Up until a few years ago, picking the road bike that suits you the best wasn’t such a difficult task. You just looked at the frame size, went for regular or compact drive, or even leaped into the versatile world of cyclocross. However, evolution marches on and the wide array of options makes guidance necessary in this matter.
The present guide does not deal with frame sizes, frame materials or other technical details. It simply makes a recap of the main types of road bikes that you can find in shops currently.
Classical road bike
Scoring the longest presence in bicycle manufacturers’ catalogues among the current existing types of bikes, more than 100 years of evolution and knowledge gently carved the shape and function of this bike. Its purpose? Maximum efficiency, so as not to lose even a single drop of energy.
Usually, the classical road bike is built around a carbon frame, but you might come upon an aluminum bike every now and then, and seldomly, a steel-framed one. Speeding up this machinery is nothing too hard, but it comes at the price of sacrifing comfort. Sure, for pros that spend hours on a daily basis riding them, it may not be a concern. However, weekend warriors and enthusiat riders willl surely discover that the lack of often training may lead to a sore back.
The drivetrain usually features gear ratios that are compliant with speedy situations, and a sprocket exceeding 28 teeth in size will be a rare sight. This means that you will have to focus more on training in order to get used to the ratios.
As for tires, 25mm and 23mm clinchers are the two mai choices, providing simoultanesly comfort and low rolling resistance, but tubular tires are also a wide-spread option.
Winning those group ride bunch sprints or blowing up the current KOMs implies riding such a bike, so for purposes less than these, anything else will do.
Aero road bike
So, engineers took a classical road bike and iterated it in a version that reduces drag. Clocking in a few extra grams, the weight was not a main concern of the designers. Impact of weight is minor in the regard of its purpose, and the extra layers of material help stiffen up the build-up. Gear ratios resemble the earlier-mentioned ones, so do tire sizes, and comfort doesn’t improve, at least not too much. Not for weight weenies. It doesn’t get any easier, you just go faster, as one great rider once said.
Track, time trial and triathlon bikes
The reason that puts all these bikes together in one category, at least for us, is their purpose. Designed only for flat surfaces, they help you slice air resistance as much as possible. The triatlhon road bikes gets even a sci-fi look, as it does not to comply with UCI regulations. Track bikes are particular in the sense they have a fixed gear and no hand brakes. None of these bikes mixes well with climbing.
Endurance road bikes
Decent performance and optimal comfort is provided by the endurance road bike category. Making their way through a few years ago, they started catching the eye of enthusiast riders after the disc brake option became available.
They feature carbon, aluminum or steel frames, which all have shock-absorbing properties and ensure superior vertical compliance. One will discover a higher head-tube and a larger wheelbase, both serving comfort. The smallest standard tire size reaches 25mm, while the usual one is of 28mm. Compact drivetrains fall into place perfectly with the audience of these bikes and further iterations dared fit the models with 36/48, 34/46 or 32/44 cranksets. As expected, sprocket sizes got bigger, 32-tooth ones often being present.
Endurance road bikes are great for leisure rides done by enthusiast riders that are really into this hobby, and a superior model makes a great choice for bunch training. Also keep in mind that roads in poor condition become bearable with this type of bikes.
Derived from the classical road bike, the cyclocross bike was for many years the only choice for persons wanting to ride off-road in better conditions. Time passed and the cyclocross bike evolved, turning into a specialized model for harsh weather conditions and light off-roads, such as meadows, dirt roads or beaches. Maybe surprising, but the geometry doesn’t follow the comfort of the rider, but it’s rather orientated to responsiveness. Old cantilever brakes are now gone, making way for the disc brake option, gear ratios are compatible with road riding, while the studded tyres rarely pass 35mm in width. Both wheels feature a hefty clearance in order to get out of muddy situations easy.
While it’s not the right bike for long rides, if you prefer a dash in the woods, fields or dirt roads around you, you should take a closer consideration at the cyclocross bike.
The last member that joined the road bike family is the gravel bike, an interesting mix between cyclocross and endurance road bikes. Combining the off-road capabilities of the first and the comfort features of the second, this rig cand be a very fun adventure machinery.
Having the widest tires so far, 50mm, some gravel bikes can even tackle light mountain bike trails, while different models feature 27.5 inch wheels., fitted with 2.0 mountain bike tires. One or two chainrings are more than enough, disck brakes are a must, and you can even take some minor luggage with you, thanks to the rack mounting options.