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Road Bike Guide

If you picture a road bike you are probably thinking of sleek, expensive and fast bikes that are ridden by lycra-clad pro’s and ridden in famous races like the Tour de France. You might also be thinking that this is not exactly the type of riding you wanted to do, fear not, the once limited options available to you have increased tenfold. The market has divided into subcategories and there are now a variety of ‘road’ bikes that suit every cyclist needs, a road bike is not simply a road bike these days. 

So, with all these variations and bike jargon, how do you know what road bike is right for you? Below we’ve listed the many different styles of road bikes now available and what that means for you.

First, here is a quick list on what typically sets road bikes apart from commuting, touring, mountain and hybrid bikes. 

  1. A lightweight frame, wheels and components.
  2. A drop (curled) handlebar, though some have a flat bar like a mountain bike.
  3. Narrow wheels and tyres.
  4. A composite (carbon fibre) front fork.
  5. No front or rear suspension.
  6. Men’s and women’s styles and a wide range of sizes.

The first thing to decide is what type of riding you want to do. Are you aiming to race? Do you want to tour? Will you be seeking out back roads and rough trails? At the end of the day, virtually any road bike can be ridden on any bit of road, but depending on what you want to do most of the time might mean that a particular style of a road bike would be more suitable than another. Let’s have a look at a few:

Endurance/Sportive Bikes

Endurance road bikes, otherwise known as sportive bikes, are designed with comfort in mind. The relaxed geometry is aimed at keeping the legs fresh and the posterior pain-free. This makes for a friendlier introduction to road riding if you are new to the activity. Endurance road bikes also tend to be designed to have a little more ‘give’ in the frame, without sacrificing much efficiency, this ‘give’ helps absorb the lumps and bumps of the British roads, keeping the vibrations in the bike and out of the bones.

The 9 Best Endurance Road Bikes in 2020

Several features of an endurance bike’s geometry should make it comfortable for riding long distance over bumpy terrain. Mainly being a taller head tube and slightly shorter top tube, this means you’ll be riding in a more upright position. The less stretched out you are, the less likely you are to suffer from neck and backache. 

Comfort, however, is not everything. You still want a bike that can respond and give a fast and exciting ride when you want to put the power through the pedals. You may not be hitting all the KOM’s or beating any land speed records, but rest assured, manufacturers will have balanced out comfort and speed capabilities, so you get the best of both worlds.

Performance Bikes

Where the Endurance road bikes are designed for comfort, the Performance road racing bikes are designed for speed, above all else. They are ideal race machines with geometries that allow for more aerodynamic body positions, the most dynamic handling, and punchier accelerations. Praised by professional riders and the most dedicated athletes, these bikes are most at home scaling formidable climbs, hurtling down steep descents, or attacking (this means catching and overtaking, not physically attacking) the group of riders ahead of you.

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Performance road bikes will possibly sacrifice some strength for even less weight (making it even less suitable for rough surfaces). On top of this, the geometry may be borderline uncomfortable for people just starting to get into cycling. However, for an experienced rider, this reduction in weight and more aggressive geometry can increase performance. For a rider who does race, or values speed above all else and is willing to put the training in to become better, the Racer is ideal.

Gravel Bikes

In the past year or so there has been a rise in popularity of riding extreme distances over mixed terrain, in races such as the Trans-Continental, for pleasure under the term bike-packing and in the exploits of one Lachlan Morton and co, in Rapha’s EF Gone Racing films. This has led to gravel type bikes being designed by the majority of big bike brands to excel in this type of riding, focusing on providing comfort and efficiency over long distances, and versatility.

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The riding position is relaxed and features stable handling, while the frame will often feature mounts for various accessories like racks and panniers. The components on these bikes are also designed with more strength in mind and can handle some light off-road riding (single tracks, bridleways and forest tracks) thanks to thicker set tyres. Some riders opt for tubeless set-ups as they offer a number of benefits for gravel riding. The most advantageous being able to run lower pressures without risking pinch flats improving ride comfort and traction.

The biggest advantage of riding a gravel bike is the absolute freedom you have at your toe tips. Suddenly, road sections aren’t the same draining drags that they can be on a mountain bike. The off-road sections won’t jolt you into the chiropractors waiting room when you do hit the dirt. This new-found freedom will have you pouring over online mapping apps such as Komoot, creating that new perfect route that you’d probably never ride on a mountain bike, definitely wouldn’t on a road bike but are perfect for a gravel bike. This bike is ideal for the adventurer, someone who wants to explore roads and everything in between it.

Groupsets

So, you’ve decided what type of road bikes suits the style of riding you want to do. You’re scrolling through the different brands, reading the descriptions and spec sheet and most of it’s making sense, except one little thing…the groupset. If the word is alien to you, worry not,  a road bike’s groupset refers to any mechanical or electronic parts that are involved in braking, changing gear, or the running of the drivetrain. That means the shifters, brake levers, front and rear brake callipers, front and rear derailleurs, crankset, bottom bracket, chain, and cassette.

There are three main manufacturers of groupsets and bike components. Shimano is the largest and best known, while the other two of the “big three” are Campagnolo and SRAM. All three manufacturers offer a range of groupsets at competing for price points.

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Shimano Road Bike Groupsets

Shimano is synonymous with road cycling, producing and introducing some of the most fundamental technologies in cycling today. 

Shimano’s road groupsets range from Claris (R2000) as the entry-level road-specific groupset, all the way to the professional Dura-Ace (R9100). The 11-speed options begin with 105 (5800), which offers most of the top-level performance at a more wallet-friendly price point, and even the 10-speed Tiagra (4700) is a solid option for the enthusiast cyclists. For near top performance with a small weight gain is the Ultegra (R8000) groupset, following closely to the recently updated Dura-Ace (R9100), and sharing much in terms of design and technology.

All Shimano groupsets come with their own rim brakes, and from Tiagra upwards, are available with disc brake options. These hydraulic disc brakes provide greater stopping power in any weather conditions (especially wet) compared to rim brakes.

SRAM Road Bike Groupsets

Rather than using two shifter arms for each hand to control the gears, SRAM’s DoubleTap® uses a single-arm under the brake lever to shift. To choose a higher gear in the rear, a short push is needed (one tap) is needed, while for a lower gear you need to push the shifter arms further, which actuates the second tap, shifting into a lower gear. This is revered for the front gears.

SRAM offers all but their RED® groupsets in both 1x and 2x variants. This is to cater to hybrid bikes, gravel and adventure, and cyclocross race bikes that prefer a simpler 1x setup. SRAM is the only of the three big groupset manufacturers to offer three different kinds of braking options: cable-operated rim brakes, hydraulic rim brakes and hydraulic disc brakes.

Campagnolo Road Bike Groupsets

Campagnolo road groupsets combine style and performance with a long history of road racing. As Campagnolo is very much a racing focused brand they don’t offer a budget level groupset. Rather, they begin in the middle, at the level where riders are looking for race capable components. Campagnolo is a heart over head brand, that has passion running through the core of their components.

All Campagnolo groupsets now come in 2×11 speed setups with the recent reintroduction of their entry-level Centaur groupset. Above Centaur is the Potenza groupset, followed by the Chorus groupset, which offers high-quality materials like titanium and carbon for weight savings, strength and precision performance.

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Bikes Buying Guide Road Bikes

A Handy Guide to the Different Types of Road Bikes

With the huge focus on cycling in the past few years, and more and more people getting into the sport it can be confusing to navigate the various buzzwords that come with the sport. What’s the difference between a cyclocross and a performance road bike?  Who knew there was more than one type of road bike?! Which bikes are better for commuting, hybrid or a road? Don’t worry we have put together this handy guide to help you pick and choose the right one. So if you want to know your TT bikes from your touring bikes grab a pen and some paper and let’s get to it!

Performance Road Bikes

First up, the performance road bikes, these bikes are generally very sleek and made to be as light as possible. These fellas are made to go fast and get that one up on your opponent.  The performance road bike frames can be made from the usual bike materials: aluminium, and steel, each giving a different feel for the rider. Whilst the upper echelons of high-end performance bikes will be made from carbon fibre, which reduces the weight of the bike considerably. Stiff frames are common, giving responsive handling that will give you the edge on other riders. Cutting through the air is the name of the game and the position of the rider is an important aspect. With these bikes, the lower front end puts the rider in an aerodynamic position, allowing a faster, smoother ride. If you expect to find yourself competing, get yourself on one of these and get over that finish line.700 M CAAD Optimo Disc Tiagra

What we recommend under £1000: Cannondale CAAD Optimo Disc Tiagra – 2017 Road Bike – £949.99 Replacing the old CAAD8, the CAAD Optimo has the same geometry as the more expensive CAAD12, but is made from a lower grade aluminium. Not to put you off, though, this bike has got it where it counts (look at those disc brakes)!

Sportive Bikes

If you want a more relaxed version of a road racer, we have the sportive road bikes. Designed for long distance riding, they accommodate slightly wider tyres, which give far more grip and comfort. Sportive bike frames have been built with more vertical compliance, allowing for a more comfortable ride over extreme terrain such as the world famous Paris-Roubaix. Slightly heavier than a road racer, this bike has it where it counts, with lower gearing helping the rider get up those big hills. If you want to push yourself to go further than before, sportive bikes are the one for you. They are your stead for your endurance rides.cannondale-synapse-disc-tiagra-2017-road-bike

What we recommend under £1000: Cannondale Synapse Disc Tiagra – 2017 Road Bike – £  The Synapse Disc Tiagra is built for versatility, combining a sturdy and lightweight frame allowing you to push yourself up those climbs and take it easy on the descents. This is a perfect entry level road bike.

Cyclocross Bikes

Cyclo-cross bikes are the tougher, muddier cousin of the road racer. Cyclo-cross is mostly a winter discipline, with riders having to tackle an off-road course, getting extremely muddy and a touch of hurdles. Due to the obstacles on the course, dismounting and carrying their bike over with a quick remount is a common feature of the winter races. With this in mind, the more frequent frame materials are aluminium and carbon, offering a lightweight bike to pick up whilst leaping over a stray fallen log. Cyclo-cross bikes that are used for the race circuits tend to be slightly higher off the ground than road racers, this gives them great mud clearance! These bikes are probably the best if you want to feel that crisp winter air, don’t mind getting a bit dirty and especially if you like jumping over things in your path.
ridley-x-bow-20-disc-2016-cyclocross-bike

What we recommend under £1000: Ridley X-Bow 20 Disc – 2016 Cyclocross Bike – £649.99 The main workhorse of the Ridley fleet, the X-Bow is ideal for the introduction to Cyclo-cross. Though also a great one for commuting!

Touring Bikes

The Bear Grylls of the road bikes, the Touring bike is made for the great outdoor adventure. Pack up everything (including the kitchen sink) and leave your daily commute behind. Touring frames are built to last, with wider gaps between tubes allowing for maximum luggage space. With rear racks, mudguards and all sorts of saddlebags, the tyres of a Touring bike are designed to carry all that weight and more! The frame material for touring bikes, generally are made of steel which is easily repairable no matter where you are in the world! Disc brakes are becoming more common, which gives you a fair bit of control in all sorts of weather you will be encountering. This is the bike you take to ride from Barrow, Alaska to Rio Grande, Argentina!ridgeback-voyage-2016-road-bikeWhat we recommend under £1000: Ridgeback Voyage – 2016 Road Bike – £799.99  This bike is built to carry everything. With a classic look, full-length mudguards and a fitter pannier rack this bike will carry you all the way to Timbuktu.

TT – Time Trial/Triathlon

If you want a bike that is faster than a Lamborghini and is pushing on the speed of light, then you’ll probably have to keep looking. If you’re looking for a bike built to go as fast as possible with the most aerodynamic design, then a TT bike is for you! The majority of these bad boys are made from carbon, leaving no space for anything to weigh them down. All brake and gear cables are routed through the tubes themselves, taking away anything that is going to slow it down. The rider sits low and extended over the bike, with aero bars extending out the front for cutting through the wind. Rounding off the set up is carbon fibre rims, slicing through the air with very little resistance and using up less energy. One to pick up if you’re thinking of breaking some land speed records.cube-aerium-hpa-pro-2016-tt-bike

What we recommend just over £1000: Cube Aerium HPA Pro – 2016 TT Bike – £1199.20 Now I know this is over £1000, but really the lower end of the TT bikes generally don’t go below a grand. The Cube Aerium is built for speed, and if you have the need for speed then this is a good place to start! It combines a lightweight frame with an aerodynamic design to cut through the air and push you faster and faster.

Hybrid Bikes

Not technically a road bike and not technically a mountain bike either. Hybrid bikes are the Frankenstein monster of cycling world, taking the best bits from the road (the large/light frames and the 700c wheels) and mountain (the flat handlebars and the disc brakes) disciplines and combining them into a smooth, fast commuter’s dream. The frames, mostly made from aluminium, allow a good combination of strength and the advantage of being lightweight (useful for carrying all your work essentials). These are no nonsense bikes; not something you’ll be using in the Tour De France with, but getting you to and from work. The rider sits more upright on a hybrid, with comfort and more importantly safety within traffic in mind.charge-grater-3-2016-road-bike

What we recommend under £1000: Charge Grater 3 – 2016 Hybrid Bike – £679.99 Simple gearing, full length mudguards, and an aluminium frame, the Charge Grater is one of the perfect commuting bikes. Nothing complicated, just get on and ride!