Where to start with road bikes?

by Jason16941   April 12, 2013  

to work and cycle back.
It's a 17 mile ride which I am currently doing on a cheap Raleigh mountain bike, it does have the advantage of a suspension giving a little comfort on the poor roads but it feels quite heavy and sluggish when I get up any speed or have to stop and start at traffic lights.
Does anyone have any recommendations for a good entry level road bike or can tell me the advantages of a road bike over a mountain bike and what I should be looking at when buying one?

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I could write all day but simply put I would recommend a touring bike. If you are not experienced then buy from a shop that will sell you one of the correct size. This is crucial.

A race bike will be fast but uncomfortable and impractical. A touring bike will have more forgiving geometry for the bumps, clearance for bigger tyres (also good for the potholes), mudguards and also become the basis of a great utility bike for shopping if you wish. You could even try a bit of touring...

A mountain bike can be easily converted to commuting but I'd say the suspension is a false comfort. The extra weight more than negates the benefits on roads. I sometimes use an old mountain bike with no suspension and road tyres but it's still not anything close to as enjoyable a ride as a 1/2 decent touring bike.

Make sure you get good long mudguards. A pannier rack is also great as 17 miles with a rucksack is no fun. You can carry a change of clothes as well so you don't have to worry about the weather or get restricted by wearing everyday clothing if you don't want to.

I cannot point you at a specific bike as I tend towards old steel bikes I build up and maintain myself. 2nd hand Dawes Galaxy is a reasonable start although you pay an undeserved premium for the brand name.

Sorry if this is too basic info.

posted by Cranky Acid [38 posts]
12th April 2013 - 8:23

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the difference will be massive - like comparing an old land rover to a ferrari! you will also become far more attractive to women and winning the lottery becomes inevitable.

Get a bike that will take wider (28mm) tyres and fit mudguards. The rest depends on budget - below £3 to 400 and I'd suggest looking 2nd hand.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
12th April 2013 - 8:24

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Price range?
A road bike is going to allow a lot more of your effort to be put into moving the bike rather than being absorbed by the shocks/suspension. If you chose the right road bike you could fit some larger tires, say 25 or 28's at a lower pressure which would provide some more comfort. Talking to your a local bike shop would be your best bet here they will know what you can/can't do as far as tire sizes and also if your commuting I'd assume you'd want mud guard clearance, again something your LBS will help with.

It all depends on price range for what you'll get for your money.

posted by Cycle_Jim [282 posts]
12th April 2013 - 8:28

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Have to disagree with the first post. If you own a mountain bike, a tourer is too similar in my mind and you can just add slick or semi-slick tyres to an MTB to achieve a similar aim. If you plan to keep the MTB, look at a proper road bike as an alternative. These days they wont all be race orientated so whilst the position may be a bit more head down, if fitted right it shouldn't be uncomfortable and as others have said, should take slightly wider tyres for a bit more comfort.

Does your employer offer a ride to work scheme at all as that may be somewhere to start? If not, any idea of budget? Also is that a 17 mile round trip or 17 miles each way? If the former then a rucksack should be fine, that's what I do, but if 17 miles each way, then rack mounts may be preferable.

posted by mattyb95 [29 posts]
12th April 2013 - 9:37

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my commute is 21 miles.
i got the entry level decathlon bike.
i've upgraded now after two years of it, but only because it got stolen.
Weight is not the issue. rollability is (a new word?)
once you are settled in think about getting some new wheels with really nice hubs.
i still ride on 23s with pressure of about 110 and the thought of comfort doesn't cross my mind when i'm riding.
the main benefit is a more aerodynamic position.
this becomes important with headwinds before anyone starts muttering about needing to be over 15 mph before its relevant.
it also allows you to get faster once your fitness builds.
and you'll also have a bike you can use when you inevitably decide to ride sportives.
on those long rides the length of time it takes is the most important bit to me.
i would recommend saving the cycle to work scheme for your second bike once you know about me through experience.
just my thoughts, but it worked for me.

posted by roly [43 posts]
12th April 2013 - 9:54

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Roly, baggy clothes help with fitness too! You just might not get to your destination as you balloon away =P

All these points are great ones, I'd like to elaborate though. Many bikes that look like road bikes that accept 28and higher tires may in fact be cyclocross bikes! Be wary, as these will have a much smaller gear range, which means less top speed and almost no hill grinding gears (real hills). Don't get a cyclocross bike!

Cannondale Synapse, Trek Domane, ask your local bike shop!

[custom] '12 Cannondale CAAD10 - Rival

badkneestom's picture

posted by badkneestom [129 posts]
12th April 2013 - 11:45

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haha badkneestorm. but on the longer commutes fitness is the last thing i need.i want more of that rollability lol. not got a skinsuit yet, but if these easterly winds continue i might have to (my return journey heads east)

posted by roly [43 posts]
12th April 2013 - 13:10

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badkneestom wrote:
Don't get a cyclocross bike!

I'd agree with "don't get a *pure* cyclocross bike" but some of the more general use ones (genesis CDF) are perfect commuters: rugged, fast, rack/guard eyes, good brakes etc

I use a condor cross bike with slick 25's and it keeps up fine on a club run during the 10 months of winter and is a great commuter.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
12th April 2013 - 14:23

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Right - the problem you are experiencing with your old mountain bike is something called 'Rolling Resistance'. The bigger, and wider the tyre, the more resistance you have to the road. This is why road bikes have skinny tyres. The reason for big fat tyres on mountain bikes, is that it gives it extra traction in wet and muddy conditions....something you just don't need on the road.

Whether you go for a commuter bike, cyclocross or road bike will purely depend on the level of comfort, vs. the level of speed that you want. That said a nice carbon road bike will give you great comfort and speed.

I don't think you need panniers, a good courier bag which doesn't sit on your back like a wad of roof insulation, can take care of what you need when you get to the other end.

It basically comes down to how much do you want to spend after that. You can get a perfectly good road bike or whatever for less than £1k for a commute. I'm guessing that you'll need to leave it locked up somewhere, so you are probably better just getting a second hand bike which you'll be happy donating to someone's skag fund at some undisclosed and inconvenient point in the future.....and actually having an older, less sparkly bike will probably deter thieves on the basis that it won't get them a full baggy of drugs.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1205 posts]
12th April 2013 - 17:04

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There is some really good advice on here but it's difficult to know what applies to you.

It would help to know how much you are looking to spend, how much gear you carry with you on your commute, where you leave the bike when you are at work and what the traffic is like - open roads or lots of jams to navigate.

This is what works for me on my 34 mile round trip commute from the countryside into Milton Keynes:

Panniers to spare my back, keep cool and fit in a bit of shopping whenever I need to, a long wheel base to avoid my toes clipping the front wheel when navigating stationary traffic, SPDs to avoid wearing out road cleats with constant stops and walking, robust hand built wheels for durability and easy maintenance, a steel frame for a smooth ride and longevity, 25mm Conti 4 Seasons tyres for a balance of fast rolling, puncture proofing and comfort, full mudguards to keep the spray off and fairly relaxed geometry to allow me to see over the tops of cars easily.

I get comfort, speed and reliabilty.

What are your priorities?

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [329 posts]
12th April 2013 - 21:33

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As you can see from the responses, you've asked quite a rather open-ended question.

Road bikes are of course lighter but also have a different riding position while the lighter wheels and skinny slick tyres help too. Having said that, my old Kona rigid MTB with full-length mudguards runs well on 26x1.5" road tyres and shrugs off rain, road salt and so on.

For road bikes I'd look at £500 upwards, starting with the Boardman Road Sport:
http://road.cc/content/news/70957-boardman-launch-three-sub-£500-bikes
Giant Defy 5, Specialized Allez and similarly specced bikes from most brands are worth considering. Hybrids, as the name suggests, sit somewhere in between road and MTB.

If you prefer flat bars then consider these too (though very few people who switch to drops want to revert to flats). Visit a couple of dealers and see what you think.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2059 posts]
13th April 2013 - 21:14

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Thanks for all the advice. Shows how little I knew but does give me a lot to ask in store and to look at. Looking at spending £500-£700. The route I ride is about 17 miles one way. Get the train in to avoid being hot, sweaty and smelly for work and ride home after work.
I've seen the specialized allez recommended as a good entry level bike. Can any one recommend what to look at fit wise when I go into the store to have a look at one?

posted by Jason16941 [3 posts]
22nd April 2013 - 19:21

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I commute 12 miles a day in all weathers 5 days a week. I use a Hybrid with Nexus Gears, with full mudguards, multiple sets of lights etc. I don't commute on my Bianchi Road bike although I would love to as the Hybrid feels like a tractor ploughing a field - especially in winter when the Nexus gears freeze. However the road bike just isn't built for 5 day commuting. I would spend a lot of time and money mending it and replacing costly parts. I'm thinking of getting a new commuting bike and I really think I'll be getting another Hub geared thing - the lack of maintenance is a pure joy!

posted by dunnoh [177 posts]
22nd April 2013 - 21:27

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Touring bike? or a Hybrid?

IMHO - touring bikes are such a niche product these days, you can get better value buying one of the higher end hybrids (e.g. Trek 7. FX series, which has a proper threadless headset).

These tend to come without rack or guards, but with plenty of clearance for them. And you'll still save £100s compared to a similar specc'ed touring bike. Then you just budget £50 for nice guards and a rack.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 7:13

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I also want a road frame. I have to travel 25 miles, on 3 buses, for 3 hours, twice a day, which is impossible on a mountain bike. I feel every bump, despite riding with suspension, so being comfortable is not a huge concern. I normally carry wellies and lunch in a backpack so would prefer to get somewhere quickly. I would like to have the correct size but can only afford second-hand, though would a re-spray and general look-over cost the same as buying a new frame?

posted by ben_a [8 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 11:09

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Jason16941 wrote:
Thanks for all the advice. Shows how little I knew but does give me a lot to ask in store and to look at. Looking at spending £500-£700. The route I ride is about 17 miles one way. Get the train in to avoid being hot, sweaty and smelly for work and ride home after work.
I've seen the specialized allez recommended as a good entry level bike. Can any one recommend what to look at fit wise when I go into the store to have a look at one?

Make sure that you are comfortable. When you go to the bike shop for a test ride make sure that you are wearing your bike kit and not ordinary clothes. At the price point you are looking at you are unlikely to get any choice in the componentry so you may to retro fit a stem if you don't have the reach you want.

Fit relates to, amongst other things, bar width, reach, crank length, stack height, cleat position, saddle fore-aft position and height. You will either work them out for yourself or get some help from a professional. If your LBS is a good one they will sit you on your chosen bike on a turbo to get as close as possible to the right saddle posiiton for you before you leave the shop.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [329 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 21:57

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PJ McNally wrote:
Touring bike? or a Hybrid?

IMHO - touring bikes are such a niche product these days, you can get better value buying one of the higher end hybrids (e.g. Trek 7. FX series, which has a proper threadless headset).

These tend to come without rack or guards, but with plenty of clearance for them. And you'll still save £100s compared to a similar specc'ed touring bike. Then you just budget £50 for nice guards and a rack.

How about a road bike that will take guards and a pannier rack? Hybrids can be useful in busy traffic but the upright position gets uncomfortable on longer journeys and really slows you down in a headwind. When it comes to riding for the fun of it, a road bike beats a hybrid hands down.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [329 posts]
23rd April 2013 - 22:02

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Although you are open minded on what you are looking for apart from the "rollability" factor (I know exactly what you mean), I think you would regret buying a hybrid, because sticking slicks on your mountain bike would make it feel pretty similar.

I bought a Cannondale Quick CX 4 hybrid for my 26 mile commute last year and quickly regretted it. I've now converted it to drop bars and it's much more what I was looking for. I did look at entry level road bikes but considered them a bit too fragile for a regular all-weather commute.

I would suggest leaving your bank card at home so you're not tempted to make an impulse purchase and spend a day going round the bike shops in your area. I tend to agree with the comments above that an appropriately geared cyclocross style bike is likely to fit the bill well, particularly if to stick something like 25mm Gatorskins on it.

Have fun deciding. Big Grin

posted by FMOAB [238 posts]
24th April 2013 - 8:02

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ben_a wrote:
I also want a road frame. I have to travel 25 miles, on 3 buses, for 3 hours, twice a day, which is impossible on a mountain bike. I feel every bump, despite riding with suspension, so being comfortable is not a huge concern. I normally carry wellies and lunch in a backpack so would prefer to get somewhere quickly. I would like to have the correct size but can only afford second-hand, though would a re-spray and general look-over cost the same as buying a new frame?

Hard to say about the price without knowing the bikes you are looking at but the 25 miles should be entirely possible although it will probably leave you fairly knackered on the first few Fridays. Now's the time to give it a try.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [329 posts]
26th April 2013 - 12:54

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Hi Clanger. I'll definitely give it a go starting Tuesday. I would be slightly worried buying anything second-hand which is carbon, after reading the advice here, so hopefully there is a 531 steel frame with my name on it somewhere. I wouldn't mind if it was 50 years old, though not if it is going to cost a couple of hundred quid for a re-spray!
I haven't a clue where to start but would like something a little competitive that climbs the hills around here and is quick over the flat parts. I have no idea about frame angles and such but is a light-weight frame more important than the parts attached to it for these purposes? All suggestions are welcome!

posted by ben_a [8 posts]
26th April 2013 - 21:30

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Just got back after my trial run today, and have plotted the route on a map for everyone to see (haven't become accustomed to strava just yet). I had cramp or pins and needles in my hands, and my lower back was aching, possibly from not riding for long distances. I was a little knackered once getting to Langport, so took a break for 15 minutes and headed back home, but the actual route should continue until Bridgwater. I reached Langport after passing through Kingsbury Episcopi and came back through Hambridge, then Merriott, but either direction took 1 and 1/2 hours and was pretty flat, except the start and finish. I was hoping to spend 50 quid on a second-hand reynolds 531 steel frame, nothing fancy. I have no idea about costs as this would be my first attempt at putting a frame and all the parts together. Any advice about frame material, geometry, and anything else would be much appreciated.

posted by ben_a [8 posts]
30th April 2013 - 16:56

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Hi Ben, I wouldn't worry too much about the sore back and pins and needles, it happened to most of us when we started out but it stops if you keep riding regularly. Were you riding your MTB? A decent pair of padded mitts will help with the pins and needles and your back will get used to the riding position so long as your saddle isn't too high. If you find that your hips are rocking from side to side when you pedal you'll need to put your saddle down as it will hurt your lower back and your knees. Good luck in finding that frame. It sounds like what you need is something comfortable and reliable and an old steel frame would certainly fit the bill.

If you are going to ride 250 miles a week in all weathers you'll need something that's good quality but not madly expensive as a groupset. I'd be looking at Veloce, Tiagra, 105 or Apex. Even the new Sora might be OK as you'll get through quite a lot of chains and the odd cassette.

As far as geometry is concerned something with a longer wheelbase and taller head tube will feel a little more comfortable but the best thing to do is to test ride any suitable candidates in your bike gear and see if they feel right to you.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [329 posts]
4th May 2013 - 14:16

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Hiya Clanger! I bought a pair of gloves but like you said the pins and needles haven't entirely gone away just yet. I'm looking forward to that moment! I have since tried the same circuit twice on my MTB, once before, and the other after your advice. I've still not got a cycle-puter so here again is the route. I lowered and pushed back the seat-post and had a more comfortable ride second time around. Despite needing to get out the saddle a little earlier, my knees felt a lot better and my lower back was coping much better after only a few miles. I didn't notice my hips rocking from side to side, though did notice my left foot was quite stiff on the pedal, whereas my right foot was able to roll forward and back on the pedal, which was more comfortable. I also had a slight stiffness in my knee near the end of the ride but nothing serious. I've yet to find a second-hand frame for £50 but any other advice in the meanwhile would be greatly appreciated.

posted by ben_a [8 posts]
8th May 2013 - 18:55

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Quick update - Decided to go with a specialized allez and as the guy in the shop put it if your riding on road - you want a road bike. Much quicker, more comfortable and so much more efficient.
A little weird getting used to the handle bars - kept looking for the brakes where they would be on a mountain bike and shifters being the brake levers took a bit of getting used to but getting there.

Thanks for all the advice and now all I need is a nice sunny day to get up some speed. ( It's been wet and windy everytime i've been out)

Cheers

posted by Jason16941 [3 posts]
24th June 2013 - 17:25

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