Racing bikes have many fans. Some line the roads in their thousands as the famous racing teams battle their way up the mountain stages of France's or Italy's legendary bike races, others want to feel for themselves the unique riding experience that only a racing bike can offer. When you get on a real racer for the first time, you'll be amazed! You can't help it, you get fast in seconds, really fast. Why? A road bike can't help it, it races!
But if bikes are inherently as fast as they're always claimed to be, what's left for the rider to do? The answer is simple: of course you're providing the propulsion here, even a road bike doesn't ride itself. But it is built to take full advantage of your efforts and turn them into distance. The frame shape, the materials, the components, everything about the road bike is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to build up a consistent, high speed...
If you are already a passionate road cyclist and are looking for a new bike, you have come to the right place here at the online bike shop. But even if you want to buy your first road bike, we have plenty of choice for you. To help you choose the right model, you will find many interesting facts about road bikes here, just read on, then you will be well informed.
This is a road bike - Things to know about arrow-fast road bikes
With some bikes you are not quite sure at first glance - is this a city bike or a trekking bike? Or is it a mountain bike? You can immediately recognize a road bike in 99.8% of all cases, because it has a classic road bike handlebar.
Then the next question is: Is the bike in front of you a gravel bike, a road race bike, or a cyclocrosser? Here's how to unerringly distinguish between the three related types of bikes.
Why do people refer to a "road racing bike?
This designation is largely the fault of gravel bikes, the off-road relatives of road bikes that have been rocking the market for a few years now. They also fall into the road bike category visually, but differ significantly from the classic road bike in their function and area of use. Even cyclocross bikes are, strictly speaking, road bikes. So "road bike" became the generic term, with road racing bikes, gravel bikes and cyclocrossers now the subcategories.
By the way, the English designation of the bikes was ahead of its time, because in English you don't speak of a "race bike", you ride a "road bike", so a "road bike". This also immediately explains the abode where road racing bikes prefer to cavort: On the road.
Three characteristics define the road racing bike: light, clean, fast
If we take a closer look at the three main characteristics of a road bike, it quickly becomes clear what exactly defines a road bike:
- Lightweight:Unfortunately, we can't sell you road bikes by the kilo, it wouldn't be worth it, as bikes get lighter and lighter with each model year. Road bikes are the lightest bikes ever. Top models with carbon frames and a good complete road bike group weigh less than 10 kilos, the mega luxury models weigh less than 7 kilos! In general, bike parts are getting lighter with each new model year, but for road bikes you could almost call it a "diet craze". The race for the lightest carbon frames, the lightest components and the lightest attachments ensures that bikes even under the UCI-mandated competition maximum weight of 6.8 kilograms.
- Clean: To keep bikes beating all weight records, parts are being reduced at every turn. Especially on road bikes, all measures thatsave parts are popular, for example electronic gears, because they don't need cables. The bike components that absolutely have to be there are then also often hidden, keyword "integrated cockpit". On the other hand, Italian racing bikes in particular are often painted to look their best. Some finish must finally on it, which may then also like to turn out generously colorful!
- Quick: And why the whole circus? Simple... to cheat the inertia of the masses! Less bike you get easier fast.
Modern road bike categories
Today, bikes are becoming more and more specialized; there's a road racing bike to buy for every endeavor, rider, and course.
Race road bike:
Race racing bikes are the bikes that are pushed to ever new heights at major cycling races around the globe. These "race race bikes" are designed for perfect propulsion, accelerating and climbing without mercy. The UCI specifies 6.8kg minimum weight for a road bike, technically it goes a few grams under that. Comfort? Who needs comfort when the speed rush kicks in?
Endurance road bike:
An endurance road bike is somewhere between a gravel and a road bike. It offers a bit more comfort than a racer, you have more tire clearance, and the riding position turns out more relaxed. These bikes are meant for long rides, meaning sporty bike rides or training rides where tenths of a second don't matter.
Aero, time trial, triathlon bike:
Of course, bikes like aeros, time trial bikes, or triathlon bikes also fall under the designation of road bike. However, these bikes are rather rare and are meant for limited use only. If you need a bike like this, you probably know your way around the subject, so we won't explain anything else about it in this general buying guide.
Efficiency without the bells and whistles
For your bike to convert all that power into speed, it needs to be one thing above all else: efficient. So keeping the weight as low as possible isn't a bad thing, but there are other measures you can take to get as much of your pedaling power onto the road as possible.
A road bike is completely unsprung. Shocks, a suspension fork, fat tires, you'll look in vain for all that on a road bike, because all components that dampen not only absorb shocks from below, they also compensate for movements from above. So they pulverize your muscle work!
To ensure that nothing at all on your road bike gives way, road bike frames usually bring excellent stiffness to the table. Road bike frames with a bit of flex offer more comfort, but are just less fast. That's why you'll only find steel frames in this category on retro bikes. Steel is durable, but heavy and less stiff. Aluminum is much lighter, and stiffness also improves on an aluminum road bike. Aluminum bikes are also inexpensive. The dream of all road cyclists, however, is a carbon road bike. Not only is carbon malleable at will, this frame material is lightweight and extremely rigid.
After all, we promised you differentiation criteria above that you can use to distinguish between gravel bikes, cyclocross bikes and road racing bikes. However, the handlebars are not! All three bikes generally have a drop bar, a classic road bike handlebar. There are many different terms for the various ups and downs of a road bike handlebar, these are the main ones:
- After the stem, i.e. the handlebar clamp, the handlebar may initially be bent back a little towards the saddle, it then has "backsweep". Some handlebars are still slightly bent upwards at this point, the slight "Rise" makes the riding position less low and aerodynamic, but more comfortable.
- From the stem, the handlebars are then initially bent forward, which is the "Reach" of the handlebars.
- Then it goes downhill. The "Drop" firstly gives the whole handlebar its name, it also describes how far down the handlebar is bent. The lower the drop, the lower and sportier you sit when you grip there.
- The handlebar width tells you whether the handlebar fits your shoulder width. The narrower the road handlebars, the more aerodynamic the posture of your arms and shoulders will be.
Special case gravel dropbar: While a road handlebar is as narrow as possible, the lower ends of a gravel handlebar are bent far outwards. This way you can vary the position of your arms better on the road and prevent fatigue. Also, a wider handlebar with a lot of "flare" gives you better control of your bike, especially on difficult terrain, which is a real advantage.
> Head here for our bike handlebars.
The geo is where the wheat is separated from the chaff; a road bike strives for top speeds, not ride comfort and a good view. It has a big reach, meaning a long distance between the saddle and the handlebars. That way you're riding bent low and creating as little drag as possible. The typical steep seat tube angle favours efficient pedalling, so you build up speed quickly and can easily maintain it over long distances.
Many road bikes also have a rathershort wheelbase due to a steep head tubeand thus the bikes are nimble and agile, at worst a bit bumpy.
But even here the distinction is still difficult! Unless you're riding with a meter stick, it takes a practiced eye to tell a road geo from a gravel geo.
The solution to the riddle is that you can tell if you're dealing with a road bike, a gravel bike, or a cyclocross bike by looking at the tires. Gravel bikes and cyclocrossers are on wider tires, while on a road bike the tires are narrow. The reason, once again, is speed. Less stuff on the road means less rolling resistance. Gravel and cyclocross tires also have a clearly visible tread, road bike tires are smooth, this also reduces rolling resistance. For comparison, mountain bikes ride on the widest tyres money can buy, here around 7cm tyre width is not uncommon, that's about 5cm more compared to road racing bikes.
So road bike tires are generally narrow. There are variations, trends and personal preferences here, but 25mm tire widths are common. Not only do narrow tires provide a direct feel, they also deliver optimal power transfer because the small contact area reduces rolling resistance to a minimum. Low tire volume also means low damping and therefore less power loss
Also for a road bike there are all-season tires, for the optimal grip provides here the rubber compound, nevertheless, a road bike is usually rather difficult on wet surfaces due to the low profile.
Race bikes are often ridden with tubular tires, i.e. with tube and casing, but there are also tubeless road bike tires or tubulars.
> Here you can find our bike tyres and lots more information.
Do women need a women's road bike?
Fewer and fewer bikes are built specifically for women or men, so you're buying a bike, not a women's bike or a men's bike. Much more important than differentiating your bike by gender is getting the best fit frame you feel comfortable on, and that's where the wide variety of models available comes in handy. There are many different manufacturers and bike models, so you can find numerous frames in a wide variety of fits. Short arms, long legs, tall or rather short - you can buy the right bike for every body type. Often the bikes are the same in their dimensions, but are painted differently for ladies or the components make them a ladies bike. So you should just test ride a few bikes and then choose the model that fits you best, whether it's built for women or men.
You can also customize your bike with just a few small modifications, with a women's saddle or a narrower handlebar and thinner handles, a bike becomes your bike in a flash, making it better than any women's bike!
The best brakes on road bikes: material for heated debate!
Slowly, all bikes have been converted to disc brakes. But road bikes? Don't. Disc brakes always weigh a bit more than comparable rim brakes. Abrasion on the rim? Doesn't matter! Better braking efficiency? Who brakes later is faster longer! But more weight? Horrible!
To make a long story short, disc brakes have been allowed in professional cycling since 2018. Many riders are happy with disc brakes on road bikes today. Many still ride with rim brakes. Disc brakes brake with less hand force and better, just pick the system you're more comfortable with.
The best gears for a road bike
Triple gears have largely disappeared from road bikes now, 2-speed gears are common, but increasingly road bikes have 1x drives.
A single derailleur has one chainring on the crank, and the cassette usually has 11 or 12 sprockets. A 2x derailleur has two chainrings, combining this with the rear sprocket set creates a wider range of gears. This allows the bike to be more finely tuned for terrain and climbs. On the other hand, the second chainring means more maintenance, higher cost and more weight.
As far as gear ratio range is concerned, you can achieve similar values with a 1x gear as with a 2x gear, only the jumps between gears are larger.
You can buy road bike shift groupsets from Shimano and SRAM in different quality and therefore different price ranges. However, the Italians from Campagnolo have been leading the top segment in terms of road bike groupsets for years.
Today's top-segment road bike groupsets no longer shift via cables; an electric impulse lets the derailleur slide smoothly and with absolute precision from gear to gear. Electronic shifters also eliminate the need for cables, which saves weight and looks neat. Electronic gears come at a price though, you'll also need to arrange for battery top-ups.
E-bike road bikes
E-bike drivetrains are getting smaller and lighter, and this has provided a real boost to the development of e-race bikes. The small but mighty drives can't be seen on the bike, you actually have to look two or three times on many sporty bikes until you spot the motor or battery. That satisfies the optical demands of the road bike community for now.
But what about performance? This is where opinions differ. An e-bike is only allowed to support up to 25 km/h, after which the motors are sealed off. The same goes for road bikes. If you want a little help on steep inclines, lack of fitness or in a group, e-race bikes are an interesting alternative.
Is a road bike the right bike for you?
You want to set speed records, push yourself to the max in training, pedal yourself and your gear to the limit? Besides the horizon, you also want to conquer the sound barrier?
On the other hand, you're perfectly okay with comfort being secondary to uncompromising efficiency? You're also fascinated by the elegance with which a road bike rolls along? Then a road bike is the right sports equipment for you.
When you're on a road bike, you're automatically assumed to be a jock. But is that really the case? Sure, a road bike looks sporty. Sitting on a road bike puts you in a low, stretched, athletic riding posture. Let's just put it this way: if you sit on your bike like that, you didn't come to enjoy the view.
There should be suitable routes around where you live, though.A village surrounded by dirt tracks is nice, but not road cycling terrain. A city with bad roads and cobblestones is also more likely to be a pain on a road bike. Bike paths with strollers, dog leashes, and walkers bring a lot of potential conflict for a road cyclist, so it shouldn't bother you that you're more likely to do your laps on country roads.
If you end up riding your road bike in a rain front, though, you're out of luck. The tires aren't made for that. Road bike tires produce top speeds on smooth, dry roads, but they're not famous for their grip. Fitting mudguards is, of course, absolutely unthinkable with all the haggling over every gram of weight! Many road bikes are therefore mainly run on the roller trainer in winter.
For maximum trained athletes, race road bikes, aeros or traithlon bikes are of course the only right choice.
The features of a race bike at a glance:
- very efficient
- elegant appearance
- not off-road capable
- only drivable on asphalt
- more of a fair-weather bike
- Highly specialized sports and training equipment
How does a road bike ride?
If you've read this far, I'm sure you can fill in the blank: A road bike rides ______? That's right, fast. It converts your pedaling into propulsion to the max.
The wheelbase tends to be short, making the bike agile, so if you want to buy a smooth-riding model, you should look for as much wheelbase as possible.
A good road bike you also lift with one hand on the bike rack, those few kilos... The low weight not only simplifies handling, it is a basic requirement for dynamic propulsion.
Race bikes ride very direct, the bike responding sensitively and to the slightest steering movements. This characteristic often feels "nervous" to novices. The narrow tires can be thrown off track by the slightest bump, a smooth road and full concentration are essential at the high speed.
An overview of the riding characteristics of a road bike:
- excellent propulsion
- dynamic riding feel
- direct driving feel
- respond strongly to bumps
What are the advantages of a road bike?
You want to be fast? Simple, then you need a road bike. And it may surprise you, but even though you'd expect mountain bikes in the Alps, road bikes are in their element there. The good propulsion makes them powerful scramblers. If you have a well-paved panoramic road in front of you, a road bike is much easier to pedal up the mountain than a heavy mountain bike.
Race bikes have been around for a long time; long before mountain bikes or trekking bikes were invented, the first bike races were taking place. Accordingly, there is a lot of experience in modern racing bikes. In addition, racing bikes benefit from the trickle-down effect from professional sports. Even though there are now many mountain bike competitions, the big races that cause a worldwide sensation take place on road bikes. The many durable, lightweight, innovative components being developed for Tour de France and Giro will eventually "trickle through" to grassroots sports, at which point every biker will be able to enjoy their benefits.
In everyday use, however, the bikes are quickly overwhelmed. The narrow tires severely limit the choice of routes. Everyday features like lights, bells and racks tend to be looked at askance. If you're looking for an everyday bike, a gravel bike is a much better choice.
And last but not least, there's a wide price range when it comes to road bikes, so there's a road bike to suit every budget.
The advantages of a road bike at a glance:
- Excellent sports equipment and training tool
- climbs readily
- not suitable for everyday use
- Great selection of excellent components
- large price range
How much does a road bike cost?
So you want to buy a road bike. But what do you have to spend?
Race bikes can be had for well under 1000 euros, with entry-level bikes ranging from 700 euros to around 1800 euros. Here are of course no carbon bikes to find, you get aluminum frames and simple or older shifting groups. Also, rim brakes are at work.
In the middle class from 1800 euros to about 3500 euros road bikes are not only more powerful, they are also more robustly built. The bikes deliver better performance, they are more durable, they are also much safer to ride.
In the top class road bikes cost between 3500 to 6000 euros, but it also goes much more expensive. The best shifting groups on the market are bolted to the carbon frame, often with electronic shifting. The braking systems are also first class. But not only the frame of a bike in this price range is made of carbon, also fork, handlebars and co. are made of the feather-light fibres. Here you can buy really competition-ready bikes.
The cost of a road bike at a glance:
- The entry level ranges from 700 euros to about 1800 euros
- From 1800 euros to about 3500 euros goes the road bike middle class
- In the top class, road bikes cost between 3500 to 6000 euros
What should you look for when buying a road bike?
You can spend a lot of money on a road bike, but is the most expensive automatically the best bike? With a few questions, you can find the bike that's right for you:
- Why do you want to buy a road bike?
If you're really serious about road racing, a road racing bike is logically the only bike to buy. For your training or everyman races as well as for semi-professional racing or hobby competitions, a good road bike is a basic requirement, and it's worth buying the best bike your budget will allow.
For brisk but rather enjoyable laps, a mid-range road bike is just the ticket. Here you get a functional bike, which is not only fun to ride, also the riding safety increases with the purchase price, because gears, brakes and workmanship are of course better - with the high speeds that a road bike has, a not uninteresting aspect!
If you only want to do a training lap every now and then, you can also shop in the lower price segments. You shouldn't splurge too much though, like I said, the safety of the bike also goes up with the price!
When choosing another bike, this question will help you a good bit. With a road bike, it's superfluous. Road. Done. However, if climbs are part of your roads, adequate gearing bandwidth will help. Steep grades call for good brakes.
- Is there a cool alternative to a road bike?
For real road bike feeling you have to get on a road bike, that's for sure. But there are some bikes that take on the features of the road bike. Gravel bikes also come in drop-bar chic. However, they are much more comfortable, cozy and suitable for everyday use. Plus, they're off-road capable, so you can leave the tar road behind. Cyclocrossers are just as uncompromisingly sport-oriented as road bikes, but they can also be ridden off-road. Carbon MTB hardtails can score points in individual cases with almost no weight and a lot of speed. You'll also find the reduced look on urban bikes.
- Carbon, steel or aluminum?
The frame material affects the price of the bike on the one hand, but it also has a say in how the bike rides and handles.
Slim, elegant road bikes with a retro look have a steel frame. Only this indestructible metal allows such slim tube diameters. Steel also yields somewhat, so the bike has a certain amount of self-damping. This comes at the expense of efficiency, but makes your laps a little more comfortable. Of course, true vintage bikes are also made of steel.
Aluminum is cheap, significantly lighter than steel, and will last many years before material fatigue takes your bike out of service. Aluminum offers good stiffness, it's also relatively insensitive.
Carbon is super-lightweight, but carbon bikes aren't cheap. Bikesmiths have a relatively free hand in designing frames out of carbon, because the fibers can be shaped any way they want. They can create aerodynamically perfect and stiff bikes. Carbon is a bit of a bitch though, the bike can't just be clamped into a mounting stand, even a bike rack on the car has to meet certain requirements. A carbon bike should also preferably not fall over.
- How much tire clearance is reasonable?
The narrow road bike tires need asphalt. If you like your bike to be a bit more flexible, you should make sure it has a bit more clearance, which means wider tires can be mounted.
- What is the right road bike frame size?
There are road bikes in many different frame sizes. Check out our bike blog for a guide to help you measure your leg length and use the results to determine the perfect bike size.
Buy an e-bike from the best manufacturer
There are many manufacturers that build road bikes. But which one can you trust? With which brand is not only the durability and performance of the bikes right, but also the price? Very simple! Here you'll only find models from Trek, Orbea, Cannondale, Rondo, Fuji or Bombtrack, well-known manufacturers that we're confident will deliver quality. Liv exclusively supplies women's bikes, including road bikes. Plus, we always have cheap bike bargains on sale.
If you're still not sure which bike is right for you, it's easy to compare on BMO. We explain what mountain bikes, urban bikes and city bikes, trekking bikes, dirt bikes or race bikes can do, the features also apply to the corresponding bikes with motor. So you're sure to quickly find your dream bike or an e-bike that's really fun to ride. Just read our buying guides and you'll know which bike you'll be happy with!