From the very outset of cycling, the bike has been used as a means of transport. Today’s road bikes have come a long way with the range and variety becoming very extensive. Since the early days of cycling, roads have developed in quality (although in some areas it’s hard to believe). The style of road bikes has also changed dramatically. Many of the first road bikes were built from steel and only fitted with a single gear and although there are still some single speed road bikes available, bikes with many gears are much more common. Today, frame materials still include steel, but aluminium and carbon fibre is much more common with some aluminium framed bikes fitted with carbon forks.
As for the gearing, some road bikes are fitted with a triple chainring at the front, some a double and more recently a single chainring. Bikes for racing are often fitted with a higher ratio combination than a bike for leisure or touring. Some have a compact 50/34, others a 53/39 or a racing compact 52/36. At the rear the choice of gears is, again, varied. A cassette with 7, 8, 9, 10 or even 11 gears is often fitted giving a wide gear ratio, enabling the rider to cope with the most challenging hills. When it comes to competitive cycling, the gearing selection is taken very seriously to ensure the correct ratio fits the discipline. For example, a bike for triathlon or time trialling will vary dramatically from a cyclocross bike or a race which takes in numerous hills. The bikes designed for time trial and some triathlons are styled differently and will usually be fitted with aero bar extensions. The frame design will also be much more aero design than a road racing bike although many top-end road racing bikes are also now designed with aerodynamics in mind.
For many years road bikes were fitted with different styled rim brakes. Today it is becoming more common to find bikes fitted with disk brakes. The diameter of road wheels remains much the same today as it has been for years – 700c although road bikes that are suitable for light trail use are now also available giving the option to fit wider tyres with more grip. So when choosing your first or next road bike, consider your riding style, strengths and terrain - touring, racing, commuting, leisure or competition. Getting the right fit and style of a road bike will ensure you find the bike most suited for days of enjoyable and comfortable riding.