CHOOSING A ROAD BIKE: FINDING YOUR FIT
Designed for riding on pavement across long distances and at high speeds, road bikes offer lower rolling resistance for efficient power transfer from you to the bike. Whether you’re looking for a speedy commute to work or school, or training for your first road race or triathlon, choosing the right road bike for your body type and the right features for your riding style is critical to performance.
The Right Fit
The way a road bike fits your body depends on a number of factors – primarily, the geometry and size of the frame, as well as the style and position of things like your seat, pedals, and handlebars where you connect with the bike.
- Stand over: You need one to three inches of clearance over the crossbar while standing with feet planted on each side of the bike.
- Riding position: To improve efficiency and control, take a more aggressive position with your handlebars leveled a few inches lower than the seat.
- Handlebars: Match your body type to the width you need, and choose from compact handlebars to keep you more upright or conventional ones for dropping even lower.
- Saddle/Seat Height: Wider styles help improve comfort while the position (height, tilt, moved forward or back on the seat tube) affects performance:
A higher seat is considered more aggressive and can improve performance
A lower seat can be more comfortable and improve stability and control
- Pedals: A toe clip design enables good contact with the pedals without locking you in, while cleats or clipless pedals lock your specialised footwear into place to maximize your performance.
You can create a smooth and efficient pedal stroke by ensuring your knee is properly positioned over the ball of your foot.
Also, measuring the length of your torso, the reach of your arms, and your inseam (the measurement of your pelvis to the ground) will help determine precisely what size of frame best suits your body. Adjustments can be made to the seat height and position, the length of the seat stem and the reach and width of the handlebars, making it easier to find a bike that fits. But it’s important to match your body to the frame as closely as possible.
When you’re performing at top speeds, every element that goes into the bike design can influence your ride.
- Aluminum: Designed to be stiff yet light, aluminum is highly responsive to your movements
- Carbon: Generally stiff and doesn’t add much weight to the bike, carbon is the ideal material to use when you’re looking to make finely-tuned adjustments to your ride. For example, you might want a firm bottom bracket on your crankset to improve power transfer, making you faster, but also want the seat stay that holds most of your weight to provide some flexibility for improved comfort.
Wheels and Tires
Improving performance is all about reducing the rolling resistance when pedaling and getting a livelier and more efficient ride with a stiff and responsive set of wheels and tires. It’s best to find a mix between firm tires that help with performance and rubber that absorbs some shock from the road to improve comfort.
High quality shifting components allow for crisper, more responsive movements when changing gears, allowing you to more efficiently gear up and down during your ride.
Geometry refers to the design and size of all the different tubes (top tube, seat tube, downtube) and the angles at which they intersect on your bike – this is one of the primary factors for determining the right fit for your body and the style of riding you’re able to do.
- Comfort: A less aggressive design that seats you lower on the bike frame with your handlebars not much lower than your seat while riding will allow for comfort on longer rides
- Performance: Transferring energy from you to the bike more efficiently with a stiff and responsive frame will maximize your speed.