Choosing the Right Bike for Road Riding

So you’ve found that nice gem of a bike and you’re about to take the plunge and buy it so you can get out on the open road. Before you do, here are a few things for you to consider.

Road, Mountain or Cross Bike
Although it doesn’t appear so, the road or “racing” bike with its downturned handlebars, narrow tires and narrow seat is the most comfortable and efficient bike for road riding. Road bikes have evolved over time to become what they are today. Though awkward looking to some, the design of the road bike distributes your weight between the seat and handlebars. When properly fit to the rider the weight distribution between handlebars and seat actually helps to reduce the aches and pains associated with cycling and improves efficiency.

Cross bikes may have narrower tires and some desirable features for road riding, however, the upright riding position and flat handlebars put all of your upper body weight on the seat. Riding for several miles in this position can make your back and posterior sore, though a suspended seat post can help alleviate the pain. Cross bikes are great for riding around town, running to the store, or family riding. For serious road riding where long distances may be ridden they are not as good.

The same criticism of cross bikes also applies to mountain bikes. Additionally, the wide knobby tires on mountain bikes give much rolling resistance and don’t handle well on the road. Some mountain bikes have frames with suspended front forks and / or a rear suspension system. These features can help increase comfort and handling off-road, however, they add too much weight to the bike, making it less desirable for the serious road rider. Mountain bikes are highly specialized for off-road riding which is where they really shine.

Bicycle features to look for
If the bike has a 5, 6, or 7 speed rear cog, you may want to pass it up and try to find a bike with at least an 8 speed rear cog. The 8 speed gives you more gear choices and can be upgraded to a 9 or 10 speed cogs. Bikes with 5, 6, or 7 speed rear cogs can’t be upgraded because the dropout spacing is too narrow to accommodate the wider rear hub that is necessary for 8 - 10 speed cogs.

Eyelets for mounting fenders or a rack are highly desirable, especially if you ride in wet weather. Not all road bikes come with eyelets. You can get fenders that mount to the bike without using eyelets, however, most of them aren’t as good. My current bike, a Nishiki International that was manufactured in 1987, doesn’t have eyelets. This bike was made for racing and didn’t come with anything extra that didn’t contribute to its intended purpose.

A good road bike should come with at least 2 built-in water bottle mounts. Most bikes will already have these, however, you can get water bottle mounts that strap onto the frame with bands or clamps if the bike you choose doesn’t have built-in mounts.

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