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Road Bike Buyer's guide

Road Bike Buyer's guide

On this website you'll find road bikes split into three broad sections; race, sportive and time trial/triathlon bikes. Deciding which style of bike is right for you is the first step in deciding on your new bike.

Manufacturers have to balance weight, stiffness, comfort, aerodynamics and geometry to suit each style of bike. Improving one property may a negative affect on another. It's all about achieving the best balance for each purpose.

Road Sportive Bikes

Road Sportive Bikes

Sometimes referred to as endurance bikes or performance bikes, sportive style road bikes are designed for all day speed and efficiency.

The riding position is slightly more relaxed than a traditional road bike with a shorter reach to the handlebars and a higher front end too. This position offers good aerodynamics whilst prioritising comfort.

Frame weights are similar to comparative race style bikes but the frame's tubes are designed to maximise vibration and shock absorbtion without sacrificing pedalling efficiency. Rear stays are normally manipulated, either in form or in internal construction, to allow vertical compliance and a much smoother ride.

Front forks are often more heavily raked and run at a more relaxed angle than a race style bike to maximise stability and help front end vibration damping.

Sportive road bikes are typically fitted with Compact Double (50 x 34) or Triple chainsets for a wide ranging and low gears.

Sportive bikes are ideal for every day use, commuting, sportive events and all day rides.

At Pedal On, we find 95% of road riders are best suited to a sportive style bike.

View Road Sportive Bikes

Road Race Bikes

Road Race Bikes

As seen at the Tour, road race bikes are designed for speed.

The riding position is very traditional, bum up, head down. This is achieved by a longer top tube and lower headtube than a sportive style bike. This allows a longer, lower and more aerodynamic riding position.

Frame tubes are often larger to maximise sprint efficiency and often have aerodynamic cross sections to further maximise speed too. This is generally at the expense of a little ride comfort.

Rear triangles are as short as possible and front forks are angled a little steeper to maximise responsiveness.

Sportive road bikes are typically fitted with traditional Double (53 x 39) chainsets for close ratio and high gearing.

Road race bikes are best suited to people who want to race or those who require a lower handle bar position due to morphology.

View Road Race Bikes

Road Time Trial and Triathlon bikes

Road Time Trial and Triathlon bikes

Pure aerodynamic race bikes perfect for going in a straight line during competition.

The riding position of TT/Triathlon bikes is very low at the front end and a forward saddle position too. This allows the rider to rotate forward around the bottom bracket and achieve an aerodynamic tuck position. This extremely fast but does radically change the bike's weight distribution at the expense of handling.

Frame tubes are as aerodynamic as possible, this can sometimes reduce stiffness or add weight as traditional aerodyamic tubing shapes require additional material to make them strong enough. The aerodynamic advantages out weigh any extra weight at normal competition speeds.

With a lot of weight over the front wheel and brake levers away from your hands (you'll be using the aero bars) handling isn't fantastic but for straight line events isn't required too much.

Time Trial/Triathlon bikes are best suited for competiton use only.

View TT/Triathlon Bikes

Race vs Sportive Bikes

Race vs Sportive Bikes

Below you will find an image of a white Giant TCR race bike overlaid on an image of a black Giant Defy sportive bike. This is a great illustration of the differences between the two styles of bike. The first thing you'll notice is that overall, there isn't really much difference, this is because the differences are subtle but despite having a big overall effect.

Position: Notice the headtubes of each bike. The top of the TCR's white head tube is both lower and further forward than the Defy's. This allows a more aerodynamic riding postion. However, most riders would find the higher and shorter position of the Defy more comfortable.

Handling: Notice that the back of the black Defy's stem is further back than that of the white TCR's. However, both forks meet the front wheel in the same place. This demonstrates the more relaxed head tube angle of the Defy which offers more stable handling. Racer's might prefer the instant handling of the TCR but most riders would find the Defy's handling more reassuring.

Comfort: Notice that the rear end of the Defy is about 15mm longer than that of the TCR's. This promotes vertical compliance and also stabilises the handling. The result is the Defy has increased comfort and more relaxed handling.

What you can't see: Because the overlaid image is in 2D you can't see the frame's tube profiles. The TCR has much wider tubing profiles than the Defy this increases frame stiffness at the expense of comfort. Also hidden from view is the internal carbon fibre construction of these models. Giant's engineers lay carbon fibres in different orientations and thicknesses to promote the desired qualities, in the Defy the main aim is compliance, in the TCR the main aim is stiffness.

We find that with the exception of riders who race, the vast majority of our customers find that the sportive style bike suits their needs much better than a race bike. Like an open top sports car, race bikes offer a raw riding experience of pure speed but for most people, the speed AND comfort of a sportive bike is much more practical.

Frame Material

Frame Material

Almost all current road frames are made from either aluminium or carbon fibre. As mainstream frame materials, steel and titanium are now very rare because steel is relatively heavy and titanium is extremely expensive and offers no real advantages over carbon fibre. Aluminium allows for a very light frame without too much expense. Carbon fibre allows for even lower weight and an improved ride quality due to it's natural damping qualities and the greater control designers have over it's direction of compliance and stiffness.

To a large extent, your budget will determine the frame material options available to you. Below £1000 and all frame options are aluminium with carbon fibre forks. Above £2000 and almost all frame options will be full carbon fibre. Between £1000 and £2000 most manufacturers offer both carbon fibre and aluminium options. Because, carbon fibre frames cost a lot more to produce you'll find aluminium bikes with high specification components at the same price as a carbon fibre frames with lower specifcation parts. Choosing between either is a case of prioritising what is important to you. In general, carbon fibre frames offer a better ride quality but high quality aluminium frames will normally be lighter than basic carbon fibre frames and come with higher specification parts too.

Not all carbon fibre frames are the same! The cost of producing a carbon fibre frame is both in the grade of material used and the manufacturing technique. Most manufacturers offer a few different grades of material and construction, this affects the weight, stiffness, ride quality and cost of each model. The best way to understand this is to visit us and test ride some models.

It is possible to get very cheap carbon fibre frames which are made with substandard materials using second hand moulds. We are proud to only offer high quality carbon fibre frames from innovative manufactuers.

Other things to consider

Other things to consider

Whilst the frame of the bike is its heart and has the greatest affect on overall performance the components and wheels are important too. Higher specification parts help reduce weight and normally offer better function.

If you are undecided between two or more frame models the componetry may help you decide.
The single most important component to consider is the gear shifter. This is because it is the most expensive and most used component on the bike. Being able to have a gear shifter with more gears (between 8 and 11 at the rear) and better function will improve you overall ride experience.

It is important to have the best components that you can for your budget but this must be balanced with the quality of the frame they are fitted to.

Warranty

Warranty

When considering which bike to buy it is worth considering what would happen if things went wrong. Bicycles are designed to fulfill a certain role at a minimal weight, this means they are complicated pieces of engineering and ocassionaly parts may not perform as expected.

For peace of mind a robust and long warranty is ideal. We are proud that all our manufacturers offer great warranties. Trek, Cannondale and Giant offer lifetime warranties. Scott offer a five year warranty.