Riding road is growing in popularity but that doesn't mean you need a road racing bike. You can ride on road with just about any bike but having one that is optimized for hard surfaces and your riding style will give you a more enjoyable riding experience.
Depending on the qualities that are important to you, the best bike for riding road may be any of the following: Road Race Bike, Triathlon Bike, Sport Touring Bikes, Cyclocross Bike, Loaded Touring Bikes, Performance Hybrid or Comfort Hybrid. Read on to find what is best for you.
Road Race Bike
These are the sports cars of the bicycle world. Modern road race bikes are light, stiff and aerodynamic. The position is bent forward at the waist to minimize wind drag and activate the glute muscles. If you have the conditioning, a road race bike can be comfortable for long rides, but you do tend to get rattled on rougher roads due to the high pressure tires and stiff frames. Road race bikes are characterized by the skinny tires (23-25 mm), drop handlebars and streamlined appearance. Multiple hand positions that allow access to the brakes make this perfect for riding in groups.
The cousin of the road race bike, the triathlon bike is all about speed as well but are designed to let you go as fast as possible on your own. The frame geometry is steeper to optimize power output and comfort in the aerobars while being as aerodynamic as possible. The longer you can stay in the aerobars the faster you will be. The look is sleek with shifters at the end of the aerobars. The triathlon bike is frowned upon in group rides as the only position you can access your brakes is the bull horns.
Sport Touring Bike
Think of this as the comfortable road racing bike. The bar position is higher compared to the road race bike, usually with slightly wider tires for comfort. If you want to do longer road rides and charity events but aren't willing to sacrifice comfort for speed then the sport touring bike will be for you.
This is the jack-of-all-trades of the bike world. A cyclocross bike looks like a road bike from a distance but up close you will see it has mountain bike brakes and more tire clearance. You can run fatter tires and fenders making it an ideal commuting bike as well as a fast bike for recreational riding. Cyclocross is an actual type of racing that is offroad with a mix of grass, trails and mud. Tires are available for various conditions including smooth asphalt, dirt roads and studded tires for ice.
Loaded Touring Bike
This is the RV of the bike world. Pack all of your camping gear for over night or crossing the country. Loaded touring bikes have a longer wheel base for stability while loaded and a very rugged build to stand up to heavy loads. They are available with both road-style drop handlebars and flat bars.
Think of this as a flat bar road bike. Light and fast like a road race bike but with a more upright bar like a mountain bike. Rigid fork and light parts make these very efficient compared to mountain bikes. Great for commuting and fitness rides. Long rides can be hard on the hands as there are fewer hand positions than a road bar.
If you want comfort but more efficiency than a mountain bike, the comfort hybrid can be the answer. Higher bar position than any of the other bikes mentioned making for a more upright torso position. These are at home on the park trails as well as the road. Comfort hybrids often have suspension forks, wide saddles and wider but still efficient rolling tires.