Whether you are a recreational cyclist or a competing triathlete, choosing the appropriate road bike type is a crucial step towards your outcome. Today, the road bike market is pretty saturated as there are several different types of road bikes on offer. In this article we’ll try to make the process of choosing a road bike clear and simple by introducing the main road bike types:
Not too long ago the selection of road bikes was quite basic – there was only a drop-bar aluminum road bike available, and that was about it.
6. Flat bar
1. Sportive / Endurance Road Bikes
A sporty yet comfortable version of a racing road bike
Frame Materials – Carbon, aluminum, and even steel frames are available.
Wheels – Lightweight, but they don’t have the advantage of being aerodynamic. Carbon & alloy are common.
Brakes – Disc brakes are undeniably the best choice although V-brakes are still around.
Here is the most common road bike on offer – Endurance road bikes are just as lightweight as racing bikes, however, cutting corners is easier due to the lowered stance on the bike. The riding position or stance on a sportive/endurance road bike is more upright which makes them more comfortable to ride for training purposes.
These bikes are intended for situations where comfort in endurance riding is more important than speed.
There’s nothing to worry about when riding long distances (or even Gran Fondos) on these bikes. Materials used on endurance road bikes are pretty much the same as those on racing bikes but they are designed to be more optimal towards comfort. It means that you don’t need marginal gains if your riding position is not focused on speed.
+ Ideal ‘one-for-all’ road bike
+ Long distance riding is the most comfortable
+ Great first road bike
– Not as stable on high speeds and fast descents
2. Race Road Bikes
Race road bikes are made for riders who want to take part in races where every second counts
Racing road bikes are made to be as fast, light, and as durable as possible to fulfill the need for speed. The frame material used on road race bikes is usually carbon fiber to achieve as low weight as possible and provide the best vibration reduction.
Aerodynamic advantages are kept in mind so they can go fast without much resistance. This type of road bike is equipped with high-end components to provide accurate shifting and braking. The frame geometry of this road bike type is quite low to get the best possible aerodynamic properties. As a downside, those bikes are not as comfortable and it takes many miles before you start to feel.
+ Suitable for competing
– Not as comfortable for recreational cyclists
3. Aero Road Bikes
Ideal for long flat courses
Aero road bikes are essentially a mixture of time trial (TT) and race bikes. These types of bikes are designed to have better aerodynamic features compared to race bikes. Most frames are made of carbon, following the geometry of a race bike. Also, they can weigh a bit more but due to their geometry, the aero advantages help save time on courses that suit this bike. Aero road bikes have a low position and they sacrifice comfort to achieve it which means they are best for a high-ranking athlete.
+ Designed to be as aerodynamical as possible
+ Faster than regular road bikes
+ Looks great
– Comfort is a word we can’t mention here
– Heavier than regular race bikes
4. Time-Trial (TT) / Triathlon Road Bikes
For competing cyclists who are looking for time trial competitions or triathlon where every second count
Designed for triathlon competitions, where cycling is 1/3 of the whole race, a time-trial, and triathlon bikes are built specially to fly over flat roads as fast as possible.
Several aerodynamical features are designed which help reduce the wind resistance and allow the cyclist to put out as much torque as possible. Viewed from the side, TT road bike frames are easily recognizable by their large flat frames and steep angles.
The position on TT road bikes is as low as possible for the best possible power output, keeping the body basically parallel to the ground.
Aero bars are also being used to achieve as aerodynamic position as possible. Since TT bikes are intended for flat and straight roads, lower gear ratios are often used to ride on higher speeds more consistently (Triathlon and time trial courses are generally quite flat).
Deep section wheels and fork are also made of carbon fiber.
+ Power is converted to speed to achieve the best possible results on flat grounds
+ Aerodynamic properties
+ Hidden compartments
– Unsuitable for training purposes
– Heavier than regular road bikes
5. Recreational or Fitness Road Bikes
Ideal for fast commutes
Recreational or fitness road/hybrid bikes are all about comfort and speed. These are often preferred by riders who use their bikes to get from A to B with comfort and a slight advantage of speed due to road bike wheels. Due to 700c wheels, fitness road bikes are often categorized as hybrid bikes.
+ A great concept of road bike advantages
+ Affordably priced
+ Comfortable geometry
– Competing isn’t something you want to do on this bike
6. Flat Bar Road Bikes
Suitable for riders who don’t take the fastest position on the drop bars.
Similar to fitness road bikes, flat bar road bikes are one of the fastest hybrid bikes with a rigid fork and 700c wheels. The flat bar handlebar is easy and comfortable to steer, unlike different types of road bike handlebars.
+ Get advantages from road bikes with hybrid bike operating features.
+ Comfortable geometry
+ Great for commuting and fitness riding
– Not as aerodynamic
7. Gravel (Adventure, Touring) Bikes
Ideal do-it-all road type bikes
This type of bike typically has a higher bottom bracket for optimal performance on all roads – gravel, paved, and light trails. Gravel bikes have also wider knobby tires and multiple eyelets for racks and water bottle mounts which distinguishes them from their closely related participant – the Cyclocross bike.
+ Suitable for both urban and backcountry roads
+ Rigid and durable frame, comfortable all-terrain tires
+ Comfortable geometry
– Heavier than road bikes
– Not as fast as road bikes
8. Cyclocross (CX) Bikes
Performance gravel bikes – a mix of a road bike with mountain bike capabilities
CX bikes are basically performance gravel bikes without any eyelets for racks and water bottles. A cyclocross bike is built to participate in races which include road and trail riding, which also include carrying the bike up some steep hills. To get a better review check out this Youtube video of a CX race. Clip-on pedals are a must!
+ A performance gravel bike
+ Faster than a gravel bike
+ Multi-purpose design
– Not as comfortable for commuting
Related: Best Cyclocross Bikes
What’s the Right Type for Me?
Well, it’s a great question and the answer depends on you.
If you plan to train, pick something with a more upright position. If you like to compete and get the best results when training, you definitely need a road bike type with a lower position.
A traveling bike is an easier choice because then you only have to choose an adventure bike with fender and rack mounts.
The Main Confusion Is Between Racing and Endurance Bikes
Think for a moment, where are you going to ride today and tomorrow?
Many people start by only training and they quickly find that they want to participate in races. In this case, sportive road bikes aren’t the best choice so you might want to choose a racing bike.
If you’re not sure, start with a sportive since, with it, you can also compete in races.
Aero and TT bikes are more specific and if you are already familiar with the road racing bike niche, you should pick these. They allow you to participate in competitions since they are meant for speed and have a totally different approach compared to road bikes.
Adventure or gravel bikes, on the other hand, are meant for those who want to go on longer trips. You can also use sportive bikes for this but keep in mind that you should carry all your stuff in a backpack.