A road bike is ideal for those who want to ride long distances without spending as much energy. They are the fastest and the most efficient bike type.
On the other hand, they are unsuitable for terrain and can be less comfortable than other bike types due to their more aggressive riding position and lack of suspension.
Continue reading to learn more about their components, benefits, and disadvantages.
The Pros and Cons of a Road Bike
The following table summarizes the main features, benefits, and disadvantages of road bikes compared to other bike types.
|Feature||Road Bikes||Gravel Bikes||Hybrid Bikes||Mountain Bikes|
|Geometry||Endurance or performance oriented||Endurance or performance oriented||Usually endurance|
Sometimes performance oriented
|Usually more upright|
|Suitable for||Paved roads||Paved, gravel, dirt, or forest roads||Paved, gravel, dirt, or forest roads||All types of terrains|
|Unsuitable for||Most terrains except paved roads||MTB-like terrain||MTB-like terrain||Paved roads|
|1X or 2X|
|3X or 2X|
|1X or 2X
|Suspension||No suspension||Sometimes front suspension|
Occasionally suspension seat post
|Sometimes front suspension||Front suspension
|Brakes||Disc or rim||Usually disc brakes||Disc or rim||Disc or rim|
|Handlebars||Dropped||Dropped||Flat or curved||Flat|
|Tyres||Narrow||Narrow or wide||Narrow or wide||Wide|
|Wheels diameter||700c||650b, 700c||700c, 26″||26″, 27.5″, 29″|
|Browse||Road Bikes||Gravel Bikes||Hybrid Bikes||Mountain Bikes|
Frame Material & Geometry
The frame plays a crucial role in determining the bike’s performance and handling characteristics.
Road bike frames are typically made from materials such as carbon, aluminum, steel, or titanium.
They are designed to be lightweight, stiff, and aerodynamic. But this also depends on the road bike type.
For example, racing road bikes typically have aggressive geometry (more about it later) and provide the perfect combination of stiffness, comfort, aerodynamics, and weight.
Touring road bike frames, on the other hand, are designed to be more comfortable and sturdy, with additional mounting points for carrying gear. In addition, they are often made of aluminum or steel for easier repairability in remote areas.
Road bike frames generally have a longer top tube and a shorter head tube compared to mountain bikes, for example. This allows the rider to achieve a low, aerodynamic position on the bike, which reduces the drag coefficient and improves speed.
What is a frameset?
The frameset is the set of a frame and the fork. It sometimes also includes a seatpost.
Wheels & Tires
Road bike wheels share similar characteristics with the frame. They are designed to be stiff, aerodynamic, and lightweight. The budget ones are made of aluminum, while the more high-end ones are from carbon (what are their pros and cons?).
Wheels differ in rim depths and widths. In the past, riders used tires as narrow as 18mm. However, research and riders’ experiences showed that wider wheels are faster and more comfortable.
These days, 25mm and 28mm tires are standard. But we see a trend of going even wider (as wide as 36mm on endurance road bikes).
The tires have a smooth pattern, so as a result, they have low rolling resistance and are suitable only for paved surfaces.
The deeper the wheels, the better aerodynamics, but the higher the weight and worse crosswind stability.
Read my guide on how to choose road bike wheels for detailed information.
A bike drivetrain typically includes the cranks, chainrings, chain, cassette, and derailleurs.
Today’s road bikes typically have one of the following:
- Compact chainrings with 50/34T (T = teeth)
- Semi-compact with 52/36T
- or standard 53/39T
This mainly applies to bikes with Shimano groupsets. Those with SRAM usually have 50/37T, 48/35T, or 46/33T.
Chainrings are in the front of the bike, while a cassette is in the rear. Today’s road bikes have 11-spd or 12-spd (spd = speed) cassettes. However, beginner road bikes still can have fewer speeds.
It can be overwhelming for beginners to orient themselves in drivetrains. So, what does the number of teeth influence?
The more teeth, the larger the chainring and the harder the gears. With the cassette, it’s the exact opposite. The larger the sprocket, the easier the gear.
Did you know there are two types of groupsets? You can buy a bike with a mechanical or electronic groupset. The electronic ones are more convenient but also more expensive.
See the following table that summarizes road bike groupsets and their price range.
105 12 spd
105 12 spd Di2¹
Rival eTap AXS¹
|Pro||Ultegra Di2||Force eTap AXS||Chorus EPS||Electronic|
|Pro||Dura-Ace Di2||RED eTap AXS||Super Record EPS||Electronic|
¹Shimano 105 Di2 and Rival eTap AXS are electronic groupsets.
Handlebars and Shifters
Drop handlebars are one of the main characteristics of road bikes. They have multiple benefits compared to flat bars.
These include more hand positions, each suitable for slightly different purposes. For example, sprinting, descending, riding on flats, climbing, etc.
Shifters and brakes are mounted on handlebars for easy access. They are integrated, so you can control gears and brakes using the hood.
Integrated cockpits are becoming more popular thanks to technological progress. These are the handlebar and stem in one piece.
They allow internal cable routing for a cleaner look and improved aerodynamics. However, they are more difficult to maintain due to the worse cable access.
You also have to choose the right stem length and handlebar width to ensure a good fit and avoid discomfort.
Most of today’s road bikes come with disc brakes that force rim brakes out of the market. (Source)
You’ll find mechanical disc brakes on the cheaper road bikes and hydraulic brakes on the more expensive ones. Find out about their differences, advantages, and disadvantages in this article.
Although disc brakes are more effective, especially in the rain, if you live in a flat area and don’t race, you don’t have to worry about the poor performance of rim brakes. However, remember they won’t allow you to use wider rims and tires.
Read more about the differences between rim and disc brakes.
Road bike saddles are typically narrower and more elongated than other bike saddles. As a result, many people, including me, don’t find them too comfortable.
I prefer saddles with a cutout or prostate relief channel to ease the pressure on my intimate parts and prevent numbness or discomfort.
Remember, more padding (and the softer the saddle) doesn’t mean better comfort. The shape is more important.
I recommend reading my guide on choosing a bike saddle to find the one that will fit you.
Road Bikes FAQ
This was just a quick introduction to road bikes. To deepen your knowledge, read my How to choose a road bike guide, which includes more detailed info on road bike types and components.
You might also be interested in learning more about this beautiful sport. My road cycling beginner’s guide teaches you about the equipment, riding technique, nutrition, clothing, and more.