Best road bikes 2022: top reviewed bikes for every price point

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best road bike

It's an exciting time to be buying a road bike, regardless of your budget. Never has there been such a choice at every price point. The category has expanded greatly in the last few years, reflecting trends, riding styles and improvements in design and manufacturing. 

Today a road bike can mean a carbon rocket ship, all aero tubes and without a cable in sight, running on narrow strips of 25mm rubber. 

But it can also mean an alloy all-road frame, equipped with a super-wide gear range and tubeless 32mm tyres, designed to deal with the less-than-perfect road surfaces most of us ride on.

In between these two extremes lies a plethora of choice. And so too decisions. Carbon or aluminium? Steel or titanium? Relaxed geometry or something more racy? 

And it doesn't stop with the frame either. There are a host of options when it comes to choosing the best road bikes, most notably with regards to gears and wheels. Mechanical or electronic shifting? Tubeless compatible carbon rims or sturdy alloy hoops well suited for those winter base miles? The list goes on.

In short, the road bike sector is more nuanced than it's ever been. Fortunately we've tested hundreds of road bikes at Cycling Weekly, enabling us to better help you navigate an increasingly busy and competitive marketplace, and ultimately find the road bike of your dreams. 

The following are our picks of the best road bikes at a variety of different price points. 

Best road bikes

Best road bikes we’ve tested at Cycling Weekly

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Specialized )

Best road bike for those on a budget

Frame: Specialized E5 Premium alloy
Groupset: Shimano Claris
Wheels: Axis Sport alloy
Weight: 9.4kg / 20.7lbs
Reasons to buy
+Quality aluminium frame+Full carbon fork+Stable & assured ride
Reasons to avoid
-Big jumps between gears-Budget brakes

Specialized’s budget road bike has a lightweight frame and all-carbon fork, with cables routed internally. The Axis Sport wheels are on the heavy side though and the Tektro rim brakes aren’t the most effective.

The Shimano Claris 8-speed groupset gives plenty of gear range to tackle hills and there’s room for mudguards and a rack too. All in all it's an impressive package for the price, making the Allez very competitive against the other best cheap road bikes we've reviewed.

Best road bikes

(Image credit: Boardman)

Best road bike for outstanding value

Frame: SLR 8.9 carbon
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: Boardman SLR tubeless-ready
Weight: 8.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight - under 9kg+Carbon frameset that's worthy of upgrades+Well-specced at this price point+Beautifully balanced ride quality
Reasons to avoid
-Narrow tyre clearance

For £1,100 the Boardman SLR 8.9 delivers a lot of bike for the money. You get a carbon frame and forks as well as Shimano's reliable 11-speed 105 groupset (albeit with a FSA crankset). The result is bike that's lighter than its rivals. On test our size small weighed 8.75kg.

The ride is exceptional; responsive with just enough compliance. It's also a frame that's worthy of a few upgrades over time, making the SLR 8.9 a bike that can grow with you.

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Giant)

Best endurance road bike on a budget

Frame: ALUXX SL-Grade alloy
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: Giant P-R2 alloy
Weight: 9.0kg / 19.9lbs
Reasons to buy
+Full carbon fork+Great ride quality, offering comfort over long distances+Assured yet nimble handling
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy - a tad over 9kg for a size small

Sharing features of Giant’s more expensive bikes, the Contend has a compact frame with a sloping top tube, D-Fuse seatpost and carbon fork. That gives great comfort and handling, letting you ride for longer and inspiring confidence.

There’s bags of low gearing, down to 1:1, to tackle uphills and Shimano 105 gives you quality shifting, although the rather heavy weight doesn’t make for sprightly performance.

Read more:Full review of the Giant Contend

Best road bikes

(Image credit: Cannondale)

Best affordable race-ready road bike

Frame: SmartForm C1 Premium Alloy
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: RD 2.0 alloy
Weight: 9.0 KG / 19.9 LBS
Reasons to buy
+Fast and agile+Frame ride quality - stiff yet comfortable+Well-specced at this price point+A frameset worthy of component upgrades 
Reasons to avoid
-There is no reason not to buy!

The CAAD13 has long and low geometry paired with handling which is second to none. Priced low enough to be a first bike it's a frame that you won't outgrow.

At this price point, you get a Shimano 105 hydraulic groupset with a RS510 crank set. The wheels have had a slight upgrade for 2022, so you're now getting DT Swiss R470 rims with the Formula hubs. 

Read more:Our full review of the Cannondale CAAD13 Disc here

Best road bikes

Best road bike for rim brake fans

Frame: Ultra Evo Dynamic carbon
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: Aero 700 2024 BTWIN alloy
Weight: 8.3kg / 18.3lbs
Reasons to buy
+Great value with carbon frameset and 105+Comfortable ride+Striking looks
Reasons to avoid
-Rim brake only

Decathlon’s in-house Van Rysel brand offers great value in the Shimano 105-equipped Ultra CF. You get a carbon frameset and decent alloy wheels that give stable handling and good braking from the in-series rim brakes. It’s not particularly light, although a wheel upgrade would definitely up performance and lower weight.

Read more:Full review of the Van Rysel Ultra CF

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Liv)

Best women's specific road bike

Frame: Advanced-Grade carbon composite
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 8000
Wheels: Giant SLR-2
Reasons to buy
+Exceptional ride - stiff front end yet compliant+Lighter than many of its rivals+Crank-based power meter included
Reasons to avoid
-Wide spread on gearing for a race bike-Could benefit from deeper section rims

The Liv Langma Advanced Pro Disc 1 has received significant upgrades for 2022. The women-specific, race-ready frameset now has a stiffer front end thanks to the upgraded SL fork. There's also room for 32mm tyres making it pretty future proof too as tyres continue to get wider. Incredibly for a bike costing under £4,000, you also get a power metre courtesy of the Giant PowerPro crankset.

As for the ride, it's stiff yet compliant and both climbs and descends with confidence. On test our gripes were minor: big jumps between gears thanks to the 11-30 cassette and rims that lacked some depth. However, both of these are subjective. 

Best road bikes

(Image credit: Trek)

Best lightweight aluminium road bike

Frame: Ultralight 300 Series Alpha Aluminium
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: Bontrager Affinity Disc alloy
Weight: 7.8kg / 17.2lbs (52cm)
Reasons to buy
+Great looks, similar to a carbon frame+Low weight for an aluminium bike, under 8kg+Comfortable ride suited to long hilly days in the saddle
Reasons to avoid
-Handling not the sharpest

The lightweight Emonda gives you great braking and plenty of comfort, thanks to its 28mm tires, carbon seatpost and comfort-oriented ride position.

The sub-8kg (17.6lbs) weight is impressive for an aluminium disc brake bike at this price, better than many carbon bikes, while Trek’s Invisible Weld Technology makes for smooth welds that look like carbon too.

Read more:Trek Emonda ALR Disc 5 full review

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Ribble Cycles)

Best road bike for custom builds

Frame: Ribble T1000/T800 Carbon Monocoque
Groupset: SRAM Red eTap AXS
Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Carbon
Weight: 7.6kg (54cm)
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic spec for the price+Great 'all-rounder' blending aero properties with comfort +Sharp looks with plenty of colour options
Reasons to avoid
-Heavier than some of its rivals at 7.6kg

As a direct to consumer brand Ribble are able to deliver great value for money. The Endurance SL R Disc is the perfect example of this, with our Red eTap AXS-equipped model costing just a little over £6,500. However, as with all Ribble framesets you can use its bike builder to create the machine of your dreams - and, importantly, your budget.

The Endurance SL R Disc is a great all-rounder, benefiting from a few aero tweaks and an integrated cockpit while still being agile and compliant. On test it proved to be quick but still capable of delivering all-day comfort. The only downside, perhaps, is the weight when compared to some of its rivals. 

Best Road Bikes 2022: Merida Scultura Team

(Image credit: Future)

Best aero climbing road bike

Frameset: Scultura CF5 V
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200
Wheels: Metron 45 SL Clincher TL disc
Reasons to buy
+Great all-rounder+Good value for a World Tour spec bike - RRP of £7,750 / US$10,700
Reasons to avoid
-Wheels feel a bit twitchy in crosswinds

The Merida Scultura Team road bike has seen a few updates for 2022. Now in it's fifth generation it's adopted some aerodynamic properties from the brand's Reacto aero bike, including boxy tubing, dropped seatstays and a fully integrated cockpit. The result, Merida claims, is a few watts saved. 

However, this being a high-end all-rounder it's perfectly comfortable too, with tyre clearance now at 30mm. And as a bike that began life as a climbing machine it's still lightweight - in fact it's a little lighter than the previous model by just under 50 grams.

On test we found it to be a fun ride. With benefits of both an aero bike and a lightweight climbing bike it balances speed and agility to create a bike that's responsive and assured. The new Dura-Ace is worthy of mention too, with improved braking to go alongside the reliability and performance you'd expect from this top-tier electronic groupset.

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Cervelo)

Best road bike for all-round handling

Frame: Cervélo R5 carbon
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS
Wheels: Reserve 34/37 tubeless ready
Weight: 7.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Perfectly balanced handling+Plush ride, especially at the rear+Traditional looks
Reasons to avoid
-High cost - £8,999/US$8,400

The R5 is Cervélo's race-ready climbing bike. In fact it's the bike that helped Primoz Roglic to his third straight Vuelta title in 2021. As you'd expect then it's lightweight and climbs like a dream. But it also offers a supreme balance of stiffness and compliance, making it quick, agile yet perfectly comfortable too. For a bike that's built to go uphill, it descends incredibly well, providing plenty of confidence at speed.

The R5 comes in a number of high-end build options including those featuring Shimano and SRAM's top-tier electronic groupsets, Dura-Ace Di2 and Red eTap AXS respectively. 

Best road bikes

(Image credit: Cannondale)

Best aero road bike for compliance

Frame: SystemSix carbon
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Wheels: Cannondale Knot 64 carbon
Weight: 7.6kg / 16.8lbs
Reasons to buy
+Compliant for an aero bike+Responsive handling+Visual striking 
Reasons to avoid
-Low spec tyres at this price point

Cannondale’s aero race bike gives you top-notch aero features and aggressive looks. It’s still comfortable enough for the usual mixed bag of road surfaces though. That’s in part due to the extra-wide Knot 64 aero carbon wheels, which increase tire width of the 23mm tyres fitted up to 26mm. As for the tyres, the bike comes fitted with Vittoria Rubino Pro in a 25mm width and an upgrade should help add a little more plushness to the ride.

At 7.6kg (16.8lbs), the SystemSix is adequately light, although not class-leading.

Read more:Full review of the Cannondale SystemSix Carbon Ultegra Di2

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Scott)

Best road bike built for speed

Frame: Foil Disc HMX carbon
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Wheels: Syncros Capital 1.0 50 Disc carbon
Weight: 7.5kg / 16.5lbs
Reasons to buy
+Aero properties make for a rapid ride+Stylish design and paint job+Syncros bar aids integration
Reasons to avoid
-Adjusting the stack can prove tricky

We've tested the Foil in various specs and with rim and disc brakes and always come away impressed with its quality and out-and-out speed. In its premium spec, the Foil ticks all the aero boxes in a superb-looking design, with well-integrated cabling and a quality set of Syncros aero wheels, along with 28mm tires, for a bit more smoothing of the edgy ride.

There’s top-spec Dura-Ace Di2 shifting, although we’d have liked to see a power meter as part of the deal. Other options see the Foil offered with Shimano Ultegra in both its electronic and mechanical offerings as well as SRAM's Rival AXS groupset.

Read more:Full review of the Scott Foil Premium

Best road bikes

Best race-ready all-rounder

Frame: Tarmac SL7 FACT 12r Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Wheels: Roval Rapide CLX carbon
Weight: 6.6kg /14.5lbs
Reasons to buy
+Fast and responsive+Very light - 6.6kg +Increased tyre clearance
Reasons to avoid
-S-Works price tag-Not as compliant as the SL6-Wheelset favours speed over comfort

The new Specialized Tarmac SL7 is so good, it eclipses the brand’s Venge aero bike. With feedback from the pros, the new Tarmac is stiffer, more stable and more aero than its predecessor - and 45 seconds quicker over 40km at 50kph.

Specialized’s new integrated bar and hidden cable routing aren’t too difficult to work with and there’s more tyre clearance - up to 32mm. It's super-light too, bettering the UCI weight limit by 200g.

Read more:Full review of the Specialized Tarmac SL7

Best Road Bikes

(Image credit: Trek)

Best road bike for aerodynamics

Frame: Trek OCLV 800 carbon
Groupset: SRAM Red eTap AXS
Wheels: Bontrager Aeolus RSL 51 carbon
Weight: 7.5kg / 16.5lbs
Reasons to buy
+Fast with great ride quality and handling+Lighter than predecessor+Creak-free T47 bottom bracket
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive

Our tests showed that the Madone is one of the most aerodynamic bikes available. But Trek’s in-built IsoSpeed suspension system is tuneable and makes the Madone surprisingly comfortable, despite its chunky looks. 

Trek now uses a threaded T47 bottom bracket on the Madone, making it more serviceable than previous models as well as being creak-free.

We tested the most expensive eTap version of the SLR 9 but it's also available with Shimano's top of the line electronic Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, for around £1000 less. There's also the SLR 7 range, which shares many similarities but at a slightly lower price point.

Read more:Full review of the Trek Madone SLR 9 Disc

Best Road Bikes 2022: Speacialized S-Works Aethos

(Image credit: Chris Sansom)

Best road bike for sheer ride quality

Frameset: S-Works Aethos FACT 12r Carbon
Wheelset: Roval Alpinist CLX, 33mm depth
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Weight: 5.95kg (52cm)
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding ride quality+Traditional looks+Lightweight - frame weighs just 565g (52cm)+Easy to maintain thanks to threaded BB and traditional cockpit
Reasons to avoid
-S-Works price tag - £12,000+

Specialized's Aethos made quite the splash on first launch. Credited with being the lightest production road frame available it's a bike designed less for racing and more for pure enjoyment. 

On test we found this to be the case. It offers a quality of ride that's hard to beat; not the stiffest or the most aero but rather a blend of properties that make it suited to all-day comfort while still being incredibly agile. Of course, you could race on this bike, as Kasper Asgreen did during a stage in the 2021 TdF. It's numbers are pretty similar to the Tarmac after all.

But this really is bike that excels on long rides over varied terrain. It climbs and descends like a dream and is plenty quick on the flat stuff too. Its versatility is strengthened by Specialized's desire to make the Aethos somewhat more traditional when compared with its out-and-out race bikes. Here you have a threaded bottom bracket, as well as a classic looking cockpit, without the full cable integration that saves a few watts but makes swapping out parts or fitting new cables a bit of a bind.

The only downside to the S-Works Aethos is its price tag. The 2022 version equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 retails as £12,500, while the same bike with SRAM Red eTap AXS will set you back a mere £12,000. 

What's the difference between race and endurance geometry?

A key decision when choosing the best road bike for you is what you plan to do with it. Are you looking to go fast or race, or are you after a more comfortable bike for leisurely rides or long days in the saddle?

Geometry is the key factor here. A full-on race bike will put you in a more bent-over riding position, with your head and shoulders lower down over the handlebar. That’s great when you have a need for speed, reducing your frontal profile to lower your wind resistance but can be uncomfortable, particularly for a beginner.

On the other hand, bikes labelled “endurance” or “sportive” will be designed for a more upright riding position, with the bars higher and closer to the saddle. That delivers greater comfort on longer rides, but may make you a bit slower.

If you’re riding on hilly roads, or planning a trip abroad to the Alps for example, you’ll certainly appreciate a lightweight bike. However, if you're going to spend your time riding fast on flatter terrain then aerodynamics are probably more important to you. And If you’re looking to race, the stiffer, more edgy handling of a race bike will work better than the more stable handling of an endurance machine.

An increasing number of bikes are designed to take you off the tarmac as well as letting you ride efficiently on road. A gravel bike will give you wide tires and lower gears. But many endurance or 'all-road' bikes now offer plenty of tyre clearance as well as an expansive gear range, letting you take in a wider variety of routes.

How much do I need to spend on a road bike?

You also need to look at how much you want to spend on a bike. That’s not just the initial outlay, but the cost of replacing worn or damaged parts, the cost of servicing your bike and the cost of any upgrades. There’s a big difference in price between lower spec mechanical parts and top of the range electronic gearing.

A bike's specs will vary a lot between manufacturers, in particular, prices will be lower at direct only brands (such as Canyon and Ribble) and in-house brands (Vitus at Wiggle or Boardman at Halfords). But to give you an idea, here's a look at common specifications at various investment levels. In the interest of brevity, some bandings are wide and therefore you would expect variation within them.

£750 - £999 / $1000 - $1500

An aluminium frame and carbon fork, aluminium seatpost and handlebar/stem, shifting at Shimano Sora or Claris level, alumnium wheels. Rim brakes. 

£1000 - £1499 / $1500 - $2200

Either an aluminium frame and carbon fork at around Shimano 105 level, or a carbon frame and fork with shifting at Shimano Tiagra level. Aluminium wheels, seatpost and handlebar/stem. Disc or rim brakes. We would advise choosing rim brakes or cable-actuated disc brakes. 

£1500 - £2499 / $2200 - $3500

Carbon frame and fork with Shimano 105 (lower end of budget) or Ultegra (higher end) aluminum rims, carbon seatpost, aluminium handlebars and stem. Disc brakes should be hydraulic from this price point. 

£2500 - £3999 / $3500 - $5600

Carbon frame and fork, Shimano Ultegra or SRAM Rival AXS eTap (hydraulic if disc), carbon seatpost, aluminium bar/stem, aluminium rims 

£4000 - £5999 / $5600 - $8500

Carbon frame and fork, Shimano Ultegra Di2 or SRAM Rival / Force AXS eTap (hydraulic if disc) with aluminium wheels, or Shimano Ultegra with carbon wheels 30mm+, carbon seatpost, aluminium bars and stem

£6000 - £7999 / $8500 - $11,000

Carbon frame and fork, Shimano Ultegra Di2 or SRAM Force AXS eTap, carbon wheels 30mm+, carbon seatpost, carbon handlebar

£8000 - £9999 / $11,000 - $14,000

Carbon frame and fork, carbon wheels of 50mm+, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM Red AXS eTap

£10,000+ / $14,000

Accept nothing but the best of everything. Top of the range carbon frame and fork - usually utilising stiffer carbon and therefore fewer layers resulting in lower weight, carbon wheels of 50mm+, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM Red AXS eTap, power meter as standard 

What are the best frame materials for road bikes?

How do I choose between carbon, aluminium, steel and titanium?

A major difference between cheaper and more expensive bikes is their frame material. Bikes costing under £1000 are typically made of aluminium alloy, with the tubes welded together. It’s a material used in more expensive bikes too and can result in a strong, lightweight machine.

But pricier bikes are usually made of carbon fiber. The fibers give the bike strength and are embedded in a synthetic resin to hold them together. The mix of fibers used and their lay-up determine the bike’s ride feel and more expensive bikes will use more high modulus carbon fiber, which lowers the weight without reducing the bike’s strength.

Titanium is another material used in some more expensive bikes. It’s lightweight, strong and doesn’t rust or fatigue. And you can still find bikes made of the steel alloy which was the traditional framebuilding material. It’s not quite as light as other choices, but robust and gives a distinctive ride feel.

You should also look at what the bike’s fork is made of. Many bikes will have an all-carbon fork or one with carbon fork blades and an alloy steerer. This tends to absorb road bumps well for a more comfortable ride, but you can find alloy or steel forks on some lower priced bikes.

How do I choose the right size road bike for me?

It’s important to get the right size bike. Most bikes come in a range of sizes to fit your stature and bike makers will usually publish a rider’s height range which a bike of a specific size will fit. 

You should feel comfortable seated on your bike and be able to put both feet flat on the ground when standing over the crossbar, without it touching you.

You’ll usually find more detailed frame dimensions listed too, which give you more details of how your bike will fit you. The most important are reach and stack, although they’re a bit complex to interpret. 

In general, the higher the stack number (usually shown in cm or mm) the more upright your riding position will be. If you enjoy a 'taller' riding position then look for a more generous stack height. Equally, a shorter reach will put you closer to the bars, thus in a more upright position. For the most part, race bikes will feature a lower stack height than endurance models. 

To make sure that your bike is set up correctly and to avoid the risk of injury from incorrect fit, it’s well worth getting a professional bike fit. A bike fit will cost some money but will ensure that your saddle and bars are optimally placed for efficient riding. Consider a good fit an investment.

Best road bikes

A bike fit should help you get more comfortable
(Image credit: Picasa)

What is an 'aero' road bike and do I need one?

Bike makers push their bikes’ aero credentials, especially on more expensive machines, with claims of wind tunnel testing and time saved. Time was, an aero frameset was significantly heavier than one with the traditional round tubes, but a modern aero bike can be as light as a non-aero one.

On the other hand, around 80% of the wind resistance comes from a rider, not the bike and those time savings are typically when riding at 45kph/28mph. Since wind resistance increases as the cube of speed, if you’re riding at half that, you’ll have an eighth of the drag, so all those aero features won’t make a lot of difference.

How many gears should a road bike have?

After the frame, gears are the most important thing to consider when choosing a road bike. Today many top end road bikes will come fitted with 11 and 12-speed cassettes. When paired with a double chainring this means you'll have 22 or 24 gears. Remember however that some of these gear ratios will duplicated in certain chainring/cassette combinations.

More affordable road bikes tend to come with less gears. These cassette options should range from 8-speed to 10-speed, again most often paired with a double chainset.

As for groupset brands, Shimano gearing is the most commonplace, but the other major options are SRAM and Campagnolo. Shimano’s top end groupsets, Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105 have an 12 and 11-speed cassettes, while less expensive bikes may come with 10-speed Tiagra, 9-speed Sora or 8-speed Claris.

Best road bikes

Wider range cassettes help in the hills
(Image credit: PHILIPP FORSTNER)

What are the best gear options for a road bike?

When choosing a new road bike it's important that you think about the gears it comes equipped with. Fortunately if you've already matched your potential bike to the kind of riding you plan on doing, there's a good chance that the gear choice will also be well-suited. 

An out-and-out race bike is likely to come with a more traditional gearing set-up, for example 53/39 tooth chainset paired with an 11-28 tooth cassette. 

However road bikes that fall into the endurance or sportive categories are likely to have a compact chainset, most likely a 50/34, and a cassette that will have 30, 32, 34 or even 36 teeth as the largest option. The lower gears will help you to both tackle steep hills with more ease and generally pedal with a higher cadence. However, this can mean larger gaps between gear ratios.

There are are other options out there too. SRAM, for example, now offers its eTap AXS groupsets with 48/35, 46/33 and 43/30t chainsets. The latter two options reflect the growing all-road, adventure and gravel market and the subsequent demand for wider gearing options.

Best road bikes

Is electronic shifting really better?

While the majority of road groupsets are mechanical, using cables from the shift levers to change gears, there are a growing number of road bikes that now come fitted with electronic shifting, where a motor shifts the derailleurs between ratios. 

The main electronic systems are Shimano Di2, Campagnolo EPS and SRAM eTap AXS, with the latter offering 12 speeds and wireless connection to the shift levers.

There are benefits and drawbacks of both mechanical and electronic options. 

Mechanical components, such as mechs and levers, are generally cheaper and lighter than their electronic counterparts. They are also, for the most part, easier to fix when something goes wrong. 

Electronic gears benefit from reliable and repetitive shifting. There's no cable tension at play here. If you've suffered a hand injury, the ease of changing gear with the press of a button could be appealing. Electronic gears like SRAM eTAP can be personalised through an app, allowing you , for example, to shift multiple gears seamlessly. However, all this tech comes doesn't come cheap and complete road bikes fitted with electronic gears will be more expensive.

Are rim or disc brakes best for a road bike?

Disc brakes are taking over on road bikes and many high end machines are now disc brake only, although other bikes offer you the option to choose disc or rim brakes. There aren’t many pricier models now that only offer rim brakes.

That’s because disc brakes give you more consistent stopping, whatever the weather conditions, better modulation and greater overall stopping power. On the flip side, they’re heavier than rim brakes.

Most disc brake bikes use hydraulic calipers, although you can find mechanical disc brakes, usually on cheaper machines. Discs are creeping down the price range, but several of the most affordable bikes still come with rim brakes.

Best road bikes

What is the difference between carbon and alloy wheels?

Road bike wheels are typically 700c size, although the smaller 650b size can be seen on smaller frames. Regardless of size, both are available as carbon or alloy options.

Carbon fiber rims are used on most high-end wheelsets. These rims lower weight and are often deeper, to improve aerodynamics over a shallow wheel. In fact carbon can be produced in a far greater range of shapes, allowing manufactures to create wheels optimised for a varied range of riding styles. 

Alloy rims are generally cheaper and will feature on many complete road bikes. They are usually heavier than their carbon counterparts although lightweight alloy options are available. 

Wheels are a component where bike makers often look to economize, so a budget wheelset may feature even on an expensive bike. It’s worth considering whether you’ll need to upgrade them to get the best out of your new bike. 

Best road bikes

What is the best tyre width for a road bike?

There was a time when tyre options for road bikes were limited by the frames they were fitted to. A 23mm tyre was commonplace. If you were lucky you might be able to squeeze a 25mm into your frame.

However, today road bikes now come with increasingly wide tires. A 25mm width is now the minimum and even race bikes often have 28mm tires, while endurance machines may go to 32mm or even more.

With wider tires it's possible to run a lower pressure for more comfort and added grip. Wider tires can mean heavier tires and slower acceleration, though this can also depend on its casing and tread pattern. In essence, you want to best match the tyre to the riding you want to do.

It's also worth checking out the clearance offered by a frame before you buy the bike. It might be that it comes specced with a 25 or 28mm tyre but actually has clearance for something wider. 

Wheels and tires are increasingly tubeless-ready too. This means that you can add sealant and dispense with the inner tubes, reducing the risk of punctures and upping grip and ride comfort even more.

Paul Norman
Paul Norman

Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.

He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.