Get the Right Bike – Road Bikes, Pt. 1

It wasn’t so long ago that riders had a simple choice to make. Do I want a mountain bike, road bike, or hybrid bike? Bicycling in general has seen great strides in technology development, and riders’ desires and creativity have pushed this further every season. Even in road biking, this has led to a variety of available choices.
Endurance, race, touring, cyclocross and more are all options, and the blending is seemingly endless. So where do you start?

How do you want to ride?

The first step is to consider how you would like to ride. Some questions we often ask are:

  • Where do (will) you ride?
  • How often do you plan to ride?
  • How long (time) or far (distance) do you usually ride?
  • Are you a competitive person? – Are you never satisfied with your own performance, or do you often “race” against others while on a ride?
  • What motivates you to ride? Fitness, fun, exploration, training for races, time with others?
  • Who do you ride with? If you ride with others, what style of bike are your friends riding?
  • Do you currently have a bike? What do you like about it, what would you change?
  • What other activities do you do? Sometimes one’s personality and interest can make a style a better fit.

These help decide where along the spectrum of styles one would be happiest. Consider this example – A rider is looking for a new bike. they prefer to ride solo for the most part, and love getting lost on country roads. Sometimes those roads turn into gravel, but they don’t want to turn around. Another hobby of this rider is photography and he or she love to be out all day so they can take photos in the best light. In this case, a good option might be a cyclocross or endurance road bike. Sizing and ideal fit are critical to the final decision of bike, but another factor might be the ability to put a cargo rack on the bike to carry camera gear, a lunch and additional clothing layers.

Bike Categories –

Performance Road
Strava racer, solo rider, competitive drive. This category could be your bike.

The Tarmac family from Specialized is a typical race category road bike.

This category is what most people think of when they think road bike. Two myths to dispel before going further are, you don’t HAVE to be a racer to enjoy this style of bike, and they are not only made up of the highest end bikes. My preferred style is the race category because I love to corner hard, accelerate and attack on a ride – whether or not I ride with others.

Rider Profile

Surface: Paved Roads (Tire width <25c typically)
Riding Style: Driven, competitive by nature, speed junkie
Ride distance: 10-100 miles. A properly fit bike is the most important part in performance.
Extras: Race bikes have mounts for two bottles, but not rack mounts, so are best suited to day trips.
Fit Notes: Front end has a lower position typically, and best suited to those with moderate flexibility or better.
Examples: Specialized;Allez and Tarmac for men, Amira for women, Raleigh; Militis for men, Wilier; Zero.9, Zero.7, Izoard XP and La Triestina for men, Pinarello; FP Quattro, Paris  and Dogma for men.

Endurance road
For Endurance bikes, comfort is king, but not at the expense of performance.

Not one to overlook female riders, Specialized’s Ruby has class leading comfort and performance.

Evolved from single day road races in rough conditions (Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders), the Endurance category is becoming one of the most common styles on the road. By introducing vibration reducing features, these bikes aim to “tame” the road. Modern construction techniques and materials make these bikes capable performers as well. Nearly every bike in this category is also available as a women’s specific model as well, resulting in the best fit possible for all types of riders.

Rider Profile

Surface: Paved Roads, but sometimes of questionable condition or mixed surface.
Riding Style: Exploration, long rides as a group or solo, multi-day trips (supported).
Ride distance: 10-100 miles OR MORE. A properly fit bike is the most important part in distance.
Extras: More stable and generally smoother riding than the race category, but not short on performance.
Fit Notes: With a higher front end than race models and a slightly longer wheelbase, these bikes are better suited to those with flexibility limitations and for the longest of rides. Alloy models often have rack mounts and some are coming with disc brakes for riding in adverse conditions.
Examples: Specialized; Secteur and Roubaix for men, Ruby for Women, Raleigh; Revenio for men, Capri for women, Wilier; Gran Turismo for men, Pinarello; Rokh for men.

One the Fence?

These two categories are by far the most popular of styles in the road bike category, and people can sometimes be unsure at first which to choose. Aside from fit considerations, the best way to tell is to ride two similar bikes with these different styles. This allows you to get a sense of the bike’s personality and makes the decision easier.

In the next installments, we’ll address cyclocross, triathlon, time trial and touring bikes.

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