Endurance Bikes: Do you need one?

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Endurance bikes were designed and built to go fast over the cobbles of northern European road bike races. Very few of us, however, aspire to become pro racers, and while endurance bikes were conceived as race bikes for specific conditions, they also attract cyclists looking for an all-around bike that isn’t abusive to ride.

An aero bike can often be a torture pact between the bike and rider to contort into the most aerodynamic position possible to reduce drag, while the stiffness of a lightweight bike absorbs every impact the wheels pass over, which can wear out the rider over the duration of a ride. An endurance bike is purpose-built for comfort and compliance, which can translate to higher speeds over longer distances when the rider isn’t fatigued from constantly correcting their position or sponging up bumps.

What an endurance bike can do that your road bike can’t, is give you a more versatile riding experience whether you’re racing, riding a sportif or gran fondo, maintaining the pace on a fast group ride, or grinding out your routine commute. An endurance bike does this by design.

What is an endurance bike

An endurance bike prioritizes comfort and compliance over aerodynamics and weight. Increased comfort and compliance are achieved through the following key characteristics:

  • Relaxed and stable geometry – compared to more traditional road bicycles, endurance bikes feature a:

    • Higher stack for a more upright position

    • Lower bottom bracket for improved stability

    • Longer wheelbase also for greater stability. Altogether these three features make endurance bikes far less “twitchy” than lightweight road bikes.

  • Compact front crankset with wide ratio cassette – instead of muscling through climbs or headwinds just to sustain the myth of traditional gearing, an endurance bike grants you far greater access to power and speed with more modern gearing:

    • Crankset: 50/34T

    • Rear cassette: 11-28 or 11-32

  • Disc brakes – It’s hard to dispute the superior stopping power of disc brakes, which are becoming standard on road bikes, despite their weight penalty. You’ll be happy that your endurance bike has them in wet weather or on muddy terrain.

  • Positioning – starting with the properly sized bike, your position on your endurance bike will contribute significantly to your comfort. Target the following:

    • Upright position ­­– to relieve pressure on your hands and saddle area, as well as reduce strain on the shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, and neck.

    • More stable – you’ll spend less time and energy on constant micro adjustments if your bike is stable and easy to handle.

    • Agile – without feeling slippery or unmanageable is the sensation you should aim for.

  • Tire clearance – this is a big differentiator between road and endurance bikes. Endurance bikes can usually handle tire widths from 28mm up to 32 or 35mm tires. In rare instances an endurance bike might allow 38mm tires, which improve comfort, damping, and traction.
  • Frame compliance – bikes that give a little over rough terrain also pay dividends in comfort. Some frame materials offer better compliance than others. Many endurance bike manufacturers have engineered proprietary compliance solutions, like micro suspension, directly into their frames. Tire width and pressure can also cover for unreasonably stiff frames.

By comparison, there are several features that mark the difference between an endurance bike and a road bike.

Endurance bike vs. road bike

Endurance bike

Road bike

More relaxed geometry: higher stack; shorter reach, longer wheelbase, lower BB

More aggressive geometry: longer reach; shorter chainstays; integrated cockpit for lower stack

Premium placed on comfort

Engineered for speed

More stable handling; slower to react to changes in riding surface

“Darty” and nimble; fast to react to turns and changes in terrain

Compact crankset with more gear range to accommodate a greater variety of riding abilities

Traditional gearing demands more power to turn the pedals

Wider tire clearance up to 35mm (even 38mm)

Standard 23-25mm tire clearance

If you’re on the fence about whether an endurance bike is better for you than a gravel bike, here are some comparisons that might help you decide.

Endurance bike vs. gravel bike

Endurance bike

Gravel vs. bike

Leaner tire widths (up to 35mm) more suited to paved surfaces

Accepts wider tires, up to 45mm on average

Designed for long distance riding or for a more comfortable road riding experience

Prioritized to be ridden off-road

Heavier than a road bike but lighter than a gravel bike

Beefier bike designed for more punishing riding

Compliant frame materials and design allow for moderate off-road riding

Dedicated suspension solutions exclusively for gravel and tougher terrain

Your riding experience should be the main reason to buy an endurance bike and if you’re not yet sure what experience you’re after, maybe you identify with one of the following riders.

Who should ride an endurance bike

An endurance bike is certainly not a requirement to enjoy riding, however you might enjoy riding even more if you had an endurance bike, especially if you’re one of these:

  • Long distance rider – spends hours in the saddle where every little discomfort can become agonizing (or even damaging) by the end of the ride. Better to be 100 percent comfortable from the start.

  • Off road rider – whose routes often go off pavement, this rider doesn’t just ride over varying terrain – they absorb it. An endurance bike can help soften the blows between road and rider.

  • Most riders – who would like to experience the joy of riding instead of suffering. If this is you too, an endurance bike will inspire (instead of injure) you.

After all, riding a bike can be a social – or a solo – undertaking that’s also a personal choice, starting with the bike. If you are still unconvinced why you should get an endurance bike, here’s an itemized list to explain the benefits.

Why you should ride an endurance bike

  • Ride experience – every ride should be satisfying and, rather than settle for your current limits, an endurance bike will help you access new ones.

  • Comfort and stability – it may come as a surprise to learn that you can ride farther, faster, longer, and stronger on a bike that’s uniquely adapted to you (as opposed to the wind and/or terrain).

  • Robust and durable – ride with the peace of mind that your bike will hold up over the long haul and/or on rough riding surfaces.

  • Built to absorb shocks – forgiving frame material, proprietary micro suspension, and greater clearance in the fork and rear triangle to allow larger tires all contribute to your comfort.

  • Designed for performance – remember that endurance bikes were originally intended as race bikes on centuries-old cobble roads. Endurance bikes have been engineered for specific performance characteristics, which are a benefit to you as well.

Get expert advice

Endurance bikes have been around for a while, which means that finding a good used endurance bike is highly likely. Used endurance bikes for sale are in a category all their own, yet sometimes they still get tossed in with road bikes (which technically they are) and you may need an eagle-eyed expert to help find your perfect bike. If that’s your case, call a Cycling Avenue expert who will help you sort through your priorities and match you with the bike that’s best for you.

You’ve literally nothing to lose (because a video consultation is free!) by booking a video call with a Cycling Avenue expert. You can choose the expert who best suits you for a 20-minute chat to answer all your questions about endurance bikes. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose an advisor and a time slot that’s best for you.

  2. Answer a few quick questions on your level of cycling experience.

  3. Your consultation is confirmed! At the time of your meeting, you’ll join using a Microsoft Teams link provided by Cycling Avenue.

To sum up your need for an endurance bike, take a hard look at what you’re currently riding and ask yourself if it’s the best bike for what you want. If it’s not, consider trading it in and getting what you really want in an endurance bike. You can even sell any spare components you may want to unload and apply the credit toward a new (to you) bike.

If you aspire to ride a little farther or a little longer, or if you desire a bit more comfort or adventure, whether you want to race, tour, or just ride, an endurance bike has a few benefits that a road, aero, gravel bike – or your current bike – just can’t compete with.

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Further reading

If you’re in the market for a bike, you may be wondering what the benefits are to getting a new bike or one that’s simply new to you. For starters, buying a second-hand bike is a far simpler process than buying say, a used car because it’s a lot easier to assess a bike’s condition without having to “look under the hood” for chassis or transmission failures.

Road bike sizing can vary significantly among brands, which is the main reason for finding your bike size before you buy. A bike that’s a perfect fit also helps you ride more efficiently, avoid injury, and simply makes riding more fun. Understanding what affects bike sizing will not only help you choose wisely but will give you more control over how to fine tune your fit.