The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Road Bike
We’ve gathered the most up to date and relevant information for Australians when it comes to buying a Road Bike. We’ve got the top tips for buyers.
A bicycle is one of the most satisfying and fun ways to exercise. Of course, you could go to the gym or the pool but not everyone finds doing reps or laps that enjoyable. There’s something different about a bike and especially road bikes. The right one can take you places, whether it be along a beach road, up a mountain path, or simply to work and back.
That’s not even mentioning the other very agreeable destination – a trim and healthy body – which regular bike riding, along with a healthy diet, is almost guaranteed to lead to. After all, it has been said that cars waste money and make you fat, while bikes burn fat and save money. It’s time to burn!
How to Buy a Road Bike
On the tarmac you can really power your stroke on a road bike. Unlike mountain bikes, hybrid bikes and commuter bikes, road bikes are not well-suited to running on gravel, pot-holes, dirt roads, or sand.
On the other hand, unleash a road bike on a stretch of smooth tarmac, a good 50 km or so, and it’ll fly like none of the others can. With some helpful guidance and tips, you can find the best road bike for you, your riding style, and your budget.
The Four Key Factors of a Road Bike
Road bikes, like any other machines, are composed of a number of different parts, each one playing its part in performance, comfort, durability, and price.
Your human-powered machine breaks down into four key areas, including frame geometry, bike size, frame materials, and components, each of which you need to consider to find the right bike for you.
Road bikes come in two basic forms, sport and race, which generally dictate your position on the bike. The seating position of sport road bikes is more upright, while on race road bikes the position is more crouched.
While sport road bikes result in you being less aerodynamic, they are more comfortable to ride. If your back and joints aren’t what they used to be, there’s no reason that you can’t still get some great exercise on a sport bike, albeit at a slightly lesser pace than on a race bike.
If you’re more comfortable, you’ll spend more kilometres on the tarmac, which will only increase your exercise, fitness, and enjoyment. If you are a new road bike rider, the upright seating position is also much easier to get used to.
Race road bikes are meant for speed and long-distance stamina, and their crouched seating position presents less of a challenge to cut through wind. You’ll be more aerodynamic on a race bike, but this requires a great deal of flexibility in the back and neck, not to mention experience riding in the crouched position.
Road Bike Frame Size
In addition to frame geometry, there is also frame size, which you’ll choose based on your body measurements. One way to figure out your size is to simply ride different bikes until you find one that fits best, but a better way is to get professionally sized at a bike shop, preferably a shop that specialises in road bikes. By following a few guidelines you can get the best fit.
You should choose a bike which has a top tube about 5 cm shorter than your inside leg measurement. This makes for easier mounting and dismounting.
Proper frame size can be a little more difficult to determine, depending on your inside leg measurement and the relationship between your height and arm span – basically how far your arms and legs reach. Frame sizes are usually available between 48 cm and 62 cm, with a few models outside this range. Measure your height and inside leg, then match up frame sizes in the table below.
Finally, measure your arm span. Your arm span is the measurement from the end of your right fingertips to the end of your left fingertips when your arms are outstretched to the side in the form of a ‘T’.
If your arm span is shorter than your height, go for the smaller of the frames you match up with. Alternatively, if your arm span is longer than your height, look for the larger of the frame sizes.
Road Bike Frame Sizing Chart
|155 – 160 cm||69 – 74 cm||48 cm|
|160 – 165 cm||71 – 76 cm||50 cm|
|165 – 170 cm||74 – 79 cm||52 cm|
|170 – 175 cm||76 – 81 cm||54 cm|
|175 – 180 cm||79 – 84 cm||56 cm|
|180 – 188 cm||81 – 86 cm||58 cm|
|185 – 190 cm||84 – 89 cm||60 cm|
|190 – 195 cm||86 – 91 cm||62 cm|
As an example, if you stand 183 cm tall, have a 185 cm arm span and an 84 cm inseam, the appropriate frame size would probably be 60 cm.
In the end, you’ll need to test-ride a few different bikes until you find the one that fits like an extension of your body, rather than a foreign mechanical device.
Frame and Fork Materials
The materials used in manufacturing the bike are a major factor in how much the bike costs and how it handles.
In the hands of an excellent designer, a steel road bike frame can be exceptionally comfortable, but the heavier material exacts a weight penalty.
For a touring bike, the weight isn’t much of a concern, but makes for a heavy ride in a hill climber.
Modern high strength steels can be just as light as aluminium-alloys, but they come with a commensurately higher price tag. For a long time steel was the material of choice in all bicycles, until around the 1980s when the switch was made to…
Most entry-level and some mid-range road bikes are made entirely from this relatively lightweight and forgiving material. Road bikes made from aluminium alloys aren’t particularly expensive, and they can often be significantly upgraded with better componentry later.
With the strength of steel and the light weight of aluminium-alloys, titanium also makes an exceptional road bike. Because of the rarity of the material and the processing difficulties, titanium road bikes tend to be more expensive than their aluminium-alloy brethren.
Everything from smartphone covers to supercars are being made from this newer space-age material, and for good reason. Lighter yet stronger than steel or aluminium alloy, carbon fibre begets a road bike that is exceptionally lightweight and offers a responsive and comfortable ride.
While carbon fibre it used to be reserved only for the most-expensive bikes, it can now be found in the frames of some mid-range bikes. Even some aluminium-alloy bikes come with a lightweight and responsive carbon-fibre front fork.
Road Bike Components
Once you have the frame and fork, the groupset (drivetrain) and wheels come next.
Groupsets and Wheels
Three companies dominate groupset manufacturing: Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo.
Each of the companies separates their gear into various levels. As the levels ascend so does the price, but each step up offers lower weight, better materials, and better performance.
Regarding groupset makers, keep the following in mind when looking at prospective road bikes and pricing:
- Entry-level road bikes are usually equipped with Shimano Claris or Sora; SRAM Apex or Rival; or Campagnolo Veloce or Athena components.
- Stepping up to mid-range road bikes, you may find Shimano Tiagra or 105, SRAM Rival or Force, Campagnolo Chorus or Record components. You’ll pay more for these parts, but they’ll pay off in increased power, speed and/or endurance.
- At the top of the range, competition-level road bikes are equipped with SRAM Red, Campagnolo Super Record or Shimano Ultegra or Dura-Ace. These are the lightest and fastest components you can get.
Aside from the frame, the wheels have the next-biggest impact on how the bike handles and how much it costs.
Generally, wheel materials and construction follow the price and performance range of the road bike frame and fork. Therefore you’re unlikely to find carbon-fibre wheels on an entry-level bike, just as it would be strange to find aluminium-alloy wheels on a titanium road bike. Keep this in mind if you find a high-end carbon-fibre frame with low-end drivetrain components or wheels, as a bike maker may have combined them to keep the bike within a certain price range. On the other hand, you can, and probably will, upgrade your groupset and wheels later.
Road bike makers typically don’t ship their bikes with pedals, except for some of the entry-level road models, since most road bike riders buy their own bike shoes and clipless pedals.
Because there are so many pedal sizes and types, each catering to a particular rider – not to mention they start at around $150 – pedals just usually aren’t included in a new road bike. When considering a used road bike, you may need to set aside additional funds to have your own pedals fitted, or at least to buy compatible shoes.
How to Buy a Road Bike on Gumtree
Gumtree has a massive selection of road bikes of all levels, so you are bound to find exactly what you’re looking for. If you want to start by browsing through as many bike types as possible, simply type “road bike” into the search box you’ll find at the top of every Gumtree page.
To whittle down your choices, simply be more specific in your search terms. For example, a search for “entry-level road bike” will just serve up listings of bikes suited for beginning riders, while a search for “carbon-fibre road bike” will return the listings for the light frames you’re looking for.
To find the components you want, you can search by component type or manufacturer name, such as “SRAM“.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of road bike you are looking for and you’ve set your budget, it is generally recommended that you buy as much bike as you can afford, focusing your funds especially on the frame and wheels. While both groupset components and wheels can be upgraded later, the groupset will be more economical to upgrade. Wheels are more expensive to upgrade, but they can also lead to a significant improvement in ride comfort and responsiveness.
Finally, make sure you test ride several road bikes to get a feel for their differences. Choose the bike that feels the most comfortable – an extension of your being. Then…enjoy the ride.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of road bike you are looking for and you’ve set your budget, it is generally recommended that you buy as much bike as you can afford, focusing your funds especially on the frame and wheels. While both groupset components and wheels can be upgraded later, the groupset will be more economical to upgrade. Wheels are more expensive to upgrade, but they also can lead to a significant improvement in ride comfort and responsiveness.
Finally, make sure you test ride several road bikes to get a feel for the differences. Choose the bike that feels the most comfortable – an extension of your being. Then…enjoy the ride.