Road bikes definitely have that certain something. There’s on one hand that undeniable elegance that distinguishes these bikes from others, they also resemble uncompromising dedication to cycling more than any other bike. And yes, there are other cycling events, but it's the legendary road cycle races like the Tour de Grace or the Giro that create a worldwide buzz.
For a long time, however, road bikes were almost useless in everyday life. The slim tires, the stiff frames and all that missing equipment were just too uncomfortable, impossible to ride or simply forbidden in public traffic. But then, a few years ago, gravel bikes appeared, and look bikes with road bike looks off-road and made suitable for everyday cycling.
Here's some basic information that helps you buy a road bike, gravel bike or cyclocross. If you want more detailed information about these bikes, you can just click over to the corresponding page, there you will find a detailed buying guide.
The quick way to the information you need:
This is a road bike - important facts you should know about road bikes
Let’s start with some road bike trivia. You’re sure to immediately recognize a road bike by its typical curvy handlebars. Whether you're looking at a gravel bike, a cyclocross bike or a „real“ road bike (we'll call it a "road racing bike" here, so you know what we mean), is a little more difficult to distinguish, so…
What is a road bike, what is a cyclocross bike, what is a gravel bike?
A classic road bike is lightweight and fast. Its equipment is rather sparse, but highly functional. It puts you in a very low, stretched out, athletic riding position. Road bike frames are stiff, they don't spoil you with comfortable flexibility, but they are highly efficient. Even the narrow, smooth tires are made for speed. Suspension? Not a chance. That's why road bikes are at home on smooth surfaces.
Cyclocross bikes were actually invented for bike racing in dirt and mud. They have wider tires with some tread pattern and their drivetrains can handle mud, sand and wet without going up in dust immediately. Still, they’re made for reaching top speeds for a short race rather than endurance bike touring.
Gravel bikes were invented for long bike tours or bike packing. The geometry is far less aggressive, wide tires allow you to ride off-road. Gravel bikes often have mudguards and rear racks, or at least you can add those parts later. This makes them much more suitable for everyday use and also more comfortable than road racing bikes. While a road racing bike is rather delicate, a gravel bike is robust and durable.
A dropbar is the classic road bike handlebar
A road bike’s number one distinguishing feature is its handlebar. It curves forward first, then down and backwards, so you can change riding positions. The bends in the handlebars all have their own names, by the way. The most important ones are the reach, it indicates how far the handlebar is bent forward from the handlebar clamp, drop (how far the handlebar is bent towards the ground), and flare (how far the ends of the handlebar are pointing to the left and right). When you grab your handlebar at the bottom, you have the least wind resistance.
On gravel bikes, you'll occasionally find a flatbar, a straight handlebar, but that’s an exception.
Low riding position
A road bike frame usually has plenty of reach, meaning a large distance from the saddle to the handlebar. The rider sits stretched out low with his nose close to the stem. Not really comfy, but it is certainly very aerodynamic. On fast road racing bikes and cyclocross bikes, the position is often much lower than on a gravel bike, which is made for long distances at moderate speeds.
Tires make the difference!
Road bike tires are very slim. This makes them fast because they produce less rolling resistance. On the other hand, it also makes them less comfortable, because there is so little cushioning air in there. A nice tread pattern would swallow energy, so those tires have to do without one, the rubber mixture alone is responsible for providing the necessary grip on the surface.
Cyclocross bikes also have narrow tires, but usually a little more tread pattern helps these bike tires find good grip on loose or wet ground.
Gravel bikes have significantly more tire clearance, so wider tires are mounted. Depending on where you're riding, you can use tires that are suited for city riding or chunky tread patterns for light off-road adventures.
It's all a question of weight
Lightweight and still getting lighter – every ounce counts when it comes to road bike frames and components. That's why road bike frames today are often made of aluminum or carbon, and the add-on parts such as gear shifts, drivetrains or brakes are getting lighter with each new model year. "Now another 83 grams lighter!", doesn't sound like much for bike parts, but statements like that cause fits of awe inside the road bike community. Road bikes usually weigh around 8kg; by the way, a minimum weight of 6.8kg is prescribed for a UCI road bike.
As true racing machines, cyclocross bikes are equally lightweight, while gravel bikes are slightly heavier. The wider tires or the practical equipment like to pull their weight.
Disc brakes or rim brakes?
For a long time disc brakes were a no-go on road bikes, after all they weigh a few ounces more than rim brakes! But since 2018, and after several years of testing, disc brakes on road bikes have been officially allowed in bike races. Since then, top manufacturers sell groupsets for road bikes with optional disc brakes. But many bikers still prefer on rims.
Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes usually have disc brakes, here the better braking justifies a few more ounces.
All things considered, a road bike lives up to its name. It is fast, as long as it is rolling on tarmac. But there are sacrifices to be made in terms of comfort. A cyclocross bike is a performance bike for short races in dirt. A gravel bike is a more comfortable ride for everyday rides and tours.
Is a road bike the right bike for you?
Many cyclists get into road bikes because they like the looks. They are super athletic, neat and stylish, whatever equipment there is, it does not dominate the bike’s appearance. However, you’re in for a surprise, when you mount a road bike for the first time. It is not really comfortable to ride because it does not have any suspension. The equipment and geometry are made for top speed, not comfort. A rough surface quickly turns into a pushing passage, obstacles make road bike tires break out sideways.
A road racing bike is therefore only suitable for you if you want to do road bike training, or if you live in a city with well-built roads and no cobble stones.
A cyclocross bike is suitable for you if you want to participate in cyclocross races, or at least work towards one.
A gravel bike, on the other hand, is ready to go wherever life takes you. It will transport you to the office, haul your groceries in panniers, or rumble down a gravel road to the camping ground when you’re out bike packing. Gravel bikes are not ashamed to show up fully equipped with mudguards, lights, bells and racks. They are perfect for you if you want to combine the looks of a road bike with a dose of everyday practicality.
That’s a road bike:
- a lightweight road bike works best on smooth surfaces
- it puts you in a low riding position and is made for high speeds
- a cyclocross bike is made for dirt races or short, intense training laps
- a gravel bike combines road bike style with everyday practicality, it often comes fully equipped
How does it feel to ride a road bike?
A road bike will make you go fast, the is what it is designed for. Everything about those bikes is made for speed. Road bike drive trains are not made for lingering around, they are supposed to get you from A to B – asap!
You will find no shocks on a road bike, because where top speeds are at stake, wasting energy on suspension would be just stupid. Classic road bikes had slender frames made of steel tubes, and you can still buy steel road bikes from some manufacturers. They weigh a little more, but they are almost indestructible and offer a slight amount of flexibility because the material yields a little. Should a steel frame break, it can be welded. Today, most road bikes are made of aluminium or carbon, however. Aluminum is lighter than steel, carbon weighs even less, both materials are very stiff and make bikes work very efficiently.
Road bike geometry is rather „aggressive“, it puts you into a low, stretched out position, the long reach makes sure of that.
A bike’s tires can also contribute to the cyclist’s comfort, as you have read above. Forget that when it comes to road bike tires. They are slender and smooth, and thus fast but not comfortable.
All that is not true for a gravel bike. It is comfy and practical. For gravel tires, there are many options from smooth, narrow and fast to treaded, wide and comfortable. The more volume your tires have, the more energy it takes to get them rolling, but in return, they reward you with better cushioning.
How it feels to ride a road bike:
- a road bike is fast, light and smooth
- if there is a choice between speed and comfort, engineers will always choose speed
- a cyclocross bike accelerates aggressively, it is made for short, offroad racing
- a gravel bike balances speed and comfort
What are the advantages of a road bike?
Everything about a road bike is designed for perfect aerodynamics and top speed. So if you’re in a hurry, a road bike is your best option.
If you want to use your bike to get some exercise, buy a road bike.
But road bikes have another advantage that takes them to a place where you would probably expect to find only mountain bikes. Because they are lightweight, efficient, aerodynamic and easy to accelerate, they are talented climbers. A road bike will hike up alpine roads and secure you the most spectacular views as long as there’s a little asphalt to ride on!
If you want to buy a bike with little weight, a road bike is perfect. Plain and simple: road bikes are the lightest bikes out there. Whether it's a gravel bike, a road racing bike or a cyclocross bike, they all like to go at top speeds. Narrow tires reduce rolling resistance and allow for efficient pedaling.
Of course, looks are a matter of taste, but road bikes have style, that's for sure!
Gravel bikes are durable, versatile and have mounting points for all the add-on parts you can think of.
A road bike’s advantages:
- made for high speeds
- aerodynamic, high riding efficiency
- climbs nicely
- a gravel bike is durable and can be used in everyday life
How much does a road bike cost?
It is difficult to compare the price ranges of road bikes, gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes, because with each, the focus is on different features. You can can find more detailed information in the buying guides for road bikes, gravel bikes or cyclocross bikes.
What to consider when buying a road bike?
While cyclocross bikes are relatively rare, you have a lot of choice when it comes to road bikes. Gravel bikes are currently amongst the most popular bikes on the market. There are many different models, but every now and then they are none available, simply because they are sold out. Buying the right bike online is not that difficult, just answer the following questions, then you are a big step closer to the finding the perfect road bike.
- What do you plan to do with the bike?
Do you just want to go for a little spin every now and then, do you want to train for a competition, or do you want to ride to work every day? Dropbar bikes are versatile, at least since the first gravel bikes have been released.
For everyday cycling and bike touring, a gravel bike is your best choice.
Use a road bike for exercise and bike tours at top speeds, but only if you'll stay mostly on paved roads.
For short, crisp training sessions away from the road, you can ride a cyclocross bike.
- How long do you want to ride?
The longer your rides are, the more you should invest. When it comes to bike components and frames, you get what you’re paying for. Good quality comes has it’s price, and a more expensive bike will last much longer. It will also be lighter. Good gear shifts, saddles and handlebars are more fun to use, while bad brakes could become a serious safety issue when you’re going at high speed.
- Where do you want to ride?
For a road bike, cobblestones and gravel roads can mean the end of the tour. A gravel bike on the other hand can go a lot further. Take a close look at the surfaces of your bike rides before you buy!
Buy a road bike from the best brands
We have many different road bikes for you in the shop, some are suitable for everyday use and comfortable, others are made for training sessions at top speed. Our bikes all come from well-known bike brands, that way we’re sure to sell you well-designed bikes with good quality components. We can still offer you a wide price range, so you can order your dream bike here, whether you want to make a great bargain or treat yourself to a top-notch road bike. Here you'll find dropbar bikes made by Trek, Cannondale, Rondo, Bombtrack or Orbea among others.
After you’ve decided which of our steeds will be yours, you should go and check on your bike kit. We’ll outfit you with all the necessary cycling accessories like road bike helmets, bibshorts and cycling shoes.
Don't know which type of bike is right for you yet? The buying guides on BMO make it easy to compare different bikes. We explain what mountain bikes, leisure bikes and city bikes, touring bikes, dirt bikes, road bikes and e-bikes are for. We'll help you buy a cool kids’ bike for your children too. Just read our buying guides and you'll know which bike you'll be happy with!