How to Ride a Road Bike

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If you’ve come across this article, you didn’t just jump on a road bike and try to play it by ear. Instead, you’ve done the right thing and started researching.

Riding a road bike isn’t the same as casual biking. You’ll encounter different conditions, and there will be traffic to contend with. Plus, road biking can involve longer and more challenging routes.

That’s why it’s essential to start with some knowledge of the subject and prepare in advance. But don’t be intimidated, though. Once you get the basics under your belt, you’ll be ready to go.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about how to ride a road bike.

How to Ride a Road Bike: The Basics

It would be ideal to start preparing for road biking by covering the vital aspects. Your road biking preparation checklist should look like this:

  • The bicycle
  • The equipment
  • Proper positioning and bike use
  • Road safety

Everything listed is crucial for a safe and comfortable road biking experience. Going through each item on the list will set you up for the road.

Your bicycle should be just the right fit in size and individual components. It should also have good gear shifting and braking systems for the intended use.

The equipment covers everything you’ll be wearing while biking and additional gear you should carry along for the ride. This will include clothing, safety gear, drinks, and more.

Proper positioning and use are about how you’ll mount and ride your bike in the safest and easiest way possible. Following the best biking practices, you’ll be able to traverse long distances without getting fatigued too quickly. You’ll also avoid potential injury.

Finally, adhering to road safety rules will be paramount once you get out into the traffic. Other items on the list are for your comfort and safety, but this one could – quite literally – be a lifesaver.

Let’s explore how to ride a road bike in more detail.

The Bicycle

You can take two approaches when starting out with road biking: Get a new bike for that purpose or use the one you already have.

Using the old bike could be the better option for beginners. But, on the other hand, if you have a bicycle in good condition that you’re used to and know how to operate, there’s no reason to buy a dedicated road bike immediately.

Keeping your old bike is a good idea due to several factors. First, as a novice road biker, starting with more standard equipment would be best. If you already know the ins and outs of your bicycle, it will be more comfortable to take it over new terrain.

Secondly, a good road bike can be pretty pricey. But the price is only a part of the issue – knowing what you’re buying is the more critical factor.

Road bikes can differ significantly from model to model. Without sufficient experience, you won’t know which features suit you the most and will be more likely to purchase the wrong bike. In the best case, you’ll need to buy a ton of additional or replacement equipment. Worst case, you’ll need another new bike, and that’s an investment you might not want to make twice in a row.

You shouldn’t hold on to your old bike, either. If the bicycle isn’t in good shape or has certain features that would bother you during everyday rides, putting a dent in your budget for a new one might be necessary.

Here’s what a good road bike should look like in a nutshell:

  • The bike frame should be made of aluminum or Chromoly. These materials are strong and light enough but aren’t as pricey as carbon fiber or titanium.
  • The handlebars should ideally be either drop bars or, eventually, hybrid style. The standard flat bars are better suited for mountain bikes and aren’t as comfortable on longer rides.
  • Regarding brakes, you have a choice between rim and disc variants. Disc brakes perform better, but you won’t go wrong with rim brakes – they’ll do a fine job at a significantly lower cost.
  • It would be best to have wide tires on your road bike. These provide more stability and comfort, especially when riding long distances. However, if you have a bike with narrower tires, don’t worry – those will serve you well, too.
  • Choosing the correct seat can be somewhat tricky. Generally, you should avoid wide padded seats, as comfortable as they might look. They’ll feel better initially, but the comfort won’t last long. A slightly firmer seat with only a little padding would be preferable.

The Equipment

When talking about how to ride a road bike, we can’t stress the importance of proper gear enough. Presumably, you already know how to ride a bike. But taking it on the road will require some dedicated equipment:

  • A helmet compliant with safety standards
  • Padded and elastic bicycle shorts
  • Fingerless padded gloves
  • Road or mountain bike shoes – contrary to the names, the mountain bike variant might be better
  • A frame-mounted water bottle
  • Essential tools for tire changing

In addition to these items, you might want a bike computer or cyclometer to provide essential information like mileage covered, current and average speed, and more.

Man riding a road bike on the open road

Positioning and Riding

Before starting the ride, you should ensure the proper cycling position. This will help you maintain better control and make the journey less tiring.

First, you should adjust the saddle to be at hip height. You should be able to straighten your leg when pressing the pedal down. And when it comes to pedals, make sure they’re positioned parallel to the ground when you get on the bike.

While cycling, keep your neck and shoulders relaxed but don’t lower your head or hunch forward. You should be leaning forward with a slightly bowed spine and bent elbows. Also, try to keep your body directly over the feet.

Once you’ve mastered proper positioning, pay attention to your technique.

In particular, you might take some time to perfect the knee movement. The correct way to cycle is with your knees moving straight up and back down. However, it’s common for the knees to start bowing outwards, so pay attention to that movement and make corrections as you go.

Road Safety

Although cyclists might not be under the same scrutiny as drivers regarding traffic laws, obeying certain rules will make road biking much safer for you and other vehicles.

You should always act on the road so that other drivers can predict your behavior. For instance, never ride against the traffic and, if the road is wide enough, keep on your far right.

On narrower roads that don’t allow for safe overtaking, it would be better to move to the center of the lane instead of keeping on the right. This will discourage any haphazard passing attempts by less careful drivers.

Of course, you should always take the shoulder if there is one, and it’s paved.

You can also communicate your intentions by hand-signaling. When you want to turn, extend your arm in the direction you’re turning, i.e., right arm for the right turn and left arm for the left turn.

In most situations, it’s best to consider your bike the same as any other vehicle and act appropriately.

Get Your Bike on the Road

Cycling on the road might seem daunting at first. However, if you prepare for it with the right bicycle and gear and practice good biking techniques, you’ll have a wonderful experience.

Now that you know how to ride a road bike, it’s time to get ready and hit the road. Finally, don’t forget that, while riding by yourself has its perks, cycling in good company is even better.