How to choose a road bike – Trek Bikes

What is a road bike?

Road bikes are made for speed and efficiency whether you’re riding on smooth paved roads, chunky gravel backroads, or somewhere in between. However, there are a few key features – like drop bars, lightweight designs, and skinny(ish) tires – that set road bikes apart from their trail tackling cousins.

Drop bars

Drop bars provide a downward-swoop design for riding on the hoods, tops, and drops. They’re great for longer or faster rides because you can easily change your body’s positioning for more comfort, power, or aerodynamics.

Skinny (ish) tires

Traditional road tires are designed to roll fast and corner hard on paved roads. They typically come in sizes up to 28mm and are paired with bikes that have a more race-focused geometry.

Road bikes with relaxed and endurance-focused geometry come with larger sized tires and can accommodate up to 45mm of tire clearance for increased comfort, traction, and control on tarmac, gravel, and dirt.

What kind of road bikes are there?

Road bikes typically fall into four categories: Performance Road, Electric Road, Gravel, and Triathlon — each is designed to help you reach your goals in different ways. When choosing a road bike, you’ll want to consider where you’ll be riding, how hilly the terrain will be, and if you want a small boost from an electric assist.

Performance road bikes are made for efficiency and speed whether you're chasing KOMS or racing in the world's toughest races.

Aero road

Madone is an aerodynamic road bike designed to slice through the wind. It’s our fastest road race bike ever.

–Kammtail aero shapes from front to back for more free speed
–Fast/aggressive race geometry
–The top bike of choice for riders and racers who prioritize speed

Endurance road

Domane is an “all-road” endurance bike that’s all about comfort on long rides with the features you need for mixed surface riding.

–IsoSpeed road-smoothing tech enables you to ride faster and longer on anything from smooth pavement to cobblestones to light gravel
–Comfortable endurance geometry
–Great for new road riders and seasoned pros alike

Ultra-light road

Émonda is an ultra-light road bike designed for maximizing performance on hilly race courses and climbing the tallest mountains. It’s our lightest road race bike ever.

–Ultra-lightweight design
–Fast/aggressive race geometry
–Excellent for dancing up inclines on race day and leading the pack on group rides

Electric road bikes provide a natural-feeling assist that lets you ride farther and faster than you ever thought possible.


Domane+ is an electric road bike designed to help flatten hills and take the tailwind with you on long the way.

–Perfect for paved or light gravel roads
–Models range from 38mm all-road to 40mm gravel tire clearance
–Comfortable endurance geometry

Gravel bikes are true “jack-of-all-trades” bikes that can be ridden on all kinds of surfaces — from gravel to pavement and even light singletrack. They're designed with clearance to accommodate larger, more stable tires and are made for adventure with their ability to carry a whole range of accessories like bags, racks, and fenders. And if you're wondering, "can road bikes go on gravel?" be sure to check out the Domane.


Checkpoint is a gravel bike designed for the pursuit of adventure on unpaved roads, exploring with friends, bikepacking, and gravel racing.

–Up to 45mm gravel tire clearance
–Plenty of mounts for storage and bikepacking bags
–Progressive geometry that’s made for light gravel, heavy gravel, and everything in between

Endurance all-road

Domane is an “all-road” endurance bike that’s ready to roll on anything from smooth pavement to rough country roads and light gravel.

–Perfect for paved or light gravel roads
–Up to 38mm all-road tire clearance
–Comfortable endurance geometry for all day rides

Triathlon bikes are designed for setting PRs, racing against the clock, and efficiency during the toughest multi-sport events. They’re packed with loads of tri-specific features like optimized aerodynamics for long distances and storage for fuel on race day.

Speed Concept

Speed Concept is a triathlon bike that’s all about setting you up for your fastest bike split on the triathlon course.

–Designed to make you faster than ever during your next Ironman or local triathlon
–Fast triathlon geometry with a fully customizable rider-specific fit
–Seamlessly integrated hydration and fueling systems

Carbon or aluminum?

The construction and material of your bike can make a big difference in how it will feel when you ride it. Trek offers both carbon and 
aluminum options for most of our road bikes. And depending on how you like to ride, one may be better for you than the other.

Trek OCLV Carbon

Carbon fiber is a composite material that can be made into intricate, complex shapes and gives bike designers flexibility when crafting super-light bikes. Carbon fiber bikes are generally lighter and allow for heightened aerodynamics and ride quality. They also tend to take a lot more precision craftsmanship to manufacture and can be more expensive than their aluminum counterparts.

Trek Alpha Aluminum

Trek’s aluminum road bikes are packed with performance technology and share many of the same characteristics as other frame materials. Trek’s Alpha Aluminum uses Invisible Weld Technology for high-quality looks, are super durable, affordable, and a high-value option for the rider who wants a responsive and affordable ride.

Choosing the level of carbon or aluminum
What do the letters after the bike name mean?

The lightest and most premium carbon frames we offer for our models. 700 and 800 Series OCLV Carbon SLR frames feature top-tier tech and are the choice of top-level racers.

Our lightweight 500 Series OCLV Carbon. These road frames are a bit heavier than their SLR siblings, but still pack fantastic performance features into an affordable package.

Our highest-performing 300 Series Alpha Aluminum frames. They’re lightweight, feature elevated details like hydroforming and smooth welds, and don’t break the bank.

Our entry-level 100 Series Alpha Aluminum frames are made at the intersection of performance and value. They have smart features and great looks, and place high value front and center.

Choosing your drivetrain

Every Trek road bike comes with a carefully selected combination of parts (the crank, gears, chain, and derailleur) that are more widely known as a drivetrain. Just like bike frames, drivetrains come in a variety of levels. Each road bike’s name includes a number that indicates the level of drivetrain that comes with the bike — 9 being the highest performance level and 2 being our highest value option. Another choice you may have within each drivetrain level is deciding between SRAM and Shimano. Each company makes incredible components for our bikes which have their own benefits to better suit how you like to ride.

Level 9


The pinnacle of Shimano’s road technology and innovation, the DURA-ACE 12-speed electronic drivetrain is Shimano’s fastest ever. Every component was refined, designed, and fine-tuned to make you faster – whether you’re sprinting to the finish on the Champs-Elysees or crushing your local climb for the KOM.


With RED AXS, you’re always in the right gear. SRAM’s lightest wireless drivetrain offers more range, a smoother gear progression, and simple shift logic. AXS technology allows you to easily personalize your components right from your phone. It’s true innovation, for true advancement, for the truest performance-minded riders.

Level 7


The most precise Force AXS. Choose from integrated power options, go further with intelligent gear ranges, and personalize it with the power of AXS. Enjoy redesigned shifter paddles, a sleeker hood shape, and the consistent feel of hydraulic stopping power.


The ULTEGRA drivetrain is packed with innovative game-changing features like Shimano’s exclusive wireless integrated circuit, an ULTEGRA power meter, increased ergonomics, and aerodynamic advantages that are combined into a 12-speed package to ensure you’ll have the gearing you need for wherever the road takes you.

Shimano GRX Di2

Shimano GRX Di2 pairs lightning fast electronic shifting power with rugged off-road capability for an adventure-focused drivetrain that excels when the road gets rough

Level 6


With a shared Di2 electronic shifting platform inherited from DURA-ACE and ULTEGRA, sophisticated ergonomics, SHIMANO 105-optimized gear combinations, and an exceptional brake system, SHIMANO 105 Di2 brings affordability to electronic performance.


Rival AXS features the technology modern riders demand—wireless shifting, innovative gearing, integrated power measurement, and AXS connectivity. With exceptional ergonomics, braking and superb chain management, this group can take you anywhere.

Level 5


SHIMANO GRX is designed from the ground up for gravel adventure with its gravel-specific ergonomics, optimized gearing options, rugged reliability, and quiet and stable mechanical drivetrain.


The mechanical SHIMANO 105 drivetrain empowers more riders than ever before to embrace the sport of road cycling. It’s a supportive, high-value drivetrain that provides an accessible option to enable, motivate, and inspire riders of all backgrounds.

Level 4

Shimano Tiagra

TIAGRA is a 10-speed drivetrain that pairs serious entry-level riding performance with technology from top-tier lines for more intuitive shifting.

Level 3

Shimano Sora

SORA is Shimano’s most attractive and robust 9-speed drivetrain. It’s great for fitness and recreational cyclists because of its stylish and clean design.

Level 2

Shimano Claris

CLARIS covers a wide range of uses and comes on fitness bikes, touring bikes, and road bikes. This durable and low-maintenance 8-speed drivetrain gives you the optimal range of gears for comfortable riding.

Quick tip: the drivetrain level of each bike is indicated with a number after the carbon or aluminum marking.

Should I go with electronic or mechanical shifting?

Electronic shifting

Electronic shifting provides a lightning fast and high-performance experience. It’s precise, durable, and can shift quick even while under load. However, with all this speed there is a small drawback — you’ll need to charge the battery every once and awhile.

Mechanical shifting

Mechanical drivetrains are the tried-and-true tech that’s been around for years. Each drivetrain offers high-value reliability, ease of use, and the peace of mind that comes with not needing a charger.

Can I fit bigger tires on my road or gravel bike?

The tires that come stock with your Trek road or gravel bike are guaranteed to fit and designed to provide great performance. But you may find you’re looking for even more comfort, traction, and confidence for more off-the-beaten-path adventures. Wider road or gravel tires, which can be run at lower pressure, can provide this.

But not just any tire will fit! Each of our road and gravel bikes comes with a maximum tire size recommendation, which you can find in the details about each bike model.

In the bike model details, you may see a maximum “as measured” tire size recommendation. "As measured" means the measured tire width while the tire is on the rim and inflated to the recommended pressure. We recommend at least 4mm of clearance between the tire and frame for road models and 6mm of clearance for gravel models. This clearance is what determines our maximum recommended tire size.

A - measure width of the tire
B - measure top clearance
C - measure side clearance

Madone Gen 7, for example, can fit up to 32mm tires as measured. That means the maximum recommended width of the tire (measurement A) is 32mm, which should provide the recommended 4mm of clearance between the tire and frame (measurement B and C).

Road bike gear – the essentials

Once you’ve found your perfect road bike, it’s time to add in the vital gear that every rider needs. Front and rear bike lights and a helmet are extremely important to help protect your head and keep yourself seen at any time of the day, and a bottle cage with a few water bottles are a must to make sure you’re hydrated wherever you roam. Other essentials like a flat kit and spare tube ensure you have a backup plan if you get a flat, and tools like a floor pump and chain lube help prolong the life of your components and keep tires inflated before every ride.

Road bike apparel

Road bike apparel is specifically designed to help you have your best rides. Bike shorts and bib shorts with features like a built in chamois provide comfort where your body meets the saddle. Sweat-wicking materials and pockets on jersey tops help keep you cool and offer a quick-access spot to store snacks or other ride essentials like your phone and credit card. Sunglasses are also a great addition to any bike kit as they help you see the road ahead and help protect your eyes from the wind and sun.