Road cycling is surely the best way to enjoy the open road. You can enjoy riding the roads on almost any bike but if you want to get the most out of your ride a dedicated road bike and road cycling gear is what you need.
Road bikes are characterised by their drop handlebars, lightweight frames and 700c wheels with narrow tyres. They are designed to roll quickly over tarmac surfaces. They do this in an aerodynamic way so that you can ride as efficiently as possible. In this road cycling guide, we take a look at all the different types of road bike. We'll also take a look at all the essential road cycling kit you'll need to get you started.
What type of road bike should I buy?
Road bikes may look very similar but there is quite a bit of variation between them. One road bike can ride very differently from another. These are the main types of road bike:
Endurance road bikes are the most comfortable type. This makes them ideal for long-distance rides and sportives.
Road race bikes are lightweight, nimble race machines that are particularly fast uphill.
Aero road bikes have an emphasis on aerodynamics and flat out speed.
Gravel bikes are designed for both on-road and off-road cycling. They have drop handlebars and 700c wheels too.
Frame and component specification will also make a big difference to the performance of a road bike. Carbon frames are lighter than alloy frames and components get lighter as the quality improves. This means that the speed, efficiency and ride quality of a road bike will vary depending on price point. Find out which type of road bike is best for you with our road bike chooser guide.
Electric road bikes
Part of the appeal of road cycling is that the effort that you have to put in leads to the reward. That said you can still get a lot of reward with a little less effort. This is where ebikes come in as they help you to get up to speed and give you some assistance on the hills. This makes e road bikes a great choice for those who are recovering from illness and injury as well as for those who aren't as fit as they used to be.
The electric motor adds to your natural pedalling power until you reach the 15.5mph speed limit. This means that you get a boost to get you up to speed as well as making it easier to get up those challenging climbs. See our electric road bike guide to find out more.
What Kit do I Need for Road Cycling - Essential Clothing
As with most sports, your road cycling experience will be enhanced if you wear the right clothing. Here's a list of your road cycling essentials:
Shoes - essential for getting the most out of your ride. Road cycling pedals (see below) require specific shoes for attaching the cleats that clip into them.
Shorts - lycra shorts with a padded chamois liner are comfortable and efficient. Standard lycra shorts are the most affordable option, but bib shorts are a lot more comfortable on the bike. Baggy shorts flapping about in the wind just don't cut it on a road bike.
Jersey - a close-fitting top made from technical fabric that wicks sweat away from your skin will help keep you cool and comfortable. As with shorts, you don't want your top to slow you down by catching in the wind. Pockets on the back for storing ride essentials are easy to reach while cycling.
Jacket or Gillet - a lightweight windproof layer is a good idea too. Long descents can be chilly if you've sweated up the climbs. A waterproof is essential for all-year-round riding.
Gloves - perhaps not an essential but most cyclists find that gloves improve your grip on the bars and go a long way to improve your comfort on long rides. Short finger gloves help to stop you overheating on summer rides.
Helmet - last but certainly not least we recommend that every cyclist wears a helmet. A serious crash is unlikely, but you only have one head! Modern road cycling helmets are very comfortable with vents to help keep you cool as you ride.
See our road cycling clothing guides for a more detailed look at all the essential road cycling kit you'll need to make the most of your road cycling experience.
What else do I need? Essential Tech and Components
As well as a bike and suitable clothing there are some other things that you'll need to bet the most out of your ride.
Pedals - While all our bikes are supplied with basic pedals you will need proper road cycling pedals to get the most out of your ride. Clipless pedals attach securely to a cleat on the bottom of your cycling shoe. This makes pedalling much more efficient.
Bottle cage - You'll need somewhere to hold your water bottle as you ride, and a frame-mounted bottle cage is by far the best solution. All road bikes have mounts for two bottle cages, but they're not supplied with most road bikes.
Cycle computer - While these aren't essential, cycle computers can really enhance your ride experience. A Garmin or other GPS computer will help you to track your progress accurately and can help you to connect with other cyclists through apps like Strava.
Puncture repair - While modern tyre technology has reduced the chances of you getting a puncture, you don't want to be stuck 20 miles from home with a flat tyre. You will need to be able to repair the hole in the inner tube, or tyre if it's tubeless, as well as the means to inflate it again.
Saddlebag - These are very useful for storing those ride essentials, like a puncture repair kit that you can't fit into your jersey pocket. You won't see the pros using these but that is only because they have a support vehicle following them.
Road Bike Sizing
Choosing the right size road bike makes all the difference. This is because a good fit will mean that you will be more comfortable as you cycle, the handling will be easier and you will be able to ride more efficiently. Sizing can be a little confusing as different brands show sizes in different ways. Some bikes are sized Small, Medium, Large etc. Others are sized in centimetres: 51, 54, 56 etc.
Fortunately, we've made it easy for you to size correctly. Our road bike size guide goes into more detail and explains everything you need to know to choose the correct size bike. All you need to do is measure your height then use our Road Bike Sizing Chart to find out which size bike will fit you best.
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