Some people think a Road bike for commuting is a bit overkill. But if your commute is all by road, is a long distance or has plenty of inclines to deal with, then a road bike could be the ideal choice. Road bikes enable you to commute further and faster. They’re also great for fitness riding and summer sportives too. This road bike for commuting guide will explore the many options and types of road bike so you can pick the right bike for you.
So a road bike for commuting, what are the Pros and Cons?
- Road bikes have a full range of gears for faster riding
- Road bikes allow you to commute longer distances
- Owning a road bike also allows you to go on club rides at weekends
- More carbon and aluminium frame options for lighter bikes
- Road bikes can be a bit more expensive
- A desirable bike for you is also desirable for a thief
- Road bikes tend to be more maintenance intensive
- Commute on all year round will put lot of wear on the components which can be expensive to replace
Frame and Forks
Generally speaking road bike frames tend to made from Aluminium or Carbon Fibre. Entry level bikes tend to have an aluminium frame with butted tubes. Butted tubes means that the profile of the tube varies along the tubes length. So the tubes are thicker at the ends to give increased strength to the welded areas. The tubes are also thinner in the middle to reduce weight. Aluminium is a good choice for an entry level bike, its lightweight and aluminium doesn’t rust. So if you accidentally scratch or chip some of the paint, you don’t have to worry about rust penetrating into the frame or under the paint like a steel bike. Aluminium is also quite a stiff material and so the ride of an aluminium bike can feel quite harsh.
This is where carbon fibre frames comes in. Carbon fibre can be even lighter than aluminium, but more importantly, through the manufacturing processes of a carbon frame, areas can be made stiffer and other areas made more compliant. The result is that carbon frames are more supple and can soak up bumps and jolts very well, giving a much more comfortable (and therefore faster) ride than aluminium. Some bikes feature a blend of carbon and aluminium for frame materials. Carbon is used for areas of the frame like the seat stays to increase the comfort of the bike.
Generally road bike forks will be carbon, again carbon is very strong for its weight and doesn’t transmit vibration like aluminium. Cheaper carbon forks are usually bonded to an aluminium steerer tube, where as more expensive variants are 100% carbon fibre. A carbon steerer does save some weight but you have to be more careful when your tightening bolts as the carbon can be crushed quite easily.
As road bikes are designed for speed, mounts for mudguards and racks can be rare. If you are planning on using racks you should make sure that your bike has the right eyelets and mounts for your needs.
In summary, if carbon is an option for you then go for that, if not an aluminium frame will be just fine.
Generally and some what traditionally, road bikes come with caliper rim brakes. However, there has been a move over the past few years to introduce disc brakes to road bikes. If you’re buying a road bike for commuting there are pros and cons to either option.
Disc brakes offer the more stopping power and consistent braking in wet and dry conditions, but they are more expensive, harder to maintain and reduce your options for wheel upgrades.
Caliper rim brakes on the other hand, are cheaper, easier to maintain, normally work with which ever wheel you want and provide good stopping power in the dry but can suffer when its wet or mucky conditions.
When considering this choice for a road bike for commuting neither options are a bad choice. There’s no clear winner here, it’s just down to personal preference.
The groupset of a bike is gearing and drive transmission of the bike (some people include the brakes too). The top three groupset manufacturers for road bikes are Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. Shimano and SRAM groupsets are by far the most common on road bikes from the majority of manufacturers, with Campgnolo appearing on a select few.
The different manufacturers produce a range of groupsets to cater for different price brackets, bike weights and performance levels. The more expensive groupsets provide slicker shifting, more sprockets on the rear cassette – 10 or 11 rather than 8 or 9, and an overall lighter weight. We’ve pulled together a little table to show the hierarchies of the different manufacturers groupsets.
|Pro Race||Dura Ace||Red||Super Record|
|Entry Level Performance||Sora||Athena|
If you’re considering a road bike for commuting, it’s important to remember that the number of gears is less important than the gear range. If you have a hilly commute or find hills really tough, look for the biggest rear sprocket you can find and/or a compact of chainset. The best buying advice, is to go for the best groupset you can afford. The groupset will make a big difference to your enjoyment and speed
Your bike wheels are the contact point between your bike and the ground so they can have quite an impact on the riding characteristics of your bike. Road bikes tend to have lightweight wheels, and as with most components as the weight comes down the price goes up. Entry level wheels usually feature alloy rims, hubs and spokes and as the wheels get lighter the materials move from alloy on to carbon (the most expensive wheels even have carbon spokes!).
There are three main rim profiles for road bikes, shallow section, mid section and deep section.
Shallow section wheels are common on entry level bikes and are great all round wheels, they are affordable, comfortable and offer good strength to weight ratio.
Deep section rims have improved aerodynamics and allow you to cut through the wind with ease. They are generally suited to fast flat riding as this is where the aerodynamics really makes a difference. To keep the weight down, deep section rims are usually made from carbon which in turn makes them pretty expensive however the cost of carbon wheels is reducing all the time.
Mid section wheels are becoming more and more common and as the name suggests they are the middle ground between shallow and deep section rims. These wheels are aimed at having the best of both worlds, lightweight wheels good for climbing, with good aerodynamics for speed on the flats.
Road bike wheels also have different also have different tyre seating options. Clincher tyres are by far the most common and are what most people are used to. This is where the bead of the tyre sits underneath the bead seat of the rim and there is an inflated inner tube inside the tyre for pressure.
However, tubeless wheels (sometimes referred to as two way fit) are increasing in popularity. These wheels don’t use an inner tube as the rim and tyre are designed to make an airtight seal. This usually adds a little weight as there is extra material required on the rim to provide an airtight seal for the special tubeless tyres. Pinch punctures are much less likely on tubeless wheels because of the lack of an inner tube.
Tubular wheels use tubular tyres where the inner tube is stitched inside the tyre which is in turn glued onto the rim. This means the rim doesn’t need a bead seat which can reduce the weight however in the event of a puncture they are more difficult to change. Tubular tyres (or tubs) are rarely seen on retail bikes and tend to only be used by racers.
Tyre size road bike tyres range from 23mm to 30mm in width. Traditionally 23mm width was seen as the standard as it was thought narrow meant improved aerodynamics and therefore increased speed. Modern research has bucked this trend and shown that wider tyres offer reduced rolling resistances. Now, 25mm and 28mm tyres are now common on major brands bikes but also on the bikes of the professionals. Wider tyres can be run at lower pressures than their narrow counter parts giving a more comfortable ride and increased puncture protections. This could be a big advantage on a road bike for commuting. Being late in because of a flat will not go down well.
If you’re looking for a bike for a long distance, all tarmac commute a road bike for commuting could be ideal. Although they might not have the same luggage capacity as a touring bike, road bikes are designed with speed in mind so you can commute further for longer. As an added bonus, with a road bike, you can more easily get involved in sportives and club rides at the weekends.