101 Guide to Selecting Your New Road Bike

Road biking is a great way to get fit and see the world in a whole new way. But before you can enjoy those long days exploring endless roads, you will need the right bike for you. This road bike buying guide will try to walk us through the process.

How to choose a road bike
In general, a road bike is built of lightweight material. They have thinner, smoother tires than other kinds of bikes. Tires can be as thin as 23cm, but most are 25cm. These bikes have no suspension.

Handlebars are often curled or twisted, allowing you to move your hands and upper body around as you ride. An experienced road cyclist can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles an hour and travel over a hundred miles in a day.


It's All About the Frame Material

The frame of your road bike is the most important part of the bike. It will probably be the single most expensive part of your purchase. Many people will buy a frame that they like and then upgrade other components of the bike as their needs change.

Road bikes are made of many things. The most commonly used materials today are steel, aluminum, carbon fiber composite and titanium. Some frames use several materials in the same frame. Most just use one or two materials.

Road Bike Frame Material

You will also discover that bikes made of the same material can handle and ride differently. This is due to how each type of bike is constructed. How the bike is welded, the shape of the tubes and the geometry are also important when it comes to how the bike rides.

Steel – This is the traditional material for road bikes. While it has fallen out of favor for racing bikes, it is still the material of choice for many enthusiasts. Steel has many good points. It provides a cushy, smooth ride, the material is responsive without being stiff.

Steel frames can be made in many shapes. They are easily repaired after a crash. Newer steels are nearly rust-free. Mid-level and high-end frames use butted tubes, lugged construction and beautifully balanced geometry to provide you with a bike that will outlive you.

Steel is often used as fork material for aluminum frame bikes. They can be shaped into nearly any shape needed. It helps to create a smoother ride than other materials.

Aluminum – This is a great choice for modern road bikes. It is lighter than steel and doesn’t rust. Many aluminum bikes use large diameter tubing. Modern shaping methods have helped to expand the geometry and stylistic shaping for this material.

Aluminum is known for having more ‘road buzz’ than other frame materials. This simply means that the bike will not absorb all of the bumps of the road. It is very stiff, unlike steel. Newer frames aren’t as rough riding as older frames.

Frame Material Of Road Bike

Carbon FiberThis is the current choice for high-end racing bikes. It is basically thread or fabric that is impregnated with a plastic resin.First the fabric or fibers are arranged to give the right properties. The craftsmen now goop up the fabric. Next the gooey fabric is molded into the right shape. Finally it is cured with intense heat and pressure.

The end result is very light, very stiff and pretty durable.

Good carbon fiber frames are somewhat expensive. They are hard to make and the materials are in high demand. These fiber frames are ripe for customization. Many think they are good-looking. They are very light. Carbon fiber is often used as fork material on other kinds of bikes.

TitaniumThis is probably the best material currently used for frames. It has all of the comfort of steel, the responsive nature of aluminum and the light weight of carbon fiber.

It is also extremely expensive. It’s hard to work, requires skilled craftsmen and special tools. Most titanium frames are special order. Forks for these bikes are generally carbon fiber or steel.

You will also notice some differences as the price range increases. More expensive bikes will often have nicer finishes, lugged construction or niceties. That doesn’t mean that a less expensive bike can’t provide a great ride.


All About Geometry

Geometry Of Road Bike

Road bikes are known for their curly handlebars and tucked in riding posture. But they are not all created the same! There are a few different types of geometries on the market today. Performance geometry, sport geometry and touring styles are just a few of them.

  • Performance Geometry – This is a bike for the serious racer. You will need to stretch out flat while riding this kind of bike! They are made like this to improve aerodynamics. They have high-end components, light-weight construction and a stiffer frame.
    They are also the most expensive and the least comfortable.
  • Sport Geometry – These are the bikes most of us ride. They have much of the same geometry of a performance bike, but they are set up to let you sit somewhat more upright as you ride. This makes them much more comfortable. The steering is also slightly relaxed, making them feel somewhat safer.
    If you are just starting out, you will most likely want sport geometry for your bike.
  • Touring – Just a quick word about these road bikes. They have relaxed angles and are designed to be able to handle heavy loads over very long distances. They have connections for racks, panniers and have wider tires. While they are great bikes, they are generally heavier than other kinds of road bikes.
  • Flat Bar – These are road bikes that are designed to be ridden with a straight mountain style handlebar. These bikes are sold to those of us who often ride in town and need to remain more upright to watch traffic. They generally have sport or relaxed geometry.

A Few Words on Components

Each bike is sold with a group of components. These include the shifters, brakes, and the drive train. Cyclists refer to these as the bike’s grupo. Companies make different grupos for different kinds of riders.

Components Of Road Bike

For example, Shimano makes six levels of components. The entry level grupo is known as Sora. Enthusiasts can choose between Tiagra and slightly better 105. New racers might go with Ultegra while pros will be riding with Dura-Ace or Dura-Ace Di2.

Most of the price differences between the sets have to do with weight. The less expensive stuff is heavier. There are also differences in bearing quality and shifting speed. Most of the time these things won’t be too noticeable to a novice. Get what you can afford now, upgrade later if you feel like it.


Gearing and Cogs, What are They all About?

The gearing of a bike refers to how easy or difficult it is to actually pedal the bike. Those of us who have a lower level of fitness and those who live around lots of hills will prefer to ride a bike with wider gearing. People who live in flat areas and more conditioned riders will get more use out of close gearing.

A bike cog is the toothy thing on the rear wheel that the chain grips to turn the wheel. A bike can have one to eleven cogs on the rear wheel. The chain ring is just another cog, but it’s at the front, with the pedals.

Each cog will have a number of teeth. We identify them by that number. Just remember that a larger number for a chain ring means that it is harder to pedal. A rear cog is the opposite. Larger rear cogs are easier to pedal.

Gearing and Cogs Of Road Bike

Most bikes with closer gearing have a rear cassette with five to eleven cogs. They will have a double chain ring on the front. Wider gearing will have the same five to eleven rear cogs on the back. The numbers of teeth on each cog will be different.

The front will have either a compact chain ring or a triple chain ring. A compact chain ring is as simple to use as a regular chain ring but offers lower gears. A triple crank has three chain rings. The smallest one is a ‘granny gear’ for climbing hills.


Wheels, Tires and Your First Upgrade

The gearing of a bike refers to how easy or difficult it is to actually pedal the bike. Those of us who have a lower level of fitness and those who live around lots of hills will prefer to ride a bike with wider gearing. People who live in flat areas and more conditioned riders will get more use out of close gearing.

A bike cog is the toothy thing on the rear wheel that the chain grips to turn the wheel. A bike can have one to eleven cogs on the rear wheel. The chain ring is just another cog, but it’s at the front, with the pedals.

Each cog will have a number of teeth. We identify them by that number. Just remember that a larger number for a chain ring means that it is harder to pedal. A rear cog is the opposite. Larger rear cogs are easier to pedal.

Gearing and Cogs Of Road Bike

Most bikes with closer gearing have a rear cassette with five to eleven cogs. They will have a double chain ring on the front. Wider gearing will have the same five to eleven rear cogs on the back. The numbers of teeth on each cog will be different.

The front will have either a compact chain ring or a triple chain ring. A compact chain ring is as simple to use as a regular chain ring but offers lower gears. A triple crank has three chain rings. The smallest one is a ‘granny gear’ for climbing hills.


What Size Road Bike do I Need?

Knowing a little about your options is only part of knowing how to choose a road bike. The other part is knowing how to get one that fits your body correctly and comfortably. Mid-level and high-level frames are generally available in six sizes. Entry-level frames are usually just sold in small, medium or large.

Women’s frames and men’s frames are different. While the bike may be the same size, the bikes will be different! Women’s frames will have a shorter top tube. If you are unsure which will fit you best, try both men’s and women’s frames. Get the one that fits!


Tips To Get the Best Bike Fit

If you know how to choose a road bike, you will find visiting a shop less stressful. You will need to know your inseam length and your height. Most manufacturers provide fit charts on their websites. All you need to do is select the frame that best fits your body.

Tips To Get the Best Bike Fit

You will want a frame that has enough room for your body to become comfortable without being cramped or stressed.

  • The riding position is the most important thing.
  • You might not be able to stand comfortably over your frame.
  • Having to slightly tilt the bike to mount or dismount is fine.

At this point it is a very good idea to try and test drive any bike that interests you. If you prefer to buy online you might need to do a little more measuring instead of test driving.

You’ll need to find out just how long of a frame you will need. This is the top tube measurement.

Head to a big box store, try a few bikes out for yourself. If you can’t do this, ask to ride a friend’s bike around the block. Measure the ones you like to get an idea of what you need to order.

Finally, be ready to get a professional fitting. Take your new bike to a bike shop that provides this service. Those professionals will help you adjust your seat, stem, handlebars and much more.

You will end up with a bike that fits your body comfortably, like a glove. Your pedaling will be much more efficient, letting you go further and faster. You will also be much less likely to experience pain or injury.

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    Johnny

    Johnny Anderson is the Founder of Cyclistblog.net, where you can find all the articles about cycling.

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