My first road bike: advice, recommandations and myths

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With the warm season approaching, we’ve got only a few more days to ponder about what we’re going to do with our bikes this season. Of course plans can change, but having clear intentions does help. Some of you may have thought of trying road cycling but for one reason or another, the pieces didn’t fall in place, so that discovery was left for another time. However, we decided to shed some light in the direction of road bikes in order to help those of you who still feel reluctant to ride them or to give those of you the needed push in this way. Also, you can find some recommandations for picking the right tarmac machinery for you.

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Busting myths

Urban legend fans worldwide, we have news for you! Maybe a separate article for rounding-up road bike myths would have been more entertaining, but for now we’ll have to make do with just the few non-truths we selected, that intimidate and prevent people from hoping on a road bike.

  • The narrow wheels make keeping your balance difficult. Completely true, but only if you live on a planet where the force named „inertia” doesn’t exist. Just keep moving and everything will be allright (advice suited for any type of bike, by the way)
  • The geometry of a road bike makes you lean forward too much causing back pain. Your back muscles will be stressed whatever bicycle you ride, especially if you practice a sport with it or go on long rides. The specific position on a bike will require some time to getting used to it, but you can shorten this period by exercising your core muscles.
  • Road bike are made for speed. Some think that the only way to use road bikes is riding fast. Of course, those are the guys that never enjoyed a touring ride, but if they become too annoying, tell them to train with a pro cyclist and find out what „fast” and „hard” really mean.
  • Too high gears. This concern is somewhat more rooted in reality, but with current, modern-day 11-speed drivetrains and triple or compact cranksets, you shouldn’t worry about that.
  • Easy to damage wheels. Obviously, road wheelsets are not designed to crush rocks or hit an impressive amount of potholes, but they aren’t flimsy either, as long as you use them decently.

Recommandations for your first road bike

The fact that we currently have at our disposal such a wide range of options, combined with finding yourself in front of a new choice, may make the process of deciding what to buy difficult. Therefore, we drew a few guidelines you should keep in mind when you’ll pick your first road bike:

  • What frame should I choose?

Mainly, this answer is correlated to your budget. An alloy frame will cost less than a carbon one, but you can find some carbon frames priced similarly to high-end alloy ones. However, those carbon frames don’t use materials of high quality so, yes, you’ll have a carbon frame, but no, it won’t feature the characteristics that made this material famous. On short, alloy frames are stiffer and less comfortable, but you can balance this by using an elastomer seat post, wider tires and cork bar tape that absorbs shocks. On the other hand, carbon can be processed to be stiff in critical areas, and compliant in zones relevant to comfort, but this implies using a high-modulus fiber that costs more.

In the same time, frame geometry follows different approaches to cycling: it can be aggressive, suited for riders that seek performance, it can have an emphasis on aerodynamic, at the expense of comfort, or it can be relaxed, ensuring a position on the bike that favours long rides. Just as well, women road bikes are more spread as neverbefore, with specific angles to better suit their anatomy. Options are countless, so you can go for something that you really need. As for our take, a combination between a high-end alloy frame and a carbon fork will ensure a level of quality sufficient to get a clear view of what cycling is about.

  • Gearing options

As stated before, we now have the luxury of 11-speed cassettes, but, to be honest, even a 9-speed group will suffice. In jonction with a double crankset, maybe a compact size one if you’re not confident enough in your strength, you have 18 gears to action that can cover a wide array of needs. There is also the triple crankset option, but the lowest chainring will probably be used only if you want to pedal alongside someone who’s walking. Also, for your first road bike, a 9-speed drivetrain is more suited because it wears off harder, and the costs of replacing the worn components is significantly lower.

  • Groupset

Yet again, budget plays a key role in this equation and it all comes down to your intentions. If you’re just looking around, it wouldn’t make too much sense to go for a bike with specifications that blow up your budget. But, of you want something for a good start of a thing you know you’ll stick to, that offers you decent functionality, and can be used for a longer period, you should turn your attention to medium echelons of products. For instance, from Shimano a mix of Tiagra/105 components ensures a fine level of functionality as far as beginners are concerned, as well as durability. SRAM has prepared Rival for this segment, while Campagnolo, exclusively focused on road, presents Veloce as a great alternative for new-comers.

What’s found below the above mentioned groupsets usually has lacks in functionality, and doesn’t act very well in time. Also, it tends to malfunction and doesn’t offer the quality level that allows you to create a proper image about cycling. It’s hard to enjoy riding when your bike doesn’t work properly or when it breaks down.

  • Wheelset

A wheelset having a high profile rim is probably the best choice for someone new to this occupation, since it’s stronger and can take much better any encounter with bumps. Alloy will most likely be the material of choice since it combines great qualities with decent prices, even though weight will not be too low, and you should look for sealed bearings, since they ensure more protection for the inner mechanism, thus reducing servicing needs.

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