What makes a great road bike?

For the most part companies push aero, weight, and rigidity when marketing bikes, but I never hear anyone talking about handling characteristics.

I come from more of a motorcycle back ground and having a machine that inspires confidence in the turns is so much more pleasurable than one that just goes fast.

So I’m curious why this isn’t a selling point. Are all the bikes pretty much the same and it simply comes down to rider skill? Does good handling come at the expense of speed? What characteristics make a great handling bike? And finally which bike would you say is the most compliant in the turns or fosters the greatest confidence?

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Was thinking about this the other day — with all these aggressive/wonky race set ups, should a rider still be able to ride their bike no-handed? :man_shrugging:

Road and gravel bikes don’t seem to push geometry changes in the same way modern mountain bikes have. Maybe it’s been done, but every road bike I see hosts head angles in the 70 degree plus range. Lots to consider with bike geo but I’d like to try a road or gravel bike that pushes things a bit. Fork trail is the holy grail for how a bike handles in the corners. It will be interesting to see if anyone tries something maybe slightly more subdued than that Evil.

Motorcycle background here as well.

For me, on motorcycles, suspension quality/settings and tyres is most important. On bicycles, bike fit is most important. So, on bicycles, if I have balanced weight front/back and I’m not too stretched out, I don’t care about anything else. Compared to a heavy motorcycle with a passenger in high speed, turning a bicycle around is super easy as long as you’re comfortable.

Sitting too high on a bicycle and having to reach with your arms straight for the handlebars messes things up most, I’d say. No control can be had with such a position, no matter what bike you ride.


This is what I’m getting at. There are a lot of small frame/high seat post/slammed stem positions out there, esp in the pro peloton…are they able to ride w/o hands (a sign of a balanced rider/bike unit) with such a forward/high heavy weight distribution?

But if you look closely, none of them is cornering with straight locked out arms, reaching for their handlebars, having to lean their butt out of the corner to have weight on the outer pedal.

You should be able to have a bend in your arms while cornering and weight on the outer pedal. As soon as your arms have to be straight and all weight goes into the saddle, your suspension (body) is off and your precision with the handlebars is as poor as if you’d try to chop onions with straight arms.

My position is quite pro wannabe and I can hold it with no problems, being in the drops all day, and yes, I can also corner quickly and pedal without hands with ease. My limiter in corners is tyre traction, despite suspensing my weight with my outer leg and leaning my body into the corner.


Handling and comfort are what I was looking for when I chose my most recent road bike. Aero was the next consideration after that. Then stiffness. My max sprint power is 1200w. I’m not going to trouble any top end frame so it made sense to disregard that. Same with aero. Most of my riding is up hills that are pretty steep and there aren’t a lot of flat sections where I live. I love how aero bikes look though.

Using the above, I ended up with a Bianchi Oltre XR3. Comfortable, semi-aero and handles like an absolute dream. Responsive, but not too twitchy. Feels stable no matter how fast I corner.

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I think it’s really hard to market magical riding qualities. You have to ride a number of bikes before you know what you are feeling and like. I think another issue is that some riders are not sensitive at all to bicycle dynamcis. Lower their saddle by 1cm or stiffen their frame and they don’t even notice. A different rider may be very sensitive to small changes.

I’ve owned around 10 road bikes and have finally developed a good feel for what is a pleasure to ride. In the end, I like a bike that has some spring to it. That’s the best I can describe it. I’ve ridden carbon bikes that felt dead and wooden. You can still ride them fast but they aren’t a pleasure to ride. The nicest feeling bike I ever rode was a Calfee Dragonfly. It just felt fast and had that springy feel a plenty. The downside was that it was brutally stiff. I bought it used so it may have had an extra stiff tube option which made it so stiff. My current bike is a Colnago C59. It still has that springy feel but just not as much as the Calfee. On the other hand, it soaks up the road and doesn’t beat you up so it achieves a nice balance. I’d love to pick up a C64 next.

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