There are a lot of excellent reason to take up riding bikes:
It’s a great and healthy way to move from point A to point B.
It’s free – no gas to put in, no parking spaces to pay for.
It’s low impact on your body. There are no jarring-impact moments like with running.
It’s a great place to start with exercise. Sit on bike. Pedal. Done.
Cycling has a magical ability to be whatever the rider wants it to be. Fun, challenging, scary, romantic, social, silly… you name it and there’s a type of cycling for it. You can even change what type you are doing to suit your mood on any given day, which is why most avid cyclists end up with several different bikes.
Having done a bunch of different styles of racing and bought and sold a few different bikes, I’m increasingly sure that I’m most interested in road riding. There’s just something beautiful about riding with, and, in my case, ultimately being dropped off the back of, a peloton, though I struggle to put it into words.
What to think before buying a bike?
Before you get into buying your first road bike, there are a few key factors that you should consider.
The first, is whether you want an out-and-out road race bike, or a more relaxed geometry (upright position) sportive bike.
The second factor, is whether you want a carbon frame or an alloy frame. Then, you’ll also want to consider what level of group set (i.e. gear set) you think you need.
Finally, a now frequently asked question for many, is whether you want a disc brake road bike or a caliper (traditional) brake option.
Road race bikes and sportive bikes
The first question to ask yourself, is Race or Sportive bike?
It’s all very well for Bradley Wiggins to be tucked into his super-aero, aero position; with a low front end and a long reach; but for new road riders, or anyone whose joints are not as good as they were, then a more relaxed, more upright position is key to keeping things comfortable. This is your Sportive bike. In the last few years, we have seen a huge growth in Sportive type road bikes, from entry level to high performance.
To identify a Sportive Road Bike in our Road Bikes, range at Wiggle, look at the length of the head tube and top tube; a longer headtube, and a shorter top tube, will provide a more upright position.
Already classify yourself as an out-and-out racer? Then a Road Race bike is the option for you. The more aggressive geometry of these bikes provides you with the ‘Aero Advantage’.
Frame and fork material
Another key area to consider, when you’re purchasing your first road bike, is whether you want a carbon or alloy frame and/or fork.
Most entry level road bikes will be aluminium framed road bicycles, and perhaps a carbon fiber fork; this provides a good balance between reliability and robustness of the alloy frame, but with vibration absorption provided by the more compliant carbon material in the fork.
If you’re looking to have a bike with a lower weight, and greater lateral stiffness though, then you should consider a full carbon frame and fork. Carbon framed road bikes are lighter, and they can be more comfortable (because they’re more compliant); therefore, they can be faster!
Disc brake road bike or caliper road bike?
Perhaps the ‘question of the moment’, is whether you get a disc brake road bike or a caliper (traditional rim brake) road bike.
There are benefits and drawbacks of both systems. Disc brakes are fantastic at having consistent stopping power, in wet and dry conditions; even when the bike sprays up a quantity of dirt and grit onto your wheel rims, you can still brake consistently with disc brakes. Rim brakes, by contrast, tend to suffer in particularly wet or grimy conditions; however, they are cheaper, easier to maintain, and provide more wheel upgrade choices.
We won’t try and persuade you one way or the other; disc or rim brakes, your first road bicycles will be great fun!
There’s a tendency for new riders to want to express their liberation from the metal cage of the automobile through a certain free-spirited attitude toward traffic laws.
Please don’t do this.
Whatever we do while riding in traffic will be remembered by every driver who sees us and counted either for or against cycling as a whole in that driver’s mind.
When I was a new rider in traffic, I adopted a Me-Vs-Cars attitude, and it was a mistake. I was in a lot more danger with that philosophy than I am now with my current zen-inspired sense of calm and one-ness with the traffic around me.
Figure out what the laws regarding cyclists on the road are in your area and follow them always! Google “bicycling laws + [ your state ]”
You’ll also have a much easier time in traffic when you ride like traffic. Don’t hop on and off the sidewalk like a meth-addled cat. Changing states willy-nilly from vehicle to pedestrian is only going to create confusion and danger for you.