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What style of bike do I need?

Endurance, gravel and touring, performance or single speed; there are lots of different styles of bike and picking one that suits your needs can feel daunting. We break down the most popular styles of bike and the choices of frame material.

The Condor range includes a variety of models to suit different riding styles, and we’ll select the components with you to ensure that the finished bike is perfect for its intended use and to meet your budget. It’s also worth noting that some riding styles overlap. It may be the case that two different models are equally suited to the riding you want to do. The ultimate choice of bike can sometimes depend on your own tastes. A bike is likely to be part of your life for some time, but it can be upgraded or components swapped as your experience, knowledge and needs change, too.

Unsure where to begin? Here are some simple questions for you to answer to help you decide. Have created guides to explain about different components and how to choose what is right for you.

What do you want to do?

It’s important to have a think about what you want to do with your bike and where you’ll be going, because the best bike for you completely depends on this.

What do you like?

If you have just started cycling and you are unsure what events, rides and type of cycling is out there, don’t worry — read through our types of bikes guide and see what cycling catches your eye. Think about what you like and what challenges or things you may want to achieve with your bike, for example, a European sportive or the world famous L'Étape du Tour, cycle to work, get a low maintenance bike or cycle tour across Europe.

What is 'the fit'? What size do I need?

When we say fit, it refers to feeling comfortable on the bike and being able to confidently steer and look around at the road. A bicycle that fits ensures that you are as efficient as possible when you pedal, so you do not waste energy. We have a size guide to get you started, or to help if you just want to buy a frame online from us. We also provide a free bike fit in person or via a telephone appointment for all customers purchasing a bike and for those who already have a bike, we provide a fitting service. 

Bicycle frames are made in different sizes and the size that will fit you will be determined by your proportions, such as height, torso and leg length, and flexibility. Like clothes, sizing isn’t consistent across brands so don’t expect one brand’s medium size to feel exactly the same as another’s.

Do I need a women’s bike?

Off-the-peg bike manufacturers need to cater to general population averages as best as possible, since they don’t have the option to build bikes to suit individuals. Often women have narrower shoulders than men, shorter reach, and are shorter in height. Off-the-peg bikes aimed at women are therefore fitted with narrower handlebars and a shorter stem than the male version, plus a women’s saddle, and this is then packaged up as a ‘women’s bike’.

Because we build each bike to order and provide a comprehensive bike fit, we are able to tailor all aspects of the bike to fit the rider, and therefore there is no need for male and female specific models. We also make most of our frames in seven sizes to cater for all riders.

It is important to say that the above is not the full picture of male or female riders because there is no one-size-fits-all — everyone is different — but simply off-the-peg bikes generalise and don’t allow for these subtle and unique characteristics.

Types of bike

Performance road bikes

Best for riding fast on tarmac

This style is all about riding on surfaced roads, often with speed being key. They’ve got lightweight frames and narrow tyres designed to help you achieve a consistent, high level of speed with minimum effort. They tend to have dropped handlebars (the type that loops down and backwards) which allows you to get into an efficient and aerodynamic riding position. Performance road bikes are designed to be ridden in drier conditions and don’t have mudguard or luggage-carrying capacity.

Condor Bike Guide: Performance Road Bikes

Endurance road bikes

Best for riding over long distances

Just like a performance road bike, they tend to have dropped handlebars but have a more relaxed geometry to give you an upright riding position. This makes it more comfortable to ride, particularly over longer periods of time. The frames are also tuned to dampen vibrations from the road. They’ll let you embark on big-mile rides with friends and lend themselves very well to commuting thanks to their ability to cover ground quickly. They have semi-aerodynamic position placing you alittle more upright on the bike allowing you to see more traffic and road users.

Endurance bikes

Gravel/Adventure bikes

Best for fast riding on rougher surfaces, hard packed gravel and rolling mud terrain.

Overlapping with the touring category, gravel bikes — which you might also see referred to as adventure bikes, all-road bikes, and bike-packing bikes — are becoming very popular. It is a newer category within cycling and this is why you may see these bikes called different names. Bike-packing is not strictly a type of bike, but rather an activity you can do with your bike, and we have a lexicon (link) of words to help understand the different phrases used in cycling.

Gravel bikes combine road bike geometry, looks and speed with plenty of clearance for fitting big, knobbly tyres that can be 35mm wide or more to get you across almost any terrain, including terrible tarmac, gloopy mud, bridleways, and gravel paths.

Many will include eyelets for fitting mudguards and pannier racks. Bikes are equipped with disc brakes for better and more consistent braking in wet conditions. The frames are engineered to handle riding on poor surfaces, so may not be as lightweight as performance or endurance models.

They’re also a great bet for road riding in winter, but as the tyres are wider and the gearing tends to be adjusted for rough terrain, you’ll find you may not be as fast as an endurance bike.

Bike Buying Guide - a gravel bike

Touring bikes

Best for long distance, multi-day journeys when speed is not a priority

A touring bike is designed to take on everything from a commute to a continent-crossing adventure.They tend to have the same size wheels as road and hybrid bikes but with medium width tyres that allow you to take on a mixture of terrain in comfort.

Touring bikes are designed for heavy loads with fixings on the front and back for racks. Touring bikes are made of steel because the ride quality of the material suits long distance. The bikes have a relaxed riding position because you’ll likely be in the saddle from dawn to dusk. Shape of the frame is such that it is stable even when fitted with heavy bags.

Buying guide - a touring bike

Single Speed bikes

Best for efficient and economical travel in towns and cities

Singlespeed bikes are great if your riding tends to be mostly on flat surfaces because it keeps maintenance to a minimum because there is only the one gear and therefore fewer components. They are also an ideal choice if you want to keep your budget down and plan to commute or run errands in an urban area.
A single speed bike can be set up fixed (you may see these referred to as ‘fixie’ or ‘fixed-gear’) or freewheel. A fixed setup means that you have to pedal all the time to keep moving, and it can also be slowed down by resisting pedal motion. It is the ultimate in simplicity and many feel completely connected to and in control of the bike. Fixed-gear setups aren’t always the most beginner-friendly. A freewheel setup provides more of a familiar feel with the advantages of a single gear.

Single speed bikes

Track Bikes

Best for racing in a velodrome or fixie-crits

Track bikes have no brakes. They are designed to help you go as fast as possible and the rider sits in a very aerodynamic position. A track bike is designed to be ridden on a banked velodrome and the frame is designed to ensure your pedals won’t strike the banked track. Track bikes are fixed, riders slow themselves down by controlling and resisting the pedals turning.

Track bikes

What material should I choose & how are bike frames made?

Bike frames have been made from a variety of different materials over the years, with steel originally dominating. Today, aluminium and carbon fibre tend to be common because they are easy to manufacture.

Each frame material has pros and cons, but it all depends on your requirements as a rider, such as weight, budget, longevity, and the characteristics of the material.

 

Steel
Aluminium
Carbon
✔ Strong, durable and doesn’t fatigue
✔ Good stifffess to weight ratio makes it ideal for performance bikes
✔ Excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio
✔ Dampens road vibrations
✔ Affordable compared to steel and carbon
✔ Highly adaptable especially when designing aerodynamic bikes
✔ Ideal for long distance riding
✔ More durable than carbon
✔ High quality carbon is lighter than steel or aluminium
✔ Affordable compared to carbon
✕ Not as comfortable as steel or carbon over long distances
✕ More expensive than steel and aluminium, which may reduce your budget for components
✕ Heavier than premium carbon and high quality aluminium frames
✕ Cheaper aluminium can be low quality and tiring and harsh to ride
✕ Cheaper carbon can be heavier than an aluminium frame
✕ susceptible to corrosion, unless the frame is pre-treated
✕ fatigues faster compared to steel
✕ Not as durable in the event of an accident

Steel

Steel frames are manufactured using two main construction methods: welded or lugged. Lugged frames see the tubes slotted into cast steel lugs at their joints, then brazed together. Frames without lugs feature tube junctions that are welded together or fillet brazed.

Performance-focused frames made from steel are TIG welded, which results in a lighter frame. TIG welding is a difficult technique that takes years to learn and perfect. TIG welders are masters in heating the steel to a high temperature without affecting its integrity, and creating a strong but almost invisible weld. While steel is denser (and heavier) than aluminium, it’s stronger and more durable, too. This means frame builders use smaller-diameter, thinner-walled tubes and still maintain the required level of stiffness. 

Condor steel frames are all dipped in anti-corrosion treatment, an additional process to ensure the longevity of the frame. 

Condor uses Columbus Spirit steel tubing, made to our own custom shapes. Spirit is the highest level of steel tubing from the oldest bicycle tubing manufacturer, Columbus.

How does steel ride?

The natural damping properties of steel results in a comfortable ride quality. It delivers a stiff, spirited bike that doesn’t feel tiring on long rides or poor surfaces. Its unrivalled ride quality makes steel a popular option for road bikes as well as touring and adventure frames, where weight is less of a concern. Steel offers better value for money than titanium, whilst durability and longevity are still key. Good quality steel can be made lightweight but not as light as carbon or aluminium, and if your routes are rolling hills and shorter climbs, the weight saved over carbon will not have as great an impact as it would riding up long alpine ascents.

Types of steel

Most performance-minded steel bikes are made from chromoly steel, whereas cheaper steel road bikes use high-tensile steel, which is heavier. Steel is made with different compositions of chemical elements, such as manganese and niobium. They affect the weight and how thin the tubing can be made. Additionally, the way the tube is formed can reduce the weight, but these processes, including cold-drawing and heat treating, add time to manufacturing and therefore affect cost.

Stainless Steel

Condor Stainless Steel frameset

Specialist stainless steels have been developed for bike making that are stronger than other steels. Stainless steel, like titanium, is often viewed as a luxurious option, partly due to its ride quality and cost. Bikes made of this material are often touted as “bikes for life” because the material does not corrode.
Most metals have a defined number of load cycles before they’re likely to fail. Stainless steel is far more resilient to repeated stresses and strains, and this means skilled frame fabricators can build frames lighter and with more compliance without risk of failure.
Stainless steel is harder to dent than a titanium frame and the frame doesn’t need painting, so scratches and chips aren’t an issue either. The raw finish typical of stainless steel is polished and usually some painting is added to provide character.

How does stainless steel ride?

Stainless steel is stiff yet has an exceptional ride quality as, like mild steel, it will soak up the road buzz and feel smooth. It is lighter than mild steel frames, making it a perfect material for sportive riding and climbing over big mountains. It makes for a great touring or gravel bike, too, because it is resistant to damage and corrosion.

Carbon

Carbon fibre is a highly-adaptable wonder material that can be shaped and fine-tuned to precise requirements, balancing stiffness, comfort and aerodynamic performance.

How does carbon ride?

Premium carbon frames can be tuned to ride to suit the terrain or activity that it’s intended for. They can be made extremely stiff to handle high levels of power, such as for use by track cyclists in world level events. Equally, a bike designed for riding over rough Tarmac, or over a long distance such as a sportive or 100-mile event, would be built to allow for more vibration dampening. The lighter the bike, the easier it will feel to ride and control. You won’t need to generate as much power to accelerate the bike or ascend hills and mountains.
Therefore, carbon is often selected for race bikes and by riders taking on challenges where time is a factor.

How is carbon made?

Carbon isn’t without its downfalls, though. Carbon fibre bike frames are expensive. Most frames are made by layering up many sheets of carbon fibre/resin material, called “prepreg”, with different grades and orientations used in different places in the frame. The more layers and different grades used, the longer the manufacturing process.

Carbon is very strong but only in one direction, so it’s stacked at multiple angles in a bike frame. It is held together with epoxy resin. Premium carbon frames use high quality resin with additional ingredients, such as nanoparticles, to strengthen the bond without having to use as much resin. The lay-up of the carbon gives bicycles frames their different qualities.
Once the different layers in the frame have been assembled it is now time to form the frame shape and this can be done in two ways. In a mould and formed by a machine or by hand with tube to tube construction.

A monocoque frame is made in a mould. The carbon layers are placed in a heavy metal mould and heated under pressure to bond the different layers together. A different mould is needed for each size of bike. Moulds are used by both premium and cheaper carbon manufacturers. Some bike brands may share moulds to reduce the cost of creating a mould. There is a degree of over-engineering of carbon frames to ensure that they are strong enough to handle loads.

A frame constructed tube to tube is where carbon tubes are pre-formed from carbon layers and resin, then cut by hand to length and wrapped with extra carbon fibre at the joints. This is the way Condor carbon frames are made. It means that frames can be made to custom sizes as well as tuned to suit the riding without the need to over use resin for guaranteed strength.
The other important factor is the modulus of the carbon fibre used. Higher modulus fibres will be stiffer, but they’re also more brittle, so even a frame marketed as “high modulus” will be made of a mix of different grades of carbon fibre. Higher modulus carbon fibre is also more expensive, but the end result will be a lighter frame for the same strength.

Aluminium

You’ll often see the terms aluminium and alloy used interchangeably. Pure aluminium would be much too soft to form into a bike frame, so it’s mixed with other elements to alter its physical properties. Aluminium alloys are given a code for the additives (chiefly silicon and magnesium) that are mixed with the aluminium to form each alloy. You might see 6061, 7003 or 7005, but for simplicity the codes are usually shortened to 6000 series or 7000 series.

Types of Aluminium

The thickness of the tube walls and the size of the tubes are important factors that affect the weight and ride quality. Aluminium tubes are usually butted to ensure strength and stiffness where it’s needed, and saving weight where it’s not. Butting a tube complicates the manufacturing processes, and so a straight gauge tube or single butted tube is cheaper to make, but it is also heavier and less compliant.
Butting is only part of the story and you’ll often see premium alloy frames described as “hydroformed”, which describes the process of adapting the shape of a tube using high-pressure fluid.

How does an aluminium frame ride?

Aluminium has a reputation as a cheap material because it’s the material used for the majority of cheaper bike frames, and those frames can feel harsh to ride and sluggish. Premium aluminium, which is hand-welded, has improved ride properties and is a popular choice for performance-focused frames, both on the road and, in particular, for mountain bikes. A master craftsman working with premium aluminium requires the same skills as working with steels; they need to understand the heating point of the alloy and be able to create a neat weld using the minimum amount of material to save weight.

Aluminium is much less dense than steel. As a result, a premium aluminium frame can be made with oversized tubing to achieve a high level of stiffness, while still being lighter than a steel frame, though not as light as a carbon frame. Premium aluminium has a direct feel and provides riders with feedback from the road and so is great for criterium bikes and ultra-distance racing. It is also a more affordable material compared to steel and carbon, making it ideal for riders who are focused on maximising their budget.

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