Beginner Road Bikes

Last updated: January 2017

Are you interested in purchasing your first road bike? There is a lot to understand when it comes to beginner road bikes, no matter what your intended use, be it:

  • Riding around town
  • Commuting to and from work
  • Training for a bike race or triathlon
  • Biking for sport
  • Biking for pure exhilaration
  • Improving fitness

Whether it is for one of these reasons or another that you are interested in buying a beginner road bike, there are a lot of things you need to consider first. In this guide, you will find everything you need to know if you are just getting started as a road biker.

This guide contains information on sizing and bike fit, why road bikes differ from other options, the key components of a road bike, and what to expect as you break in your bike. You will also find other information that will keep you from being disappointed when you ride your bike for the first time.

In addition to the information you will learn, we will also discuss several great bike options- whether you are looking to drop a few hundred dollars or purchase the best beginner road bikes under $1,000.

What Makes Road Bikes Different?

The classification of “road bike” is one among many, including hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, and others. But what makes a road bike so different from other choices on the market? Road bikes are designed for riding on flat surfaces like the road or sidewalk.

This means that if you plan to use it to ride around town or train for a bike marathon, a road bike is definitely what you need. The design and weight of the frame are a key difference between road bikes and others.

The frames are often much lighter and designed for speed, for effortless riding across payment. This is the reason road bikes are the choice of bike racers.

Within the category of road bikes, you will also find that there are two main types of handlebars. Road bikes usually have either drop-bar or flat-bar handlebars, which will make a difference in the type of ride that you will have.

Drop-bar handlebars are designed for riders that expect the most out of the speed of their road bike. They require the rider to bend forward as they ride, into a bent position. This position optimizes efficiency and speed.

The position that you must ride in makes drop-bar handlebars a bad option for anyone with back problems or limited flexibility, however. The other option is a flat-bar handlebar, which gives you the option of sitting in an upright position as you ride.

Not only does this reduce strain on your back, it reduces the strain on your shoulders, wrists, and hands, as well as increasing your visibility. These can be a great option for some individuals, though it is important to note that they are not quite as efficient as drop-bar handlebars.

Key Components of a Road Bike

While cheap road bikes under $200 and road bikes under $1,000 have different brands of components, the basic makeup of a road bike will remain the same. Here are some of the key components of a road bike:

  • Bike Frame
  • Tires
  • Inner Tube
  • Wheel Spokes
  • Chain
  • Chainring
  • Cogs
  • Shifters
  • Derailleurs
  • Brakes
  • Pedals
  • Seat
  • Gears
  • Crankset

The important thing to remember when you are looking at bike components is that you will usually get what you pay for. While that does not mean you will not be able to find a bike in your price range, it does mean that you should expect to get more usage out of a higher end bike before you need to replace parts.

If you do choose a bike with lower quality parts, however, remember that you can always replace them as you get more money to invest in your bike.

It is important to note that most road bike manufacturers cut the total cost of their bike by choosing certain lesser-quality components. This often includes the wheels, tires, bike seat, and pedals. Luckily, these are relatively cheap to replace and you can choose your own higher quality components after you have purchased the bike.

Sizing and Bike Fit

One of the first things that you need to take into consideration before choosing a bike is the bike sizing. Many road bikes are offered in small, medium, or large.

While the small, medium, and large sizes will differ between bike companies (and even specific models), you can easily determine which is best for you by taking into account the length of your inseam, as well as the reach of your arms.

Bikes are often sold proportionate, so companies assume those with longer legs also have longer arms.

Sizing Guidelines

When it comes to sizing, your overall height should determine whether you need a small, medium, or large bike. Instead of paying attention to the sizes, however, you should use the measurement of the bike in relation to your size to pick the right bike.

Then, after you have purchased the road bike, you can take it to your local shop to get the perfect adjustments. Here is a handy chart that you can use to determine the optimal road bike size for you.

Your Height (inches) Bike frame height (centimeters)
5’1”- 5’3” 48cm
5’3”-5’5” 50cm
5’5”-5’7” 52cm
5’7”-5’9” 54cm
5’9”-5’11” 56cm
5’11”-6’1” 58cm
6’1”-6’3” 60cm
6’3”-6’5” 62cm

Breaking in Your New Bike

After you have purchased a new bike, it will go through what is known as a “break in” period. The duration of this period really depends on the miles you put on your bike.

If you have tightened, lubed, and adjusted each of the parts of your bike, then there will only be a few notable differences.

As you ride your new bike, the cables will begin to stretch and wear which will make the bikes shift more smoothly. You may also notice a smoothness in the operation of the brakes.

Even though your bike must go through this initial break in period, it is important to get a tune up after about a month.

This tune up is best done by a professional if you are a novice road biker, but you can do it yourself if you are comfortable.

The tune up should include re-tightening and readjusting the bike if it needs it, and lubing up some of the parts.

Beginner Road Bikes: Getting the Most for Your Dollar

Whether you want to start off with a beginner road bike under $200 or you are looking to spend up to $1,000 on your bike, this section will tell you the best bikes in your price range.

Best Beginner Bike under $200

One of the best choices would be the 21-Speed 700C Aluminum Road Bike by Merax.

This bike features high-quality Shimano derailleurs and shifters and an aluminum frame that is both lightweight and durable. There are several great things about this bike. First, it offers a really smooth ride. It brakes and changes gears very easily.

The bike itself is very well put together, which allows it to offer an effortless ride. The 21-Speed Aluminum Bike by Merax is also easy to assemble. As an added bonus, it is available in two different color options (green and red).

Best Beginner Bike under $300

Men’s Volare 1200 700c Road Bike by Schwinn is one of the best purchases you can make within this price range.

Some of the key features of this bike include 700c wheels, an aluminum frame with a fork designed for fitness, 21 speeds, and alloy parts. The shifters and rear derailleur are made by Shimano and the bike also feature an alloy crank, alloy wheels, and alloy linear pull brakes.

There are several advantages to this bike. Its lightweight frame and high-profile wheels allow it to offer a smooth, effortless ride. It is a great option for commuting to and from work or the grocery store or just riding for fitness. The other great thing about this bike is that its gears and brakes operate flawlessly.

Best Beginner Bike under $500

For a mid-priced road bike, you will be spending about $500. If this sounds like you, then the R4 Road Bike with 21 Speed and Shimano Parts by Hasa may be a good choice.

The features of this bike include high-quality Shimano derailleurs and shifters, an aluminum alloy frame, and CNC machine walled wheels. The frame of this bike is extremely lightweight but still durable. The company guarantees the frame so much that it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Another advantage of this bike is almost every part is made of aluminum alloy. This results in a bike that is extremely lightweight and top of its class. In addition to all of the great mechanical features of this bike, it comes with a sleek, smooth design.

You can tell that HASA is a company confident in what they are selling. In addition to the lifetime warranty on the frame, all of the parts are guaranteed for a year, excluding the tires, tubes, and brake pads.

Best Beginner Bike under $700

If you want to spend a little more to make sure you are getting a high-quality bike but are not quite ready to drop as much as $1,000 on a bike, then a good option for you is the FORZA 2.0 Aluminum Carbon Road Bike by Vilano.

When you spend as much as $700 on a bike, you expect it to be of high-quality. The Vilano company does not disappoint with this model. The frame is made of aluminum while the fork is constructed of carbon fiber, which makes it one of the lighter bikes in this list.

It also features Shimano Tiagara shifters and Shimano derailleurs, so you know that you are getting mechanical parts. The tires of this bike are double-walled 700c models.

The frame, paired with the amazing tires, means that you can easily reach high speeds with little effort. Finally, the bike is extremely easy to assemble which is good news if you are not familiar with your local bike shop yet.

Best Beginner Bike under $1,000

Even if you plan on spending up to $1,000 on a bike, you need to be sure that it is high-quality. The best road bike under $1,000 is the Century 2 Road Bike by Diamondback Bicycles.

This bike comes with high-quality parts all around. It features a 7005 aluminum frame (while many others come with 6061 aluminum) and a carbon fiber fork, both of which are lightweight and extremely durable.

The shape of the frame is also great, as it allows you to sit forward enough to get the speed you would expect from a road bike without the strain that you may have on your neck and back. It also features dual-control shifters by Shimano that shift flawlessly between gears.

This bike also comes with wider wheels, meaning you can take gravel roads and pebble paths without a problem. The Century 2 provides a comfortable, effortless ride- whether you are riding to work or training for a triathlon.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you have an idea of what to expect from a road bike- start looking! While your local bike shop may be able to provide this information and more, they will likely try to push a more expensive bike on you that you may not be ready for yet.

This can be okay for some, but it is a problem if you don’t plan on spending $1,000 or more when you have yet to make the decision if road biking is for you.

Remember, there are several things you must consider if you want a quality bike. In addition to choosing the right style and size, you will want to make sure that the components of the bike work well together.

Even if you do choose a bike that has some cheaper parts, you will have the option of replacing them later in the life of your bike.

Don’t forget to check out the cheapest bikes under $1,000 if you are looking for high-quality bikes in a lower price range. Regardless of how much you are willing to spend, be sure that you are getting the most for your dollar.

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