Looking for the best road bikes? Read our in-depth road bike reviews, comparison charts and top picks for 2017 to help you make the right buying decision.
If you are looking for the absolute best regarding performance, comfort, and speed, then the clear winner is the Kestrel Talon Full Carbon Road Bike. This is designed to give you that ‘competitive edge’.
However, if you need something affordable to make your daily commutes a lot easier, then the Schwinn Phocus 1600 earns our tag for ‘best beginner road bike.’
Buying the perfect bike be it a mountain bike or road bike is not an easy choice to make with so many options to choose from. Further, you need to consider different components and make sure that they work well together.
We have made the job easier for you. After testing over 20 road bikes from a varied range, we have narrowed down to the top 6. These are all around performers that combine comfort and performance and have all the firepower that will help you conquer the road.
Best Road Bikes for Triathletes and Competitive Prep
Kestrel Talon Full Carbon Road Bike – If you need to train hard and long, then the Talon, is the worst road bike out there. You get unmatched speed and performance.
Tommaso Monza Aluminum Tiagra Road Bike – However if you willing to compromise a bit on durability and the occasional visit to the bike shop is not big of an issue, then the Monza is another power performer.
Best Road Bikes for Daily Commuters
Vilano Forza 2.0 – With the premium price tag, you get the best in class durability, and the overall performance would be more than enough for daily commutes. This bad boy is recommended for those of you are willing to pay for that ‘added thrill and comfort.
Schwinn Phocus 1600 – If you are just starting out and looking for an affordable ride, then you can’t go wrong the Phocus. A true “beginners bike”, it helps you learn, adapt and get better at riding.
Best Road Bikes: The Winners
In-Depth Road Bike Reviews for 2017
#1 Pick: Kestrel Talon Road Bike
The beast among road bikes, the Kestrel Talon combines an Aerodynamic design (thanks to a carbon fiber frame) and Shimano 105 groupset giving you a ride that is fast, efficient and comfortable.
The groupset helps you reach higher speeds with relative ease, the fork is built to absorb the shocks that you’ll encounter on your way and to top it all, lightweight design makes sure that you don’t get tired easily.
Let’s talk about that in detail –
The Frame and Fork
With the Talon, Kestrel provides incredible value to the rider. First up, the frame which is a hybrid of 800K and 700K Carbon fibers is lightweight but doesn’t compromise on support and durability.
How does this help?
With a lighter weight, the amount of energy spent to travel on the bike will be significantly lower. This means you can cover more miles by spending lesser amounts of energy.
Next, with an aerodynamic design, you can cut through the wind and reach high speeds, again without much effort.
The story remains the same with the fork. The A2 wind tunnel, which includes the stays, the seat post, and the seat tube, is designed to pass more wind than a normal road bike. (Again helping you with speeds).
Furthermore, the fork and the tube are made of aluminum, which provides better shock absorption.
Long story short, if you like to train hard and long, you will be able to bike faster and complete longer rides with less effort making your sessions less exhausting.
The Talon is powered by the acclaimed Shimano 105 groupset. We just love how effortlessly it is to shift on the 105. The ease is comparable to professional shifters used in Shimano Ultegra. Easier shifting is particularly helpful in curves where you have to make quick adjustments in speeds.
The braking is also top of the line. With quality calipers, you can brake more efficiently even in wet conditions.
Overall, the Shimano 105 groupset compliments the aerodynamic design and makes your ride a lot easier.
The major gripe we have with Talon is the substandard tires. The Vittoria Pro tires are not built for long miles and wear down fairly quickly. If you are planning to cover a lot of distance, you will have to upgrade to something more durable.
Also according to some riders, the bike seat is not the most comfortable (especially on longer sessions), but this will boil to your body structure and personal preference. (Not a big worry)
If you are looking for a bike to train on then, the Kestrel Talon is hands down the best you can get. With an aerodynamic design and better shifting you can reach higher speeds with less effort, the fork gives excellent shock absorption, and the overall build can handle long miles without much wear and tear.
Having said all that, this bike is not for everyone, and we will recommend this only if you are willing to make your training sessions more fruitful and enjoyable.
Need a road bike to train on under 1000$? Then, the Tommaso Monza is ‘the bike’ to get. It is a well-rounded bike with an aerodynamic design and state of the art Tiagra groupset. Here is more about this –
Frame and Fork
The ‘6061 SLA’ frame is made of aluminum. It is not as light as the Kestrel Talon but features a more aerodynamic design. This is one of the fastest road bikes when going downhill.
Also, the aluminum frame gives the bike added durability, and it can handle the occasional abuse.
The Carbon fork is the lightest among all our recommendations. This is paired with ‘TRS Ultralight’ bars which are designed to give comfort to the rider while accelerating.
If you are going to train on hills with multiple slopes and climbs, the Monza gives you one of the most comfortable and smooth rides.
The Monza boasts an impressive Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset. A younger brother to the 105, the Tiagra nails performance and precision. You get a total of 10 gears, and shifting is buttery smooth.
The design of the Tiagra 4700 groupset resembles the 105 in a lot of ways. This gives rider greater control over the bike, especially at higher speeds. The story remains the same with braking, and we were satisfied with both wet and dry conditions.
Overall, the only major difference between the 105 and the Tiagra groupset is the weight, and the latter is a bit heavier. However, considering the price, you are getting a pretty badass groupset.
This is not an easy bike to assemble for a beginner, and we will recommend using professional guidance to avoid any mishaps on your first ride.
The only component which is not as per our liking is the pedal. They are cheap and won’t handle the long miles. This is because the pedals resemble the ones you find on a regular commuting bike. Overall it is highly recommended to upgrade to better and more reliable pedals.
With a lightweight frame and aerodynamic design, the bike is designed for the ‘fitness enthusiasts’. And the latest Shimano Tiagra groupset makes it a complete steal at its price.
If you are on a budget but don’t want to compromise on performance, then the Tommaso Monza will be a great buy.
#3 Pick: Schwinn Phocus 1600 Men’s Road Bike 700C (best budget Pick)
If you are buying the first bike of your life, it is understandable that you are not willing to spend close to 1000$ bucks on it. This is where a bike like Schwinn Phocus comes in. It is hands down the best you can get under 500$ and proves to be the best bang for your buck.
Frame and Fork
There is nothing crazy about the frame and the fork. The aluminum frame can handle the occasional bumps on the road while the carbon fiber fork being lightweight make your rides less tiring.
However, the quality is not of the highest standards and you won’t be able to go on frequent long rides without wear and tear.
It is perfect for shorter trips, and if your daily commute is in the range of 20-30 miles, then you have nothing to worry about.
Shimano Claris groupset is what you get with the Phocus. This is obviously no match for some of the high-end Shimano groupsets, but for absolute beginners, this can prove to a be a good learning experience.
Shifting gears and applying brakes takes effort, especially while you are climbing. If you are new to riding this helps you to get an understanding of gear ranges and what speed you can reach on what gear.
Next, the braking is not the most efficient, and we recommend being careful while going downhill or when it is raining.
Finally, the tires need an upgrade, right off the bat. The stock tires tend to slip a lot, and for a more stable ride, we recommend getting tires with a wider base.
Apart from the tires, there is nothing majorly wrong with the bike. For beginners who take smaller rides, this bike will continue to perform day after day.
But with time, upgrades would be necessary. Getting a better groupset like the Shimano 105 will make your climbs lot easier and will also make high-speed rides stable.
You can also upgrade the saddle, but a lot of beginners tend to stick with the stock one.
With the Schwinn Phocus 1600, you get what you pay for. With time you can upgrade to better components, but for a beginner on a tight budget, this is a no-brainer.
#4 Pick: Vilano Forza 2.0 Road Bike
If you are looking for a road bike that makes your daily commutes a lot more enjoyable, then you can’t go wrong with the Vilano Forza 2.0.
The lightweight fork makes your daily rides smoother and less tiring. Tiagra groupset combines durability and performance, and you can ride daily on this without a hiccup.
It is a tad on the expensive side, but it requires lesser upgrades and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance either. In the long run, it ends up saving you money, and you would absolutely love riding on this. (Pretty Darn Awesome!)
Frame and Fork
The frame is made of ‘6061 Double Butted Aluminium’ and borrows the design aesthetics from the Kestrel Talon. To add to that, you get 12k carbon fiber fork which is both lightweight and durable.
With the design and construction, the air resistance is significantly less, and riders can reach higher speeds with relative ease. Furthermore, the aluminum frame provides, best in class shock absorption. So if there are a few bumps on your daily route, the Forza 2.0 won’t let you feel the pain.
Overall, the frame and fork of the Forza 2.0, is perfect for your day to day commutes, but it can also handle those long rides on the weekend.
The Forza 2.0 runs on the Shimano Tiagra 9 speed groupset. This is not the latest in the Tiagra line but works well all around. You can shift easily, and the nine gears are more than enough for your daily commutes. With the triple crankset, you can climb without overly exerting yourself.
The braking is also buttery smooth and stopping abruptly on those busy city roads is not a problem. Even if it is raining outside, the grip provided by the wheels is unmatched.
The pedals provided won’t cause a problem on short trips, but if you are planning to make longer trips on the weekend, getting clipless pedals will make your rides less tiring.
The saddle on this thing is an absolute disaster and needs to be thrown into the trash straight away. We recommend buying the ‘Planet Bike Saddle’ which is a lot more comfortable and durable.
Next, the wheels need some tuning, and we recommend taking a few short trips before you go for an all-out weekend getaway.
Considering a price bracket of 900$ bucks, the Forza 2.0 is pricey considering that it is recommended for daily commutes. But when you compare it with a 500$ bike, it requires lesser upgrades, can handle longer miles and comes with a more durable construction.
This makes it an investment for the long run and you can easily clock over 1000 miles on this without a hiccup.
#5 Pick: Vilano Shadow Road Bike
Are you an occasional rider who likes to pick up his bike and indulge in a thrilling ride? Well, the Vilano Shadow makes that possible at a great price.
Borrowing its design from its older brothers, you can reach high speeds fairly effortlessly. The only compromise – durability!
Frame and Fork
The Shadow is quite similar to the Forza line when it comes to design. It also uses the same Double Butted Aluminum frame to make your rides more stable. The wind resistance is also on the lower side, which is quite rare for bikes at this price point.
On the downside, the clear compromise is made on quality and weight. You can’t stretch the Shadow for long rides because if you do the frame begins to crack.
Considering the price. However, we can’t expect the bike to be durable.
The Shimano A070 shifters provide the best gear transfer at the price and you can control and shift gears (at high speeds) with greater control. The braking, however, is below average and we won’t recommend riding it on city roads or rainy weather.
The tires also wear out with time, and flat tires cases will be quite frequent.
Finally, when you get it, take it to your local bike shop and get it tuned. Otherwise, your ride would be far from smooth.
If you like to take your bike out once a week and go on 10-mile sprint, then the Shadow has everything you’ll need. For daily use, however, you would have to make a lot of upgrades.
#6 Pick: Giordano Libero Acciao Road Bike
If you like to go on those camping trips and long rides, then with Libero Acciao, proves to be a good buy.
Frame and Fork
The steel frame and fork are quite durable, but this is somewhat of a standard among Giordano bikes. This is particularly helpful for those of you, who like to camp and ride. The steel frame can be used to carry around the luggage, and there would be no wear and tear. Secondly, it can handle the rough terrain that most campers but their bikes through.
Having said that, the whole construction is on the heavier side, and it will take considerable energy and effort to ride this thing if you add luggage.
It is equipped with one of the most basic groupsets Shimano has to offer. For the most parts, it gets the job done, but it will struggle while climbing. The power transfer is average and the rider really has to pedal hard to climb.
If you are going to climb a lot, then upgrading to Tiagra line of Shimano shifters is recommended. However, for flat terrains, there is nothing you need to worry about. And yes the extra effort will help you burn those calories too.
This can be used as a secondary road bike which can come in handy on your camping trips. We won’t recommend this for daily rides and plus the steel frame needs to be protected from rust.
The Ultimate Road Bike Buying Guide
Here is a quick rundown that will help you choose your first road bike. This will also explain how we have selected our recommendations, and where they stand out.
Identifying your Need?
For first time buyers, it is very important first to assess why you considering to buy a road bike. If you are looking for a solution that helps you get from point A to point B and proves to be the perfect alternative for your daily commutes, then you need something that is comfortable, cheap and durable.
However, if you are already into road bikes or need something to improve your fitness, then and aerodynamic bike with lightweight components is what you should look for in your bike.
Next – Your budget!
Once you know your need, consider what you are willing to pay for it. For daily commuters, you get most good bikes for under $500, but our top recommendation costs around 900$.
This is because this bike comes with a more durable construction which is a result of better frame and bike components. So with this, you won’t have to go to the local bike shop every other week and there won’t be a major need to upgrade. Long story short, this bike will last longer and be a lesser pain in the A.
However, if you are short on funds, we have recommended bikes that cost under 500 bucks. But with them be prepared for maintenance issues.
Fitness enthusiasts or those of you preparing for a competition, need to shell out more. Our top recommendation, the Kestrel Talon, costs over 1000$ but is completely worth it. With an aerodynamic design, the wind resistance is reduced and it helps you speed faster. It is also one of the lighter bikes out there which again makes your ride a lot smoother.
Bike Frames 101
Now that you know what to think before buying your first road bike… let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Bike Frames is what supports your bike, and the cost boils down to the material used in the frame. There are three major types of frames that you have to choose from and each of them has a purpose –
The cheapest of them all, steel was to go to material for road bikes till 1980. They can handle the most abuse but are also the heaviest. In today’s time, steel bikes are recommended only if you intend to do a lot of camping. They can be used to carry your luggage and will be able to handle rougher terrains.
Next in line, are aluminum frames. Aluminum frame bikes are recommended for daily commuters. They offer more comfort to the rider are also aesthetically appealing. One of our recommendation, the Vilano Forza comes in an aluminum frame but with a carbon fork. This leads to greater shock absorption (another necessity for a smooth ride).
Finally, the most expensive road bikes are made of carbon fiber. Being the lightest, they are recommended if you need something for fitness and training needs. They are also a little sensitive and need to handled with care.
Apart from the frame and the fork, all the other parts can be categorized into bike components.
There are three main components –
- Drivetrain (includes the crankset, gears, chains, and derailleurs).
- Brakes (including pedals) and handlebar.
Contrary to popular belief all these components are manufactured by different companies. For example, the drivetrains by Shimano are preferred by most professional riders. They are differentiated by price and features, but generally, the quality is synonymous with Shimano.
We don’t recommend beginners to look into technicalities of the bike components. Professional riders who build their bikes by assembling different components have a clear understanding of what they want.
In our recommendations, we have taken into different factors, and the bikes recommended perform well, all around.
So basically this ends the guide, and this should give you a broad overview of road bikes. So head over to our recommendations and pick one which fits your need and budget. If you have a specific doubt, feel free to comment it below, and our team will be answering that.
Have a great ride!