Ride The City

Choosing the Best Road Bike. Top Models Reviewed and Buyer’s Guide

Modern road bikes are pretty complex systems. It’s good you now know what type of bike you need, but your journey in choosing the best bike is only beginning. Our guide will make sure you understand all aspects of your future bike, make an informed decision and don’t spend money on something you don’t need.

How we rate bikes and what “best” means?

Is a $4000 bike better that $400 bike? For sure it is! However, which of them provides better price-performance ratio for recreational, non-professional cyclist? See, in our guide we try to pick the bikes that offer best bang for your buck. That’s one of the reasons we try to separate them across a number of price categories (under $500, under $1000, etc.), because budget is still one of the most determining factors when purchasing a new bike.


One important note here is to try to pick the best bike you can afford. Upgrading a bike with new (better) components will turn out to be much more expensive compared to buying a bike with them in the beginning.


Nowadays you can easily spend more on a bike than you can on a car, so it’s important to understand where to stop and spend as little as possible for the best bike possible, that will be best for you.

Overall Best For The Money: Tommaso Imola

While being a budget bike by all means, Tommaso Imola offers really impressive components - Shimano Claris groupset (which also includes Claris brakes). Everything else in this bike, including frame, handlebars and drivetrain screams quality and shows great understanding of cycling among people who have designed this bike.You won’t see this level of components in any other bike for this price.

Another benefit for those who order online is that bike will come 99% assembled an you can hit the road 10 minutes after unboxing. The frame is aluminium, but for this price you can’t really expect anything else. Still, manufacturer invested a fair amount of time to design it using latest advances in shaped tubing technology. By the way, warranty for the frame is lifetime.

The only negative thing we can say about this bike is probably the saddle that didn’t feel really comfortable as per our taste.

As a result of all the above, Tommaso Imola is our best road bike in terms of price-performance that you can buy for the money.

For Beginners: Giordano Libero 2.0 

Thanks to the Sora components and a carbon fork used in this bike, there's not competitor to match it at its price. Extremely well-built bike. Honestly, for beginners we don't see a reason to buy a more expensive bike, since this one has everything you might want in your first bike.

While other competitors, even on sale, have Claris groupsets, this one features a Sora. While all others have aluminium forks, this one has a carbon one.

Extra $100 spent within first couple of years will make it incomparable to other competitors in terms of features and quality. 

Absolute winner in entry-level segment.

Under $500: Giordano Libero 1.6

If had to describe this bike in one word, that would be reliable. See, when you’re just starting with road cycling, you want a stable entry-level bike that’s easy to handle and maintain.

It features aluminium frame and wheels, which is a great advantage for beginners who are likely to fall, and you don’t want your $1500 carbon frame to crack in your first month of riding.

Giordano Libero has Shimano Claris shifter and rear derailleur. Combine that with aluminum 50-34 compact crank and you will enjoy your first uphill hikes.

What we think could be improved in this bike is its weight. 30 pounds is but much for a road bike, but again, for the price, it’s really hard to beat it.

Under $1000: Tommaso Forcella 

What we like about Tommaso bikes and Forcella model in particular, is that manufacturer doesn’t try to screw its clients up by offering cheap components. This bike features a full Shimano groupset which results in optimum performance across all types of conditions and terrain.

It has a carbon frame fork and great aero wheels. We also like the frame designed for longer rides. By the way, Forcella’s frame is also one of the most versatile at this price point since it’s pre-drilled for any modification and extra equipment you might want to supplement your bike with.

Even though the manufacturer is not as popular as big names in the industry (yet), they are making amazing bikes with great attention to details. The quality of Forcella and its components, in our case, is unbeatable at this price.

Under $1500: Kestrel Talon

Featuring a carbon frame and Shimano 105 groupset, this bike offers incredible value for the money. Kestrel is a pioneer in carbon framing and they  really know what they’re doing. Speaking of frame, it’s really versatile and allows to use the bike as both road- and tri-bike. At this price, Talon’s competitors can only offer aluminium frames. Here they combine 700K and 800K carbon to make the platform both lightweight and stiff.

Launched 11 years ago, this bike is still making a lot of noise in the industry. Bicycling Magazine calls it “the best deal we’ve seen in a genuine multisport bike”.

It’s really hard to find any cons in a carbon bike for this price, but here’s what we want to mention. First, it comes really raw out of the box and requires professional assembly and tune-up. The other one, disc brakes would be a great addition to this bike.

For Women: Diamondback Airen 

Airen is well-balanced lightweight endurance bike with aluminium frame and mid-range reliable Shimano Sora (the Sport version has entry-level Claris groupset) components. The EPG (Enhanced Performance Geometry) frame will put the rider in an upright position due to a taller headtube. This build is very comfortable for long-distance all day cycling.

What we love about this bike is Tektro mechanical disc brakes, which is hard to find in other bikes at this price point. These will stop you fast and efficiently even on very steep slopes. The lower-level Sport version of Airen has rim brakes, though.

In our opinion Airen is a great allrounder that allows you to go pretty fast without sacrificing comfort. It’s price is reasonable for level of quality and components it offers.

Road Bike Buyer’s Guide

Types of Road Bikes

If you start to learn about all types of road bikes, your head will start spinning pretty soon. The competition is extremely high among manufacturers so they try to separate what they offer from competitors. Since all of them use same components from same manufacturers (in different combinations), one way to achieve this is to create bikes for very specific purposes.

Here’s how it works. There are two basic types of road bikes: race and endurance.

Race (Performance), Competition

If you’re a prospective racer who wants to go as fast as you possibly can, these are the bikes for you. You will sit lower with your body put in an aerodynamic position. You weight will lean towards front wheel for quick steering a sharp turns.

Sportive

These bikes offer speed benefits of race bikes, but with a more comfort frame. Your body position will be slightly more upright (but not as much as on endurance bikes).

Aero

Everything in these bikes is made with aerodynamics in mind. Very distinct difference is the elongated tube shape. It looks very wide on the side, but when viewed from the top, this are probably the narrowest bikes out there - all to cheat the front wind and give as little resistance as possible.

Time Trial / Triathlon

These are the bikes made specifically for triathlon and time trial competitions. There’s avery subtle difference between the two, so most companies make uniform triathlon bikes which, if needed, can be easily converted to race in UCI (time trial) events legally. Tri bike frame is even more aggressive in terms of lowering your body position toward the front wheel compared to regular race bikes. Also the different seat tube angle makes your upper body lean down even more.

Endurance

Preferred option for most people because speed (even though they can go really fast!) is not that important when you just want to do a nice long ride without wanting to die right after. Due to their geometry you will cycle in a more upright position compared to race bikes, and your neck and shoulders will thank you for that. Steering will also feel much more stable, especially for beginners.

Commuter

Another modification of a road bike for city settings. Main features are comfort and maneuverability. These bikes usually have frames very similar to regular road bikes and sometimes, even same drivetrains. However, in terms of comfort they are closer to hybrid bikes.

Touring

These are the road bikes with endurance-type frames that are made for extremely long rides, with extra weight. So, you will often see them supplemented with racks for carrying extra luggage. Frames are mostly aluminium for reliability and lower weight. However, some premium manufacturers like Koga use carbon frames in touring bikes, too.

Frames

When it comes to frames, two important things to consider here are: material of which the frame is made and it’s geometry. Let’s start with geometry as it defines the purpose your bike should be used for. Let compare these two bikes:

See, the difference? Specifically in a part called headtube. If it’s tall, our body will naturally take an upright position, optimal for daylong rides. If it’s short, your upper body will become more parallel to the ground. This position offers better aerodynamics and therefor, speed. So, just from a quick look at these two bikes we can tell which one of them is endurance and which is race.

What about frame material, there are three types: steel, aluminium and carbon. In the world of road bikes less weight is always better.

Steel is heaviest and is used in old bikes and new ones under $300 or even $200.

Aluminium is in the middle, combining great stiffness with relatively light weight.

Carbon is the most lightweight of all three, pretty stiff, but is not something we recommend for beginners (even if you have money) since it’s not resistant to crashes and if used by an entry-level cyclist, has a very high chance of cracking with first months of use.

Brakes: Rim vs Disc. What to Choose?

If mountain bikers have a consensus that disc brakes are much better than rim brakes, it’s still an ongoing debate among road cyclists. There are pros and cons for each option and here’s a brief comparison for you to better understand which will suit your needs best.

Rim brakes

Disc brakes

Pros:
  • Low cost
  • Easy to maintain
  • Highly compatible with a number of great rims and frames
  • About 1 pound lighter compared to disc brake systems


Cons:

  • Scratch the rim
  • Braking performance is slightly lower compared to disc brakes


Pros:

  • Ultimate braking performance in all weather conditions including rain, mud and steeper slopes
  • Better solution for heavier riders
  • More aerodynamic compared to rim brakes
  • No contact with the rim, so it lasts much longer


Cons:

  • Higher initial cost
  • Harder & more expensive to maintain (only true for hydraulic brakes, since mechanic disc brakes have comparable maintenance costs to regular rim brakes)
  • Not compatible with all rims and frames

Components 

Components of your bike is one of the main factors that can make it cost either $500 or $5000 (or more). There are three main manufacturers of components: beside popular Shimano and SRAM, there’s also italian Campagnolo that specializes exactly in components for road bikes. Each of the manufacturers has a lineup for specific performance level. Below table will help you navigate in all these names:

Brand / Level

Shimano

SRAM

Campagnolo

Entry-level

Claris, Sora

-

Xenon

Basic

Tiagra

Apex

Mirage

Mid-level

105

Rival

Veloce

Subprofessional

Ultegra

Force

Centaur

Professional

Dura-Ace

RED

Chorus, Recurd

Please use the table above as a reference point when comparing bikes. Of course, you should always aim for higher-level components since they will offer better durability and comfort in use.