The Basics

Above photo: Getty Images

So here you are, browsing the web for tips on how to choose your first roadbike. With a limited budget, and hardly enough knowledge about the sport, the vast ocean of roadbikes to choose from make the decision an all too arduous task.

Fear not, my friend. Fate has smiled upon you and led you to this website. You are in luck as we are about to impart to you some of the most sage advice you will ever receive in this, the dawn of your cycling ‘career’. So sit back, pour yourself a beer, and enjoy the next 15 minutes of reading. By the end of this article, we guarantee hope you will know what kind of bike you ought to start with.

Choosing a roadbike for the first time is a very difficult activity for most, mainly because the beginning cyclist wants his first roadbike to be perfect. Unfortunately, this is most often not the case. No matter how great this first roadbike will be to you, you will eventually develop preferences that will cause you to set this bike aside, and purchase a new one suitable to your needs. The terrain you ride in, fitness changes, events participated in, and development in riding style all contribute to this.

Nevertheless, fear not, and fret not. We are here to help you choose that first bike, to help make sure that it makes your beginning experiences in the sport as enjoyable as ever.

Before we proceed, it is prudent to know by heart the parts of a roadbike. Below is a diagram that illustrates this, you will have to refer to this diagram as you read through this series of articles.

Choice of Road Frames

The heart and soul of a bike is its frame. Poor frame selection will result in dissatisfaction with handling, poor power transfer, or worse, injury. It is key to note then that the main driver of purchase of a bike should always be the frame, rather than the componentry (i.e. groupset, wheels, etc.). Choosing wisely on a frame can give you years, and even decades of enjoyment.

When choosing a frame, one of the most important things to ensure is that you love its aesthetics. An ugly frame, no matter how efficient, will, in one way or another, discourage you from riding it. Hence, when making any decision on frame selection, make sure that you like its looks.

Before choosing a frame though, it is important to note what kind of riding you think you will be doing, and what type of handling you feel you might enjoy most. I say “think”, and “might”, because at this point in time, a beginner cyclist may not be sure of these things until he has experienced a ‘twitchy’ bike, or a ‘stable’ one. Preferences are unique, and what you may think you prefer now, may not be true next week. Nevertheless, having an idea of what you want will help in the frame selection process.

RACEY FRAMES:

Giant TCR

Trek Madone

Specialized Tarmac

STABLE FRAMES:

Giant Defy

Trek Domane


Specialized Roubaix

Most of these models are available in carbon fibre, and aluminum. While each material has its pros and cons over each other, and over other materials like steel, and titanium, you cannot go wrong with either one. Purchase the best you can afford.

There is another category called ‘Aero Frames’, where prices tend to be on the high side. Aero frames in the market are the Cervelo S5, and the Specialized Venge, among others, and are a good purchase IF you are looking for the most aerodynamic package available. Read about our commentary on Aero Road Bikes here.

A frame’s handling characteristics tuned by manipulating the angles and shapes of the tubes. A longer wheelbase, and slacker headtube angle is usually used to achieve more stable handling, while the opposite is true for bikes with more sensitive handling and steering. Whichever bike you choose is purely based on personal preference. Riding in Singapore does not require one or the other type of frame. In fact, going for a more stable frame will most likely result in a more comfortable ride for most cyclists.

There are also custom frame makers who can build a frame according to your specifications (handling-wise, comfort , etc.) but we also suggest to go for an off the rack frame rather than custom for a first bike. This is because custom bikes require tons of rider input, and will be done according to your current flexibility levels, and riding style. All these will change within months of starting your training, and you may end up with a custom bike that is not to your liking after just a few months.

Conclusions

Once you have more or less decided on what TYPE of frame you prefer. Head out to the bikeshop to do some test rides. While I do agree that test rides will give you tons of input to hel you narrow down your choice, I think that test rides can only be successful if the bike is set up properly according to rider dimensions. A very good frame that is not properly set up (too small or too big for rider, stem too short or too long, handle bar too narrow or too wide, etc.) can give the test rider the wrong impression about the frame. Moreover, if you are testing bikes with differing tire pressures, then this throws a huge variable in your little experiment. Riding an uncomfortable frame with too low a tire pressure may feel comfortable when compared to riding a comfortable frame with too much tire pressure. Hence, approach test rides with a degree of doubt, and do not solely base your frame decision on this.

However, before you do your testride, make sure you know how the bike should be set up for you. If you are not paying for a professional fit, the online fitting systems available should do the trick. Competitivecyclist.com has a fit calculator that should be able to give you a good estimate. Otherwise, snag a copy of Dr. Edmund Burke’s “Serious Cycling” to self-study on bike fit ( http://www.amazon.com/Serious-Cycling-Edmund-R-Burke/dp/073604129X ), a must read for anyone who wants to get into the sport of road cycling.

Once you have chosen your frame, how do you then go about choosing the other parts like the saddle, handlebar, and groupset? Stay tuned as we delve into the intricacies of component selection. In the meantime, good luck in selecting a frame that will last you for years to come.

Thanks for reading!
Feel free to give your suggestions and experiences about getting your first road bike via the comments section below.

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