How to Buy Your First Road Bike
If you’re looking for style, reliability, speed, and comfort, then a road bike is the perfect option for you. These bikes effortlessly combine aesthetics and performance to give you a high quality model that you can ride for years.
However, there are thousands of road bike models being sold, each offering its own set of features and functions. It now becomes tough for you to select a final option, as they all seem to offer incredible features.
So what are you supposed to do? Should you spend weeks narrowing down your choices? I don’t think so! When you know what aspects to look for in a road bike, you can quickly eliminate the bad choices, and focus on the best choices.
I’ve done the grunt work for you, and compiled a list of tips for buying a road bike. All you need to do is saddle up and come on this ride with me. Your dream bike awaits you at the end of this how to buy a road bike guide.
Tips for Buying A Road Bike
What road bike should I buy? How much should I spend? What materials should it be made of? Which is the right size for me? What should be the wheels look like? What should the gears and brakes be made of? What brand should I choose?
These are all questions running around in your head, and I will answer them below by showing you what to look for when buying a road bike.
1. Frame Materials
The first thing that you should look for when buying a road bike is the type of material used in the construction of the frame. There are 4 main types of materials to choose from, including steel, carbon, aluminum, and titanium.
Let’s start with steel, which is popular for its comfort, durability, and affordability. Unfortunately, steel is also known for its heavy weight which will slow you down as you ride. Furthermore, steel will rust when it comes into contact with the elements, and this means constant maintenance on your part. A steel frame is therefore a good option if comfort is your main priority, and if you are looking to take part in long distance racing.
Next we have carbon, which is an excellent choice for a frame material. Carbon-fiber bike frames are lightweight, comfy, responsive, and long lasting, which is everything you want in a bicycle. Additionally, carbon-fiber can be molded into almost any shape, which results in custom frames that can enhance your performance. However, these benefits come at a huge cost. Carbon-fiber is expensive, and you need to be willing to fork over a lot of cash.
P.S. If you come across a cheap carbon-fiber road bike, stay away from it as the manufacturers have probably used low-quality carbon.
Another excellent frame material is aluminum. Aluminum is known for its durable, lightweight, and sturdy properties. Furthermore, aluminum is much cheaper to produce than carbon, which means that road bikes with aluminum frames are more affordable. Many racers actually use bicycles with aluminum frames because of their responsive nature. Unfortunately, comfort is usually sacrificed on an aluminum bike.
Last but not least we have titanium, which is probably the best option out of the 3 detailed above. Titanium frames are exceptionally light in weight, incredibly comfortable, and extremely durable. However, as you can imagine, these impressive features come at a price. Titanium is the most expensive of the 3 options, with prices averaging $8000. If you’re not willing to spend this amount of money, then you should stick to carbon, aluminum, and steel.
2. Choosing the Right Size
One huge mistake that cyclists make is choosing the wrong road bike size. You can find the perfect road bicycle with all the features you want, but if the size is wrong, your biking experience will be miserable. The best way to determine whether you have the right size is by testing the bike out.
Visit you local bike shop (after making an appointment), and test out a couple of bikes. If you’re planning on using your bike for commuting, then test in on the roads. If you want a bit of off-road action, then test out a few trails. At the end of the day, you will be able to identify which bike size fits you the best.
You can also adjust the saddle height, crank length, stem length, and handlebar width of a road bike, to give you a better fit.
Another aspect that you need to consider when buying a road bicycle is the wheels. More often than not, the wheels of the road bike will determine its price. You can choose to buy an affordable bike with average wheels, and then upgrade those wheels at your own time. Alternatively, you can choose to buy a more expensive bike with excellent wheels.
A good set of wheels will have a low rotational weight, which will increase the speed of the bike. A good set of wheels is also sturdy and durable, with the ability to keep you stable over uneven terrain.
Light wheels are perfect for cyclists who will spend most of their time climbing, while heavy wheels are perfect for cyclists who will spend most of their time training. Here is some extra advice that you should consider when looking at wheels:
· Top quality wheels will have smooth bearings within the wheel hubs, in order to optimize rolling resistance and aerodynamics.
· If you are buying an entry level road bike, then you will most likely come across non-deep section wheels. These wheels provide comfort, as their longer spokes absorb shock more efficiently.
· When looking at wheel brands, look at Shimano, Diamondback,Campagnolo, Mavic, and Fulcrum. These are excellent brands to consider, and they usually come on entry and mid level bikes.
· If you are considering an advanced level road bike, then deep-section wheels are the way to go. These wheels are aerodynamic, and they make your bike faster with less effort on your part.
Another useful tip on how to buy a road bike is to focus on choosing the right brakes. As you do your research on road bike models, you will find that they either use rim brakes or disc brakes. Rim brakes are standard options on road bikes, while disc brakes are commonly found on mountain bikes.
The benefit of rim brakes is that they are lightweight and aerodynamic. However, they are less reliable in bad weather such as rain. On the other hand we have disc brakes, which are powerful, reliable in bad weather, and better at modulation. They are also more durable than rim brakes, and they are more affordable.
Disc brakes are divided into 3 main systems, mainly mechanical, hydraulic, and hybrid. While hydraulic disc brakes are the best, the other 2 systems still perform brilliantly.
Gearing components play a huge role in the biking performance that you will enjoy. The gearing of your bike will determine how you move, and how fast you move. When you check out different bike models, you will encounter 3 main types of drivetrain systems; SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo.
The drivetrain that you choose will depend on your price point, and your preference. Let’s start with Campognolo, which is known for its solid build, and consistent performance. Campognolo also uses thumb triggers instead of levers for down-shifting, and this may be new to you.
Next we have Shimano, which is the most popular of the three. Over 90% of all bikes are equipped with Shimano components, which gives you an indication the respect accorded to this brand. Shimano is known for its top notch engineering, excellent innovation, and amazing reliability. Shimano is also affordable, and you won’t have to empty your bank account to afford this system.
Lastly, we have SRAM, which is the ‘baby’ of the group. While SRAM has not been in the market for long, it has made amazing strides in the last few years. SRAM is known for its excellent shifting mechanism and geometry, which makes your riding experience even more enjoyable.
This buying a road bike guide would not be complete without mentioning your budget. Road bikes vary in price, which is based on the brand and features of the model. While some professional racers ride $12,000 road bikes, the options available to you are much more affordable.
The average road bike retails for between $300 and $500, and it will offer basic features and a standard performance. For $500-$1000 you can find a good quality road bike with excellent features and functions, which will deliver top performance for years to come. If you venture past $1000, you will encounter advanced level bikes that offer special features, custom frames, and more aerodynamic designs.
Whatever your budget is, you will probably find a good quality bike that meets your needs.
As you can see, there are plenty of factors to consider before buying a road bike. Using the road bike tips above you can determine how to buy a road bike that meets your needs and wants perfectly. So use this comprehensive guide to narrow down your road bike models, until you find the one you’ve been dreaming about. Best of luck to you!