We Know: All About Buying a Racing Bike

What are the most important things to remember about buying a racing bike?

Racing bicycles are specially designed, first, to adhere to the rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the premier organization for bicycle racing; and second, to be as light as possible while keeping the rider as aerodynamic as possible. Drop handlebars with optional extensions and a raised seat keep the rider as close to parallel to the road as possible, decreasing the area of his or her body that can contribute to drag and slow the bike. In proportion to other bikes, the front and rear tires are closer together, enabling the bike to turn more efficiently, and gears are set more closely together than in standard bikes so that the experienced cyclist can pedal at his or her optimum pace.

Racing bikes are highly specialized, and professionals depend on their bikes being set to their optimum performance specifications. The loss of a bike prior to or in a race can make the difference between winning and coming in last.

Are there different types of racing bikes?

The three primary types of racing bikes are track bicycles, designed for indoor racing; mountain bikes, designed for racing offroad; cyclo-cross or cycle speedway bicycles, for long-distance outdoor racing on a regular track; and recumbent bicycles, which are categorically excluded from the UCI regulations but which are the fastest bicycles in the world.

Who are the best manufacturers of racing bikes?

Many professional cyclists swear by custom-made bicycles, but these can cost thousands of dollars. Manufacturers who make most professional racing bikes include:.

  • Cyfac
  • Raleigh

It's not only the bike manufacturer that's important. The manufacturer of the components of the bike can be just as crucial. Some of the best include:

  • Shimano
  • Campagnolo
  • Full Speed Ahead
  • SRAM

Components together (excluding frameset, fork, wheelset, bars, stem, pedals, seat, and seatpost) are called the groupset. High-quality groupsets purchased from the above component makers are what make a really good racing bike.


What else is important to a racing bike?

The wheelset is crucial. The more easily they spin and less friction on all surfaces they have, the faster the bike will go. Because steep grades need some friction but less weight, different types of wheelsets may be used for hill-climbing as opposed to flat surfaces. Other factors affecting your wheelset's performance include:

  • Low number of wheelspokes -- this reduces weight and friction, but too few can result in weakened wheels.
  • Thin, smooth tires to reduce air resistance and road friction; tires are inflated to high pressures, sometimes as high as 210 PSI. The best racing tires are sewn to the tube and glued to the rim, but standard clincher or beaded tires are getting better.
  • As much aluminum in the body as possible without sacrificing frame strength. Wheel rims are generally a high-quality aluminum alloy.

What are the UCI's specific requirements?

  • The bike must be a vehicle with a front wheel steered by a handlebar and a rear wheel driven by a system comprising pedals and a chain by the legs moving in a circular movement,
  • The wheels must be of equal diameter, between 70 cm and 55 cm, and must have minimum 12 spokes.
  • The bike's maximum length should be 185 cm, and maximum width 50 cm.
  • The bike's minimum weight should be 6.8 kg.
  • The peak of the saddle must be at least 5 cm behind a vertical plane passing through the bottom bracket spindle.
  • The saddle must be between 24 cm and 30 cm in length.
  • The distance between the bottom bracket spindle and the ground must be between 24 cm and 30 cm.
  • The distance between the vertical passing through the lower bracket spindle and the front wheel spindle must be between 54 cm and 65 cm.
  • The distance between the vertical passing through the bottom bracket spindle and the rear wheel spindle must be between 35 cm and 50 cm.
  • The maximum internal distance between the front fork ends is 10.5 cm, and of the rear stays 13.5 cm.
  • The frame must be built around a main triangle, constructed of tubular elements (that may have non-circular cross-sections) such that the form of each encloses a straight line.

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