Setting off on the right foot
With all of the type around the Tour de France this year and the trending surge of interest in cycling, you’re not alone if you’re looking at getting out on the road with a new set of wheels this summer.
However, when you’re heading to the local shop to buy a road bike, the vast range of discipline types, construction materials and component options can be confusing. There’s one sure-fire solution to this that’ll get you up to speed on the cycling scene though – and that’s to learn the basics. In this guide, we’ll show you the ropes to help you get a better handle on what road bikes are all about.
Affordability is the name of the game at the moment with decent entry models costing around £250. Road bikes have never been more accessible to enthusiasts, despite the fact that world class professionals are riding feather-light bikes worth up to £10,000; it’s not the case for the man on the street. Lower end bikes have benefited from the trickle-down effect of technology, so last year’s cutting edge component is this year’s standard, too
Setting your budget will be the first step. As mentioned, you can start with a good quality road bike from £250. Pricing increases steeply depending on the components and frame type chosen, too. Typically the lighter the bike the more expensive it will be. Starter bikes can go up to about £1000 and after a grand you’re looking at more professional versions with state of the art gears and technology.
Research your brands
A bike is an investment as much as it is a piece of hobby equipment. You want to know it will feel as good one year down the line as it does on the first pedal stroke, you want to know that you’ve made the right choice.
Heading to a local bike shop such as Halfords for a fitting session, getting to sit on the bikes and possibly a test ride is the best way to do this. Each bike is different in the way you sit, the way it rolls and how you feel pedalling.
Knowing the frame materials
Pretty much standard, Aluminium frames are the most common frame material for road bikes under the £1000 mark.
The original bike frame material until the late 1980s. This was the most common frame material until the 1980s but is not as widespread.
At one time, this was the most desired material of all. As weightless as aluminium and as strong as steel whilst being corrosion-resistant are its top perks.
Carbon fibre frames are the top of the top at the moment, being ultra-light and incredibly strong. Beware though as there’s a difference between cheap and expensive carbon fibre, down to the type of fibres used and how it’s manufactured.
Choosing the right size
Size is the most important factor when choosing a new road bike. As mentioned, let the bike shop assistants show you the range and sit on different sizes to find the right fit for you.
Don’t make the mistake of going for a smaller or larger bike because of price thinking you’ll get used to it – they won’t be suited to you and you won’t enjoy riding them.
Road bike sizes are labelled in centimetres, so there are likely at least 3 sizes that may suit you, depending on comfort levels. Check out manufacturer’s websites for sizing guides for a better idea. A top tip is to be able to stand over the frame with a couple of centimetres space between your crotch and the top tube. Too much and the frame is too small, and if you’re straddling it, then it is way too big.
Mudguards or no mudguards?
Decide early on if you’re going to need mudguards on your wheels as the bike frame might not be able to incorporate a guard well. If you are choose a frame with eyes and long drop brakes so there’s enough space for your guard.
If your selected frame doesn’t have the clearances or eyes for full mudguards then most of the solutions are unsatisfactory in one way or another. If you are going to leave them permanently mounted for winter commuting then you will at some point end up getting angry at them at the side of the road as they fall off.
Finalizing the fit
Many parts on your bike can be adjusted to suit your dimensions and for comfort. Saddle height and positions, handlebar height and angle and stem width for reach are just some of the ways you can fully personalize your bike.
Most bicycle component manufacturers assemble their series of parts into groupsets. These are designed to work together, being collections of brake and gear parts matched for quality and function. The actual bike frame companies buy groupsets to install on the bikes. The big three are Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo.
Wheels and tyres
Whilst wheels are generally one of the more expensive components and wheel sets start at a couple hundred pounds, they’re easy to change but are able to improve performance, weight and rolling resistance. They influence how the road bike will feel and respond when turning and pedalling. Choosing lighter wheels means faster riding due to less rotating mass. Lighter and slicker tyres feel more responsive, too.