With the media coverage and fandom starting to follow the Tour de France, the world of road racing has significantly increased in popularity over the last few years.
Road bikes are, on average, slightly more expensive than most other bike disciplines on the market today. The tech road cyclists need is often measured to the tee, which means that road racers will look for the absolute best cycling technology they can find. Road bikes tend to be worth it for dedicated riders who enjoy competitiveness.
To better understand road bikes, we should dive deeper into the anatomy of these bikes and understand how they are set up for riders to get the best performance.
We aim to break down the road bike and look at some of the pros and cons that road cyclists often look for when determining which bike they choose.
How Does Road Cycling Differ From Other Cycling Disciplines?
The road bike is one of the lightest bikes on the market today, and the main aim for these bikes will be the idea to generate as much speed as possible. This result in an aerodynamic design, which often lends itself to reducing weight and making the rider faster.
Here is a breakdown of the differences between road cycling and the other cycling disciplines.
1- Road Bikes Vs. Mountain Bikes
The first thing that you should note is that mountain bikes are designed to help riders overcome undulating terrains. They have slightly wider wheels and a stronger frame.
Furthermore, road bikes are generally faster, more comfortable to pedal on pavement, and not as well suited for riding off the road. In contrast, mountain bikes are harder to pedal and slower on pavement.
In addition, some riders find the “dropped” riding position challenging to maintain comfortably for an extended time.
Road bikes are slimmer and have much smaller wheels, as seen by the 700c wheels used on many of these bikes. They also lack the durability and shock absorption of the mountain bike.
2- Road Bikes Vs. Cyclocross
A cyclocross bike is one of the best hybrid bikes, and they often feature in rugged terrains. Since there are many road surfaces included in these competitions, the idea is to keep them as light and aerodynamically efficient as possible.
The cyclocross bike has slightly wider tires and can resist undulating terrain much better.
If you want to learn more about the differences between road bikes and cyclocross, I encourage you to read this article: Cyclocross Bike and Road Bike: How do they differ, and which is better for you?
3- BMX Vs. Road Bikes
If you have ever seen a BMX rider, you would notice that they often have a smaller bike, which is limited when it comes to features.
BMX bikes are often referred to as stunt bikes and are used to help riders perform these extreme sports stunts.
Also, BMX bikes are smaller bikes that almost look like kids’ bikes with smaller wheels; however, they are far from being for kids. They are mainly for riding on dirt tracks.
Road Bikes are thin-shaped lightweight bikes with bigger wheels that mainly focus on long rides on paved roads. Remember, they are not for riding on off-roads or country cross. The road bikes are much better in terms of speed but might not offer you the same control.
4- Endurance Bikes Vs. Road Bikes
Another important consideration would be to look at the endurance bike. Many endurance bikes might have similar designs and properties to road bikes, making them ideal alternatives.
However, endurance bikes feature an upright seat and higher clearance, which provide the rider with additional comfort. Unfortunately, comfort is not the main focal point for road bikes. Endurance bikes are also known to be slower than road bikes on flat roads.
5- Gravel Bikes Vs. Road Bikes
The last one is one of the newer additions to the world of cycling, which involves the gravel bike. The gravel bike is one of the most versatile of all the bikes and features a solid design that will allow the rider to trek over a variety of different terrains.
A gravel bike can do almost the same as a cyclocross bike, but it does not have efficiency. Road bikes generally have a short wheelbase and steeper angles for fast and light riding.
You might also enjoy reading: Gravel Bike Vs. Cyclocross Bike: Differences And Which One To Choose
Pros And Cons Of Road Bikes
The best way to determine whether a road bike would be suitable for you is when we look at the pros and cons of these bikes.
In the following section, we have identified some main reasons you would want to own a road bike and a few drawbacks.
Here are the pros and cons of buying a road bike for your cycling journey:
1- Pro: Aerodynamically Efficient
The entire concept of a road bike is that it should be aerodynamically efficient and fast. If you don’t want to struggle with wind resistance, the road bike should be one of the ideal options you could consider.
These bikes have a lower clearance for road surfaces and tend to break the wind more efficiently than other bikes.
2- Cons: Lacks Comfort
The downside to having a bike designed for speed and numerous aero features is that the manufacturers have not put a lot of thought into the comfort.
Where many other bikes would have a more upright design to make the rider feel comfortable in the saddle, road bikes will force you into a forward-leaning angle.
The downside to this is that you will have a slightly uncomfortable riding experience, but at least you will be faster than other bike disciplines.
3- Pro: Lightweight
One of the major benefits is that you will have a lightweight bike. According to the UCI, the current minimum weight is 6.8-kilograms (Source: cyclist.co.uk). If we compare this to a few mountain bikes that come in at close to 15 kilograms, you can see the difference. A road bike is designed to reduce weight and generate more speed.
Additionally, riding these bikes will not be as expensive as much energy. With the lighter weight, you can keep more consistent in terms of overall cadence, and this will make the bike easier and more fluid to ride.
4- Cons: Durability
Modern high-end road bikes feature a predominantly carbon fiber design. Yes, you can buy many cheaper alternatives, which are made from steel or aluminum.
However, these are not what you would see used at the higher levels of the sport. The problem is that even though carbon fiber is durable, very light strands are used.
This means you could bend your frame when crashing with a mountain bike. However, riders crashing with a road bike might completely shatter the frame into pieces. It is also much harder to repair a carbon fiber frame than it is to repair a steel frame.
5- Pros: Newer Tech
Mountain biking is a great sport, but the tech has largely remained the same over the past 5-years.
Road bikes are improving year after year due to things like the big Grand Tours and the more competitive nature of the sport.
With road bikes, you could rely on the newest technology, and while it might be expensive, it will yield impressive results.
6- Cons: Versatility
One of the biggest drawbacks we see with road bikes is their lack of versatility. The problem with many road bikes is that you can only use them on the road and the occasional gravel or cobbled sector. Unfortunately, they do not do well when used in the backcountry like you would use a mountain bike.
If we look even deeper at some of the other bikes, like the cyclocross bike, we will find that this bike is competitive on almost every terrain.
Yes, it might not have a rear suspension, which means downhill riding will be tedious. However, the cyclocross bike can cover almost every terrain you take.
7- Pros: Overall Design
While many might argue with this point, the overall design of road bikes is one of the best pros.
Road bike features a solid design to increase performance and ensure you get the optimal value when riding.
While every bike can be fine-tuned for specific situations, the road bike does this better than any other bike.
8- Cons: Price
Probably the biggest drawback for road bikes is the price. With so much tech and features going into these bikes, they tend to have a steep price. This steep price might not be affordable for every rider.
Even when we compare the lower-end bikes with one another, they tend to be slightly more expensive than the mountain bikes at the same level.
You can be sure that unless you are fortunate enough to run into a good sponsor for your road-cycling journey, you will need to save up often to ensure you get the best value for your money.
Are Road Bikes Worth It?
Road bikes are generally worth it as they offer tremendous benefits, particularly for competitive riders. However, to answer this question, you need to understand that it comes down to personal opinion and your overall cycling goals.
For me, the road bike is too expensive since I am by no means a competitive rider and some of the cheaper options lack the versatility to take on various terrains like the backcountry or other undulating terrains.
However, when you ask a road racer, they would tell you that it is worth it. This leads me to the conclusion that road bikes are often best suited for professional road races. Depending on your discipline and goals, you might be better off with a different bike. Let me know in the comment section if road bikes are worth it for you.