How to Ride a Road Bike for the First Time? A Beginner’s Guide

While we may debate all day in support or against the notion that money can’t buy happiness, I guess we can all agree that dough makes the world go round.

After all, cash can buy a road bike — which is pretty close to loads of hugs, smiles, and hearty laughter, all in one package.

Cycling gets me hooked on a sense of adventure and freedom. Nothing comes close to the feeling one gets when fresh air hits your face, and the wind blows through your hair. If this does not constitute happiness — perhaps nothing does.

Road bikes can make swift transitions from transportation to recreational bikes. They perform optimally on-road and okay on moderate off-road trails.

If you only admire cyclists from a distance, don’t be intimidated. In this post, I will help you learn how to ride a road bike for the first time.
Hop on in!

How to Ride a Road Bike for the First Time

Road-Biking 101 for Beginners

When taking up road biking for the first time, don’t let the high-tech clothing, road bike price tags, or steep hills scare you. Trust me, the learning curve is gentler than many first-timers assume.

Yes, there is plenty to learn. However, you don’t need to master everything all at once. At a minimum, it is enough to just get on your bike and hit the pedals.

Let’s have a look at a few things that can make road biking for beginners less challenging.

We will also share some cycling tips to flatten the learning curve and quickly get you set up to experience the invaluable pleasures of cycling.

Choosing the Right Bike

The markets have parades of road bikes to offer. These models differ in their design, specs, and overall longevity.

However, nothing is as important as finding a bike whose frame size is ideal for you.

This will enhance your riding comfort and, in a way, also boost your safety by promoting better handling manners.

So how do you find the correct frame size?
Well, many bike manufacturers offer up to 6 unique bike frame sizes.

You can even find bike frames specifically designed for either gender. Whether you choose a gender-specific road bike or a unisex model, make sure you settle for one whose frame size is ideal for your body geometry.

Frame sizes are often expressed in centimeters. Some models also use generic labels such as XS or XL.

In case you choose to go for a gender-specific road bike, beware of the fact that women’s and men’s bikes differ in their geometry, and this may affect their frame dimensions.

To know the ideal frame size, you need to check the standover clearance. A perfect bike size for you will leave a few centimeters of space between the top tube and your inseam leg.

If there is too much space, the bike is too small. In case you can hardly stand without tilting the bike to the side, then it certainly is too big for you.

Related Guide: Road bike or Touring Bike? – details comparison

Choosing Road Cycling Apparel

Loose-fitting clothes are not ideal for road biking because they will toy with your aerodynamics. It is best to wear apparel that fits snugly and is uniquely designed to enhance your riding comfort.

The right apparel collection should include:

  • Jersey — preferably with short sleeves
  • Fingerless gloves — make sure there is adequate pam padding
  • Wind vest
  • Biking shoes
  • Arm and knee warmers
  • Bike shorts, tights, or bibs
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket

Proper gear will ensure your comfort even if the weather changes abruptly during your cycling trips. In case you intend to cycle after dusk, choose apparel with reflective strips.

Finding stretchy bike tights, shorts, or bibs with a soft, padded liner is, on the other hand, essential for long-distance cycling.

Stretchy pants allow better freedom of movement while the padded liner improves your comfort on the saddle.

Bike Accessories

Bike Accessories

Your road biking routines and needs should help you decide on the essential accessories to buy. Because you are still new to the sport, consider investing in what is essential.

Here is a list to guide you:

  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Lights
  • Bells
  • Bidons and bottle cages
  • Tire pump
  • Maintenance tool kit

How to Ride a Road Bike?

Now that you have a road bike of the correct size, cycling apparel, and even the recommended cycling accessories, let’s get to the juicy part.

We will cover the basics and, hopefully, make it easier for you to start road biking.

Cycling Cadence

Maintaining the right cycling pace is crucial. You need to shift gears depending on the terrain and generally ensure that you pedal between 80-100 RPM (revolutions per minute).

The gearing system ensures you can maintain an average cadence and avoid pedaling slower or faster because this can get you exhausted quickly.

Here’s the deal, if pedaling feels strenuous at average cadence, the gear is too high, and you should shift to a lower gear.

On the other hand, if you find yourself pedaling too fast, perhaps because you are not getting any resistance, you should shift to a harder gear.

Tips for Shifting Gears on a Road Bike

Understanding how the gearing system works is crucial. This will by extension, enhance your pedaling efficiency and make your cycling experience more enjoyable and less strenuous.

Standard bicycles have five key drivetrain parts that allow you to shift gears. They include:

  • Shifters
  • Derailleurs
  • Chain
  • Front chainrings
  • Rear cassette

The rear cassette is controlled by the right shifters, while the left shifters control the front chainrings.

When you use the left shifter, you will experience an increase in the resistance of the pedals. On the other hand, using the right shifter will help fine-tune pedaling resistance.

To get it right, you need to feel the average resistance that allows you to maintain just the right cycling cadence.

How to Maintain Proper Pedaling Efficiency

There is more to cycling than merely pushing the pedals on a downstroke and pulling them up on an upstroke. To maintain pedaling efficiency, you must pedal like a pro.

When doing a downstroke act like you are scraping mud from your shoe when you get to the bottom of the stroke.

Braking Technique

Knowing how to shift your gears and maintain correct pedaling efficiency is good. By all means, ride like the wind and grow into a badass speed freak.

Before you do so, however, you may want to know how to safely come to a halt or hit the emergency brakes to avoid obstacles.

Usually, the left brake lever operates the front brake. On the other hand, the right brake lever operates the rear brake.

Because you are just getting started on-road biking, it is better to hit both brakes at once whenever your safety is endangered.

Once you have turned into some sort of biking pro, you can gradually break away from the habit of grabbing a handful of levers.

The front brake is the most effective, so you can practice feathering it lightly alongside the rear brake for you to come to a smooth, gradual stop.

Where Should You Look When Riding?

It’s road biking beginner 101, so it makes sense not to assume that you know where to focus your eyes. Well, you should focus 20–30 feet ahead.

This allows you to anticipate obstacles and turns accordingly.
Have you ever focused on not landing on a ditch and ending up with wheels in the same trench?

One thing I learned the hard way is never to focus on the front wheel or, even worse, oncoming obstacles. Instead, remain focused on where you want to go.

How to Turn?

Entering a turn is not complicated. Several rules of thumb can enhance your confidence, even on busy street highways.

Once you are ready to turn, hit the brakes to slow down, and aim at riding on the outside corner of the turn. You need to lean your bike, not your body into the turn.

It is easier to navigate a turn when you use the leaning technique because it does not require you to make dramatic adjustments and twist the handlebar in the direction of your front wheel.

Simply use your inside leg to the corner and push your weight through the outside leg.

Road Biking Rules of Etiquette

  • Move with the traffic, not against it
  • If you are in the company of another cyclist, ride in a single file with one bike in front of the other
  • When riding in the streets, follow the traffic rules like everyone else.
  • Always alert other riders or drivers of your intentions using hand signals.

Final Words

Road biking is fun. Once you have learned how to ride a road bike for the first time, it’s easy to want to move from zero to hero overnight. Gaining confidence is good, but keep your excitement on a leash.

Before you go flying at full speed down the steepest hill in your hood, take time to practice proper braking and cornering techniques.

It is also essential to fully master how to maintain appropriate momentum on different terrain.
Happy biking!

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