, a road bike is hard to beat the road bike buying guide will explore the many options and types of road bike you wanter. Thanks for this!

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