How to Compare Road Bicycles

How to Compare Road Bicycles
If you're in the market for a road bike, you've got a lot of choices. Not only are there many brands available, but there are significant differences in materials, components and construction between bikes. When deciding on a bicycle, the buyer should consider and compare several important elements that make up the bikes they're looking at.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Road bike specifications
Step 1
Compare the frame materials. Road bicycle frames are typically made of one of four materials: aluminum, steel, carbon fiber or titanium. Aluminum and carbon fiber are the most commonly used. Aluminum has the advantages of relatively low cost and lightness, but some frames can be a bit harsh in their ride. Carbon fiber tends to be more expensive but is light and has a smooth ride. Steel, while strong and smooth riding, is rarely seen in modern road bikes and tends to weigh more. Titanium has the advantages of light weight, strength and smooth ride, but is considerably more expensive.
Step 2
Compare the components. Components for road bikes, such as shifters, derailleurs, cassettes, etc., come almost exclusively from one of three companies: Shimano, Campagnello and SRAM. All three companies produce various grades within their lineups. The main difference as you move up in cost within component groups is weight. The more expensive, typically the lighter the components will be. Shimano components are the most commonly found on road bikes, but all three companies produce a quality product. It's often more a matter of taste than quality when choosing your components.
Step 3
Compare the geometry. While almost all road bikes adhere to a common configuration, you'll find differences in the individual way bikes are built that can have an effect on the ride and comfort of the bike. Generally bikes are classified as having a "relaxed" or "aggressive" geometry. Relaxed bikes will tend to have a shorter top tube, allowing the rider to sit up a bit straighter when riding--this is better for the casual rider or one who likes moderate speeds over long distances. Aggressive geometries will stretch the rider out for a lower upper body--which is better for riders who like speed or racing. Companies will vary even within their bike lineups as to how they construct the bike, so it's a good idea to talk to a knowledgeable sales person when shopping, and let them know how you plan on riding your bike.
Step 4
Compare the prices. It may seem obvious, but you can easily spend anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 when buying a road bike. It's important to decide what your budget allows when you start shopping for a bike. Most larger bike companies build road bicycles over a wide range of prices. If you're starting out riding, you don't have to spend a fortune--$1,000 will buy a perfectly good bike.
Step 5
Compare the size. The most important thing to do when you buy a road bike is get one that fits. A bike that's too small or too large isn't the right one for you, no matter what it's made of or what components it sports. Always test-ride a bike before you buy it, and better yet, shop at a bike shop that will fit the right bike to you.

Article Written By Nichole Liandi

Based in Virginia, Nichole Liandi has been a freelance writer since 2005. Her articles have appeared on various print and online publications. Liandi has traveled extensively in Europe and East Asia and incorporates her experiences into her articles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from West Virginia University.

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