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The term road bicycle is used to describe bicycles built for traveling at speed on paved roads. Some sources use the term to mean racing bicycle. Other sources specifically exclude racing bicycles from the definition, using the term to mean a bicycle of a similar style but built more for endurance and less the fast bursts of speed desired in a racing bicycle; as such, they usually have more gear combinations and fewer hi-tech racing features. Certain of these bicycles have been referred to as 'sportive' bicycles to distinguish them from racing bicycles.
Compared to other styles of bicycle, road bicycles share common features:
- The tires are narrow, high-pressure (>=100 psi or 689 kPa), and smooth to decrease rolling resistance.
- The handlebars are bent ("dropped") to allow the rider position to be leaned forward and downward, which reduces the forward vertical cross sectional area and thus highly reduces the air resistance.
- They usually use derailleur gears; however, single-speed and fixed-gear varieties exist.
- They either use disc brakes or rim brake (although there might be a bit technical difference, for example, road caliper brakes use shorter and wider pads than mountain bike cantilevers).
- The bicycle is of a lightweight construction.
The term road bicycle can also describe any type of bike used primarily on paved roads, in contrast to bikes primarily intended for off-road use, such as mountain bikes. Several variations of road bikes include:
- Touring bicycles are designed for bicycle touring: they are robust, comfortable, and capable of carrying heavy loads.
- Hybrid bicycles are designed for a variety of recreational and utility purposes. While primarily intended for use on pavement, they may also be used on relatively smooth unpaved paths or trails.
- Utility bicycles are designed for utility cycling: are a traditional bicycle for commuting, shopping and running errands in towns and cities.
- Roadster a specific form of the utility bicycle developed in the UK.
- Recumbent bicycles are designed for variety of recreational and utility purposes, but are characterised by the reclined riding position in which the cyclist is seated.
- Vintage road bicycles, also known as classic lightweight bicycles, are generally older bicycles with frames which are manufactured using steel tubing and lugs. Certain examples of this bicycle type have become collectors' items, with potential values of several thousand dollars. Other cyclists prefer this type of bicycle to those manufactured using modern techniques because they are "practical, versatile, durable, repairable, and timeless, regardless of current popular trends."
- A flat bar road bike, also called a fitness bike is a relatively new style of bicycle. It is simply a road bike fitted with a flat handlebar and MTB-style shifters and brake levers.  This combination provides a light, fast bike with a more upright riding position that is more comfortable and gives a better view in traffic. Flat bar road bike are commonly used for commuting, urban and fitness riding.
- Paul Rosen; Peter Cox; David Horton, eds. (2007). Cycling and Society. Ashgate Publishing Limited. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-7546-4844-4.
- Kone, Michael; Sheldon Brown. "Vintage Lightweight Pricing Guide". Sheldon Brown. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- Barnard, Alan. "Long-Term Road Test: Rivendell Sam Hillborne". EcoVelo. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- John Stevenson (26 Apr 2011). "What's the best bike for cycle commuting?". Bike Radar. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
- Urban Jeff (February 8, 2010). "SRAM DoubleTap 10 Flat-Bar Road Shifters". Urban Velo. Retrieved 2011-07-14.