Riding a bicycle may seem simple, but it requires practice and experience to adjust the bike for comfort, position oneself correctly, and use gears effectively. This guide will provide beginners with tips on how to ride a road bike.
Beginners may fear that thin, bald tires will not hold them in turns, but these tires actually provide better grip in cornering than studded tires. However, caution is needed in wet or sandy conditions. Braking on road bikes may also seem ineffective due to the thin tires, but the caliper brakes are sufficient if used properly, with a focus on the front brake.
While some suggest consulting a bike fit professional, not everyone can afford this and it may not always be necessary. Customizing the fit yourself is possible, as the ideal fit depends on factors such as flexibility, riding goals, strength, and needs. Trial and error is the best way to determine the ideal fit. This article will provide a starting point for beginners who have just purchased their first road bike.
If you are still experiencing discomfort while riding on the highway even after an initial adjustment, it is likely due to the bike’s fit. This could be caused by an incorrect frame size or poorly adjusted saddle and handlebar positions.
To address the issue, you can refer to a guide on Effective Top Tube (ETT) measurements to determine if the frame size is incorrect. Alternatively, you can adjust the position of the saddle and handlebars to improve your comfort.
Trial and error is often necessary to find the optimal fit for your body, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments until you find the most comfortable position for you.
Novice cyclists may experience discomfort while riding a road bike due to the stronger tilt of the body required. This often leads to pressure on the crotch area, and some may attempt to solve this issue by tilting the saddle forward. However, this disrupts the weight distribution on the bike and causes discomfort.
To address this issue, the saddle should always be parallel to the ground. If the nose of the saddle is pressing against the slope of the body, it can be lowered slightly (usually by two to three millimeters). It is important to adjust the saddle height correctly to ensure the knee is fully extended when the pedal is at the lowest point, and bent when the foot is on the toes.
Beginners tend to move their pelvis down to reach the low handlebars, but this can increase pressure on the perineum. Instead, the lower back should be bent while keeping the pelvis straight on the saddle. This ensures a consistent position of the pelvis whether the body is bent over or fully extended. Remember to train yourself to maintain this posture for a comfortable ride.
For beginners used to the high handlebars of a hybrid bike, the low handlebars on modern road bikes can be a challenge. To address this, I suggest starting with a raised or adjustable stem to increase the handlebar height.
However, it’s important not to go overboard with the handlebar height as it can negatively impact aerodynamics. The handlebars should never be higher than the saddle, and ideally should be slightly lower or at the same level. As you become more comfortable with the new position, you can gradually lower the handlebars to a suitable level.
It’s also worth considering the tilt of the road bike handlebars, which should be adjusted based on individual preferences and needs.
For a more comfortable ride on a road bike, it’s recommended to wrap the handlebars with double wrapping to reduce vibrations, even if the asphalt on the roads is of decent quality. You can also add strips of foam rubber under the wrapping in the area where your palms rest when holding the handlebars. This can significantly reduce discomfort during long rides.
When choosing a road bike handlebar, it’s important to consider the width. Ideally, the handlebar should be the same width as the cyclist’s shoulders for a comfortable grip.
However, the handlebar width can vary depending on the cyclist’s specific needs. For example, wider handlebars can improve steering and are commonly used in cyclocross, while narrower handlebars can reduce the frontal projection of the bicycle.
Riding a road bike can be a daunting experience for cyclists used to other types of bikes. The bike has a different geometry, a shorter wheelbase, and a unique handlebar design, with a sharp curve. When you first ride a road bike, it can be challenging to control the brakes and gears and get used to the new riding style.
After just a few meters, you may feel overwhelmed and unsteady. You might even struggle to shift gears or brake effectively. I remember my first time on a road bike; I felt lost and uncomfortable, barely able to ride five kilometers.
If you’re new to road cycling, your body is likely to be adapted to a hybrid or mountain bike. This means that your brain is getting mixed signals, making it difficult to adjust to the new bike. However, with practice, you can retrain your reflexes and become comfortable riding on the road.
Beginner cyclists often assume that the lower grip is the only way to ride a road bike, leading to discomfort such as neck pain, backache, and shortness of breath.
However, the lower grip is actually used for accelerating and moving upwind, or drafting behind another cyclist. In normal riding, the upper grip is preferred, with many options available.
The “on the handles” grip is a popular choice, with the palms resting comfortably on the hoods, and brakes and gears easily accessible. This position allows for a relatively high but still aerodynamic riding posture.
In terms of ergonomics, a straight handlebar often causes wrists to twist unnaturally. Holding onto the bends of the road handlebar with palms facing up is a good stretch to counteract this.
Overall, the road handlebar allows for a variety of grip combinations for long-distance rides, preventing fatigue and wrist numbness.
It is technically possible to use regular athletic shoes when riding a road bike, and this will save you from having to buy an expensive set of road cycling shoes.
However, if you choose this option, you will miss out on a significant part of the pleasure that comes with road cycling. The connection between the cleat and the pedal on road cycling shoes is much tighter than on MTB shoes, with very little free play in any direction except for a slight heel outward movement when unclipping.
This creates a feeling of being completely connected to the bike, especially when climbing uphill and accelerating. Therefore, I strongly recommend investing in a proper pair of road cycling shoes and pedals, as it will enhance your overall experience with your road bike.
To ensure a smooth ride on your road bike, it’s important to maintain proper tire pressure. Check the maximum recommended pressure and make sure your tires are inflated close to that value.
After the first 100 kilometers, bring your bike in for a check-up to adjust the spokes as necessary. The weight of the rider can put pressure on the wheels, so regular maintenance is important.
When encountering rough terrain, stand up on the pedals to avoid damaging the saddle frame. It’s also best to avoid standing while going downhill to prevent damage to the pedals and bottom bracket.
To prolong the life of your bike components, try to ride in a low gear to reduce strain on the pedals. Conversely, increasing speed can also help relieve pressure on the pedals.
Once you have completed the initial setup of your bike, it will take time and effort to achieve the perfect fit. You may need to adjust your saddle or handlebars multiple times to get the right fit. It’s possible that you may need to purchase a new stem, saddle, or handlebar to achieve this perfect fit. However, these minor adjustments are well worth it when you experience the joy of riding a bike that feels like an extension of your body and doesn’t cause any discomfort.