Are you looking to purchase 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 a simple ride around town, commuting to and from work, races or triathlons or just looking to improve your 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.
As a sport, bicycle racing has existed since the 19th century, making use of high-wheeled bicycles that made the exercise quite hazardous due to hard tires and barely-there brakes. The bikes prioritized speed, forcing them to create larger and larger front wheels of up to 60” wide, which only meant more crashes. In order to compensate, manufacturers began to even out the wheels and make both the front and back the same size.
The pneumatic tire came around soon after, leading to bikes adopting them for races in 1889. This meant better safety and led to bicycle racing becoming a much more famous sport. It became popular in the United States in velodromes, and track racing also grew in Europe. Long distance road racing also picked up in Europe, and in 1903, the Tour de France began.
But prewar era bikes had much more flexible frames, which often made them more difficult to maneuver, although their long wheelbase made up for it with added stability. Their tubing was lightweight and butted, and wheels were made from wood. It wasn’t until 1937 that aluminum rims became a standard for road bikes.
It is also worth noting that derailleurs were also not implemented till then despite having been conceived decades earlier, as they were considered unreliable and the cause of unnecessary drag. At the time, multiple gear ratios were used instead with three gear cogs upon a rear freewheel. This made gear changing a long and tedious process.
Only in the 1960s did manufacturers begin to create the road bikes we know today – the ones with the dropped handlebars, light frame, multiple speed options and narrow, closely spaced tires. Modifications were made with new technology in order to achieve perfect speed and the best aerodynamic structure, leading to today’s modern road bike.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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)|
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 readjust the bike if it needs it, and lube up some of the parts.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Road bicycles, otherwise known as racing bicycles, are bikes designed for competitive racing that are built to fit the rules and guidelines of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). A road bike prides itself in its efficiency, as its form and build allow it to move at faster speeds.
This is in part due to its lightweight and the power at which a rider can pedal due to a derailleur gear system, drop handlebars, and a forward-leaning riding position. Usually, a road bike will also have wheels that are close together. In short, this kind of bike puts a priority on speed and aerodynamics, not on comfort.
If you are looking to get into road cycling and want to purchase the right bike for the job, then you have to know what you are looking for. That is why we have put together a comprehensive guide to give you an idea of what road bicycles really are. Enjoy!
No one buys a bicycle with the intention of replacing it within a few months. That is why it’s important to properly care for and maintain a road bicycle so that it doesn’t suffer too much from wear and tear. Here’s how to do that.
Gently rinse, wash, and apply lubricant to your bike regularly. You’d be surprised how much it lengthens its lifespan and generally makes your bike look great. If your bike is muddy or dirty after a tedious ride, don’t just put it away – clean it immediately. You don’t have to be super meticulous about it, but make sure it is clean.
You should rinse your bike all over first to get rid of excess debris. Then, prop the bike up and wash your bike with warm soapy water using a sponge, switching to a brush to get to stubborn stains. Dry off the bike with cloth, then spray the wheels and bike with a degreaser. You can wax or polish after, but don’t overdo it or it will become sticky. Just apply wax every three or four washes. And there you have it: a clean bike.
Regularly check your bike’s frame for rust or wear and tear. To do this, remove the wheels and look it over continually. If all is well, refer to the previous instructions on “washing”.
You should look over your handlebars and make sure that the bolts are not loose at least once a month. If you have squeaky handlebars, loosen the bolts or caps of the stem and remove the bar. Wipe with cycle oil and reattach.
If the tape around your handlebars is loosening or appears to be falling apart, you can easily replace it if you have the same kind of tape with you. Remove the plug and cut away the old tape, clean the bar to remove remaining glue, and then wrap the tape back on. Always wrap towards the saddle on the flat section, and in the direction that your hands roll on drops.
A saddle can easily wear out over time. You can use shoe polish on yours if you have one made from genuine leather, as long as you remember to buffer it before riding once more. This will help a saddle to withstand harsh weather. Remember, you should always wrap your saddle in plastic when you aren’t using it.
As for the post, clean and grease it with the rest of your bike, regularly. Double check to ensure there is no rusting occurring around the collar of the post. If it seems to show signs of rust, then replacing it is affordable and it’s best done sooner than later.
Extra tip! Having trouble keeping the seat at the right height? Mark the post with a permanent marker or some masking tape.
Oil the cable guide for the bottom bracket at least once a week, and immediately after a rainy ride, or else it may become stuck or gunky. If you are having issues with noise, then drip some oil into the derailleur pulley wheel hubs while you are at it.
It’s important to make sure that your chain is the right length. Use a chain checker to do so; 24 chain links can reach 12.2” river to river at max. After that, the chain has to be replaced. In addition, a chain that skips almost constantly is bad news. In order to fix this, turn the derailleur’s barrel adjusted by half – to the right if the chain drops to a smaller cog and to the left if it goes the other way. Do try not to tighten it too much, though!
You also need to oil your chain regularly. Lubricate between the side plates and under the center roller, though, not the entire chain as this will cause a greasy mess. Allow the chain to soak for several minutes after you have oiled it before wiping it down. Apply more lubricant when you next hear the chain squeak; till then, just wipe it clean after each ride.
You should regularly measure the thickness of your brake’s disc pads. Note that they should not drop thinner than 2.5mm – if they do, they need replacing! As for brake cables, when you cut them, put a cap over them for the safety of your hands and skin.
First, understand tire pressure. Under-inflated tires will cause flats and make you expend more energy, but over-inflating will cause them to burst more easily if they take damage. Use a pressure gauge to ensure that you are doing okay, regularly making sure it doesn’t get too low and using it to make sure you don’t put in too much. You can check the maximum compression printed on the tire if needed.
In addition, if your tires are tubeless, it’s worth noting that the sealant on them will dry out. As such, you will need to remove and reapply that sealant once every couple of months. You should also be sure to check that your bike’s tire’s treads have not worn too thin to the point where they begin to disappear. Summer tires and other tires without treads will flatten as they wear out.
Lastly, considering purchasing and attaching front and rear mudguards to your tires so you don’t have to deal with splashes in wet weather!
What kind of riding can I use a road bike for?
There are few tasks that road bikes cannot perform, and there are many things you can use one for. Of course, many road bikes are designed specifically for racing, but you can also use them for an urban commute.
What are road bike frames made from?
Road bike frames are made from either aluminum, steel, or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the most common material for road bike frames due to its lightweight yet strong nature. It’s comfortable to use but it also highly reliable and can perform well.
Steel, meanwhile, is also a relatively popular material, and they are durable and comfortable. Carbon fiber sticks out as a material, as it is usually only used in higher end bikes. It is extremely stiff but also very lightweight, and the fact that it does not originally come in tubes means that it can essentially be shaped in any way. This means that these bikes can be made to be very aerodynamic, providing a big performance advantage.
Should I get a disk brake road bike, or a traditional caliper brake road bike?
It depends on what you are after. Disc brakes have excellent, consistent stopping power in any and all conditions, even in dirt, mud, or puddles. On the other hand, traditional rim brakes are very easy to maintain and are much cheaper, and are therefore more popular in the market.
How do I choose the right bike size for me?
This is a very important step. Don’t compromise in this area at all; don’t buy a bike that’s too big or small because it’s more affordable. Go by your height and dimensions and find a bike that fits you best.
If you are ordering online, then it’s good to know that road bike sizes are usually presented in centimeters. But different manufacturers may measure their frames in different ways, which can be quite confusing, especially since every potential rider has a body shape unique to them. Have a look at the size chart and study it carefully.
If you are ordering from a store, test out the bike. Put your leg over it and see how easily you can get on, and take it for a test drive if you can. You should be able to stand of the frame with some space between the top tube and you.
How can I find a good bike fit, and why is this important?
Bike fitting services are available in many bike shops. A bike that fits you well should have its saddle, handlebars, and stem at the right height and position for you to feel natural while riding. This is especially important if you are switching from a mountain bike to a road bike, as road bikes cause you to spend a lot of time leaning forward in one fixed position. Therefore, comfort is important and a bike has to fit you correctly to avoid injury.
As the name suggests, a touring bicycle is one that is designed to be able to handle the long durations and possibly harsh conditions of bicycle touring. Many may have long wheelbases to support carrying both a rider and the items they might bring along on the many mounting points. Older touring bicycles made use of flexible frames, but newer models incorporate rigid frames with heavy duty wheels. Here’s an example of one to check out:
Built from a chromoly frame with a steel fork for extra durability, the Nashbar TR1 Touring Bike is meant to be comfortable and lightweight thanks to its alloy components and Alex DC-19 wheels. Its light nature allows it to be fast and its sturdy frame means it is able to handle touring with little difficulty.
The bike is equipped with a Shimano Tiagra/Deore drivetrain, which is powered by an FSA Mega Exo triple crankset. The 3×10 gearing and 30/39/30T sprockets allow for a powerful, precise, and smooth ride with easy gear shifting with the 11-32 ten-speed cassette. On top of that, the bike is fitted with Kenda 700c tires that are wide enough for comfort.
Recumbent bicycles are interestingly structured bikes, often designed for those with back problems and many times also fitted with three wheels. It places you in a position where you are leaning back, with your weight distributed in a more even and comfortable manner. Due to the odd shape, luggage has to be placed on special racks or panniers that are designed to fit under the seat.
Apart from their signature seating style, recumbent bikes have no set format. They can have a variety of wheel sizes and bases, different kinds of steering, and various sorts of drive styles. Even three-wheeled tricycles are available. Some riders choose this bike for its ergonomics and the added aerodynamic advantage of the reclined position. They go so fast that one holds a world record for speed and these forms of bikes have been banned under the UCI! Here is an example of one:
This unique bicycle – technically a tricycle – focuses on increasing cardiovascular function, arm strength, and leg strength with its unique and innovative rear-wheel steering system. Despite the exercise it provides, the recumbent design means less stress is placed on the arm and shoulders. It is very stable thanks to its low frame and the dual-joystick system makes it easy to maneuver.
The Mobo Triton Pro’s extendable fame is made of durable steel and can house riders of all sizes, whether you are four feet tall or reaching heights of 6’3”. It is more focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle than designed for racing, as this style was banned from the UCI due to its unfair speed advantages. It’s reasonably priced at $409.17. Check it out here!
Just as the name claims, a utility bike is meant for practical transportation, not for racing or recreation. It is the most common form of bicycle found in the world today, with the English roadster being the most common. Many builds focus on durability and safety and usually lack to higher tech, more modern accessories, and design of other road bikes.
A wide majority of utility bikes have handlebars at a higher place than the saddle and in a curved back style. This allows for upright riding without needing to shift postures. It’s much heavier than other forms of bikes, but a utility bike is extremely functional. Here’s a good example of one:
This incredibly simple bike has one purpose: to help you get things done without breaking the bank. It is made from a hard steel frame that has horizontal dropouts, aiming to be able to handle urban hustle and bustle. It is fitted with Kenda 700c wheels and 32c tires that are made to handle cracks, debris, potholes, and other objects and obstructions on city streets.
Hybrid bikes take the best of both worlds from traditional road bikes and mountain bikes, with some also borrowing aspects of touring bikes. This makes them lightweight and fast while also being comfortable and sturdy, so they can handle plenty of different terrains in a stable and balanced manner with easy maneuverability. Many also include mounting points or racks.
There are numerous different types of hybrid bikes, but the general consensus is that they are a good Jack of all trades. Here’s an example of one:
This bike is built on a strong aluminum frame, accompanied by a suspension fork, an alloy crank, and a padded saddle that all make for a more comfortable ride. It is fitted with swept-back upright handlebars for a straight seating position and is designed for everyday use in an urban setting.
With a Shimano rear derailleur system and 21-speed SRAM grip shifters, this bike can handle quick gear changes at a variety of speeds and in many different situations. Promax alloy linear pull brakes allow for fast stopping, and the bike is also equipped with a rear gear carrier and fender mounts. This bike’s wheels are the standard 700c.
Fitness bikes are meant to be comfortable and effective and are a great option for those who are new to road cycling. They usually have flat handlebars, allowing for an upright riding position and have a short, rigid frame that is very easy to handle. They are highly functional and are both light and fast, which allows you to easily use them as workout tools or to run errands at a fast pace. Here’s a good fitness bike to check out:
This bike is designed for everyday use and is very commuter friendly, making it a great option for urban transportation. The geometry of the frame is comfortable to use and the steel handlebars are in a flat, mid-rise configuration to allow for upright riding in full comfort.
The Raleigh Cadent 1 Urban Fitness Bike has 700c wheels and wide 35c tires for added traction, which work in perfect tandem with the 21 gears of the Shimano Tourney Twist 7-speed drivetrain system. The Tektro Alloy Mini V-Brakes make for an easy-to-use stopping mechanism. In addition, the bike is fitted with Weinman QR17 double wall rums and a Selle Royal Shadow Saddle as a finishing touch.
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.