The cycling industry, and the road bike industry especially, has undergone a research & development transformation in recent years. Having said that, road bikes remain as they have done for years, and if you strip them down to parts - they are three pieces of tubing which make a triangle, with a fork at the front - with two wheels.
If looking at available road bikes in greater detail, then the differences between different road bike models are stark. As well as different geometry and handling characteristics, road bikes are also made with different materials. The geometry of a road bike is what we will focus on in this post, and we will explain how subtle differences in shapes and designs - which can be almost impossible to spot with the naked eye, make a big difference to handling and performance.
Types of Road Bikes
There are two main categories of road bikes - race road bikes and endurance road bikes. Race Bikes are as the name suggests, designed for racing - these bikes have an aggressive geometry where the rider is pushed into an aerodynamic position for maximum speed and pace. Endurance road bikes, although still very efficient - are more upright, making them more comfortable to ride and also safer to ride, with increased visibility on the roads.
Importance of Road Bike Geometry
The Geometry of a road bike is important for a couple of different reasons, firstly - the geometry affects the aerodynamic profile of the bike, and in turn - how efficient the bike is at cutting through the air as it goes along. The geometry of a bike is also responsible for the handling, and a race bike has a design which provides incredibly responsive handling. In turn, the riding position of a road bike will lead the ride with a flat back, with a bend in the hips. This body position is the most aerodynamic, and the weight over the front wheel also aids grip, it does however become uncomfortable over long periods of time. Other features of race bikes include a stiffer rear end, deeper tube shapes and longer stems.
The geometry of endurance road bikes is very different - these bikes provide an upright riding position which provides excellent levels of comfort and control - although handling is not as sharp as race road bikes.
Gravel Bike Geometry
We are including gravel bikes as part of this guide, because the road is where a gravel bike will spend most of its time here in the UK. Gravel bikes are essentially a combination of road, cyclocross and mountain bikes - all rolled into one very capable package.
These bikes benefit from a relaxed fit - which sees them at home off road, on road and on the commute. The sizing and fit of a gravel bike is very similar to a road bike - and they feel more like a road bike than a mountain bike. They have a longer wheelbase though, and a slacker head tube angle - gravel bikes also have a longer wheelbase than most road bikes. This gives gravel bikes good levels of stability off road.
Gravel Bikes also have a short reach, which keeps the rider upright and over the rear of the bike - for extra grip in slippery conditions. Gravel Bikes also have drop bars which provide both pace on the roads, as well as comfort.