Most folks enter the sport of cycling using either a hybrid or a mountain bike. The road bike is more expensive and — according to popular opinion — reserved for only the most dedicated riders.
However, most fitness-focused riders who spend most of their time on asphalt would benefit greatly by switching to one.
A road bike is the absolute best tool for commuting and long distance asphalt riding. The skinny tires offer the least resistance and allow for effortless, high speed pedaling. Additionally, the road bike puts the rider into a more aerodynamic stance which helps with both speed and comfort.
Finally, most road bikes have a significant weight advantage. These bikes weigh under 24 pounds (Many of them weigh less than 19 pounds). By comparison, a standard mountain bike weighs closer to forty pounds. When you cut the weight of your bicycle in half, it makes hill climbing much easier.
For cyclists who have never ridden a road bike before, their first experience is quite eye-opening. Road bikes are surprisingly more comfortable than they appear that they should be, and the speed at which they move offers quite the addictive rush.
Suddenly, completing a 100-mile “century ride” seems less crazy.
Here are the key considerations you need to know before you purchase your first road bike. We’ll also suggest a couple of models that would be an ideal choice for your first road bike.
Know Your Size
Road cyclists spend a lot of time on their bikes. A short ride on a road bike is 20 miles. Buying the wrong size of a bike is like buying the wrong size of running shoes; your workout is extremely uncomfortable.
You need to buy the frame size that matches your height.
This is especially important since most new cyclists are looking to buy a used bike or will receive one as a gift. It does not matter how good of a deal that bike is. If it doesn’t fit you, you don’t want it.
It is better to not have a bike than it is to have an ill-fitting one.
Buy A Brand-Name Bike
There are many poorly made bikes for sale, especially online. Bike manufacturers in China produce poor-quality bikes en masse and then dump them on shady websites and auction sites like eBay.
It is tempting to buy one of these bikes as the pricing is so attractive. However, the repairs you must do to keep them functional will rapidly drive the costs up and create frustration.
Most of these bicycles end up in a scrap heap before their second year.
Purchasing a well-known brand such as Trek, Cannondale, Specialized, Giant, KHS, Raleigh, Diamondback, Fuji or Felt means that you will have fewer problems and a better warranty.
Get A Lightweight Bike Frame
Carbon, titanium, steel, aluminum, bamboo… the list of materials that you can make a bicycle frame out of is endless.
At the entry-level price point, you will most likely be shopping either aluminum or steel.
Knowing a little bit about frame materials can help you get a lightweight road bike and avoid the heavy ones.
Aluminum is fairly lightweight, holds up well, and is the most common material for bike making. Just because a bike frame is an aluminum one, does not mean that it is well-made. Many of the knock-off manufacturers use a lower-grade of aluminum alloy, which is heavier. The best brands use an alloy such as 7005 or 6061.
The downside of Aluminum is that it is very rigid and translates all of the road vibrations up to the rider. Because of this, many other material types are popular among cyclists.
Steel is the material that all bike frames used to be made from. These bikes are extremely heavy but offer a more comfortable ride since steel flexes and absorb the road vibrations. You commonly see steel used on touring bikes that need both strength and comfort.
Carbon fiber is the only other material that you might run into at an entry-level price point. Carbon fiber is extremely lightweight and offers the most comfortable ride. Often, bike manufacturers use carbon fiber in the front fork of an aluminum bike to help reduce the road vibrations. This is an excellent feature and available on many entry-level bikes.
Get Shimano Claris Or Better
There are many different levels of quality when it comes to the manufacturing of shifters and brakes. As a rule of thumb, it is best to go with a bike that has Shimano Claris or better. Claris is the line that is designed to hold up well for thousands of miles and is built with more reinforced parts.
Some bikes try to use Shimano Tourney, but they tend to fail under any riding conditions that are less than perfect. Buying a bike with Shimano Claris or Tiagra will decrease the repairs and provide a more satisfying experience.
Plan On A Saddle Upgrade
Road bikes have notoriously uncomfortable saddles. You can get padded shorts that will help make the ride more enjoyable, but most new cyclists need to invest in a seat that has a little bit more padding.
Many bike seats come with a 60- or 90-day comfort guarantee. This guarantee is an excellent way to test a saddle and make sure that it enhances your comfort.
Buy From A Local Shop
Your local shop is going to have a knowledgeable staff who will help you with your purchase. You might end up paying slightly more than if you were to buy the bike used or online, but you get the peace of mind that you are purchasing the best bike for your specific needs.
Additionally, bike warranties typically only apply to the first owner. By purchasing your bike new, you will have several warranties in place to help protect your purchase. Plus, if you have any issues, with your bike, your local shop will help.
Buy Direct From A Manufacturer
Several manufacturers have begun distributing their bikes online. Brands like Diamondback and Raleigh have discovered that current out the local shop, allows them to lower their prices and offer a well-built bike for a competitive price.
One of the downsides of this business model is that the shopper must do more research to find the correct bike for their specific needs. There are some great blogs that have reviews and forums with endless discussions, but, ultimately, it is up to the shopper to do the research.
Additionally, these bikes need some minor assembly and adjustments when they arrive. The handy shopper will merely watch some youtube videos and find the bike easy to adjust.
Or, you can have your local shop assemble and adjust the bike for you. Most local shops will perform this service for about $75.
In spite of these challenges of buying online, this route seems to save several hundred dollars.
The right road bike will last you for a decade or more. It may seem overwhelming when you start shopping, but stay with it, the upgrade to a road bike is well worth the hassle.
Enjoy the journey, and enjoy your new bike!