Ready to start road riding?
Welcome! I think road cycling is absolutely the best sport in the world.
bTo help you get started, I have reviewed a bunch of bikes and lined out some of the best beginner road bikes on the market.
My reviews are different from most of the bloggers since I actually ride several times a week. I also worked in a bicycle shop and stay pretty close to the industry, even attending some of the big product events every year (I love seeing the new toys!)
I have a separate post that discusses the most affordable road bikes. This post assumes you are more serious about riding road for distance, and, while there is some overlap, I’ve worried less about price and more about getting you a bicycle that will start you out right.
- Here Are The Top Entry-Level Bikes You Can Have Shipped Directly To You:
- What You Need To Know Before You Buy Your First Road Bike
Here Are The Top Entry-Level Bikes You Can Have Shipped Directly To You:
|Model||Frame Type||Bike Style|
|Steilacoom CCX Road Bike||Aluminum||Cyclocross|
|Jamis Xenith Endura Bike||Carbon fiber||Road|
|Orbea Avant Hydro Bicycle||Aluminum||Road|
|Kona Honky Tonk 700c||Steel||Road|
|Giordano Libero 1.6 Bike||Aluminum||Touring|
|Vilano Shadow Bicycle||Aluminum||Road|
Unlike the other review which only focuses on the absolute cheapest road bikes out there, this review is setting the bar higher.
For this review, I am only going to review those that would be equal to or better than a bike-store-quality bike.
You may not realize this, but the difference between a bike you buy at your local bike shop, and one that you purchase from a big box store (like Walmart) is huge. Bike-store-quality ones are stronger, lighter and designed to fit the rider better. This means that they will not only last longer, they are easier to pedal and are less likely to inflict permanent injury in the form of strained lower back muscles or carpal tunnel.
One of the competing blogs is quick to recommend the GMC Denali. It’s bloggers like this who make me passionate about my work. Clearly, this blogger has never ridden a century. He or she has never seen a new rider give up because of crap equipment. This blog article is going to fix that.
I’ve often had people argue with me over the importance quality. I know that when you are just looking at price tags and pictures it is difficult to understand why a higher-priced bike is worth the expense. If that describes you, then stop by your local shop (or ask your friend who has a road bike), and try one.
The quality and comfort difference is night and day.
After all, if you want to get into road riding, you are probably rather serious about your fitness, and will likely be putting significant number miles on your steed every year.
Caution: this article starts off with some more expensive rides. But if you go lower, we also have some budget-friendly options.
#1 Best All-Around Road Bike For Beginners: Steilacoom CCX
I want to start off this list by reviewing a slightly different bike called a cyclocross. These are basically road bikes, but they are designed with wider, knobbier tires that are excellent for driving on dirt, mud, and gravel.
You see, most beginning cyclists that I speak with are concerned that they may not take cycling seriously. They worry about spending all of this money and then ending up with a bike that they never use.
A cyclocross bike helps to alleviate this worry because it is so versatile.
You can mount skinny road tires on it and ride the heck out of it on the road. Or you can leave the knobbies on, and appreciate the flexibility to ride on gravel roads, off road, and in the mud with less worry about flats. You can use it for fitness, or commuting, or touring, or for completing your first century ride.
You’ll almost have to fight to NOT ride this bike.
This means in the winter, when it the cold weather makes road riding too brutal, you can opt for the more sheltered, tree-lined, converted railway bed trail or back-country road. You can even enter one of the many cyclocross races that spring up every winter.
Here’s What A Cyclocross Race Looks Like. Muddy and Fun!
And if you give up on cycling entirely, you can still use it for commuting (or use it’s versatility as a benefit when selling it on your local craigslist listing!)
The double-butted 6061 aluminum frame is strong enough for some of the heaviest riders, and the durable enough to handle the rough terrain of the off-road cyclocross circuit. Plus, the 6061 aluminum is a little more “cushy” than the stiff 7005 aluminum, making for a more comfortable ride.
I also love the fact that they went with top-of-the-line wheels and a carbon fork setup. you don’t typically see beginner road bikes with these features, and the fact that the Steilacoom has it makes it an excellent deal.
Finally, it uses the 10 speed Shimano 105 system which has an excellent track-record of being one of the most reliable shifting mechanisms on the market. It shifts smoothly, without all of those frustrating mis-shifts that can be frustrating. Plus, the compact gearing provides you with a wide range of speeds to give you the leverage you need for those tall hills.
Bottom line is, Steilacoom is an excellent value and offers a lot of versatility to ensure the bike will be able to always meet your cycling needs.
#2 Jamis Xenith Endura Sports Bike — 2015 Closeout!
I shared the bright green, but I love the carbon fiber gray that is also available. Just lick the image above to look at it.
While I update this post on a quarterly basis, I have no issues with recommending a 2015 model to my 2017 readers. This is an excellent bike with excellent specs and every reader who nabs this ride is going to be purchasing one heck of a deal.
This bike is the raciest model on our list. It is lightweight, made of carbon fiber, and worth way more than what it is currently on sale for. I could easily list it as number 1. In fact, the only two reasons I am listing it on my list at #2 is that A) it is going to be more expensive than most of my readers wants to pay and B) I know everyone is going to buy one and then I have to find something else to recommend. This is your reward for reading my article more deeply.
The full carbon frame should be enough of a selling point. Carbon fiber absorbs the road vibrations and makes for a comfortable ride. It is also very lightweight which is something you’ll appreciate on every hill climb.
The Shimano Tiagra gearing is the highest end you can buy without going into the race-level componentry. It also has a compact gear which means you have as much gearing range as a bike with 10 more gears.
If you are not into cycling, you may not understand just how incredible this ride is. I get that. Skip on down to the Giordano.
But if you are serious about this sport, this bike is going to impress the hell out of every other rider at your local club. And it’s a machine that you are going to look forward to riding.
#3 Orbea Avant Hydro Road Bike
Orbea is one of those old brands that you should have heard of, but you probably haven’t.
I was in the industry for 2 years before I saw my first Orbea.
But, as you can see, they are beautiful. So beautiful. The lines are so smooth and the entire bike is a work of art.
Those beautiful curves serve another role: they help create a natural “springiness” to help deliver a more comfortable ride.
This is another one of those that should be out of the price range for most beginners. But if you choose the lowest spec option, you are getting a well-built machine that could likely be the last bicycle you ever need to buy. These babies are built to go the distance.
I did rank the Jamis higher, but, in reality, these two rides are pretty neck and neck. The only difference is that the Jamis offers a Carbon Fiber frame which is a significant advantage over the Orbea’s hydroformed Aluminum setup.
Once again, this ride is a little pricier than most new riders want to spend. But, if you can swing it, this bike is an excellent machine and one that will pay for itself in ride quality over and over.
#4 Kona Honky Tonk 700c Bike
I LOVE finding deals like this. The only downside is that as soon as I write about it, you guys are going to clean them out and I’ll have to go find a new bike for you guys.
The Kona is a well-respected brand and they invest a lot in perfecting their style. In a world of grays, blacks, reds and yellows, Kona is the company who shows up with a vibrant blue and challenges the notion of the entire cycling industry.
Sometimes they get too far in the lead with their style choices and end up with left-over bikes.
Their loss. Your gain.
The Honky Tonk has it where it counts. There is a wide variety of differently-sized frames so that you can purchase the size that is going to fit right. Fit is the most important thing, so make sure to buy the one that is going to fit you. (We’re down to 54cm [5’6″ to 5’8″] and 56cm [5’9″ to 5’11”] sizes in stock).
Even more importantly, these frames are designed with a slightly more upright position for lower back comfort. I won’t get into the technical details, but in cycling history that has only been one bike design for road riders: uncomfortable. Recently, we figured out that you can tweak the frame and deliver a “comfort” road position that is still aerodynamic.
Secondly, you have the Shimano Sora 9 speed integrated shifters. nIntegrated shifters are that sweet brake/shifter combo that lets you do both at the same time. When seconds count, you are going to love these. The Shimano Sora line is one of the best designs they’ve made, and hundreds of thousands of cyclists have ridden millions of miles on them.
The other big win with this bike is the reinforced rims. These wheels have an extra strip of metal installed to create a wheel that can handle the extra weight of aggressive daily commutes.
It’s these types of details that new riders don’t realize they should ask about.
That doesn’t matter because this bike thought of everything.
The only “downside” is that it is a steel frame. It is heavier than the Steilacoom reviewed above. Steel is heavier, that is all there is to it.
However, steel also gives you a more comfortable ride. Steel absorbs the aggressive jarring from bumps and potholes, making all-day rides more comfortable. People who do long tours such as rides across America, typically choose steel frames for their comfort.
Steel also lasts forever. This is the kind of frame that you could ride the rest of your life and just replace parts as they wear out. It is not only an excellent selection for beginners, it may be the last bike you ever need to buy.
#5 Giordano Libero Bicycle
Here we get to the budget models. But this model is not going to disappoint. Ranked #6 on out ”
Ranked #6 on out “Best Cheap Road Bikes” article, the Giordano Libero is probably the top pick for most of my readers.
The Giordano is a solid package. Right now, they are the cheapest bike on Amazon that has STI shifters. (see: What are STI Shifters?). Basically, that means that you’ve finally reached the quality of components where you won’t constantly be fighting with your bike and you can actually enjoy riding it.
You may notice that it only has 16-speeds. Don’t worry about that. They’ve adjusted the gearing on this bike so that you still get plenty of both low and high ranges so that you won’t get stranded next time you try to climb a “mountain” (all hills qualify for this designation when you are starting out).
However, these 16-speed systems shift much better than the cheaply made 24 speed systems.
Less is more, in this case.
Probably the best feature about this bike is that it has one of the lightest frames for the money. Most of the other ones in this price range will offer lower-quality shifting and combine it with a heavy aluminum or steel frame in order to protect their profit margins as much as possible. However, the Giordano still uses a 6061 Aluminum and weighs in at the low 30-pound range.
What I don’t like about the Giordano is that they expect 3 bike sizes to fit the whole world. And, sure, they will be able to fit most of us. But, as I study the charts, I’m going to try to scare people under 5’4″ and over 6’4″ away from this bike. I just don’t see how you could ride this sizing and be comfortable.
In addition, if you have back pain or other tweaks you are trying to work around, you might step up to the Vilano.
However, if you are excited to start riding, but are working inside a tight budget, you aren’t going to find a better bike for the money.
20 inches = 5’1″ – 5’8″
22 inches = 5’8″ – 6’0″
24 inches = 6’2″+
#6 Vilano Shadow Road Bike
However, I am very pleased with the Vilano Shadow. I’ve been seeing more of these around town, and I am impressed by how well they ride, and the kind of abuse they can handle.
With the Shadow you have STI — or Shimano Total-Integrated – shifters. And I love these because your hands stay on the handles at all times. The same lever that brakes you also shifts you. This gives you incredible control in any situation. Additionally, these are the industry-standard shifter and they seem to hold up well.
Secondly, I love how they built this bike with double-wall wheels. This is something that you see a lot of bikes skimp on, and instead of skimping, they went with the reinforced model. This is especially important if you are over 200 pounds, or if you expect to do a lot of urban riding. The wheel upgrade alone is worth an easy $120 alone. Plus, those Kenda tires should hold up nicely for about 2,000 miles.
Finally, I like how Vilano designs the geometry of their bikes. It’s a comfortable fit that is easy to adjust to your liking. You should have no problem finding your size among their bikes.
My only caution is that these bikes tend to need a lot of assembly. Sure, they make it sound easy, but you are likely going to need to fine-tune the shifting and brakes, and it’s not uncommon to need to tighten a head or do some other small adjustment (based on feedback from some of my readers.)
My recommendation would be to schedule a bike build at your local shop. You can order it online and drop it off at your shop and you’ll get a solid road bike that is assembled properly.
50 cm = 5’2″ – 5’4″
54 cm = 5’5″ – 5’10″
58 cm = 5’11″ – 6’1
#7 Felt F95
I’ve been running this blog since 2013.
And no matter how much the local shops complain about how competitive the online world is getting, I am finding it harder and harder to locate bikes to recommend.
So much of what is being sold online is of frustratingly poor quality.
Today, however, I’m pleased to introduce the Felt F95.
The Felt is an excellent brand. One of my personal favorites, actually. They seem to last well and are 100% compatible with the parts your local bike shop keeps in stock.
They even sponsor their own racing teams.
In other words, you aren’t buying some knock-off brand. You are purchasing a top-notch brand that the pros have come to rely on, backed by a company that has a top-notch warranty program.
As with any company, there are different levels of products that Shimano produces. The Shimano Sora is one of the more entry-level systems but has a long track record of not breaking. I’ve worked on Shimano shifters that are 15 years old, and some of the Sora shifters that I sold 8 years ago are still on the road without having been repaired.
So what’s the difference between this and a higher-end (more expensive) bike?
It’s the little things. You end up spending more to get a lighter bike that shifts more smoothly. For the rider who is spending thousands of miles in the saddle each year, these are important considerations.
For the rider who is just starting out, this is an excellent choice to get you pedaling. It may be the only bike you ever need.
It also uses Aluminum for the main part of its frame, which makes it much lighter, and I really like how responsive it is when you ride it. These Felt bikes feel like a race bike.
The wheels are higher-quality, and those little “insignificant” parts — like the crankset — have been upgraded to Shimano. (Too often companies like to use off-brands for the front cranks, and it has been my experience that the off-brand stuff doesn’t work as nicely with the name-brand equipment.)
This one is set up to be one of the easiest shifting rides you’ll ever own.
And, we’ve got to mention that carbon fork. Carbon forks help to absorb road chatter to make it easier on your hands. This bike has that, which you’ll appreciate on long rides.
Bottom line is that there are enough upgrades in quality, durability, and ride-ability, that I think it is worth the extra that you’ll end up spending. You’ll make that back on the lower maintenance costs, alone. Plus, the upgrades make this one a whole lot more fun to ride.
Suggested Frame Sizing:
50cm = 5’3″-5’5″
52cm = 5’5″-5’7″
54cm = 5’7″-5’9″
56cm = 5’9″-5’11”
58cm = 5’11”-6’2″
60cm = 6’1″-6’3″
What You Need To Know Before You Buy Your First Road Bike
DIY Sizing and Fit For Your First Road Bike
The most important thing, is getting the fit correct.
And incorrectly fitting bicycle is not only uncomfortable, it can cause carpal tunnel and back injuries during repeated long rides.
Not to mention a poorly fitting machine is hard to ride. It is hard to motivate yourself to exercise on something that is unnecessarily painful.
Fit is everything. Don’t buy a wrong-sized bike simply because it is a good deal!
Bikes are normally measured from the middle of the cranks up to the top of the seat tube and the size is then denoted in centimeters.
However, when that size changes, the top tube length — or reach to the handlebars — should also change. The idea is, you want one that will not require you to have so much seat sticking out of the tube that it is tipping you over onto your hands (too small) or so tall a bike that you are bent too far over trying to reach the handlebars (too large).
When fitting yourself to your road bike, you want to raise the seat so that when the pedal is at the bottom of its stroke and you place your leg on it, there is just a slight (20-degree) bend in your knee. Too many people leave their seats too low or too high and this leads to knee pain and early leg fatigue.
Then, when you place your hands on the top of the brake hood and look down at the front wheel, the handlebar should obscure the front axle of the wheel. This fitting is a more arbitrary measurement, however, and the upper body fit should be adjusted as much as you need until you are comfortable.
Here is the basic road bike sizing guidelines:
50cm = 5’3″-5’5″
52cm = 5’5″-5’7″
54cm = 5’7″-5’9″
56cm = 5’9″-5’11″
58cm = 5’11″-6’2″
60cm = 6’1″-6’3″
What Makes A Road Bike Different?
Road bikes are different from other bicycles because they’re lighter, and use narrower tires. Furthermore, they put the rider in a more aerodynamic position, which helps immensely with wind resistance.
If you have never ridden a road bike before, you will be amazed how much faster they are. With the tiniest of effort, you can be pedaling 5 to 6 miles per hour faster than you would be on a mountain bike. Twelve to fourteen mile per hour averages are the norm, even for beginning cyclists.
For long distance road efforts, there is no comparison.
Get Good Components
Get good-quality parts. That’s where this review comes in. You’ll want a setup that is going to last 3 years without major repairs. Most of the ones on this list are still going to be working as smooth as butter a decade from now.
Sure, you don’t want to spend too much on this sport until you know just how much you want to ride. I get that. However, I think we can find a happy medium. And whether or not you decide to continue in the sport, these bikes should maintain good resale value for listing on eBay or Craigslist.
Start pedaling. Burn Calories. Make Friends With Other “Roadies”. Ride further than you ever thought possible. That is what road riding is all about.
Have It Professionally Assembled
These bikes come mostly assembled, but you will need to adjust the brake and shift cables. If that is something you haven’t done before, it can be really frustrating to figure it out.
Most shops will assemble the bike out of the box for around $75. It is money well spent in order to get it right.
Or, you can try to do it yourself, and then take it in if you can’t figure it out. You can sometimes save money by assembling it and then just taking it in to have whatever gears and brakes adjusted that you were unable to figure out. Typically these gear adjustments and tuneups run in the $40-60 range.
Most of these bikes have a “break-in” period. After riding it about 100 miles or so, you will notice that some of the cables have stretched and need to be re-adjusted. That is completely normal. Just make an appointment with your local shop to get them re-adjusted. After everything is broken in, it should only need adjustments every year or two.