Road & Gravel Buying Guide
Road bikes are one of the simplest forms of bikes on the market. No suspension or complicated setting, just two wheels, a frame and come gears. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some different variations. Road bikes are available in Performance Road (aero or lightweight climbers), Endurance/All-Road Bikes, Gravel and Adventure/Touring bikes. They all have their pros and cons regarding the style of riding you are looking to do.
Performance road bikes are exactly what they say on the box, road bikes designed for performance riding. These bikes often use carbon fibre frames due to the tuneable ride feel and the high strength to weight ratio. There are two main types of performance road bikes, lightweight climbing bikes and aero race bikes.
Lightweight climbing bikes prioritise a low weight and extra thin tubes for comfort. The carbon layup is optimised for stiffness under power (lateral) but compliant for comfort when in the saddle(vertical).
Thanks to this lateral stiffness, the bike just wants to lunge forward when you are out of the saddle and putting the power down. The vertical compliance makes it easier for riders to spend hours in the saddle while tackling the steepest hills.
Aero road bikes are designed to slip through the air with minimal resistance. Their tubing is thick and shaped like an aeroplane wing. On flat ground, they maintain a higher average speed with less effort. That is why you will often see them being used in flat road racing like Criteriums.
Because of the thicker tubes and aerodynamic components, an aero bike can weigh a little more than the climbing frames. The frames are also stiffer, so when riders sprint or put the power down, all of the input is efficiently transferred to the rear wheel. One downside to the more rigid frame is the reduced comfort. A lot more of the terrain is felt through the seat and handlebars.
Alloy frames do exist for more wallet-friendly prices. They are heavier than carbon frames. However, they are more durable and can be stiffer. The durability is a big plus for commuters leaning their bikes against poles and putting them in racks. Because alloy frames can be tuned due to the material properties, they are often less comfortable. Carbon forks are usually specified to reduce vibrations getting transferred to the handlebars.
The rider position is optimised for performance, and the bike is designed to be agile at speed. The lower front ends and fast steering can put them off from buying a road bike for some newer riders. The agility can take a bit of time to get used to and can be dangerous for some riders. The above characteristics are the main reason most new riders end up on Endurance/All-Road bikes.
Endurance or All-Road bikes have a taller front end, a longer wheelbase and relaxed geometry for an easier ride. They will sit the rider in a more upright position and allow a rider to relax while riding. The added stability from the longer wheelbase and relaxed geometry help a rider just pedal and enjoy the ride.
Wider tyres, ergonomic components and built-in flex on the frame lead to these bikes riding like a cloud. Extra comfort allows riders to ride longer and explore places with rougher terrain. Designed around comfort, you can ride for hours without any issues.
Available in carbon or Alloy, there are plenty of options when it comes to frame styles. Alloy is the most popular choice for riders looking to explore off the beaten path or need reliability for commuting. Carbon will save weight and have added comfort. However, Carbon frames cost more.
Due to the wider tyres not fitting through traditional rim brakes, disc brakes are commonly seen on these bikes. Disc brakes are more reliable in all weather conditions, aren’t affected by mud on the wheels and require very little maintenance. Perfect for those people who just want to get out and ride.
Gravel bikes are designed for rougher unsealed roads in the backcountry. Designed with bigger 45mm wide tyres with knobs for traction, lots of vertical compliance for shock absorption, and an ergonomic seating position, gravel bikes are the swiss army knives of road bikes.
They are built to be abused with disc brakes, strong wheel and tubeless tyres. Gravel bikes are designed to be reliable, so you spend less time fixing your bike and more time adventuring. Disc brakes are powerful and reliable in all weather conditions. Even if you get rained on, you can be relieved you will always be able to slow down. Hitting potholes or random debris on the road is no problem, thanks to the stronger rims and thicker spokes. Reliability is key for a gravel bike.
Due to the reliability and enjoyable ride qualities of Gravel bikes, they are extremely popular as commuters. You can attach racks and bags for commuter or multi-day bike trips. The ergonomics reduce fatigue, so getting to and from work is a breeze. If you want a more efficient ride, you can fit narrower, smoother tyres but, you will sacrifice some comfort.
Touring or Adventure bikes are primarily designed for comfort and spending a lot of time in the saddle. Usually, they are made using steel due to the materials strength and vibration dampening properties.
Touring bikes have mounts everywhere for bags and water bottles. They are designed to carry everything you need for big trips. When fully packed, they are heavy. To combat this touring, bikes come with a wide range of gears, so you never have to work excessively.
Basic components are specified so they can be available at any location. Wider tyres are selected for comfort and to protect the rims from damage. Powerful disc brakes are needed to slow the heavier bikes down on descents. And handlebars are wider with ergonomic curves so riders can have more hand position and comfort.
These bikes are specially designed for a purpose. Still, they are also popular for commuting or replacing the car due to their usability. The relaxed position is comfortable, and if you want to meander to work and back, these bikes are perfect.
Make sure you check out our full road range, as we are sure to have the right bike for you. If you have any questions about what bike will suit you best, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced team.