How to Pick a Road Bike

How to Pick a Road Bike | Bart Haynes If you are shopping for a new road bike, how do you know what to purchase? There are several brands marketed as the top in the industry, and even more models, series, and styles for you to weed through, making it all the more difficult to find the right option. With this said, knowing what to look for, and how to pick a road bike, will make the process a bit easier on you when time comes to decide on the right fit. So, consider these relevant factors, to ensure you make the right selection.

Set your budget 
Bikes can easily exceed several thousands of dollars if you are buying professional grade equipment developed by the top manufacturers in the industry. With this said, you have to keep your budget in mind, including additional costs (helmet, gloves, apparel, etc). From this point, you can then begin to narrow down models, brands, and styles for your new road bike.

Frame material
Carbon, alloy, steel, or aluminum? For every rider, the right fit is going to differ. Entry level, modern bikes are typically aluminum, and are typically the most affordable frame models. Carbon in the fork and portions of the frame will be visible, when you hit the $1500 mark or higher for your new bike; so, heavier duty materials do come with a price tag. Steel is typically the most forgiving material; it won’t dent or damage as easily, can withstand tougher road conditions, heavier weight, and more uphill and downhill climbs and declines.

With aluminum, a limited fatigue life is an issue; after about 3-4 years, you can expect these frames to begin giving out on you. Carbon is the most temperamental material. Frame cracks, or damage from careless use, is easily going to damage the frame. For longer commutes, and level road conditions, carbon is a good option.

Gear systems
Internally geared hubs are bullet proof; further, they rarely if ever require any type of maintenance. If you want maintenance free, this is what to look for in your gear changing system. They typically have between 3 to 14 gears, but do increase the bike’s cost and weight, so keep this in mind. Derailleur systems offer up to 30 gears on certain models, are lighter, but are exposed, meaning they will require maintenance every so often. For easy riding, and regular check ups however, these are typically a good option for the typical rider, and they are cheaper than internal geared hubs.

If using the bike for commuting, to and from work, or locally around town, you want to make sure they are equipped with sufficient eyelets, and these should also be properly placed on the bike. These attachment points are built right into the bike’s frame. If you do use the bike often for commute, make sure to consider this addition when selecting a road bike.

Before checking a bike for size, you never want to invest or make a purchase decision, based solely on gear systems, appearance, or even reputable brand names for road bikes. From manufacturer to manufacturer sizes do change; so, a 54 cm frame with one brand, might be equivalent to a smaller or larger size in another. For this specific reason, checking sizing, and even going for a test ride, are some things you should do, prior to investing in a new road bike.

To test size, stand over the bike, with both feet flat on the floor and your legs closed together. Check for clearance by lifting the bike up off the ground. You should be able to lift it up at least 7 to 8 cm, giving you sufficient clearance between the crotch and top of the bike’s tube area. Again, every manufacturer differs in frame height, so testing it, and making sure you have sufficient space for riding, is of utmost importance if you want to be comfortable, and safe, when using your road bike.

Test drive
If possible, visit local bike shops, see what they have in stock, and compare the top brands and models you are interested in buying. Online searches and comparison guides are great; but, this is only going to give you so much information about a particular road bike you are considering buying. The only true way to see how it feels, and whether or not it is comfortable for you, is to actually go out for a test drive on the bike.

Most local shops will allow you to take bikes out (in fact they keep test models in shop), so you can see which one is the best fit. Further, if you are making an extremely large investment, and spending a lot of money on the new road bike, you want to make sure it is something sturdy, something which feels good below your feet, and a bike which gives you sufficient traction, each time you take it out for a ride. Test rides are the only way to learn how a bike feels, and whether or not it is the right fit for you, when investing in a new road bike.

Manufacturer reputation/Price
Yes, a manufacturer’s reputation will indicate the quality you can expect; the same goes for the price you are going to pay. So, in setting your budget, keep in mind that the better the quality of the bike, the better the materials used, and the more well known the manufacturer name is, the more you are going to end up paying for a new road bike.

There are hundreds of options for you to choose from when buying a new road bike; and, with so many manufacturers developing new products, frames, lighter systems, and developments regularly, you want to know exactly what you are investing in, when the time comes for you to select your new road bike. For those who want to know how to pick a road bike, and how to find the right model and fit for them, these are some of the steps to go through, and factors to consider, during your decision making process.

For more information regarding how to choose a bike including specifics about brake systems, gearing, and suspension, check out the article How to Choose a Bike, According to Science on Jen Reviews.