Road bike buying guide


Road bikes explained

When it comes to speed, style and efficiency, a road bike is hard to beat. Road bikes typically have narrow tyres and large 700c wheels with drop handlebars. Wiggle’s range of road bikes are lighter and faster than other styles of bikes making them the ideal choice for many different cycling activities.

anatomy of a road bike explained diagram

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Beginner Road Bikes:

Frame: Beginner road bike frames are mostly aluminium or steel in construction. Aluminium is relatively light, strong and affordable. Steel is a comfortable and robust frame material.

Transmission: The transmission on an a beginner road bike is likely to be fitted with an 8,9 or 10 speed cassette on the rear wheel, and most likely a compact style chainset.

Wheels: Non-deep section wheels are common on entry level road bikes. A benefit of these wheels is that they offer good comfort, as they have longer spokes than a deep section wheel and these absorb shock.

Who are you? A beginner to cycling or road cycling. A first timer or returning to using a road bike and wish to commute to work, complete your first sportive or cycle for fitness and fun.

Intermediate road bikes:

FrameCarbon fibre frames are very popular in this category due to their excellent stiffness and lightweight characteristics. Steel and aluminium frames are also used for mid-level road bikes.

Transmission: 10 and 11 speed rear cassettes are standard.  Shimano 105/Ultegra, Campagnolo Centaur/Athena/Chorus and Sram Rival/Force are very popular groupsets used on these bikes.

Wheels: You start to see entry/mid level wheels on mid-level road bikes. Brands such as Shimano, Mavic, Fulcrum and Campagnolo are a popular choice of wheel brand in this category.

Who are you? Sometimes classed as a weekend warrior. A regular sportive rider who can be found reading forums for advice on equipment and discussing training methods and plans.

Advanced level road bikes:

Frame: Carbon fibre frames are the most popular frame material for advanced level road bikes. The way in which the carbon is “laid up” is an important part of the manufacturing process and gives the frame its characteristics.

Transmission: Look out for Shimano Ultegra/Dura-Ace, Campagnolo Chorus/Record/Super Record and Sram Force/Red. Di2/EPS electronic gear shifting is also available.

Wheels: Deep-section (aero) wind-cheating wheels become commonplace, alongside shallow section lightweight offerings on advanced level road bikes.

Who are you? You are a regular cyclist, setting targets in races/sportives, perhaps taking a holiday in the Alps with your bike. You know your SIS from your SLR.

What materials are road bikes made from?

Carbon Fibre: This is a very lightweight and stiff material. As a non metal there are huge design advantages when using carbon fibre to build bikes. The material can be manipulated into aerodynamic shapes and fine tuned for increased stiffness and strength.

SteelA very popular and traditional material for building bikes. Steel frames are renowned for their comfort, strength and durability. Steel can also be easy to fix as dents or bends can be repaired.

Titanium: Titanium bike frames are extremely lightweight and offer a smooth ride that is similar to the ride quality of a good steel frame.

Aluminium: This material is extremely stiff, lightweight and strong. Aluminium bikes have a reputation for having excellent power transfer and stiffness.

What kind of riding can I do on a road bike?

Road Race BikesRoad bike geometry is designed to be efficient on road, so they may initially feel unusual compared to the upright position of commuter or mountain bikes. At the upper end of the market, bikes tend to either be very aerodynamic or very light, or a combination of the two.
De Rosa Protos 2013 with Super Record EPS

Time Trial Bikes: Time Trial (TT) and Triathlon bikes are built with speed in mind. Since TT courses and most triathlon bike stints have little in the way of hilly terrain these bikes can weigh slightly more than road bikes and the rider’s position on the bike is optimized to cut through the air.
Felt DA2 2013 time trial bike

Touring Bikes: Touring bikes are similar to road bikes but generally more relaxed in geometry to make longer distances more comfortable. Their frames are often designed to accept mudguards and panniers.
Cinelli Bootleg Racing Rats touring audax bike

Bike jargon buster guide

    • Alloy: An alloy is a mixture of two or more elements, at least one part is metal.
    • Bearings: Ball bearings work as a way of letting something spin/rotate freely and smoothly.
    • Bottom Bracket: The bottom bracket is housed in the bottom bracket shell of a bike.
    • Bottom bracket shell: The bottom bracket shell is where the bottom bracket is fitted, it is where the seat-stay, down tube and seat-tube join.
    • Brake levers: Brake levers are the handles/levers mounted on the handlebars used for stopping or slowing the bike.
    • Brake Cable: The brake cable system is made of two parts, the inner cable and the outer cable.
    • Carbon fibre: This is a composite that has a very high strength-weight ratio and is ideal for bicycle frames and components.
    • Cantilever brakes: Cantilever brakes are designed to operate in symmetry to touch the rim walls at the same time.
    • Cassette: The cassette is the cluster of sprockets fixed onto the splined freehub on the rear wheel.
    • Chain: The chain transmits the power from the chainring to the rear wheel of the bike.
    • Chromoly: A type of steel that contains chromium and molybdenum. Another name you may see for chromoly is 4130 steel.
    • CX: CX is a short description for cyclo-cross.
    • Disc brakes: Disc Brakes comprise of a metal disc attached to the hub of the wheel, and can be operated either by hydraulic fluid or by cable.
    • Drop handlebar: Drop handlebars are predominantly used on road and track bikes.
    • Entry level: The term entry level is often used for first time riders wanting to buy their first bike.
    • Fork: The forks connect to the stem/handlebars allowing you to turn the front wheel and balance the bike.
    • Frame: The cycle frame is the main piece of the bike composed of the frame tubes. The wheels and other components are attached to the frame.
    • Freehub: The freehub is a component of the rear hub. It has a ratchet mechanism built into it to allow freewheeling/coasting.
    • Gear cables: The gear cable travels from the gear lever to the corresponding derailleur to allow the changing of gear.
    • Gear levers: Gear levers, often called shifters, enable the changing of the derailleur/gear mechanisms.
    • Handlebars: Bicycle handlebars are a one piece component fixed to the stem of a bike. The handlebars primary concern is to steer the bike.
    • Headset (Aheadset): The headset is a multi-piece component that is mounted at the head-tube of the bike.
    • Hubs (front and rear): The hubs on a bike are the centre part of the wheels.
    • MTB: MTB is the abbreviation for Mountain Bike.
    • Rear shock: This is a mechanical component that’s purpose is to absorb and smooth out the impact at the rear wheel of a bicycle, usually found on mountain bikes.
    • Rims: The rims are the perfect circular hoops that the tyres are mounted onto.
    • Steel: Steel is an alloy. It’s manufactured by combining iron and other elements.
    • Suspension fork: This is a type of bicycle fork that has a suspension or shock absorbing unit.
    • Spokes: Spokes connect the hub to the rim.
    • Saddle: The bike saddle is the most intimate contact point on a bicycle. It’s clamped to the seat-post by the saddle rails.
    • Seat-post: The seat-post is a removable extension that is placed in the seat-tube of the frame.
    • Sprocket: A sprocket is another name for one of the individual cogs on a cassette or freewheel.
    • Steerer tube: The steerer tube is the upper part of the bicycle forks.
    • Stem: The stem is the linking component to join the handlebars to the steerer tube of the forks.
    • Tapered (head tube): These head tubes feature a bigger diameter at the bottom than the top.
    • Thumb shifters: Thumb shifters are very simple gear levers that were very common on MTB’s.
    • Tyres: Bike tyres fit on the outer circumference of the rims.
    • Rear derailleur: This moves the chain from one rear sprocket to another, whilst keeping the chain tensioned.
    • Front derailleur: The front derailleur is used to move the chain in a sideways motion to allow shifting between chainrings.
    • Top tube: The top tube is the joining tube from the seat tube to the top of the head tube.
    • Head tube: The head tube houses the headset and the steerer tube.
    • Down tube: The down tube connects the bottom of the head tube to the bottom bracket shell.
    • Seat tube: The seat tube is the insertion point for the seat-post.
    • Chain stays: The chainstays exit the bottom bracket shell in a rearwards direction where they meet the rear dropouts.
    • Seat stays: Seat stays connect the top of the seat tube to the rear dropouts.