The racing bike has been designed so as to travel on paved roads. Its light weight and aerodynamics allow the rider to get to and keep very high speeds and are its most important features.
As they are generally intended for athletes and competitors, racing bikes have a very large number of gears which require the rider have a good basic training for climbing steep hills.
The racing bike is not suitable for cycling tourists or for those who like travelling by bike: in fact, the racing bike is not designed to have a rack and it’s not very comfortable because of its handlebars, aerodynamic position and very rigid frame.
That said, the racing bike is so fascinating that it’s considered to be the most beloved bike model and a very good companion for your adventures (with some small modifications!) for all of our trips.
Now we’re going to deal with the various parts of a racing bicycle and give you some advice to make this model suitable for your cycling trips.
The frame is the bike’s framework and must be right for each person to have a good position on the saddle.
The fork height, which is the distance from the sole of the foot to the crotch, is the right measure for the frame.
Unfortunately measures are not standard, so you’ll find measurements in centimeters, inches or with the words Small, Medium, Large, ExtraLarge. The table below will show you the frame suitable for you in the three kinds of measurements.
|fork height||frame cm||frame inches||S, M, L, XL|
The frame is the part that most influences your position on the saddle and can consequently cause muscular pain (particularly neck and back pain) when it’s not the right measure.
The racing bike was born to address the needs of professional cyclists. It led bicycle manufacturing companies to search for more and more aerodynamic, strong and light materials and models. The main materials used for frames are:
- Carbon: this is a very light material used in high level bicycles. It guarantees very good performance, especially uphill.
- Aluminium: this is a mid-level material, but it’s stronger and less expensive than carbon. It’s mounted in most mid level bikes.
- Steel: it’s the heaviest and the least used material these days.
Racing bike wheels
The wheel of a racing bike is composed of a hub, rim, an inner tube and a tyre.
The hub is the central part of a wheel and allows both for its rotation and the tension of the spokes.
The rims are the main part of a wheel: they are made of aluminium and must guarantee balance, lightness and good aerodynamics. Profile and diameter are their main characteristics. There are low, mid or high profile rims according to the rim height.
Low profile rims are 2 cm high and are the most common thanks to their lightness and elasticity that make vibrations cushioned. Unfortunately they aren’t very strong and tend to lose their shape easily , so that it’s very important to be very careful in the tension of the spokes.
High profile rims are about 5-6 cm high and were born to reduce air flow and guarantee more balance and aerodynamics when you pedal. Their main characteristics are strength (this makes it possible to reduce considerably the number of the spokes) and aerodynamics. On the other hand, the bigger weight and the lack of elasticity (that prevents vibrations softening) make every turn of the pedals rather uncomfortable.
To this day mid profile rims are the most used ones because they are a good compromise for strenghth, stiffness, comfort and aerodynamics. They are 3 cm high, so the weight turns out to be not too big, the stiffness is adequate and comfort is quite good in the strokes of pedal.
Racing bikes have a standard 28 inch diameter rim.
The function of the spokes is both to keep a constant and fluid rotation of the rim and support and soften the rider’s weight and the stresses coming from the ground. There’s not a standard number of spokes used and the idea is to get to the right balance between lightness and stability of the bike: in fact, too many spokes would make the bike very heavy and subjected to stresses, too few spokes would make the rim weak and vibrations excessive.
In racing bikes, the spokes mounted on the rear wheel are more than the ones on the front wheel . For example, amateur bikes may have 18 front spokes and 20 rear ones, while professional bikes have 22 front and 24 rear.
Bicycle Tyres and inner tube:
Due to the need to have a weak friction with the ground, racing bikes have very thin, smooth tyres which are kept inflated at high pressure.
Tyres are of various sizes according to the section. Professional racing bikes have 19-20 mm wide tyres.
We would like to advise all those people who are going to practice cycling as tourists to mount much wider tyres on their bikes because the lower speed due to friction is counterbalanced by fewer punctures and greater comfort. Our advice is to mount at least 23 mm tyres ( even better would be 26-28).
Calliper brakes are still the most common ones in racing bikes: it’s a very simple model made of two alloy arms that cross at a pivot: when they’re operated they close and cause braking through the friction of the brake shoes on the braking path of the rim.
A good braking modulation is very important for your safety :this is why you don’t need to pull the brake levers completely to stop your bike.
This is the basic mechanical part in racing bicycles and allows the rider to change the strength and hardness of the turns of the pedals. It consists of starting levers, front and rear derailleurs, sprockets and chainrings.
In modern racing bikes, the gear levers are situated next to the brake levers and are connected to the derailleur via a cable. When these levers are operated the derailleur works and moves the chain on the various sprockets and chainrings. The number of teeth composing the cogset and the front and rear chainrings is the unit of measurement.
The ratio between the number of teeth of the front gear wheel and the one of the rear sprocket multiplied by the circumference of the wheel allows us to obtain the metric development of the gear used.
High gears allow the rider to cover a good distance with every rotation of the pedals but require more effort, therefore it’s better for a cyclist to use them on a flat road; low gears allow easier pedalling and are used for cycling uphill.
The main thing in choosing the model of a racing bicycle to purchase is to take into account the right combination of gears.
As mentioned, the racing bike was designed to guarantee high performance: in mass production very high gears are mounted (2 chainrings, a 52-53 teeth big one and a 39-41 teeth small one, and 10 rear sprockets ranging from 11 to 27 teeth). We obviously advise those who like cycling as tourists to buy a bike with easier gears.
Nowadays there are racing bikes with a third smaller chainring ( for ex. 30 teeth) mounted in addition to the two standard chainrings so as to offer a complete range of gears; in this way you are able to travel on flat roads at your best and climb steep hills with the least effort.
On bikes designed with two chainrings, it’s very complicated to add a further one but in this case the best thing is to mount a ‘ compact’ set of chainrings. In this way the chainrings are only two but have a much smaller size than the standard 52-41 and it allows the rider to climb steep hills at the best. Compact chainrings are 48-50/34-36 sized.
Starting with the old leather saddles a lot of improvements have been made in the matter of models, shapes and materials for saddles of any kind and any request.
The primary features are obviously seat comfort and slimness in order not to disturb pedalling and not to cause friction to the thighs.
Recent models have a hole in the central part so as to reduce the pressure of the perineum and avoid the crushing of the prostate.
The typical curve of racing bikes handlebars allows you a highly aerodynamic position with the least air friction. It’s not a very comfortable position, especially for a long time.
Many modern bikes get past this problem via a second set of brakes on the flat part of the handlebar. In this way you’ll be able to keep a less aerodynamic but more comfortable upright position and to brake at any moment.
In racing bikes the pedals are arranged to attach to the sole of the shoe. This allows the rider to take advantage of the strength of pedalling.
There are two main models: the most used model up till today is the “look” one, that has a wide base and allows a very good push but doesn’t permit the rider to walk easily.
We advise cycling tourists to use the so called “spd” attachment. It was originally mounted on mountain bikes and allows for both a sure and efficient attachment and easy walking , when you get off your bike, thanks to the cleat which is entirely set inside the sole of the shoe.
Advice for cycling tourists
To briefly sum up our advice for how to modify your racing bicycle, making it a very good means of transport for your cycling trips:
- Ask your mechanic to have a steady rack, able to support various kilos, mounted on your bike.
- Mount 26 to 28 mm wide tyres: safety and steadiness are more important than a bit of lost friction.
- Mount easy gears: you’ll need them when you pedal for several days and if you aren’t professional.
- Mount a second couple of brakes on the flat part of the handlebar, if that’s possible: you’ ll benefit greatly with regard to position and safety.
- Don’t economize on the saddle: buy a comfortable and functional one: your comfort depends on it.
- If you like clipless pedals, purchase the “spd” ones because they offer very good performance and, importantly, they allow you to walk when you get off your bike.