A beginner’s guide to choosing a road bike

Looking to get your first 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, narrow 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 promote the common questions a good motorcycle browse work may ask if you walked in and said: “I want to buy a superhighway bike”.

We’ve broken this guide into three paces( 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 artery motorcycle- and it’s important to be honest with yourself. Is it for competitive scooting and fast bunch ride, or for more gentle recreational razz to get the heart rate up? Are you would be interested to commute to work, or purely go out on weekends when the climate is nice? Or maybe you’re intrigued by longer goes and gravel roads, in which case, perhaps something like a gravel bike may be a better hand-picked?

Road cycling can necessitate different things to many beings. There’s also a great deal of difference in what your neighbourhood streets 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 gratifies to almost all, but that doesn’t mean that every bike is right for you.

Differing roads, razzing wordings, and organization natures have all led to a great deal of diversification in the modern road bike. In the simplest sense most labels have their street bike scopes divided among three key categories:

All-around race

A modern all-around race motorcycle 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 grouping bikes. It’s a motorcycle that aims to balance lightweight, stiffness, convenience( sometimes ), and often aerodynamics- all in the name of covering diverse 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-spirited heavines and high stiffness as its priorities, but then melts in some razz comfort and aerodynamic layout, extremely.

These bike types often feature fast handling and vigorous 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 street bikes 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 street hasten

Sharing same hold and fit with the all-round racer, the aero artery bike often transactions in absolute low-pitched load for aerodynamic increase. These motorcycles are often the most efficient choice on flat or rolling terrain, and often a good alternative for most powerful equestrians. As most all-around race bikes have become increasingly more aero, the dedicated aero scoot bike has lost some appeal.

Cervelo’s S5 is a machine purpose built for moving fast. Aerodynamics come at the expense of increase load, abbreviated travel 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 mode of bike is also often considered a premium product and so won’t be suitable for more meagre plans.

Endurance road

The modern tenacity road bike aims to take the sporty quality of the All-round racer and make it more accessible, pleasant and versatile. The fit is more loosened, the travel is often more compliant, the gearing is lower( for easier climbing ), and the steer characteristics are often less anxious, extremely. These are road bicycles for the masses.

It’s worth noting that not all endurance road bikes are the same( likewise for street scoot bikes ). Some are more tightened and recreational in scheme, while others trend closer to race bikes.

Endurance road bikes exist at all price phases, nonetheless, you’ll find that most entry-level road motorcycle alternatives frequently veer toward being a bike of this variant. 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 an example of how endurance-style road bikes are changing. The Domane is ready for mingled skin-deep riding.

Recent years have pictured gravel motorcycles boom and artery sales flattened. As a decision, many of the latest endurance road bikes are attempting to tread the punishment indication between a artery bicycle and a gravel motorcycle. Sadly the “endurance” category has lost some of its light with customers, and so in some cases( not all ), the all-road branding is the bike industry’s way of supplementing back a little sparkle.

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

While most road motorcycles are appropriate to one of the three categories above, there’s certainly some clear convergence happening. Numerous hasten bikes now give charitable tyre clearance, wider gearing collections and even some decent ride comfort to be more appealing to a larger market. A number of labels have built their all-around race bikes more like their aero racers, and even relaxed the fit and handling of these bikes, very. And as just enveloped, some have propagandized their fortitude road bikes toward gravel region.

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

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

Maximum accepted tyre permission and inventory diameter can be quite telling for the bike’s intended purpose very. Most modern race bikes will be furnished with 25 or 28 mm tyres, while strength and all-road-style bikes will typically be fitted with 30 -3 2 mm. Fender compatibility will also assist in whether the bike is spawned for racing or recreation. And the same travels for whether the bike has an easy-spinning sub-compact or pact crank( 48/32 or 50/34 respectively ), or more race-like gearing( 52 or 53 T big sound ).

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

The ability to run full-length fenders is often a must-have for those that live in wet climates. Most fortitude street bikes are designed to work with full-length fenders, while such specific features is rare on dedicated scoot bicycles.

Step 2: What’s your budget?

This second gradation will most probably has become a key deciding taken into account in the bike you end up with. So how much are you willing( or capable) to waste?

In the simplest sense expend more will get you a higher-performing bike that is lighter, likely more aerodynamic, more durable, and perhaps even more comfortable. However, there are obvious exclusions 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 depression of research.

Frame material

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

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

Carbon fibre offers some superb engineering potential. Most clearly it can be formed into molds that would be extremely difficult with metal, while the directional nature of the material can be used for tailoring stiffness and solace. Still, exactly because a make features carbon fiber doesn’t mean it’s better.

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

Brake type

The question of rim brake versus disc restraint is one of the most fiercely struggled debates in modern road bicycles. In a nutshell, the biggest symbols in the motorcycle manufacture have seen rim dampers as old-time technology and almost all investment in product development is being put into progressing disc brakes.

Rim brakes remain the lighter option and will provide you with a lighter motorcycle for the same money. Meanwhile, disc restraint aim to offer increased stopping self-restraint( especially in wet problems ), open up clearance for wider tyres, and are fast becoming the only option on a number of favourite bikes from large-scale labels.

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

Motors question

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

Wheelset weight can also be a factor in how lively the motorcycle feels. Approximately speaking, road wheel designates over 1,600 g are considered on the heavy 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 expend the more gears the bicycle will have and the smoother they will function. And as with the majority things in cycling, there’s an inverse relationship between component value and toll.

The vast majority of superhighway bikes on the market today feature Shimano factors, with adversaries SRAM and Campagnolo appearing on higher-end bikes. Shimano’s component hierarchy, from cheapest to most expensive departs 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 bicycles ).

Shimano Tiagra is a moderately entry-level groupset, but its shifting function is impressively good. The most obvious disadvantage is investigated 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 chassis and rotates will play a greater role in how much you enjoy the bicycle versus what factors are bolted to it. If given the choice, invest in a better frame and wheels before going with better derailleurs and shifters.

Place of acquisition

The internet age has led to a relatively new decision for bike customers: buy from a local bike store or do it yourself online? The former offers you hands-on service and perhaps access to a neighbourhood ride society, while the latter more than likely has a price advantage.

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

Personally I believe that to purchase a bike online is best left to those who know exactly how they like their bicycles to fit and may potentially do basic upkeep themselves. For everyone else the hands-on experience and service a good local motorcycle shop can provide has the potential to make a substantial difference to your recreation in cycling.

New or squandered

Closely following the last point is a decision over brand-new and used. No skepticism your money can go further with a use bicycle, but there are always risks associated with this. Much like the final point, I’d suggest that buying exercised was just a good sentiment if you’re confident in your bike fit and understand basic upkeep in order to gauge what health the bicycle is in.

Budget for extras

If you’re new to cycling then be sure to budget for all the additionals that are required to get pedalling. Almost all brand-new bicycles don’t include pedals, and you’ll likely also want some shoes to go with them.

Then expense of all the other must-have items will soon creep up too: a helmet, cycling suddenlies/ bibs, bottle enclosures, spares to fix a flat tyre, a gush- the directory goes on.

Step 3: Fit is critical

Road cycling can be quite a fixed-position athletic and you’ll tend to ride with a specify posture for long periods. Gone are the days of a street bike being an ache to go – you should be able to pedal without any pain. Get the wrong size or wrong setup though and you won’t merely be disagreeable, you may be putting yourself at risk of injury. Because of this it’s critical to ensure the bike fits you correctly.

Here it’s important to be realistic about your flexibility and athletic ability, and pick the suitable motorcycle. If you can’t remember the last time you touched your own toes then an aggressive scoot bike is likely not standard. Endurance-style bikes are designed for the masses and most equestrians are likely to be most comfortable on this mode of motorcycle which offers a more loosened riding predicament.

Racing bikes are intended to keep you in an aggressive drive point with a reduction in frontal profile to the wind. By contrast, endurance-style bikes are more upright and with less of a unfold to the bars.

If you’re unsure of where to start then I’d strongly recommend procuring yourself a good neighbourhood bicycle shop. Experienced bike shop staff will be able to advise you on the correct width bike and vogue for your needs.

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

Thankfully there is a pretty good guide for how a motorcycle will fit and are comparable to other bikes: load and reach representations. These two fleshes remain the most robust way of equating the actual sizing between many bikes. We have a dedicated commodity about the importance of stack and contact in bicycle sizing.

Geometry maps offer insight on the sizing and handled with a bike. Some important elements are the stack, reach and trail anatomies.

Step 4: Research go if you can

This final step is something I would have strongly suggested in the past, but current pandemic times have all but made this impossible.

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

Case Studies

Below are some imaginary specimen based on non-fictional occasions.

The first time beginner: Paul

Paul recently dusted off his old department store mountain bike after perpetually examining from his act peers about how enormous cycling is. Paul did two rides and then joined his effort collaborators on a road move, he got depleted, then came declined, and then professed his motorcycle had undermined so the anguish would objective. Paul is now preoccupied with cycling and wants a more appropriate bike for street assortment journeying. He’s not interested in commuting and won’t be ride 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 somewhat slower but they’ll offer more limit and consolation. As Paul is a fair-weather rider and on a close-fisted budget, then rim dampers are likely to be a fine starting point. Bikes like the Specialized Allez, Giant Contend SL, Scott Speedster and same should be on Paul’s radar.

Rediscovering road cycling: Sandra

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

Sandra is likely the title candidate for a lightweight all-rounder race bike. These new bicycles may not be lighter than her aged one, but they’ll surely has become still more comfortable, more self-confident, and really easier to ride. Bike like those covered in our recent all-rounder race bike Field Test are well merit a seek.

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 local gravel loops and is open to the idea of overnight undertakings. However, Leo too wants to join his friends who ride road bikes in a group. Budget isn’t such an issue, but Leo craves one bike 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 street journeying conveys he’ll be best served by a motorcycle that’s still jaunty and effective to pedal. There are currently two roads here.

One option would be to get a modern endurance road bike that offers magnanimous tyre clearance for the periodic gravel escapade. Many of these motorcycles can now fit 32 -3 5 mm tyres without problem, and that’s enough for most publicly accessible dirt arteries. Bikes like the Trek Domane, Specialized Roubaix, or Cervelo Caledonia are well worth consideration here.

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

If the versatility of a gravel bicycle requests to you then be sure to check out our leader to choosing a gravel bicycle.


Hopefully this article has prepared you on a track to know the right road bike. To recap, find a motorcycle that’s suitable for how you just wanted to ride and make sure it fits you correctly. If you’ve got further issue, be sure to visit your local bicycle store, chat to a cyclist you trust, or expect us in the comments section below. Good luck and fortunate razz!

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