Road bike

 

What is a road bike?

The road bike is designed for speed and efficiency, using lightweight materials and components. It has slim tyres to reduce road resistance and a short wheelbase to making climbing more efficient, though this means it not suitable for carrying cycle luggage. Road bikes are supplied with drop handlebars, which offer a variety of hand holds and riding postures, and road bike geometry requires a stretched out riding posture as this is more aerodynamic. The modern road bike has very limited clearance for mudguards, as it designed to be ridden without them. As the market for road bikes has driven by sporting performance, rather than practicality, many road bike parts are type-specific (and sometimes brand specific) and expensive to replace. This is especially true of drive train components and headsets. In summary, the road bike is light, fast, efficient and minimal but it is of limited practicality for utility cycling.

Other names for road bikes

The road bike is commonly known as a ‘racer’.

Different types of road bike

Road bike technology has gone through extensive development, so modern frames and components are different from those from the 1990s and earlier. As a result, components on modern road bikes work more reliably than those on older machines. Modern gears and brakes are much better than old ones. However, the same is not true of entry level road bike frames; rather the opposite is the case: modern frames have shorter wheelbases, give a harsher ride and have less clearance for mudguards and rack than pre-1990s models. So, while an entry level modern road bike may not make a good do-it-all bike, an old road bike renovated using newer components could be a better solution.

The traditional frame material for the road bike frame is steel; at one time, all road bikes were made from it. Nowadays, it’s more common to see new road bike frames made from aluminium. Carbon composite (aka carbon fibre) is increasingly common in road bike forks and is the standard for high end frames. The merits of these various materials are discussed on the frame material page.

The industry differentiates between ‘performance’ and ‘endurance’ road bikes. Endurance road bikes have a longer head tube, giving a slightly more upright riding posture.

What kind of journey is a road bike suited to?

The road bike is suitable for journeys where the rider does not need to carry much with him/her, in reasonably good weather. Road bikes are designed only for road surfaces, not off-road trails.

Typical components

Frame: aluminium or carbon composite, short wheelbase Read about wheelbase
Wheels: 700c, aluminium rims Read about wheel size
Tyres: narrow
Handlebar: drop Read about riser handlebars
Brakes: dual pivot caliper Read about dual pivot caliper brakes
Gears: derailleur Read about derailleur gears
Mudguards: may not be compatible Read about mudguards
Chainguard: not included Read about chainguards
Lights: not included
Rack: not included Read about racks
Lock: not included

 

Advantages

  • Efficient, allowing the rider to conserve some energy
  • Good for climbing hills
  • Good acceleration
  • Easy to lift and carry

Disadvantages

  • Can be difficult to fit mudguards
  • Usually unsuitable for full-size panniers
  • Restricted to road surfaces due to slim tyres
  • Parts for modern road bikes can be expensive

Examples

Here are some recent road bikes from major manufacturers. These models are at entry level or mid level of the their manufacturer’s road bike range.

  • Specialized Allez
  • Bianchi Impulso
  • Cannondale CAAD8
  • The Trek Domane is an example of an endurance road bike

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Other types of bike