Road Bike Categories

Once upon a time bicycles had a frame, a drivetrain two wheels and all did pretty much the same thing, but just as mountain bikes have become very distinct machines to their tarmac beating brethren road bikes have also started to form their own distinct sub categories.

Alongside your traditional drop bar, stiff frame, drop bar hill climbing machine you can find bikes with 650b tyres for tackling firetrails and ultra sculpted wundermachines for destroying Strava PBs.

On Crank Boutique we list and compare machines across the following categories: Aero, CX, Endurance, Gravel, Race and TT.

Aero Bikes

What is an Aero Bike?

The Aero in Aero bike is unsurprisingly short for aerodynamic and refers to bikes that are specifically designed to overcome wind resistance. These design features including specific sculpting of frames to reduce drag, aerodynamically shaped handlebars and specific wheelsets. Traditionally these innovations were borrowed from the world of Time Trails (TT) and accordingly the penalties of aerodynamic gains were a heavier bike and a lack of comfort.

Over the last couple of years, bike manufacturers have been working to reduce these penalties and improve the all round performance of these bikes with the help of the major UCI teams. The prevelance of these bikes was especially noticable during the 2018 tour with more than half of stage wins coming on “aero bikes” – of course a few of these were provided by man/machine Peter Sagan.

Into 2019, the latest models include specific comfort enhancing features (see Trek IsoSpeed) and are more accessible than ever. Although these bikes are still very much about marginal gains – those of us with more mere mortal speeds may need to train more or try a different bike.

Key aero models from brands on Crank Boutique include:

Best Aero Bikes 2019

Trek Madone

LaPierre Aircode

Specialized Venge

Scott Foil

Orbea Orca Aero

Giant Propel

CX Bikes

What is a Cyclocross (CX) bike?

Cross originated in Europe as a way for racers to stay fit during the winter, but of course as the sport has grown and technology has evolved CX bikes have started to evolve away from their asphalt loving cousins, especially as the sport has started to borrow some of the technology and standards from the world of cross country mountain biking.

CX bikes tend to have a slightly longer wheelbase, a higher BB and have broader flared bars compared to roadbikes and toptubes designed for more comfortable shouldering. Borrowing from the world of MTB, wider rims, bigger nobbly tyres and even 1x drivetrains. All technology designed to barrel through mud at warp speed while staying upright and keeping mechanical issues to a minimum.

Into 2019 and CX bikes have wholesale adopted disc brakes and through axles with carbon and aluminium continuing to be the mainstay frame materials. Here’s some of our picks:

Best CX Bikes 2019

Specialized Crux

Cannondale CAADX

Giant TCX

Focus Mares

Trek Boone

Endurance Bikes

What is an Endurance Bike?

Endurance or Sportive bikes have traditionally been “softer” versions of their race orientated road cousins meant for all day riding and use in non-competitive road events.

Endurance bikes have some broad modifications to make them more comfortable including the ability to take bigger tyres, more compliant frames, a more relaxed riding position and longer wheelbase. As Endurance bikes were generally designed for non-competitive use, disc brakes also became the standard. All of these help to make for a more pleasant day in the saddle and are also great if you live in an area with less than perfect roads or suffer from discomfort when riding more traditional geometry.

As with many sub categories, these definitions have blurred into 2019, especially with the UCI now allowing discs in races. It should also be noted the while the new school of endurance bikes are not designed to be hill whippets that race bikes are they are no less capable in many ways and you can expect to see both incredible performance and value from many brands.

Here are some of our picks for 2019:

Best Endurance Bikes 2019

Focus Paralane

Giant Defy

Cannondale Synapse

Canyon Endurance

Specialized Roubaix

Gravel Bikes

What is a Gravel Bike?

As long as road bikes have existed, riders have been pushing them beyond what they were designed for. For some hardy souls this has meant trying to strap bags to the frame, fitting bigger tyres and heading out into the unknown and trails usually reserved for goats and mountain bikes. Over the last couple of years the idea of taking a drop bar bike off the beaten track has taken off and many of the major manufacturers now offer their own models alongside the more boutique brands.

A gravel bike generally sits somewhere between a CX rocket in the mud and Endurance all day comfort – think lower BB, more relaxed geometry, 1x groupsets as common as 2x and disc brakes. Where Gravel bikes differ to their mud loving CX cousins is in the width of the rubber and the utility – many gravel bikes will come with multiple bottle and panier mounts as well as the ability to take up to 700c 45mm or even 650b (27.5″) MTB tyres.

With the dust settled on this year’s releases from the biggest bike brands, “Gravel” seems to be the stickiest name for the category but expect to see plenty of brands going with “All Road” and “Adventure” too. As the name isn’t quite set, the standards in this least standard of categories are set either – Canyon being the latest big brand to stir the pot with a dedicated frame and a unique stacked handlebar.

Find some of our choices in the links below:

Best Gravel Bikes 2019

Canyon Grail

Trek Checkpoint

Specialized Diverge

GT Grade

Cannondale Topstone

Jamis Renegade

Race Bikes

What is a Race Bike?

Ask your average person to describe a road bike and they’ll probably say something about harsh rides, skinny tyres and made to go really, really fast. While the latter is still absolutely true, there been a huge amount of progression over the years on the former as well as co-opting technology and characteristics from other categories.

Race bikes into 2019 for the most part retain their stiffness and short wheelbases, but many have started to co-op aero technology into their frames. Also much has been done to increase comfort – this has been partially driven by the acceptance of wider tyres (25-28mm over the traditional 23mm) but there have also been other innovations including wider and more innovative seatposts. Since disc brakes have now been officially sanctioned by the UCI, many manufacturers are developing frames specifically for discs with many riders happy to trade a slight weight penalty for a n increase in stopping power. Also on higher end models, expect to see carbon components a plenty, including bars, cranks and wheelsets.

Carbon has been top end choice of brands for years, but more brands are starting to warm back up to Aluminium. Cannondale of course have been a proponent of high end metal bikes for years, but 2019 is starting to see other brands warm to the idea – see Trek’s newest Emonda ALR for proof of just how good an alu bike can look and perform. There’s also been a proliferation of smaller brands offering other frame materials for race orientated bikes including steel and titanium – although expect to pay a premium in weight for the former and cost for the latter.

Here’s a pick of some of the team’s favourites:

Best Race Bikes 2019

Giant TCR

Scott Addict

Specialized Tarmac

Focus Izalco Race

Orbea Orca

Trek Emonda ALR

Cannondale CAAD12

Canyon Ultimate

LaPierre Xelius

TT & Tri Bikes

What are TT & Tri Bikes?

So first up an admission – there are some differences between TT and Triathlon bikes which we’ll cover below. That said there have been a couple of key developments that have brought these disciplines closer together. Firstly, TT bikes fall under UCI rules and Tri bikes don’t – TT bikes have for many years had to follow a strict geometry ratio however those rules have been relaxed. Secondly, the R&D and specialisation of Tri and TT bikes means that they are both expensive to develop and expensive to purchase – there are advantages for manufacturers and consumers in bikes that can fulfil the needs of both disciplines.

So what are the differences? Both disciplines are fairly single minded with a devotion to going fast for long periods of time on flat or undulating terrain. Both times of bikes are designed to be highly aerodynamic and be light as possible – hence the heavy use of carbon fibre, incredibly sculpted and sometimes out there frame and rider positions that you would never have on an average road bike. For these reasons tri and TT bikes are generally sub par when it comes to general road riding as the bike nor rider position favour ascending descending or turning quickly.

In terms of the Tri and Tri bikes going into 2019 many manufacturers are making common frames with adjustable components – especially the handlebar and seat/post layout to ensure that the bikes are compliant for both disciplines. Many manufacturers will also now provide dedicated add ons – e.g. storage and hydration boxes – for these bikes. Of course there are still manufacturers that are providing dedicated machines invoking some truly amazing and innovative designs – see the Cervelo P5X as an example.

Best TT & Tri Bikes 2019

Canyon Speedmax

Cervelo P5X

Giant Trinity

Scott Plasma

BMC Time Machine