Most cyclists wish to taste the sensations a road bike has to offer, but often their enthusiasm is cut short by various inconveniences, more or less… real. Some persons are discouraged by the sporty position, having effects on their backs, or by the gear ratios which aren’t quite made for a walk in the park. For these reasons, road bikes manufacturers have decided to create a new type of bicycle, ready to cancel the aforementioned troubles: endurance road bikes.
Before describing what’s really different to these bicycles, we should first have a look at their background. In the world of professional road racing, bike weight does not stand for everything. In fact, there have been made a lot of concessions in its favor, sacrificing rigidity and strength. And the result was quite unfortunate as in order to win a race, an athlete needs a bike which will hold at least untill he reaches the finish line. This gets even more obvious in the classic spring race such as Paris-Roubaix, where most abandons were caused by mere breakdowns of the racers “machines”. In a race like this, rider’s comfort also plays a good deal, as it directly affects his physical performance. Finally, rigidity plays a key role in the winning equation, as it is very clear that for maximum efficiency, the power coming from the rider’s feet onto the pedals has to be transmitted without losses, to crankset, then to the chain and wheels, and finally to propel the bike.
Therefore, engineers have designed some new bicycles which are not quite top of the game in terms of weight, but they excel by comfort and stiffness: endurance road bikes. Another piece of good news is that we have endurance road bikes created for the pros, but also for recreational and hobby use.
Regarding endurance road bike created for professionals, their weight is no less than 7.2 – 7.4 kilograms, so the difference is small, as compared to a conventional road race bike. The mastery in building such bikes comes from the fact that they have to be comfortable, a characteristic which involves flexibility. However, such bikes must also be rigid, meaning total absence of flexibility. So, how do they do it? Well, mostly thanks to carbon fiber, as this material has the propriety of being rigid in crucial areas such as the bottom bracket or the head tube, but also flexible in others, such as the joint in the seat clamp area. Comfort and stiffness are also generated by frame tubes design or even new production elements. In the first picture the ISO Speed is shown, belonging to Trek Domane 6-series.
Another example are the Zertz insertions, which can be found on the Specialized Roubaix.
Moving on to endurance road cycles designed for recreational purposes, emphasis is even more on comfort factor and accessible gearing. Frame geometry is more relaxed, handlebars especially being located only slightly lower than the saddle, in order to eliminate potential back pains. Rigidity has to suffer in favor of comfort and as we are talking about models which are not expensive. This means that the manufacturer did not focus on stiffening the essential bike parts by using high quality carbon, as in the previous case, but rather gave them a higher degree of flexibility. In general, these differences in stiffness are hardly noticeable unless you’re a professional cyclist like Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara. As for the drivetrain, it consists of a compact (50 × 34) crank and a cassette with generously sized sprockets, the highest ratio reaching even 28 teeth which allows conquering any hill or mountain top, even if not in the fastest time.