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I am looking the market for my first road bike. I am planing to be using the bike, couple times per week for 1 - 2 hour rides, and maybe on the weekend some longer ones, around UK Yorkshire.

There are two things that I would like to know.

Is there significant difference, on how one road bike will handle uneven roads compared to others? Is there a way to know that from specs?

Also, I am looking to find a balance between performance and comfort. I know for a fact I wont be racing, but will taking long leisure rides on country side. If I where to choose between happy lower back, and 5/10 minutes faster within the hour, I could choose happy lower back. Again, I am not sure if there clues on the geometry of the bike that can help me spot the difference on this.

  • Welcome to Bicycles SE. We don't do product recommendations on this site, so I've edited out that portion of your question. However, I think you'll get solid answers based on the remaining portion of your question. With the information you get from those answers, you should be able to make an informed decision on your purchase. – jimchristie May 10 '15 at 0:42
  • Those two bikes featured different geometry as I mentioned which could lead the decision more than 'which you think is better', although if you believe the remaining is sufficient I guess it is ok. Thank you. – Giannis May 10 '15 at 1:06
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There is no substitute for riding a few different bikes to feel the difference.

To get to do this, you'll need to develop a relationship with a local bike shop (LBS). A good LBS will let you take a bike for a short ride, and some will hire a bike to you for a longer ride.

Explain what you want and what your budget is. Be up front that you're checking out your options, and you'll find your honestly repaid. Expect to pay more at an LBS than online, but that extra buys you a lot in future service, and bundled goods and services. Remember you'll need a helmet, shoes, and cycling clothes. Getting everything as a bundle will be cheaper overall.

While tires can help with rough surfaces, the overall geometry helps with your general comfort. Consider if you will be comfortable with drop bars or if you want flat bars.

A cyclo cross or touring bike may suit your purposes better than a top end race bike.

Good luck, and feel free to ask specific followup questions!

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Tires can make a significant different in terms of comfort, especially on uneven roads. If you're comparing two different bikes, ask what is the largest tire that either one can handle.

I used to have a road bike where some 25mm tires rubbed on the front derailleur clamp (a tire labelled "25mm" is not always 25mm wide). With that bike I didn't have a choice - 25mm or 23mm tires was all I could use. Those narrow tires require high pressure and are uncomfortable.

Now I have a cyclocross bike that can use tires up to 40mm, and I'm currently running 35mm Schwalbe Kojak tires. It rolls as fast as any other road bike (I ride with a group, and coasting downhill behind other bikes, I can see that my bike isn't slower). But most of the impact and vibration from the road surface is absorbed by the tires.

There are some road bikes, such as the Specialized Diverge and the Norco Search, that work with tires up to 32mm (with fenders) or 35mm (without fenders). These are sometimes called "gravel bikes", intended to be rideable on gravel roads. Obviously they also work very well on paved roads.

You don't have to use wide tires -- but it's good to have the choice. You can try it out and see if you like it.

If you're comparing specs, you probably want the following, based on what you stated as your goals in your question:

  • greater tire clearance
  • longer chainstays (results in tire clearance)
  • greater vertical distance between bottom bracket and handlebars
  • Hello, thanks for your suggestions. I have decided to test two cyclocross bikes, as they seem to tick all the boxes, probably with a road-oriented tire (but still 30-32c) – Giannis May 10 '15 at 15:08
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The one thing I always say to people in your situation is to remember that we have all been there. And the saving grace here is that by the time you get to buy your second bike, you will know exactly what to look for. With that in mind, you might want to think about limiting what you spend on your first bike.

But for the moment...

For your suspension and comfort on uneven roads, I would urge you to talk to other cyclists in your vicinity. Are they riding "regular" road bikes? Or are they riding bikes like cyclocross (CX) bikes to take account of the imperfect surfaces? For example, I live in the New Forest and ride a couple of road bikes, one audax and one out-and-out racing bike, with no problem on the road surfaces down here. I have been up to Yorkshire a few times and the surfaces didn't particularly strike me as any worse than the surfaces I ride. I just think that people who are already riding these roads might be able to help you, I'm sure they'd be happy if you stopped them and asked (as long as you did so sensibly I suppose!).....I certainly wouldn't.

Within the road bike genre, there are obviously many different styles of bike. As I say, one of my bikes is an audax bike. Audaxes are road events that are long (can be hundreds of km), so whilst they are still road bikes, they're built so the rider will be comfortable in the saddle for several hours. They also take place in the winter, so bikes will usually have things like mudguards, also I fitted a rack to mine to go touring with panniers, so something like that may be an option for you.

If you're feeling more adventurous, in professional cycling there are a series of races early on in the season (called the Spring Classics), which are held in Belgium/Holland in March/April time of year. So basically, before the weather is warm. The conditions of these races can be quite challenging. The riders will often ride bikes that, whilst still racing bikes, are designed for slightly more rugged conditions. Much like a Yorkshire August, I suspect!! But there may be some value in looking on a couple of cycling web sites at some of the bikes that are ridden in these races, to give you a heads-up on what to shop for. (Of course it depends on your budget, but many of the bike designs are affordable to the general masses, although possibly with lesser frame materials and/or components.)

But please, the single best piece of advice is to test the bike before you buy it.

  • thanks for your response. Based on these answers, and having a talk at cycling store, I will be testing two cyclocross bikes next week, they feel like the perfect fit for me. – Giannis May 10 '15 at 15:07
  • I hope it goes well for you next week. Plus after last Thursday, I suspect the condition of your roads won't improve much for the next 5 years ;-) – PeteH May 10 '15 at 15:51

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