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Choosing a bike 101

If you are new to cycling, you are likely overwhelmed by the many bicycle options out there, the specialized equipment we use, and what is needed for a new cyclist. This page is meant to help!


Obviously, in order to ride a bike, you first need a trusty two-wheeled steed! But, there are so many options - what type of bike is right for you? Let’s break it down.

Road Bikes

These are the bikes that most people associate with cycling. They typically have “Drop”-style handlebars, allow you to shift between gears to conquer all of our beautiful hills, and are made of light-weight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum. They are light, fast, and agile - perfect for both those fun Saturday rides or your first Triathlon! Within the near-infinite classification of “road bike”, there are several distinct subgroups.

  • Endurance Road Bikes optimize for rider comfort, but without sacrificing speed and climbing. The frame geometry positions your body position with a more upright posture, allowing for full-day comfort in the saddle while cranking out mile-after-mile. These are great for new riders!
    • Examples: Cervelo Caledonia, Canyon Endurace, Trek Domane, Cannondale Synapse, Specialized Allez, Giant Defy, and many more.
  • Climbing Road Bikes prioritize weight reduction over all else - these are made to get you up the mountain as fast as possible. They allow for a hybrid of an aggressive yet comfortable body position. These are also great options for new riders.
    • Examples: Cervelo R5, Canyon Ultimate, Trek Emonda, Cannondale SuperSix, Specialized Aethos, Giant TCR, and many more.
  • Aero Road Bikes are made to excel in race environments with internally-routed cables, elongated airfoil-shaped frames, and deep-dish wheels for even more speed. Riders are placed into “aggressive” positions through the frame geometry, which encourages riders to bend over to avoid the wind.
    • Examples: Quintana Roo* SR6, Cervelo S5, Canyon Aeroad, Trek Madone, Cannondale SystemSix, Specialized Tarmac, Giant Propel, and many more.

*Also a GGTC Sponsor - join the club and check out our Sponsor page for some serious discounts on these bikes!

Triathlon Bikes

These bikes look (and are!) FAST. Since Triathlons are not governed by UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Rules, triathlon bikes can take on a wide array of shapes and sizes with one goal - to get you through the Bike leg of a triathlon as fast as possible. They typically have aerodynamic extensions built into the handlebars, with shifting controlled from the ends of these bars to maintain an “Aero” position.

Frame geometry is ultra-aggressive, with riders bent over and to expose the minimal surface area to the wind. Some Tri bikes incorporate integrated food and drink storage to further reduce wind resistance for long distance racing. They are light, fast, and stable, but may require many hours of practice to feel comfortable riding due to the extreme body position required.

As a safety note, riders should never ride in the aero position while on group rides, since the brake levers are not accessible.

Examples: Quintana Roo* V-PR or X-PR, Canyon Speedmax, Trek Speed Concept, Cervelo P5, Specialized Shiv, and many, many more!

*Also a GGTC Sponsor - join the club and check out our Sponsor page for some serious discounts on these bikes!

So, what else goes into choosing a bike?

The components!

All bikes must transfer power from your pedals to the road to push you forward, but how? A complex system of components work together to get you rolling smoothly, regardless of your bike setup. A “groupset” comprises all the mechanical parts for your bike – everything except the frame, wheels, handlebar, and seat.

Power is delivered from the front “crankset” (consisting of the pedals, crank arms, and the front chainring), through the chain itself, into the rear “cassette” which rotates the rear wheel. The front and rear “Derailleurs” adjust the chain position between the various sprockets, allowing for the rider to shift between various gear ratios. This, in turn, allows the rider to adjust the force required to spin the pedals. The derailleurs are controlled from the handlebars, with either an inward or outward flick of the brake/shift lever to change gears. Make it easier to spin the pedals as you climb up hills, or harder on descents to gain more speed!

Braking systems are controlled from the handlebars, and consist of either rim-brakes or disc-brakes. Almost every new bike will have disc brakes these days - they work much better in wet conditions and while going downhill.

Groupsets are made by three main manufacturers (Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo) and have different performance tiers to allow for a balance between price and performance. From the shifting levers, a cable routed to the derailleur adjusts the chain position to change gears. Recently, high-end groupsets have transitioned to using small motors spaced on the derailleurs to rapidly adjust chain position. This is called electronic shifting.

Shimano: The oldest and most widely used of the three main brands. It began life in Japan in 1921, and today produces over 50% of groupsets sold worldwide.


  • Entry-Level: Claris, Sora
  • Mid-Level: Tiagra, 105
    • Note: This is considered the ideal balance between cost and performance!
  • High-Level: Ultegra
  • Professional-Level: Dura-Ace.

SRAM: came to the component scene during the mountain biking boom of the late eighties and established itself off the back of its lightweight GripShift shifters.


  • Entry-Level: Apex
  • Mid-Level: Rival
  • High-Level: Force
  • Professional-Level: Red

What About Pedals?

When you first started cycling, you likely used flat pedals. However, you’ll quickly realize the downside of this system - you can only push for half of each rotation! “Clip-in pedal” systems (also called “clipless” pedals due to a historical quirk and just confusing now) help you to deliver power throughout the entire range of your pedal stroke. It’s a double-power-whammy benefit, as you push on the downstroke AND pull on the upstroke of each pedal rotation. There are handling and control benefits, too, since you are more attached to your bike while cornering. You disengage your foot from the cleat by twisting your foot out. Clip-in pedals also require special cycling shoes.

Main Options for Clip-in Pedals:

  • “3-Bolt” Road-Bike Pedals:
    • Shimano SPD-SL and LOOK Keo: The main two styles of road-style cleats. Both require the cleat to be in a certain position to clip in. The cleat and release mechanism is incorporated into the pedal itself, with release tension and “float” adjustable by the type of cleat. The pedals can be quite awkward to walk in!
    • Speedplay: A hybrid pedal between road- and mountain-bike style pedals, with the release mechanism mounted directly to the shoe. Can clip into the pedal from either orientation.
  • “2-Bolt” Mountain-Bike Pedals:
    • Shimano SPD: Allows for easier clip-in, clip-out and a shoe that is easier to walk in.

Head’s Up: If you commit to clip-in pedals, remember that it’s a system. You can’t mix-and-match a Speedplay pedal cleat with a Shimano pedal, for example, nor can you put a 2-bolt cleat on a 3-bolt shoe. Always keep pedal compatibility in the back of your mind if you’re shopping for your shoes first!

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