What Is A Road Bike, How Does It work - Complete Guide

Your first bike probably came with a set of supporting wheels. Your dad pushed you from behind, and riding a bike felt the easiest thing to do.

As you grew a bit older, those supporting wheels came off. Things got a bit harder, but after taking multiple falls, you finally learned to ride a bike. (We are assuming!)

Things have changed now. You have grown, and so has the bike industry. There are a plethora of road bike brands in the market right now, each serving a different purpose to the rider.

what is a road bike

In this guide, we will talk about “what is a road bike” and everything you need to know about the wide range of road bike types.

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So, What Is A Road Bike?

The name pretty much gives it away, doesn’t it?

A road bike is an ideal bike for use on paved roads.

The design of a road bike is such that it generates the most efficient and flawless performance, relaxed geometry for any rider who is willing to use it only on roads.

The bike’s shape, tire width, body, and weight are all designed to give you the best performance on the road.

Can you buy a mountain bike and just transform it into a road bike?

Although it is a good idea, you cannot convert a skinny road bike to a mountain bike.

A mountain bike comes with a meaner body and stronger tires. No amount of modification will ever lead you there.

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Types Of road Bike

Great. Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the types of road bikes let’s dive a little deeper.

1. Aero Road Bike

You see, this category of road bikes is built to eliminate any sort of wind resistance the rider might face. This neat little design is achieved by using aerodynamic properties, lightweight frame and narrow tires in the frame geometry.

Aero bikes can give the looks of a “racing” bike on the first impression. In fact, these wind-fighting superstars are even faster than normal bikes used for road cycling.

how road bikes work

2. Backpacking Bike

The entire building of the bike has been dedicated for one purpose only – to enable the rider to reach “hard to reach” places.

The idea is that camp-enthusiasts often pick up places that are remote and definitely not bike-friendly.

This bike has been dedicated purely to that particular branch of nature lovers. The entire body – frame, materials, wheels and wider tires– offers incredible toughness for the rider. This type of bike are also called adventure bikes.

Additionally, the body of the bike, gear range and wheels also allow the rider to carry loads (preferably camping materials and other supplies).


2. How are road bikes different?

3. Commuter Road Bike/City bikes

This particular subcategory is strictly for those who use city bikes for simple point A to point B transportation. The “Average Joe” of road bikes, if you will.

The commuter road bike gives a lot to the rider in terms of efficiency, ease and convenience. While it offers nothing too fancy, it can still give a good run for its money with all the brilliant attributes.

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4. Cyclocross Bike

This cross bike is the best in both worlds.

It offers satisfactory services on difficult surfaces (unpaved trails, sand, dirt and pavement) and offers a commendable speed and smoother ride to the rider as well.

5. Dual-Sport-Bike

This bike is for those who like to live on an adrenaline rush. If you are one of those who would give anything for speed, this type will do you plenty of justice.

The seats are comparatively smaller. A smaller seat means a lighter bike and more fluidity in movement.

There is also a suspension present at the front. The idea is that the suspension will absorb any shocks that might come from bumpy roads and unpaved trails, ensuring the comfort of the rider.

4. Why is it called a road bike

6. Endurance (Sportive) Road Bike

This type of road bike offers additional comfort. Endurance bike allows the rider for a prolonged period of biking.

There are many one-day events called “endurance” events, where the rider needs to go on for a long period of time. This category of bikes is a frequent scene in such competitive events.

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Components of Road Bikes

The components of a road bike are:

1. The Frame (Frameset) and Forks

The bike’s frame material or framework can be compared to the human body. That is why, it is probably the most vital part. Each component is attached to the frameset, giving the road bike its final shape.

Typically speaking, road bike frames derives from aluminum or carbon. In some cases, steel or titanium is also used, but these belong to certain niches (for example, for races, events or for a particular purpose) and not in general.

Frames of traditional road bikes use a flat top-tube. The Seat-post (the long cylindrical tube that connects the frame with the seat) is much shorter nowadays compared to that of the old generation.

5. Is riding a road bike difficult?

Compact geometry (the long metal cylindrical tube in the framework of the cycle that forms a sort of a kite shape) is the most common form nowadays. The top tube also forms a sloping shape that makes the frame smaller and lighter.

The forks are the two cylindrical tube/fork-like structure that connects the frameset with the front tires.

Forks on expensive bikes usually come from carbon. On the other hand, the cheaper ones use only aluminum or only steel. In some cases, manufacturers use an alloy made from combining both carbon and aluminum.

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2. Wheel size and Tires

If the frameset can be referred to as the body, then logically, the tires become the leg of the cycle. A pair of good tire is essential for a smooth riding experience. Tires vary according to the size of bike.

Road bikes are designed specifically for use on roads. The tires contain relatively fewer spokes than other bikes. The rims on it are also quite light.

The rims are adjusted in deep positions sometimes. This is to ensure top-notch aerodynamic performance.

Up until a few years, road rims came in very narrow shapes. In recent times, they are getting wider because research shows wider rims can account for greater aerodynamic performance, polished and kempt ride and even lowers the chance of flat tires.

2. Crankset (or chainset, if you will)

Crankset is the disc that keeps the chains running. Road bikes usually take a number of types of chainsets. These are:

  • ‘Compact’ (contains 50/34t cranks): Also known as ‘semi-compact (52/36t) gearing. This is very common among road bikes, and most bikes come equipped with this.
road bike crankset
  • Standard double: It contains 53/39t chain rings, but this category is turning into quite a stranger nowadays. Not many of these categories can be seen in the streets in modern times.

N.B.: “T” refers to the number of teeth in the chain

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3. Cassette

The back part of the bike’s rear wheel contains a set of gears that are closely packed together. These assist the cyclist in pedaling at whichever speed they want.

Entry-level road bikes contain a pretty impressive number of sprockets, ranging from 11 to even 12 sometimes. On the other hand, recreational bikes with prices on the lower scale contain 8-10 sprockets.

N.B.: Sprockets located in road bike cassette varies either comes in 11-28t or 11-30t

4. Derailleurs

The fancy term, isn’t it? In laymen’s terms, it is the tool that helps the rider change the gear. The derailleurs do this by pushing the length of the chain across the teeth of cassette sprockets.

This pushing aids the rider in changing the chain rings from one to the other, thus shifting the gear.

Most road bikes have derailleurs that are located in both the front and rear wheels. And all of them work manually with the help of physical cables. Electronic ones are also a frequent scene in the market.

5. Handlebars and levers

Drop handlebars (handles that are curved at the bottom) and road bikes go hand in hand.

The bars’ hoods serve as a cover for the brakes. The drops of the bars enable the rider to get a lower center of gravity when needed, which allows enhanced control of the bike during descending.

road bike handlebar

To meet the needs of different riders, the market offers a variety of bar width and shape options.

6. Saddle

The most common mistake buyers make is focusing on the anatomy of a bike rather than the comfort factor.
The focus should be equally put in the road bike saddle as well. Road saddles are narrow-shaped and lightly padded.

At first, it sounds odd and utterly uncomfortable. After all, shouldn’t it have soft padding for a more comfort?

Yes, it does sound odd, but unpadded saddles do actually more than you realize.

It’s because unpadded saddles will hold you up and straight during long cycling hours. Additionally, they don’t allow nerves and vulnerable soft tissues to get compressed.

Even though hard to seat on, these saddles actually bring the best out of you.

There are a numerous models available in the market when it comes to saddle. Buy one you think fits you the most.

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7. Brakes

Road bikes typically use two kinds of brakes:

Rim Breaks

These work as dual-pivot calipers, clamping the wheel rims and stopping the wheels, and thus the bike. Rim brakes are the most common form of brakes and provide excellent performance.

These are not as good as disc brakes, in all honesty. But, a set of fine rim brakes does a fine job too.

Disc Brakes

 Simply grabs and holds the disc rotors adjusted to the bike hubs. These work better and more consistently in wet weather.

These are superior to rim brakes. But, these are a bit heavier and more expensive too.

road bike disk brake

Why would anyone choose a road bike instead of other options?

A road bike is the most common type of bicycle you will ever see.

But why should you invest in a road bike? As previously stated, there are dozens and dozens road racing bikes available, so why settle for something ordinary?

After all, you’re spending a lot of money, so why not try something out of the box thinking to impress everyone around you?

Here are the top three reasons you should go for road racing bikes and nothing else.

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1. Speed

The number one reason for buying road racing bikes is the excellent speed it offers. You see, a road bike is designed for top-notch speed.

The wheels have large diameters, the light built to boost inertia, smooth aerodynamics – all these will guarantee the fastest speed with the least friction against the fluid.

In comparison, mountain bikes are mean and heavy bikes that are built for resistance and protection. Similarly, another form of bikes – hybrids and cruisers – also share the same gene, made for durability.

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So, unless you are cycling in mountains or uneven terrains, the other kids will actually do worse than good and also make you look pretty foolish.

A road bike is the best policy.

2. Weight

Road bikes are very light in weight which makes them incredibly fun to ride. A light bike will always be easy and effortless to operate, not to mention it travels fasters too.

Meanwhile, mountains and other sorts are relatively very heavy and don’t make cycling easy. These bikes were made for resistance which you don’t need at all unless you are on a mountain trail.

3. Efficiency

Putting a fast set of wheels with an incredible light built in the same table results in a tremendous amount of efficiency. This efficiency means not only you can go to places faster but also putting less effort into the process.

Imagine you are going out to meet a friend at his house. It’s a ten-minute route.

With a road bike, it will be easy, clean, and just another walk in the park. But, using the other options will make you tired, sweaty, and all out of breath.

7. Is a gravel bike slower than a road bike?

The Bottom Line

The idea of buying a mountain bike or other bikes might sound cool and all. But, unless you will be using that on an actual mountain or rough, uneven roads, it will do more harm than good.

A road bike is easy, efficient and effortless to operate – taking you far and without sweat or much sweat compared to that of mountains or other sorts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

It is good for speed and efficiency, meaning you can reach your destination fast while using minimal energy than using another category of bikes.

Additionally, it is also very lightweight, making it easy to use.

Road bikes are lightweight. They take much less effort to operate compared to mountain bikes. The setup, geometry, and anatomy of the road bikes are also different from that of other bikes.

A road bike is designed for speed and efficiency. It takes the rider from point A to point B in small a very short amount of time and using less effort than other bikes do. It performs best on smooth roads made of concrete or asphalt.

However, a road bike cannot carry much weight. This is where a touring bike outweighs a road bike. A touring bike offers strength and resilience for its riders, can carry massive loads (more than just the rider) and is built to operate against tough conditions.

Because it works best in roads such as concretes and asphalts. Consequently, it will easily succumb to the rough and tough mountain terrains, uneven roads. Some categories of road bikes work in mud but not all of them.

The opposite. In fact, a road bike is the easiest to ride among all the other types of bicycles.
This is due to a road bike’s lightweight design and wider wheels, which allow for greater pedaling efficiency. In comparison to a mountain bike, a road bike will require less effort or energy to travel the same distance.

Not at all. They are designed for efficiency and comfort. The saddle might be uncomfortable for riders initially because it is small and not padded. However, such a design ensures comfort during long hours of cycling.

A gravel bike is comparatively slower than a road bike. As a gravel bike is built heavier in most cases, the weight reduces the speed, making it slightly slower than standard road bikes.

Final Words On What Is A Road Bike

It looks like we have reached the end of our discussion for today about “What Is  A Road Bike“.

To summarize, we established the definition of a road bike, different parts, types, and why you should buy a one, as well as answered a few frequently asked questions.

A road bike is an ideal bike for roads. It is fast, efficient and lightweight. Additionally, refrain from buying another sort of bike unless you really need it because it would be both wastes of money and would make you look bad.

Hope now you know more about road bikes than you started with. Sincerely, hope that we were able to help you.

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