Evans Cycles
Evans Cycles

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Road Bikes
Road bikes are purely designed for tarmac riding. They feature lightweight frames, 700c wheels and drop handlebars. Once you've decided you want a road bike it is still worth considering the kind of riding you want to do and even how fit you are.
With any bike make your buying choice primarily on the frame. This is the heart of the bike and the most important place to spend your money. Cheaper finishing kit such as bar and stems can be replaced or exchanged early on – possibly even at point of purchase as can personal choice items such as saddle or tyres. Wheels are a popular area for upgrading so don't be distracted by decent wheels on a cheaper frame set. Equally components can be upgraded as they wear out or you become more serious. A few items of more expensive kit – particularly a rear mech – can influence a buyer into thinking a bike is of a higher quality than it really is. Look at the level of kit through out the bike to see where savings may have been made.

Road bikes can be made out of carbon, titanium or aluminium. Each has slightly different properties so it's worth testing riding bikes made with different frame materials to see if there is one you favour. Carbon generally makes the lightest bike although cheap carbon frames may be heavier. Carbon is surprisingly durable despite it is lightweight and is very stiff. Frame builders are able to work with carbon in a variety of ways to construct different shaped tubes influencing the feel of the ride.

Very durable and lightweight aluminium is a popular choice and bikes made of this material can be found at most price points. The quality of the material and the amount of working that goes into tubing determines it's over all cost. Titanium is generally found at the mid to upper price points. This material is prized for its longevity and its comfortable, compliant ride feel.

If you want to race and performance is your main concern then you'll be looking for the lightest and stiffest bike possible. The lightest bikes can weigh as little as 14lbs with customisation but off the peg expect them to be 16-17lbs. Out and out race bikes feature double chainsets - two chainrings at the front - and 10 or even now 11 sprockets at the rear giving a range of close set gears suitable for fast riding. You'll be looking for the best components available; Shimano Dura-ace or Ultegra, Campagnolo Record or SRAM Red. Wheels are an important part of your buying choice but remember if you are a regular racer you are likely to want to upgrade your bike at some point in the future with some extra special race wheels. A racing bike encourages a stretched aero position and fast responsive handling. There is some compromise between comfort and speed, particularly with very stiff bikes, but if you are racing short distances and in it to win it you'll want every performance advantage you can get.

If you favour longer events and sportive over fast paced crits and road races then sportive bikes are worth looking at. This genre of bike is aimed at the rider who undertakes long distance challenge rides such Le Etape du Tour and who wants performance with an element of comfort. At first glance there is very little to distinguish between a race bike and sportive bike but the subtle changes allow riders to spend long hours in the saddle and still be able to perform to their best. Slightly shorter top tubes allow a more upright position relieving pressure on the lower back and allowing those with reduced flexibility to be able to ride in the drops. Frames are built to offer a compromise between stiffness and comfort so you don't feel as battered and fatigue less rapidly. At this level there is a choice of chainset - the compact or the triple. A compact chainset still has two rings, the same as a standard double on a race bike, so the total number of gears is the same but they are just a touch easier. Exactly what you need if you are climbing hills and mountains or if you aren't quite as fit as you would like to be. If you feel you need significantly easier gears and still want to keep the big ring for hammering along the flat a triple offers you more gears over a wider range providing gears both easier and harder than a compact.

If you spend many miles in the saddle training it may be worth considering a bike specifically for training to prevent excessive wear to your pride and joy - particularly in winter. A training bike doesn't need to put as much emphasis on lightness or stiffness. In fact some people positively favour heavier bikes as they feel it enhances the training effect. It is comfort for long miles in the saddle that is most important. A training bike should fit you perfectly – as of course your race bike should – but some riders prefer to make a few changes to enhance their comfort such as a slightly shorter more upright position to save pressure on back, neck and shoulders. A training bike needs to have two bottle cages to carry the fluid you need on long training rides.

Mudguards do a great job of keeping your backside dry, and your riding companions face clean, on wet and dirty days. Mudguard mounts are a bonus as it allows you to easily fit guards but they aren't essential as clip-on guards are available. Finishing kit needs to be functional and robust rather than light and high performance. It needs to be able to handle difficult winter conditions and not cost you an arm and a leg to replace. However don't be tempted with the very cheapest, buy cheap and you'll buy twice.

This Buying Guide gives our customers general advice on Road Bikes. It is a guide only and we always recommend visiting one of our stores or contacting one of the experts in our sales team on +44(0)1293 574 900 if in doubt about your needs.
This story was last updated on 15/11/2012