Road bikes are the biggest trend in cycling these days, and everyone wants to get their hands on one. It is understandable why this is the case – they can get fast, they’re light, and they can be easy to take care of. But what exactly are the biggest pros and cons of these bikes?
While road bikes are light, aerodynamic, good at climbing, easy to maintain, and good for long commutes, they can also feel like a limited bike, offer less traction, be expensive, difficult to buy, and be a harder skill for new riders.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to a road bike when it is compared to other types of bikes available on the market. If you are considering buying one, you are in the right place! In this article, let’s take a look at the biggest plus points – and negatives – to getting yourself a road bike.
- Advantages of Road Bikes
- Disadvantages of Road Bikes
- Final Thoughts
Advantages of Road Bikes
So, what are the biggest advantages of road bikes in comparison to other kinds of bikes? Here are some of the biggest benefits associated with the use of road bikes.
1. They Are Lighter
On average, a road bike is relatively lighter than other bike types. Consider that road bikes weigh almost as much as racing bikes, which is the minimum weight a professional bike can have. While a racing bike can weigh around 8 kilograms, the average mountain bike for comparison can weigh about 12 kilograms.
As a result, a road bike has a generally lightweight feel. This, combined with the wheels and the frame of the bike, means that they are incredibly low in weight. People who ride road bikes can therefore travel much faster, and with greater efficiency, as it will take far less energy to move a lighter frame than a much heavier one.
2. They Are Aerodynamic
As mentioned above, road bikes are built to give you agility and speed. Part of the reason that this can happen is because of their aerodynamic design. After all, the position you take on a road bike pushes you to be even more aerodynamic. Because of this, the bike has to face far less resistance with the air while you are in motion.
When this is the case, a bike can propel faster in a much easier way. Not to mention, the narrow frame and low weight make it incredibly efficient to maneuver, especially as you are trying to gain speed, for example, if you are trying to get down a hill.
3. They Offer More Hand Positions
When you are using a road bike, you can choose from three hand positions, which are on the top of the bar, the brake hoods, and then finally the drop bars. The first and the last position are ideal when you are trying to gather speed while having your hand on the brake hoods is the best way to climb up terrain on your road bike safely.
This is especially beneficial when you are interested in long-term cycling and aim to carry large distances, as it allows you to switch up the hand placement and let your muscles rest. As a result, even longer rides can feel comfortable.
4. They Can Easily Climb Hills
One of the better factors of having a road bike is that climbing up steep slopes is relatively easier. The lighter frame of the bike allows it to defy gravity easily and move upwards. You also tend to ride the bike in a forward position, which makes the act of climbing up easier.
Having drop bars available is a good benefit as you can move the bike easily even when you are pedaling, and the strength from the upper part of your body can allow you to move even through hilly or sloping areas with much more ease than other types of bikes.
5. They Face Less Resistance
The aerodynamic design isn’t the only reason why your bike faces far less resistance than other types of bikes. There is also the element of road bike tires. Since they are narrow and highly inflated, they have less contact with the ground and therefore, face far less friction.
On the other hand, the lack of heavy suspension systems doesn’t add resistance to your pedaling motion, and it is easier to maintain a high cadence (frequency of pedaling) when on a road bike. All of this makes it easier to be on a road bike, achieve high speed, and not get tired.
6. They Need Less Maintenance
Because you are unlikely (and cautioned against!) riding road bikes in sludgy, mountainous terrain, it is easy to see why there is far less maintenance involved in riding a road bike. They don’t gather dirt and debris like other bikes meant for uneven terrain, as they are ridden on roads and pavements which are generally cleaner.
This means you can take out the element of daily cleaning, chain luving, and frame maintenance that you will need with other types of bikes. Exposure to the elements also damages components faster, which means they are likely to need quick replacement because of wear and tear.
We mentioned before that one of the factors that help road bikes manage to catch speed is the fact that they have narrow tires. However, this is to complement their narrow frame. This is because they can, on average, be around 20 cm narrower than other types of bikes
As a result, on a road bike, you can easily swerve through narrow and tight corners, for example, if you are on a busy street. As a result, you are likely to easily speed up your commute as you will not need to stop and adjust your bike in a tight spot.
8. They Offer Amazing Cardio Benefits
Road biking is the way to go if you want to improve your cardio health. This is because riding a road bike is all about speed, which is how to get your heart rate to rise. The best part is that you have control over the entire exercise regimen, as you can alter your speed to push further or remain comfortable.
Not to mention, it offers excellent exercise for your joints, if moving them is going to help improve pain and other symptoms. However, it is important to remember that it is crucial for a road bike to be the perfect fit in order to be healthy. Using one that is too big or too small can place unnecessary strain on your bones and muscles.
9. They Are Great For Long Commutes
With all of the knowledge that you have acquired about bikes so far, it is an easy conclusion to make that road bikes are an excellent option when it comes to longer commutes. Their weight, low resistance, and design all add to making it a bike best for longer rides.
Not only will you be able to achieve a higher speed, and get to your destination faster, you can do all of this in an incredibly efficient way, as you can burn far less energy and get much further. So if you have a long cycling trip coming up, choose a road bike for your commute!
Disadvantages of Road Bikes
Just as there are benefits to using road bikes, there are some disadvantages that show up when you compare a road bike to other kinds of cycles, such as mountain bikes. Read on to find out what these drawbacks are.
1. They Are Limited To Roads
You can probably tell that this is the case, but road bikes are best for… well, the roads. This makes your options with this bike very limited. The bike is not able to handle uneven terrain at all, and any obstacles, such as rocks, roots, etc. can completely disrupt your ride.
This means that you are only limited to areas that are accessible by smooth, hard pavement or road, and it reigns in your access to more of the outdoors. It also means that traveling through bad weather can even be dangerous sometimes, and obviously, extreme riding is completely out of the question.
2. They Offer Less Traction
While the lack of contact with the ground can be a benefit when we are talking about speed, there is also a disadvantage to this feature. Because the narrow road bike tires can’t maintain sustained contact with the ground, and because they are not flexible enough to move over obstacles, you are facing a more slick ride.
As a result, traveling over even roads can be hard sometimes, as the bike cannot grip the surface if it is wet, or if there is too much sand on the ground. You may even find that simple actions like braking and accelerating can be extremely difficult.
3. They Can Be Pretty Costly
Even though road bikes are popular, that does not in any way mean they are cheap. Even if you go for a starter bike, you are looking at a price tag of about $500-600, and higher-end models can cost you thousands of dollars.
However, other bikes can be significantly cheaper. This issue extends to the components of a road bike as well. After all, you will need to replace components at some point, and the chainrings or derailleurs for road bikes can be significantly more expensive.
4. They Are Less Comfortable For Some
Not everyone will adjust to the ride position needed for a road bike. Despite the fact that there are plenty of hand positions, the issue is that the frame of the bike pushes the rider forward. As a result, a lot of your weight goes towards the front too.
For some people, resting their body weight on their hands and shoulders can cause discomfort and in some cases, even pain. The neck can also suffer, as you have to maintain a certain position to be able to propel forward and still keep your eye on the road. Of course, there are ways to mitigate this, such as these hacks:
6. They Can Be Hard To Manage For Newbies
A road bike is definitely a difficult bike to manage if you are brand new to the world of cycling. This is because the presence of a drop bar can impact the control that you have, especially if you do not have the experience to back you up.
Drop bars are more narrow than flat versions, which means there is less space for precise movement of the bike. A slight movement on the handlebar has a huge impact on the bike itself, and if you are unfamiliar with how this works, it can be easy to lose control. And of course, road bikes do not have a suspension system that can help make movements more precise.
7. They Open Up More Risks
Riding road bikes on roads and streets is all good, but one big risk of a road bike is that you are riding in traffic, often around larger vehicles at much higher speeds. This opens up the risk of being hit by a car, and there are plenty of blind spots that can allow such an accident to occur.
Because of the speed that road bikes are at, a crash can result in severe injuries, and of course, if you fall off the bike, the impact of hard concrete roads will have more drastic impacts. This is why it is always crucial to focus on safety when you are out and about on your road bike.
8. Sometimes, Parts Are Not Available
Road bike parts aren’t just expensive – they can also be hard to find if you live in different regions of the world or if you are in a rural area. Even things like the tires or brake levers can be hard to find, and cost has a lot to do with this issue.
Sometimes, retailers are unwilling to import road bike parts because of the high cost of importing them, along with the taxes that come with it. So, if you are living in an area that doesn’t have access to all the parts you may need, you have to consider that when choosing a road bike.
9. They Are Harder To Master
Who doesn’t like picking up tricks and skills on their bike? However, with a bike like a road bike, it can be harder to truly master the machine as it has a much steeper learning curve than most other bikes.
One reason for this is that road bikes do not generally require a lot of skill-building as they are usually ridden in controlled environments – on the road when the weather is good. As a result, you may not be prepared for certain situations, such as balancing at low speeds and reacting to unexpected obstacles in your way.
10. They Need Tires At High Pressure
We have mentioned many times in this article that road bikes have tires that are at a higher pressure. The reason for this is to maintain speed and avoid damage to the rim of the bike. However, this can come with its own drawbacks as well.
For one, you will not be able to handle obstacles well. Secondly, there is less contact with the ground, which means slipping is easier. Finally, you are at a higher risk of getting a flat tire, as the overinflated tire can not move around an obstacle such as a stone in the road.
As you can see, while road bikes present unique benefits, they also come with specific disadvantages. At the end of the day, it all comes down to whether you can manage these disadvantages and use the road bike to cover them up or if they will hinder your overall performance.
I always had a thing for cycling sports and love almost anything that involves bikes and boards. I work part-time as a designer in the tech industry and work on my blogs whenever I can.