With all the sub-categories of road bike these days, it can be hard to tell which does what. But they all evolved from the original road racing machines that have changed surprisingly little in the well-over 100 years that bike racing has been a popular sport; and that category is now simply known as Road Race. These are the bikes you see flying 50 miles-per-hour down ridiculously scary descents, or tearing toward the finish lines in all-out sprint madness, at races like the Tour de France and Tour of California.
As the name suggests, these bikes are designed to do one thing above all: go crazy fast! But they must also be super agile to navigate the twists and turns of tight road races or avoid crashing in the always-dangerous peloton, all the while remaining light enough to climb for hours on end. To accomplish this, these bikes feature extremely stiff forks and frames, especially in the bottom bracket/crankset area and surrounding tubes, and the handlebar/head tube area. To balance the stiffness and weight the tubing is designed to be stiff and strong in these key areas, and as thin as possible everywhere else. Geometries tend toward the very aggressive side: Shorter chainstays and longer top tubes, plus short, steep head tubes result in a highly efficient, forward-leaning rider position and keep the tubing stiff in the key front-end and bottom bracket areas. In recent years manufacturers have become more concerned with ride quality—something that used to be saved for more casual bikes—so they manipulate the geometries and tube shape/layup even further to allow compliance wherever it won’t sacrifice too much stiffness.