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What Is a Road Bike?

What is a road bike

If you’re a keen cyclist, then chances are you’ve ridden a road bike before, but if for some reason you haven’t, then what are you waiting for!

Road bikes are one of the most popular types of bike out there thanks to their ability to transport us quickly around our bustling cities. 

But what is a road bike and what size road bike do you need? What is the history of road bikes and how much does a road bike cost? 

In this short road biking guide I’ll answer the above questions and much more. Ready to become a road bike expert?

Let’s hit the road. 

Table of Contents
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    What is a Road Bike?

    As the name suggests, a road bike is a bicycle designed to navigate paved surfaces at high speeds.

    Some cyclists refer to road bikes as racing bikes, which makes sense since road bikes are used in various competitive cycling events.

    Road bikes can be identified by several distinguishing features, including their lightweight frames, drop handlebars and thin, often slick tires.

    The name “road bike” can be used to describe a variety of different bikes, all of which share several common characteristics but have slightly different purposes, such as gravel bikes, fixed gear bikes and cyclocross bikes.

    Keep reading, and I’ll explain the benefits that the components of a road bike provide and explain what size road bike you need.

    What Is a Road Bike Used For?

    Road bikes are one of the most popular types of bike and are much faster in our urban jungles than mountain bikes.

    Because of the increased speed road bikes offer on paved surfaces, they are a popular choice with bicycle commuters and anyone who regularly cycles within towns and cities. 

    As I’ve covered road bikes are designed to be used on paved roads, however, they’re also suitable for flat trails and some off-road paths.

    professional road bike race
    Competitive races are a driving force that ensure new and improved bikes and componentes hit the market each year!

    The majority of road bikes would struggle with uneven stony trails, so if you’re looking for a bike that can do both, a gravel bike will be a much more suitable option. 

    Read my in-depth guide to gravel bikes, to learn more about these versatile bicycles. 

    In competitive environments, road bikes are used in a multitude of road racing events. Just below I cover some of the most well-known events road bikes are used in.

    History of Road Bikes

    The history of road cycling goes all the way back to the invention of the first bicycle in Germany, 1817.

    Karl Von Drais, a German inventor, created the ‘swiftwalker”, which was essentially a bicycle without pedals.

    The “swiftwalker” was designed for riding on paved surfaces and was invented to provide an alternative method of transportation to horses.

    Historic photo of the Tour de France from the, 1930s
    In this photo from the Tour de France during the 1930s you can see how different road cycling used to be! No helmets, chunky tires, and essentially riding off-road!

    One of the most significant moments in road bike history that contributed to their widespread enjoyment was the very first Tour De France competition, which took place in 1903[2].

    Since 1817 road bikes have come on leaps and bounds. Many early road bikes were made with steel frames that were strong but very heavy.

    Nowadays, many road bikes are made from carbon fibre, and manufacturers are producing an increasing number of e-bike road bikes.

    Read about the different components road bikes use below.

    What Are the Components of a Road Bike?

    A diagram showing the anatomy and the components of a road bike

    Who Should Use A Road Bike? 

    Road bikes are designed to travel at high speeds with as little effort as possible. This makes road bikes a great option for many cyclists.

    Cyclists who compete in road bike races and similar competitions will benefit from using a road bike. Entering a road race whilst using a mountain bike may be possible, but you’d be at a great disadvantage.

    Casual cyclists and commuters can also enjoy the speed road bikes offer. As a result, your commute to work will be faster and less strenuous, allowing you to enjoy a few more minutes in bed each morning!

    female cyclist riding a road bike in lycra
    There's a road bike for every body type and level of experience, and no, you don't HAVE to wear lycra!

    If you live in a city, a road bike is undeniably one of the best types of bike you can choose. However, if you prefer a bike that demands minimal maintenance a fixed gear bike will likely serve you better than a road bike.

    If you’re considering a road bike, you should consider the ergonomics each road bike offers.

    Do you want a road bike with an aggressive riding position that offers better aerodynamics? Or a road bike that offers a more relaxed upright riding position for more comfortable yet speedy commutes?

    Finally, if you enjoy off-road and trail cycling as well as hitting the roads, a hybrid bike or a gravel bike may be more suitable. 

    The links above will take you to an in-depth guide for either bike type!

    How to Lock a Road Bike

    The most important step of securing your road bike is using a good quality security setup that reflects the value of your bike. 

    UK police advise that you spend at least 15% of the value on its security, I concur. 

    I’ve put together several guides reviewing the best bike locks on the market. If you have invested a large sum of money in your bike or can’t stand the thought of it being stolen, you’ll want to take a look at the top-performing locks in the world

    If you’re unsure about how to lock your bike, have a read of my in-depth guide here. I also cover how to beat bike thieves in this informative article.

    Best way to lock a bike

    How Much Does a Road Bike Weigh?

    To determine how much the average road bike weighs, I compiled a table below and have included the weight and price of 15 randomly selected road bikes. 

    The bikes selected were found across different US and EU websites.

    I attempted to keep the readings consistent with the medium road bike frame size 54-55cm. However, a few brands only provided weights for one size, so the frame sizes are provided alongside the corresponding weight. 

    Just below the table, I explain how much a road bike weighs and include the average weight of a road bike.

    Bike Model Weight Frame Size (cm)
    TREK DOMANE AL 2 2021 23.3lb / 10.6kg 56 (L)
    CANNONDALE Synapse 2020 22.9lb / 10.4kg 56 (L)
    Trek Madone SL6 2020 19.0lb / 8.6kg 56 (L)
    Vitus Razor Claris 2021 23.4lb / 10.6kg 54 (M)
    Van Rysel EDR CF 17.9lb / 8.1kg 54 (M)
    Cube Attain Pro 2021 22.7lb / 10.3kg 54 (M)
    Vitus ZX-1 EVO CR 2021 18.3lb / 8.3kg 54 (M)
    Giant Propel Adv Pro 2021 17.9lb / 8.1kg 54 (M)
    Ribble Endurance SL Disc 19.8lb / 8.8kg 52 (S)
    Ribble R872 Sport 19.8lb / 9.0kg 54 (M)
    Planet X London Road Classic 22.3lb / 10.1kg 54 (M)
    Planet X EC-130E Rivet Rider 18.0lb / 8.2kg 54 (M)
    Niner RLT 3 Star 21.5lb / 9.8kg 54 (M)
    Scott Speedster 20 Disc 22.5lb / 10.2kg 54 (M)
    Raleigh Merit 2 2017 23.1lb / 10.5kg 54 (M)

    So as you can see above, I selected a wide variety of brands and different priced road bikes to determine how much a road bike weighs.

    With all 15 of the randomly selected road bike’s weights summed together, the average weight of a road bike comes to 20.7lb (9.4kg).

    The average road bike weighs roughly 20.7lb (9.4kg), and the majority of road bikes will weigh between 8kg – 11kg. This range encompasses both low and high-end road bikes.

    How Much Does a Road Bike Cost?

    If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a new road bike but are wondering how much a road bike costs, the data below will help you understand the rough price of your average road bike.

    The online stores that I selected my random examples from were more specialist stores. The majority of the bikes included below are mid-level road bikes for keen road cyclists.

    Bike Model Price
    TREK DOMANE AL 2 2021 $1,235 / £895
    CANNONDALE Synapse 2020 $1,375 / £1,000
    Trek Madone SL6 2020 $6,335 / £4,600
    Vitus Razor Claris 2021 $965 / £700
    Van Rysel EDR CF $4,130 / £3,000
    Cube Attain Pro 2021 $1,375 / £1,000
    Vitus ZX-1 EVO CR 2021 $3,855 / £2,800
    Giant Propel Adv Pro 2021 $6,200 / £4,500
    Ribble Endurance SL Disc $2,615 / £1,900
    Ribble R872 Sport $1,515 / £1,100
    Planet X London Road Classic $1,035 / £750
    Planet X EC-130E Rivet Rider $1,925 / £1,400
    Niner RLT 3 Star $2,525 / £1,835
    Scott Speedster 20 Disc $1,200 / £870
    Raleigh Merit 2 2017 $850 / £615

    Adding together the prices of the 15 randomly selected road bikes above and dividing by 15 gives us an average price of $2,475 (£1,800).

    As this data suggests, the average price for a mid-high level road bike is $2,475 (£1,800).

    If you’re looking to purchase a new road bike (mid-high level), you can expect to pay between $850 (£615) and $6,335 (£4,600).

    Low-end road bikes can be purchased for as cheap as $350 (£250), but these bikes use cheap components that aren’t designed to last. On the other hand, if you’re shopping for a top-end road bike, you can expect to pay upwards of $13,750 (£10,000).

    What Size Road Bike Do I Need?

    To accurately determine which size road bike will work best for you you’ll need:

    • Your Total Height
    • Your Inside Leg Length

    To accurately measure your height, you’ll need an assistant, a book and a tape measure.

    1. Stand relaxed with your shoes off, feet together, and your back against a wall.
    2. Take a sturdy item such as a book and have your assistant place it on top of your head, holding it level against the wall.
    3. Now step away from under the book and use a tape measure to measure (using centimetres or feet and inches) from the ground to the bottom of the book.

    This is the most accurate way to measure your height at home to find out what size road bike you’ll need.

    To measure your inside leg to discover what size road bike you need, it’s essentially the same process as measuring your height.

    1. Shoes off, stand relaxed with your back against the wall, feet spread slightly as if standing normally.
    2. Take the book or marker you used for measuring your height and place it between your legs, up to your crotch.
    3. Now measure from the floor to the top of the book (again, either centimetres or feet and inches will work)

    This measurement is your inside leg length and will help to provide more accurate road bike sizing.

    Men's Road Bike Size Guide Chart

    While these sizes are labelled as “men’s”, many women opt to use bikes with flat top tubes labelled as “men’s”.

    If you’re not sure which frame style you prefer, go to your local bike store and test ride a bike of either type. 

    Rider Height Inside Leg Length Men's Road Bike Frame Size
    4'10"-5"0" / 147-152cm 26" / 66cm XX Small / 47-48cm
    5'0"-5'3" / 152-160cm 27" / 69cm X Small /49-50cm
    5'3"-5'7" / 160-170cm 28" / 71cm Small / 51-53cm
    5'7"-5'9" / 170-175cm 30" / 76cm Medium / 54-55cm
    5'11"-6'2" / 180-188cm 32" / 81cm X Large / 59-60cm
    6'2"-6'5" / 188-196cm 34" / 86cm XX Large / 60-62cm
    >6'5" / >196cm 36" / 91cm XXX Large / 62-63cm

    Women's Road Bike Size Guide Chart

    As covered above, men and women’s bikes are both unisex but offer different ergonomics for varying rider body proportions.

    Women may choose to ride a men’s road bike, and men may choose a women’s bike. A bike is a bike. The only difference will be the way the bike feels and performs when riding. 

    Again if you’re unsure of your preference, go for a test ride! Otherwise, the table below will help you find out what size women’s road bike you need.

    Rider Height Inside Leg Length Women's Road Bike Frame Size
    4'10"-5"1" / 147-155cm 26" / 66cm XX Small / 44-46cm
    5'1"-5'3" / 155-160cm 27" / 69cm X Small /47-49cm
    5'3"-5'5" / 160-65cm 28" / 71cm Small / 50-52cm
    5'5"-5'8" / 165-172cm 30" / 70cm Medium / 53-55cm
    >5'8" / >172cm 31" / 79cm Large / 56-57cm

    What Competitions/Events are Road Bikes Used In?

    At the Olympic level, road bikes have been utilized in Olympic road racing since the very first summer Olympic games in Athens in April 1896[3]. 

    Outside of the Olympics, the UCI host the Road World Championship, which began in 1921 and is hosted yearly during August & September.

    The UCI also host the Road World Tour (founded 2009), made up of 38 different events with 19 ProTour teams fighting it out for a place on the podium.

    The top cyclists in the world participate in these prestigious UCI events, some of the most spectated events in world cycling.

    what is a road bike explained

    And last but not least, the Tour de France. Undoubtedly, the most well-known cycling event. This race comprises 21 stages, which take place over 23 days of gruelling, mountainous road cycling.

    Outside of professional events, there are many cycling leagues and tournaments for cyclists of all abilities to enjoy!

    Road Bike vs Hybrid Bike Benefits

    Road Bike Benefits
    • Road bikes provide an agressive riding position for better aerodynamics and increased power on pedal strokes
    • Road bikes are able to cover ground much faster than a hybrid
    • Road bikes normally weigh less than hybird bikes due to their inclination for competitive racing
    • Road bikes are ideal for long distance rides as they demand less energy
    • The drop bars of a road bike provide an increased number of riding positions
    Hybrid Bike Benefits
    • A hybrid's taller stack and shorter reach provides a more comfortable ride with less strain on the lower back
    • Hybrids are capable of effectivley riding a wider range of terrains
    • Hybrids provide increased control and stability thanks to their flat bars and and chunkier tires
    • Hybrid's upright riding position provides clearer view of upcoming terrain/road
    • Hybrid Bikes tend to offer an increased number of mounting positions for carrying extra equipment & accessories

    Risks of Road Cycling & How to Reduce Them

    The risks that accompany riding a road bike can be eliminated by taking a few simple precautions.

    One of the main risks when riding a road bike is colliding with other road users such as cars and cyclists. This can cause serious injury to all involved. 

    To avoid crashes on your road bike, cycle at speeds you’re comfortable with and keep your distance from other road users. This will give you time to react should someone make an unexpected turn or a sudden decrease in speed.

    Don't want to end up like this? Stick to the rules below!

    Data shows [4] that using a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury in a collision by over 70%.

    The US National Library of Medicine examined 225 cyclist deaths [5] in New York between 1996 and 2005, finding that 97% of the deceased were not wearing helmets at the time of the incident. 

    The same publication shows that only one of the 225 fatalities was killed when riding in a bike lane. 

    This data shows that regardless of the bike type you’re riding, you should always:

    • Wear a helmet
    • Ride in bike lanes where provided
    • Comply with the rules of the road

    This list is in no way exhaustive but, by adhering to these three simple rules, whilst riding a road bike, you’ll significantly reduce your chances of being involved in a serious accident. 

    Environmental Impact of Using a Road Bike

    Of course, road bikes are great for the environment. Since road bikes make for excellent commuter bikes due to their exceptional performance in urban environments, they can easily remove the need for taking a car to and from work and on other journeys.

    Over time, this reduced usage of fossil fuel-powered transport will make a huge difference in reducing your carbon footprint. 

    Additionally, opting for clean transport within cities greatly improves air quality and reduces respiratory illness and diseases.

    On top of all this good stuff, you’ll also be healthier and happier when cycling. So get out there and ride your road bike!

    Does the Bike Require Anything to Keep Functioning?

    If you understand basic bike maintenance such as cleaning & lubrication, tube and tire replacement and brake maintenance, you won’t need to know much more to keep your road bike in a reliable working condition.

    Of course, you’ll need to replace more complex parts from time to time, which might require assistance from a trained professional. If you’re ever unsure about bike maintenance, it’s worth a trip to your local bike shop.

    What to Wear When Riding a Road Bike

    What to wear when riding a road bike

    When it comes to outfit choices with road bikes, your options are endless.

    If you’re a casual cyclist and use your road bike for commuting and occasional exercise, some sport shorts and a t-shirt will normally be more than enough (not forgetting your helmet!). 

    If you take your cycling more seriously and want the best aerodynamics, tight cycling shorts and a jersey will serve you well. In addition, most cycling shorts incorporate padding that will save your rump as you pass over any bumps!

    On top of this, you’ll want a pair of clipless cycling shoes. Cycling shoes greatly increase your pedalling efficiency as they allow you to pull on your pedals as well as pushing. 

    Waterproof layers are another smart choice for those who live in areas that frequently experience rain. 

    Another essential clothing accessory for road cyclists is a pair of cycling glasses. These will stop your eyes from watering when travelling at high speeds and will prevent foreign objects from entering your eyes. Make sure to get a pair that provide sufficient UV protection.

    What Accessories are Recommended When Using a Road Bike?

    It’s never a bad idea to invest in a few accessories to make your time cycling as comfortable and effective as possible.

    Because road bikes are most often used in dense cities, bike locks, lights, and mirrors allow for optimum safety and security.

    Most people with road bikes also have bottle cages and a puncture repair kit on hand for emergencies.

    What accessories to use when riding a road bike

    Having to walk your bike long distances in cycling shoes is not ideal, so you should at the very least be able to change a flat tire when you need to 

    Finally, if you enjoy the competitive aspect of cycling either with yourself or against others, then a cycling computer/GPS will be a great purchase. 

    A cycling computer will allow you to keep track of route times, distances, cadence and power, as well as monitoring your fitness.

    Summary - What Is a Road Bike?

    I hope you were able to take a lot from this detailed guide. You should now know what a road bike is, if you didn’t to begin with!

    I love road cycling and own several road bikes, which I use almost daily. 

    If you take anything away from this guide, it should be that cycle safety should not be overlooked. Bike lanes are there for a reason, and helmets should always be worn. 

    As careful as you may be on your road bike, you can’t control what other road users do. So wear a helmet and ride safely!

    As always, use a top-quality bike lock to secure your bike. You can read about the best bike locks here. Lock it, or lose it!

    Thanks for reading. Feel free to check out some of my other informative guides. I’m sure you’ll find them helpful. 

    Ciao for now.







    Author of This Post:
    Picture of James Grear (Lead Editor)
    James Grear (Lead Editor)

    Understanding how devastating it is to have a bike stolen, I've researched & immersed myself in the world of bicycle security since 2013.

    I then built BikeLockWiki in 2019 to share everything I'd learned with the worldwide cycling community so that cyclists can improve their bike security skills and make informed decisions when purchasing new products and services.

    Learn More about Me & BikeLockWiki here.

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