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

Our pick of the best road bikes we've tested at Cycling Weekly as well as our buying advice telling you what to look for in a drop bar bike

best road bikes reviewed and rated

If you're looking for the best road bikes, there are more and more options available at every price point.

Road bike prices have seen a lot of inflation over the last few years and the top end models now often retail for over $10,000 / £10,000. We've divided this guide up into bikes priced at under $2,000 / £2,000, those priced under $5,000 / £5,000 and money no object options. But if you find those price tags hard to swallow, check out our guide to the best cheap road bikes which we've ridden.

The road bike sector is more nuanced than it's ever been, with frame materials, aero features, wheel construction and tyre width all offering loads of choice. The rise of the gravel bike offers a machine that you can ride on the road but that you can also take on tracks and trails, giving you more choice in where you ride. 

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. 

Here 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 under $2,000 / £2,000

Best Road Bikes Specialized Allez

(Image credit: Specialized )
Best road bike for those on a budget

Specifications

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 geometry was designed using Specialized's huge bike fit database, for a fairly upright ride position and a fit that's comfortable for many riders. There's room for mudguards and a rack, so we reckon it has the versatility to serve duty as either a first road bike, a winter bike or even a bike for commuting.

The Axis Sport wheels are on the heavy side though and the Tektro rim brakes aren’t the most effective, but nevertheless the ride quality and sporty feel are up there with much pricier bikes. The weight does hold you back a bit on the climbs though, despite the range down to less than 1:1 offered by the Shimano Claris 8-speed groupset, which shares a lot of the ergonomics of Shimano's top spec Dura-Ace. That range spread over eight speeds does result in some quite large jumps between gear ratios though.

A wheelset upgrade would significantly improve performance, while the bike would also benefit from an upgrade as well. But 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.

Read more: Specialized Allez full review

Best road bikes Boardman SLR 8.9

(Image credit: Boardman)
Best road bike for outstanding value

Specifications

Frame: SLR 8.9 carbon
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: Boardman SLR tubeless-ready
Weight: 8.9kg / 19.6lb

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 an aero carbon frame and forks that have been wind tunnel tested, as well as Shimano's reliable 11-speed 105 groupset (albeit with a FSA crankset). The result is a 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. The bike is available in men's and women's variants, with the difference being in the contact points fitted to the same frame. In all but the wettest conditions, the rim brakes work well and they're a worth trade-off on a bike at this price that boasts a carbon aero frame.

Read more: Boardman SLR 8.9 full review

Best Road Bikes Giant Contend SL1

(Image credit: Giant)
Best endurance road bike on a budget

Specifications

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 alloy frame with a sloping top tube. The D-Fuse seatpost and carbon fork are designed to add compliance at the rear and the front end respectively. Along with the endurance frame geometry this 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. It's a good value proposition for its price though.

Read more: Full review of the Giant Contend

Best road bikes Van Rysel Ultra CF

(Image credit: Decathlon)
Best road bike for rim brake fans

Specifications

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 with aero flourishes and decent alloy wheels that give stable handling and good braking from the in-series rim brakes - it's one of the few bikes that still uses rim stoppers, although Decathlon is progressively equipping its range with disc brakes. It’s not particularly light, although a wheel upgrade would definitely up performance and lower weight.

The Ultra CF is available with a range of groupset options from both Shimano and Campagnolo, so you can pick a spec to match your budget and there are men's and women's versions.

Read more: Full review of the Van Rysel Ultra CF

Best road bikes under $5,000 / £5,000

Best road bikes Cannondale CAAD13 Disc

(Image credit: Cannondale)
Best affordable race-ready road bike

Specifications

Frame: SmartForm C1 Premium Alloy
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheels: RD 2.0 alloy
Weight: 9.0kg / 19.9lb

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

-
High front end is a bit out of character with the bike's racy feel

Cannondale has long been a master of performance alloy frames and the CAAD13 follows in that vein. It's got long and low geometry based on that of the pro-level carbon SuperSix, with aero tube profiles leading to 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. The only thing that we found fault with was the rather high front end stack. It's easy to rectify but means you'll have to have your head tube cut down to avoid an ugly stack of spacers above the stem. 

Read more: Full review of the Cannondale CAAD13 Disc here

Best Road Bikes Liv Langma Advanced Pro 1 Disc

(Image credit: Liv)
Best women's specific road bike

Specifications

Frame: Advanced-Grade carbon composite
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 8000
Wheels: Giant SLR-2
Weight: 7.6kg / 16.8kg

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 1 Disc 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 meter courtesy of the Giant PowerPro crankset.

As for the ride, it's stiff yet compliant and the Liv 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. 

Read more: Full review of the Liv Langma Advanced Pro 1 Disc

Best road bikes Trek Emonda ALR 5

(Image credit: Trek)
Best lightweight aluminium road bike

Specifications

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 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. The bike rides more like a carbon bike than alloy as well.

The lightweight Emonda gives you great braking from its Shimano 105 disc brake groupset and plenty of comfort, thanks to its 28mm tyres, carbon seatpost and comfort-oriented ride position.

It's available in a really wide range of sizes, from 47cm all the way up to 64cm. There are some great colours too.

Read more: Trek Emonda ALR 5 full review

Best road bikes Ribble Endurance SLR Disc

(Image credit: Ribble)
Best road bike for custom builds

Specifications

Frame: Ribble T1000/T800 Carbon Monocoque
Groupset: SRAM Red eTap AXS
Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Carbon
Weight: 7.6kg / 16.8lb (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 is 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. 

Read more: Full review of the Ribble Endurance SL R Disc

Best road bikes over $5,000 / £5,000

Best road bikes Pearson HammerandTongs

(Image credit: Phil Sowels/Cycling Weekly)
Best fast endurance bike

Specifications

Frameset: Pearson high modulus carbon
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Wheels: Pearson Hoopdrive Tooth and Nails
Weight: 8.2kg / 18.0lb

Reasons to buy

+
Great ride quality
+
Aero design
+
Room for wide tyres

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly pricy for the spec

Coming from the oldest bike shop in the world - established in 1860 - the Pearson HammerAndTongs is nevertheless an endurance bike that's bang up to date, with an aero frame design and plenty of tyre clearance for 32mm wide tyres and more.

As with most endurance bikes, the front end is a little higher than you'll find on racier models, but otherwise the geometry is designed for fast riding, with a short wheelbase and steep seat tube angle. We liked the front end integration and the narrow aero carbon bars. 

The HammerAndTongs was a fast ride too, although we found the wheelset a little twitchy in a strongish crosswind. It's an impressive performance from a small bike brand.

Read more: Full review of the Pearson HammerAndTongs

Merida Scultura Team road bike

(Image credit: Merida)
Best aero climbing road bike

Specifications

Frameset: Scultura CF5 V
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200
Wheels: Metron 45 SL Clincher TL disc
Weight: 7.1kg / 15.7lb

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 the 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.

Read more: Full review of the Merida Scultura Team

Best Road Bikes Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS

(Image credit: Cervelo)
Best road bike for all-round handling

Specifications

Frame: Cervélo R5 carbon
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS
Wheels: Reserve 34/37 tubeless ready
Weight: 7.4kg / 16.3lb

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. 

Read more: Full review of the Cervélo R5 Disc

Best road bikes Cannondale SystemSix

(Image credit: Cannondale)
Best aero road bike for compliance

Specifications

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 tyre 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 Scott Foil

(Image credit: Scott)
Best road bike built for speed

Specifications

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 brakes (now discontinued) 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 tyres, 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 Specialized Tarmac SL7

Best race-ready all-rounder

Specifications

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

Adding aero credentials to its race-ready design and with feedback from the pros, the latest Tarmac SL7 is stiffer, more stable and more aero than its predecessor - and 45 seconds quicker over 40km at 50kph. It's also been stiffened up at the rear to satisfy the pros.

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.

We rode the top spec model, but the Tarmac SL7 range starts with the Comp for under half the price of the Dura-Ace build. It's built with a lower spec carbon used for the frame and kitted out with a SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset.

Read more: Full review of the Specialized Tarmac SL7

Best Road Bikes Trek Madone SLR 9

(Image credit: Trek)
Best road bike for aerodynamics

Specifications

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

Best road bikes Specialized S-works aethos

(Image credit: Specliazed)
Best road bike for sheer ride quality

Specifications

Frameset: S-Works Aethos FACT 12r Carbon
Wheelset: Roval Alpinist CLX, 33mm depth
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Weight: 6.0kg / 13.2lb (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 (opens in new tab). 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. 

If you're taken with the Aethos' classic good looks but don't have £12k to spare it is offered in a number of other builds. While still very expensive the Aethos Comp (opens in new tab), for example, hits a lower price point while delivering a ride quality not too dissimilar to its pricey relative.

Read more: Full review of the Specialized S-Works Aethos

Best road bikes: buyer's guide

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 tyres 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, aluminium 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) aluminium 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?

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 fibre. The fibres give the bike strength and are embedded in a synthetic resin to hold them together. The mix of fibres used and their lay-up determine the bike’s ride feel and more expensive bikes will use more high modulus carbon fibre, 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 steel tubing, 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, although sometimes a bike shop will offer one at a discount or free when you buy a bike, 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 the best aero bikes can now 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 around 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 12-speed cassettes. When paired with a double chainring this means you'll have 24 gears. Remember however that some of these gear ratios will be duplicated in certain chainring/cassette combinations.

More affordable road bikes tend to come with fewer 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 common, 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 may 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 other options out there too. SRAM, for example, now offers its eTap AXS groupsets with 48/35, 46/33 and 43/30t chainsets. Paired with its cassettes starting at 10 teeth, these give similar highest gear ratios to traditional gearing starting at 11 teeth, but greater low-end gear range for easier climbing and less need to shift between chainrings on undulating roads.

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, which all offer 12 speeds.

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 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 gearing can be personalised through an app, allowing you, for example, to shift multiple gears seamlessly. However, all this tech 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 found on some smaller frames. Regardless of size, both are available as carbon or alloy options.

Carbon fibre rims are used on most of the best road bike 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 manufacturers 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 economise, 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 tyres. A 25mm width is now the minimum and even race bikes often have 28mm tyres, while endurance machines may go to 32mm or even more.

With wider tyres it's possible to run a lower tyre pressure for more comfort and added grip. Wider tyres can mean heavier tyres and slower acceleration, though this can also depend on their 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 tyres 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 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.