How to Ride a Road Bike: Beginner Tips

If you have ridden any bicycle before, you are probably not too far off from learning how to ride a road bike. You’re probably thinking: “I mean, don’t you just get on and pedal?”

Well, yes and no. The simplest definition of riding a road bike is pretty much the same as any bicycle – sit on the saddle, hold the handlebars, move your legs to rotate the pedals, and change gears accordingly. Riding a road bike, however, has a few different things which you will need to consider.

It’s pretty important to know these specifics so that you aren’t left in an unusual position (pun not intended) when riding the bike and can have a comfortable, enjoyable ride. So, rather than feeling your way around in the dark when starting off with riding a road bike, check out our tips and tricks below.


Size

As with many bikes knowing what size bike you should have and testing different sizes is the first step in ensuring your experience with it is a good one. If you get the wrong size, you are likely to have comfort issues and won’t be able to get the best results from your bike.

Man Shopping for a Road Bike

There are a lot of road bike size charts out there which you can take a look at for an indication, but if you still aren’t sure what size you should be getting, head down to a local bike shop and get someone to assist you. After all, experiencing something in person gives you the best idea of what you need.


Positioning

There are two types of positioning when riding a road bike – your body’s positioning and the position of your grip on the handlebars.

The main goal with body positioning when riding a road bike is to have a relaxed, neutral body position. If you are tense and your body is in a bad position when riding, it can cause many issues such as back pain, neck pain, and hand numbness.

Try to remind yourself to relax your shoulders. Bend your elbows a bit, keep your wrists straight, keep your spine in a neutral position, and ensure that each of your knees is tracking over the ball of each foot.

One thing you will notice that is different on a road bike than a mountain bike is the handlebar shape. There are three basic positionings for your grip on a road bike – the top, the drops, and the hoods.

Top

The top of the handlebars is not the best place to hold onto your handlebars on a road bike. While this may seem like a normal positioning due to how other bike’s handlebars are designed, on a road bike, this should be avoided unless you are riding on a long climb where it can help you recover a little bit.

Road Bike Hand Position

On a road bike, the gearing and brakes are positioned differently, and positioning your hands here gives you the least overall control of the bike.

The Drops

The drops are a great position to place your hands when you are riding downhill. Placing your hands in this lower position on the handlebars lowers your center of gravity and puts a little more pressure on the front wheel, adding traction and balance to your downhill ride.

The Hoods

The hoods are the main position where your hands will be placed. This spot allows you to easily change gear and reach the brakes while maintaining a comfortable body position.


Gear

While positioning and size are very important when riding a road bike, another important factor is the gear that you use (gear being clothing, storage, etc. Not 1st, 2nd, 3rd). There are many additional things you can get to change the feeling of your ride, but the main ones you should keep in mind are your cycling shorts, shoes and a potential storage spot.

Cycling Shorts

One of the first things you will probably notice about road bikes is the saddle comfort. Road bike seats tend to be smaller and harder than other bikes’ seats as road bikes are more about speed, aerodynamics, and lightweightedness for longer rides. It’s a good idea to get yourself a pair of cycling shorts with a chamois (padding) built in.

Biker wearing Cycling Shorts

This will make your ride a little more comfortable. Cycling shorts also provide many other benefits to your ride, so they are good to get even if you don’t find the seat that uncomfortable.

Shoes

The best shoes to get for riding a road bike are cleats. These shoes allow you to utilise all the relevant muscles in your legs, and make riding your road bike a much more efficient activity. They also prevent your feet from slipping off the pedals which can cause major injuries when travelling at faster speed.

It may be a little scary getting used to cleats at first if you aren’t used to them; just practice clipping in and out of the pedals in a safe spot before jumping straight into riding with them.

Storage Item

Since road bikes are built for speed and distance, they don’t come with the option to add baskets or rear racks (and adding these would be highly impractical).

It is, therefore, a good idea to think about how you are going to store small items such as your phone, keys, and snacks for the ride. Most cyclists wear a cycling shirt which often comes with a pouch to store stuff in, so this is one of the options you have.

Saddle Bag for Road Bikes

For longer rides, however, this might not be enough storage, in which case you could get yourself a saddle bag. This attaches under the seat and gives you that little bit of extra storage you need. It can also be used to hold emergency items such as CO2, tire patch kits, and/or a spare tire tube for if you need to change a tire.

Now that you know the essentials to riding a road bike, you can head out, get one for yourself, and get on the road. Just remember to keep everything in mind from your positioning and bike size to the equipment you are using. If you follow all the right steps and keep enforcing them, you will have an amazing time riding your road bike.

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How to Ride a Road Bike: Size, Positioning and Gear Tips — Bike Hacks