The best road bikes: what to ride fast and far

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A road bike is not only a means of transportation, but also, to a greater extent, a sports equipment that is chosen for regular and non-boring cardio exercise.

Although the average energy expended during cycling and running is almost the same, cycling can last longer and therefore burn more calories. Running continuously for an hour can be difficult even for a trained athlete, but completing an hour-long workout at a low average speed can be done after just a few sessions.

Thanks to the special geometry, frame rigidity and weight, riding a road bike uses almost all muscle groups, not just the legs. The abdominal and back muscles are involved in transmitting power, and the shoulder muscles work in a static mode whenever you hold the steering wheel.

Buying a road bike is a long and complex process, in which many nuances must be taken into account.

Team criteria

In order not to raise unnecessary questions, I want to immediately specify the search area: I considered only new road models that are available in Russian stores. I deliberately did not consider used bikes, as buying them often involves a high degree of risk and the need to have a good understanding of technology. The list also does not include gravel, cyclocross, triathlon or time trial models – only classic road bikes. In addition, I bypassed European and American stores: today almost all of them do not deliver goods to Russia, and purchasing through intermediaries is a risky business.

I also excluded all overtly cheap options. The components on these models typically have nothing in common with specialized sports bike equipment and are made of soft metal that wears out very quickly. You should not save excessively on sports equipment: at best, you will not feel the pleasure of riding, at worst, you will be disappointed in cycling training or even get injured from a sudden breakdown. Ultimately, you will simply waste 30-50 thousand rubles.

Frame. The first thing you should decide on when choosing a sports bike is the frame material. The most common are aluminum and carbon. Metal ones are cheaper, but not as hard. Carbon fiber is lightweight, durable and rigid, but is more expensive. If you are just starting out in cycling and want to understand how suitable this type of activity is for you, or if you are definitely not going to participate in competitions, ride in the mountains and at high speed, choose an aluminum base. The carbon frame is more versatile – you won’t have to change it if you suddenly decide to ride more seriously.

Groupset. Another important element of a road bike. This is a generalized name for all the parts that are involved in changing gears: stars, front and rear derailleurs, handles. Gear shift systems are either mechanical or electronic. The former are more common and work by tensioning metal cables, the latter are most often wireless and use electrical impulses. Mechanics are cheaper and more popular, but they need to be regularly maintained – tightening and changing cables. The electronics are significantly more expensive, but easier to operate and faster to operate, although only experienced cyclists will notice the speed and smoothness of the switching.

The most common groupsets and parts for them are produced by Shimano; the Japanese manufacturer has a wide range of mechanical shifters, which can even get confusing. The main competitor today is the American SRAM; their parts can increasingly be found on modern bicycle models. For a beginner, there is no particular difference, other than availability in stores.

Brakes. The type of brakes determines their effectiveness and the cost of the bike. The most popular are rim ones – they are simpler and cheaper, but less effective when braking at high speed, for example when descending a mountain. Disc wheels on road models appeared relatively recently: previously they were considered unsafe. They work more efficiently and can be mechanical, when the pads are compressed by cable tension, or hydraulic, just like on motorcycles. Hydraulics are the most efficient and expensive; here you will have to monitor the brake fluid level and change it regularly. The universal choice is mechanically driven disc brakes.

Wheels. They also have their own characteristics; they determine how quickly and smoothly the bike can ride. There are wheels with aluminum and carbon rims and spokes. There is more room for maneuver when choosing metal ones, but I deliberately did not include basic models in the list: they are heavy and short-lived. Carbon ones are suitable for those who have been participating in competitions for a long time and for whom the weight of the bike is important. For everyday training, good quality aluminum wheels are sufficient.

It is worth considering that along with the purchase of the bike itself, you will have to buy pedals and special cycling shoes, as well as a helmet. These are mandatory things that you can’t go on the road without, so it’s worth taking these additional expenses into account in your budget. Instead of contact pedals and shoes, you can, of course, use pedals with toe clips, but they transmit power less efficiently – it is better to immediately learn how to ride in special shoes.

When choosing, I paid attention to the total weight of the bike – it’s better if it’s less than 10 kg. An important, but not decisive factor was the manufacturer’s brand.