Have you ever felt the wind flow right past your ears, while you are whooshing past objects? I am sure most of you have, and even if you have not, believe me when I say this. It is an exhilarating experience!
Constant pedalling in order to create as much distance as you can from the people and objects that surround you, the swift manoeuvres that you make while dodging a passing car or taking the next turn to your destination, the ease with which the light body of your vehicle submits to your every whim and fancy is something that a road bike delivers with ease.
Road bikes, often referred to as racing bicycles, are machines that work wonders by giving you more than your fair share of exercise and comfort accompanied by an ease of access. The etymology of this beast can be easily traced to the terrain it is supposed to be used upon – the road.
These bikes attract individuals who take interest in competitive sports, fitness enthusiasts and those who go around cities for a cause. However, these bikes are not to be confused with the ones that are meant for mountaineering, commuting, and other activities.
And the Journey Begins
Road Bikes, as you can see above, fulfill a large variety of objectives and goals. Racing, exercising while commuting to and from work, casually wanting to discover the town or seeking to have an adventure, these bikes will help you fulfill whatever you want! I have recently realized that the bike is literally nothing if we do not count the different parts that constitute the whole.
Without the cranks, cassettes, brake pads, frame and fork, there is no bike. Special attention needs to be paid to all of these parts of the bike. These pivotal parts do not stop after you have purchased the vehicle, it is a permanent factor throughout the time you own the bike and choose to ride it. The parts need to be maintained, taken care of and whenever the need arises, be upgraded.
The Defining Features
Optimized for running smoothly on paved platforms, the body of this vehicle is crafted out of components that are absolutely light. Carbon and Aluminium are generally used to make the frame of a road bike. Butted aluminum tubes are an important addition. They are lighter, have thicker ends and handle a lot of stress that falls on the joints.
Carbon fiber frames are great too. The fiber can be easily manipulated to ascertain the properties this frame should have. Alloys that do not compromise the overall weight of the bike are often used too. Titanium and Steel are favored as well.
The frame is probably the most important part of the bike, this one remains with you as long as you have the vehicle. It is also a non-upgradable part. Thus, it requires much more attention while buying than the rest. Make a smart move here, because you might be sticking with this one for quite some time! Sloping and flat top tubes along with short seat posts become an important part of the frame. I would recommend you to buy one whose frame fits your size and height for smooth riding.
A dropped or a curled handlebar is an identifying feature of the road bikes, although some of them do offer ones that are flat. The dropped handlebar is accompanied by a number of benefits. While climbing steep terrains, the tops can be held on to for a better grip. Hoods on the handlebars are covers for the brakes, they are also used in order to stretch out while riding. The curls at the bottom allow a better position to be taken when you want to speed things up!
Generally, road bikes are provided with dual-Pivot brakes/ traditional rim brakes. These brakes do not have a lot of mud clearance, but are cheap, require less maintenance and can be upgraded easily. Disc brakes are the alternative. They do their job honestly on both wet and dry terrains. Slightly higher on the maintenance level, these brakes can be a great addition for people who like to discover the unexplored!
Road bikes come with narrow wheels. Unlike mountain bikes, these ones use a lesser number of spokes. Lighter wheels rotate much easily because of having to deal with less mass. Rims are deeper and wider, keeping in mind the aerodynamics that is deemed necessary for such a vehicle to run smoothly.
The idea is that wider and deeper rims allow for a much more hassle-free ride as well as take better care of the flat tire situation. This particular appendage comes at quite a price and it is not feasible to keep changing it day in and day out. In my experience, extensive research on wheels is not harmful. It has not only helped me avoid a couple of terrible accidents but has also managed to keep my bike maintenance cost to a minimum.
In order to maintain rolling resistance, tires are narrower and often fit with a center stripe. This also allows the bike to run at high pressures and speed! New discoveries and findings in aerodynamics make this a constant process. 23mm wide tires were the standard that biker community upheld, but now everyone is moving towards a more comfortable 25mm and 26mm ones. Racers find such tires useful in their manner of providing great turning capabilities and their ability to absorb shock.
One of the defining parts of a bike’s comfort level is the seat that comes along with it! Sparsely padded, long and pointed, the seats on a road bike are quite often perceived as uncomfortable. It is always better to stick with this rather than opt for the soft and cushiony ones. The soft and cushiony seats are not suitable for long hours of travel. Because of the nature of the activity that follows a road bike, you should not mess around with the one thing that you rest on.
My advice to you would be to check out the width of the seat that is being offered and ask for another one if it does not suit your hip.
Cassettes and Chain Sets
The two important features which define the number of gears that road bikes will have are these. Chainsets are located in the frontal part and can have up to three chain rings. Different combinations are available for different activities. The 53-tooth outer ring and 39-tooth inner ring combination is preferred by people who like to race. I like the 50-34 teeth compact chainring combo, it helps me to pick up pace easily whenever I want to!
The Cassettes are attached to the rear wheel and usually have up to 11 sprockets. The number of sprockets in a cassette affects the gear ratio used by an individual while cycling.
More sprockets would help a racer speed up quickly, and would also help riders pace steep terrains easily. More teeth present in the cassette indicate lower gears on the bottom which makes it easier to cycle up hills. However, in the chainset, a lesser number of teeth indicates lower gear available up front.
A more direct method in looking at the transmission and brakes of your road bike would be to notice the group set that is specified in your bike’s description. Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM are the most prominent names in this category. Each level or model in a group set is set according to the price, weight and performance of the bike.
Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace and Shimano Di2, for example, are 5 levels of group sets that Shimano manufactures on the basis of the aforementioned categories.
Veloce, Athena, Chorus, Record and Super Record are different products of Campagnolo. Apex, Rival, Force and Red are group sets offered by SRAM. All groupset manufacturers try to make sure that the gear transmission and braking pattern do not have to be accessed differently. The left gear-shift manages the change in the front, whereas the right one operates the cassette. Shimano and Campagnolo offer electronic versions of their models for easier shifting too.
I would suggest that you take a look at all of these technical things that will help you decide which road bike would be suitable for you according to your needs. It is necessary to keep ourselves up to date so that we do not get entangled in the web of unnecessary problems.
A higher-end group set, which houses powerful brakes as well as better gear controls and usage, in my opinion, would be the best choice for someone who loves to race. Imagine how all the extra effort you had to put in for the last 4 laps in a race is simplified to a great extent! Would that not feel amazing?
Apart from the technical specifications, you should also stress upon the look and feel factor while choosing the best road bike to accompany you in your adventure and pleasure rides.
Apt Size and Fit
Buying a road bike just because it is a bargain or because it has the best specs in the market is not a wise move. Apart from all the technical issues listed above, there are a couple of other things that should be kept in mind while taking the call. It took me a long time to decide the size of my first bike.
The size and fit of a road bike are very important because of the continuous usage both rider and vehicle have to go through. Being in the same position for a considerable amount of time is something that most of your activities would possibly account for. Thus, sticking to a weird position on your bike, for long periods of time, can lead to pains and aches rising from muscle and spine injuries. Damage to the posture and certain bodily parts is absolutely unavoidable in scenarios like this.
Bikes are generally measured keeping in mind the size or length of the seat tube. The measurement is often presented in centimeters. Some companies categorize sizes in small, medium and large. It is always advisable to look at the size chart provided by the companies minutely, take a call and then try the bike out once before buying the product.
However, here are two things that will help you immensely in order to select the perfect size, keep on reading:
The conventional, entire body measurement is not what I intend to draw focus on in this arena. The distance that is left between the upper tube of the bike and your genital area while you are not seated is what matters here. It is advisable that you leave at least a space of 2 inches or more, else during emergency circumstances, you might find yourself in a lot of pain! It becomes very important to test this measure out not only because of the potential awkward painful situations but also because of the control that one should reserve over the bike.
If the distance between your genital area and the top tube along with your overall height becomes the reason for your dilemma while making a choice between two sizes of bikes, then I have a solution.
The amount of ‘arms and the upper portion of the body’ stretching you have to do in order to be comfortably seated as well enjoy the ride should become your decisive factor while selecting the best road bike money can offer. With the curled handlebar, road bikes emphasize quite a lot on your ability to access these with ease. If you are not able to use the handlebars properly, even while being parallel to the top tube, it is not a good investment. It goes without saying that with a restricted access there, you would not be able to maneuver the bike properly and face lots of problems trying to control it. You can blindly skip such horrible options.
If the reach of your arms (arm span) is longer than the body, then you should opt for the bike having a larger size. This means that you would not have to bend a lot and put yourself in an uncomfortable position, your arms can easily run the show. If your height is significantly more than the reach of your arms (arm span) then a short sized bike would be a better choice. Your body would not face difficulties in bending to a certain extent and on top of that, the handlebar can be easily accessed as well.
Other Crucial Factors to Keep in Mind
It is not only the size that makes a difference but also how different parts of the bike fit your comfort and needs. The seat can be easily adjusted and changed, the material set to the users fancy. The position of the seat and the height on which you have to sit and paddle is also something to worry about. Handlebars, in this scenario, can be custom made, lowered and raised. Putting spacers right on the steering tube is a simple solution to such a problem.
Stems with increased length for maintaining proper reach is easily available. Bike-fit services are in practice to handle problems of such nature. My take on this is that you should always know what you want, how you are expecting your bike to perform. All the features necessary to fit the bill should be present in the vehicle prior to the purchase. It saves you a whole lot of money, time and stops your precious bike from coming under the hammer on a regular basis.
You must always remember that even if the price is sky-high, and the bike looks extremely wonderful with out-of-the-world specifications, it would do you practically no good if it does not fit you. It is always advisable to go to a shop, get yourself sized and then purchase the bike.
Helmet, gloves, kneecaps and elbow caps are investments that should be made. Clipless pedals, glasses, and shoes are also an interesting set of objects to obtain. A Puncture repair kit, locks, and lights are a must if you are going to spend a lot of time on the road.
Reviews of the Best Road Bikes of 2016
Bianchi Allroad 105
Weighing at 10.25 kg, the Bianchi Allroad has a triple- butted aluminum frame with options for a carbon or an aluminum fork. The dropper post function allows you to have more clearance on the saddle. Even on difficult terrains, the lever can be easily reached and worked with.
The Shimano 105 gear set and the Shimano BR-RS785 brake set give this road bike a tremendous edge over others on off-roads. 35mm Kenda Medium Tyres and the Reparto Corse DRAW 1.9 Disc provide greater clearance on rocky surfaces. Nonetheless, its performance on the tarmac is relatively low because of its tires weight.
Specialized Allez E5 Sport
With the D’Aluisio Smartweld technology being used for its aluminum frame, this entry level bike does wonders on the road. A Shimano Sora group set which houses derailleur, the cranks, and the brake levers and 25c tires provide a comfortable, fast paced and controlled experience. The Allez E5, because of its aluminum frame, provides ample road feedback for you to understand the situation and condition of your wheels! The bike takes some time to get up and going about speed but performs greatly once that point is reached.
Specialized has added the 25c Espoir sport on both the wheels, a puncture resistant film that stops most of the dreaded flat tire situations. With the 11-32t gearing range with the 50-34t crank in the frontal part, the machine clicks easily to shift gears and move up the speeding ladder. All in all, a comfortable ride, with custom made seats, a tube that allows riders to stretch their backs, an aluminum frame that absorbs most of the shocks and a slick handlebar, the Allez E5 sport can easily turn out to be a good investment.
Giant Defy 3
A road bike that focuses on daily usage, and does not try to fight it out with others on grounds of speed and weight, the Giant Defy 3 delivers everything it promises. Fitted with a Shimano Sora nine-speed transmission, the 50/34t system and the sprockets on the rear wheel tend to work just fine in tandem. It is easy to cover steep terrains with the 11-32t cassette at the back. The brakes (Tektro Calipers) are a little low in terms of performance.
It takes a little more time to bring the bike to a halt. However, this does not mean that the bike is absolutely out of control, the brakes do not perform as per the expectations. Giant supplies its own tires, S-R4, which is made from good rubber compounds in order to offer better grip on the tarmac. The saddle and the bar tape are sufficiently padded for comfort. It might not be the fanciest of bikes, but it does its job quite well.
Merida Ride 200
Let me tell you, powering up this bike requires a lot of pedaling which is not good. However, this happens to be one of the few bikes that focus more on the position of the rider than the overall acceleration. If you suffer from terrible back or neck aches, you would not need to spend a lot trying to re-configure this bike as, to my utmost delight, it does not force you to ride in extremely uncomfortable positions.
Merida ‘Rite Lite’ aluminum, a customized metal, is used to make the frame and carbon is used for its fork. Both of these things help the bike and its rider from wasting a large chunk of energy, as well as to make the bike a lot sturdier. The Shimano Octalink crank is combined with the Shimano Sora nine speed gearing. It has a relatively slow gear shift mechanism up front which is covered up by the fantastic plastic chain-catcher that prevents drops! If you prefer cruising without compromising heavily on comfort, this is the one for you!
Focus Cayo Al Sora
Triple butted alloy frame along with a full carbon tapered fork and an internal cable routing makes this one of the lightest bikes for its price in the market and offers the rider an insane amount of control. The vehicle has a low geometry and allows for better handling controls, once you lower the handlebars.
The Shimano Sora Gearing set changes gears easily. Equipped with a 50/34t crank and an 11-28t cassette, the bike is provided with a huge array of possible combinations for a desirable ride. Schwalbe Lugano 25c tires, along with a high spoke count make the wheels more durable. The Tektro brakes are not up to the mark but do not compromise on safety. The Cayo Al Sora is a good find for individuals who want to race.
The Crank that features in this bike is a 50/34T, square tapered FSA model. A Shimano HG400 with an 11-28T set and 9 speeds is the cassette that accompanies the Crank. It is pretty easy to shift gears on this crank and the 11-28t cassette stands out as one that is not only useful for new riders to get their hands on but is equally efficient in terms of dropping gears, climbing steep and hilly terrains.
The 23mm/c tires provide a larger clearance, while the bladed spokes make the wheel look extremely fancy. This tire set incurs losses because of the less volume of air it can hold, leading to incapability in absorbing shocks on the road as well as facing problems while cornering in momentum. The Tektro dual pivot performs poorly in this model. It adds to the problem faced during cornering. All of these issues aren’t intense enough to be a deal-breaker, rather they can be fixed easily by upgrading each of the parts.
Cannondale CAAD12 105
Awarded Bike of the Year 2016 by both Cycling Plus and Bike Radar, this is probably one of the most dependable machines in the market. Sculpted from aluminum alloy, CAAD12, is extremely light and beats both Shimano and Ultegra in the weight category because of its advanced hollow-forged alloy construction. The frame and fork together manage to keep steady on rough roads and deliver the right amount of feedback to the rider.
A Mavic Aksium wheelset accompanied by 25mm/c Schwalbe Lugano tires makes sure that the rider does not face troubles while cornering by pressing down and creating more friction amongst other things. A Cannondale Si-52/36t for the Crank and an 11/28t cassette make transmissions to both higher and lower gears easier. Weighing 8.1 kg, this road bike is nothing short of a wonder!
Cervelo R2 105
Boasting of a frameset that is similar to the one present in the Paris-Roubaix winning R3 model, the Cervelo R2 105 delivers quality through a trickle-down effect. The feedback received from the road is perfect. Every contour, hole, and disruption are easily felt on the bike and maneuvering it is not tough at all. Standing on the pedals and making the right turns increases the acceleration of the device manifold.
The Shimano RS010 wheelset and Vittoria Rubino tires help in doing all of the above as well as maintain velocity throughout the ride. The Gossamer Pro Bike Callipers work efficiently to pull rough stops and make firm finishes. An FSA Gossamer crankset and Shimano 105 shifters along with derailleur combine beautifully and allow riders to shift gears and pick up the pace easily.
Lapierre Xelius SL600
A Tapered full carbon fork, a carbon frame that claims to be 850g complete internal cabling and a press-fit bottom bracket make the Xelius SL600 a good specimen of modern day bikes. The seat cluster arrangement is quite amazing. The top tube splits three ways with the upper section curving up to touch the seat tube and the rest of the two parts pass on each side of the seat tube. It gives the seat much more strength and durability than a lot of others.
The rear absorbs much more bumps in a better manner, even if the geometry of this bike is racy. Xelius SL600 makes climbing steep terrains fun, as if it does not take a lot of energy from you! It also comprises of Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset, moreover, the width has been increased to 17mm and the 4D rim milling process lets the bike gather a lot of street creed.
A full Ultegra groupset minus the cassette and chain gives the bike an amazing amount of power.
BMC GranFondo GF01
A ‘Compliance’ seat post, Shimano RX-31wheels and an alloy cockpit account for GF01’s bump absorbing mechanism. It is responsive even on rough surfaces and manages to give proper road feedback to the riders. The GF01 fancies a total Shimano group set, starting from cranks to cassettes and chains to brakes. The wheelset, as mentioned above, also belongs to Shimano. A 50/32t crank combined with an 11/32 t cassette makes riding this bike smooth, both in hilly steep terrains, rocky uneven surfaces or for that matter, plain unperturbed tarmac.
The cables are placed externally, making it easier for them to be changed in case you feel like having an electronic gear-kit. ‘Tuned Compliance Concept’ is a system devised by BMC to provide both stiffness and comfort. The bump absorption mechanism mentioned above dropped seat stays, and the customized top tubes are all a part of it. The Granfondo GF01, thus, is a good investment to make.
Wrapping up the Road Bikes Saga
Someone who does not take care of the bike properly will often enough face problems. I suggest all of you to always keep in mind that the initial parts provided by the company are not to last a lifetime. They should be upgraded while keeping in mind the requirements and the condition of the existing parts. It is important that you care for your bike like it is another human being, it will definitely give all the love back double folded.
Last but not the least, you must have noticed throughout the reviews listed above that how the stiffness of the frame is important and has been stressed on multiple times. It is important that you pay enough attention to this, so that while you are gliding through the streets like a free bird, you do not fall prey to sudden disruptions. Have a great time hunting bikes and finally putting it out there on the road to experience the thrill!