There are hundreds of bikes to choose from and it’s all too easy to make a mistake if you are new to road cycling or not one for poring over the technical pros and cons of every component.
If road cycling is the primary objective that helps a lot as you can ignore mountain bikes with unnecessary suspension, additional weight and sluggish wheels and tyres.
A hybrid machine, however, which is similar to a mountain bike but with 700c road bike wheels and without the weighty suspension forks or back end, can be a versatile and forgiving introduction to road cycling.
Hybrid’s with aluminium frames are affordable and generally considered to be a sensible entry-level machine for introductory fitness riding, traffic-free paths, commuting and touring.
At the other end of the scale would be a top end road bike, made from carbon fibre and equipped with the best components and electronic gears.
Side by side the affordable hybrid and the expensive road rocket have very little in common.
Your choice of bike will very likely fall midway between both machines, hopefully combining the best elements of versatility, affordability and performance into the ideal package.
For sportive rides a road bike with drop handlebars and at least 16 gears is ideal as it is faster than a bike with flat bars and fat tyres and will also have enough gears to get you up the hills.
Expect to pay at least £350 but if you can afford to, machines from £500 to £1200 are lighter, better equipped and more enjoyable to ride.
Why every cyclist should ride a sportive
The Haynes Road Cycling Manual covers every aspect of modern road cycling from choosing a bike, set-up and fitness training, through to riding techniques and bike maintenance.
Aimed at new and experienced road cyclists alike, the fully-illustrated manual makes a great companion for anyone looking to start a post-Christmas fitness surge, target a spring sportive, or even emulate the elite riders of the Tour de France!
Author Luke Edwardes-Evans recommends that new riders plan to ride at least one sportive event this year, as it’s a fantastic way to get fit and motivate yourself in the early months. Here are just a few reasons why sportives are perfect for the new cyclist:
- A great day out on scenic roads with signposting and food stops
- Ride with other cyclists or solo, it’s up to you
- Challenge yourself to set a target time or average speed
- There are no losers – everyone who finishes gets a medal and a time
- If you have a problem there is usually technical and medical support
- A chance to ride in another region or abroad
What is a sportive in road cycling
- Sportives are the fastest growing branch of cycle sport. Although not strictly a race, a sportive is individually timed and usually takes place on open roads with marshals or direction arrows.
- Distances can be from 50 to 250km often with multiple ride options on the day.
- There’s a trend towards longer events which are a challenging test of endurance as well as average speed.
- Closed roads sportives are rare but popular and can attract fields in the tens of thousands.
- Many new converts to cycling are drawn to sportives as they offer a similar challenge to running a marathon.
- A few month’s serious training is required for anything over 100km while the clothing and bikes can be high-tech but affordable.
- Cyclists set off in groups but can ride solo or in bunches. Many prefer to ride alone or move between groups.
- A timing chip records each rider’s time which can usually be accessed on-line after the event.
There are sportives based on the great one-day classics and stage races, the daddy of them all is the Etape du Tour which is an annual closed-road sportive along one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France. It’s usually a sell-out with more than 10,000 entrants.
There are many legendary sportives across Europe and increasingly in the UK and USA.
World famous sportive events
L’ Etape du Tour (France)
The Etape takes part in July on one of the stages of the current year’s Tour de France, usually in the Alps or Pyrenees. Roads are closed and entrants number 15,000
Cape Town Cycle Tour (South Africa)
Billed as the largest timed bike ride in the world, the Cape Town event attracts 35,000 entrants and follows the same closed roads 109km route around Table Mountain every March
Ride London-Surrey 100 (UK)
A legacy event from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the headline event over a weekend of cycling is a closed roads sportive over 100 miles taking in the Olympic road race climb of Box Hill
Tour of Flanders Cyclo (Belgium)
Following some or all of the legendary Flemish classic pro race the Cyclo offers three routes, all taking in the fabled cobbled ‘monts’ of the region, and ridden by 16,000 enthusiastic pedallers
Gran Fondo Maratona dles Dolomites (Italy)
A July sportive in the heart of the Italian Dolomites with 10,000 entrants tackling routes of 106 and 138km over some of the toughest climbs including the Passo Sella, Campolongo and Giau
Spain’s popular gran fondo in June offers two distances (85km and 200km) and climbs through the Pyrenees into France and back. Entry is by lottery ballot so best to have a plan B
La Marmotte (France)
The orginal tough alpine French cyclosportif follows the same 170km route every July and included the climbs of the Glandon, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez in 5,000 metres of climbing. Sells out 7,000 places
Amstel Gold Race Sportive (Holland)
Six distance options from 60km to the full pro race route of 240km the Amstel sportive takes place in Holland’s hilly Limburg region and finishes on the famous Cauberg climb
Paris-Roubaix Challenge (France)
For fans of the notorious cobbled lanes of northern France there are three distances upto 170km taking in the short but brutal cobbled ‘sectors’ of the great race which takes place the following day in early April
The original retro sportive has inspired similar Eroica events all over Europe and takes place on Tuscany’s white gravel roads every October. Period dress and bikes of pre-1987 vintage only
Levi’s King Ridge Gran Fondo (USA)
October date for this sportive in Northern California which starts and finishes in Santa Rosa and features plenty of scenic climbs along its 160km long route