Most reviewers discuss road bikes by breaking them down into categories based on price or geometry. The most affordable road bikes cost less than $1,500 and typically have an upright, relaxed geometry that's comfortable for new riders. They usually sport aluminum frames and have cheaper components to keep prices in check.
Road bikes costing more than $1,500 are designed for enthusiasts or aspiring racers who are willing to spend more for better performance. At the low end, these bikes have aluminum frames with weight-saving carbon forks and mid-range components. Closer to $2,000, it's increasingly easier to find bikes with full-carbon frames, which are lighter and absorb more road vibration than their aluminum counterparts. Bikes in this price range either have an aggressive, race-oriented geometry for aspiring racers or a more upright ride (sometimes called "plush" bikes) for those who participate in endurance road rides or touring.
At the high end, you can spend $3,000 to more than $10,000 for a serious road bike. These are the lightest bikes and have top-of-the-line components. Carbon frames are standard in this price range, but some pricey road bikes feature lightweight titanium frames. You can also find high-end time-trial and triathlon road bikes, which are designed to be fast and aerodynamic. We don't cover these bikes because they don't receive as much attention from reviewers, but VeloNews magazine offers good coverage of these bikes in its annual buyer's guide.
Experts say fit is very important in selecting a road bike, so start your search at a bike shop for a proper fitting. Before you go, determine how much you're willing to spend. That'll depend on your personal finances and how you intend to use the bike; road bikes for beginners and general riders cost much less than bikes for competitive cyclists. When you get to the shop, tell the staff you want to see several different bikes in your price range. In addition, keep the following in mind when shopping for a new road bike: