Until recently I was riding a solid and dependable hybrid bike. I loved that bike, but unfortunately it was stolen. After a period of anger and upset I used the bike insurance money to buy a road bike.
My thinking was I’d get more miles in, become fitter and leaner. I wanted to take my cycling more seriously and eventually to ride in some long distance events. It is now a little over a month since I started…
Huge thanks to www.breakawaydigital.co.uk for the excellent photos provided for this article. If you are looking for professional photos of you riding, or doing other action sports they come well recommended.
First month of riding a road bike
For the first month I made a plan: Ignore training plans – and so far it’s worked well! I decided all I needed to do was get out more, get the miles going and enjoy every minute.
It’s an approach I’d strongly recommend to anyone buying their first road bike. Making the switch is not as easy as you’d expect. The body position changes, the steering is different and those narrow tyres feel unbalanced.
Basically riding a road bike takes a bit of getting used to. For me the lightweight bike was twitchy and the riding position felt unnatural. So I just went out and rode it as often as I could. Distances and speeds were ignored as time in the saddle is what mattered.
But to get fit and lose weight I’ll need to get riding further and faster. And that’s my goal for the next few months.
17 beginner roadie tips
Start somewhere easy
Riding a road bike for the first time is difficult and daunting. Brakes don’t come to hand easily, vision to the rear is difficult, potholes can rattle your bones and passing cars feel so much closer.
So for your first few rides head to cycle paths where you at least won’t have to worry about traffic. Try to pick a quiet time of day so there are less cyclists to avoid. Keep riding in a safe place until you’re comfortable.
Don’t ride clipless
Unless you already ride clipless don’t change to clipped-in riding at the same time as taking your first few spins in a road bike. While clipless pedals are undoubtedly the way to go, wait until you are comfortable on the bike before making the transition.
There are no easy gears
Compared to my old hybrid, my road bike doesn’t seem to have low gears! Remember it is not the bike that climbs the hills it is you. When the gears are gone, which is far sooner than I ever hope, it’s all about the legs.
Learn to change gears
Unlike on my hybrid there’s a technique to changing gears on a road bike. You don’t just push the levers as the gear paddles are part of the brakes, or on the frame on old bikes.
Both of these mean you need to pick the right time to change. If gear paddles are on the brakes then you don’t want change when you need to slow down. Likewise on the older bikes you don’t want to change gears when going around a corner as you need to take one hand of the bars.
You also shouldn’t change gear when you are pushing really hard. While this applies to all bikes it is more important of road bikes. This means you should change gear in advance of needing to. So you need to look ahead to already be in the right gear.
It’s all about cadence
Sticking with gears, one of the best beginner roadie tips is to keep your cadence higher than you would expect. Cadence is the speed at which your legs spin and it should be roughly 80-90 revolutions per minute.
This will feel ridiculously fast if you have come from a mountain biking background. The aim is to change gears in order to maintain a consistent cadence. This is the most efficient way to ride and involves changing gear often.
One of the best beginner roadie tips to improve your skills by riding your new bike everywhere, not just on your longer weekend rides. Forcing myself to commute on the road bike has given me better control in all conditions. Give it a go.
The fitter you are the more you get out of road cycling. And the best way to get fit quickly is to climb hills. Climbing like a mountain goat will get your heart rate peaking, and in some thermal clothing will leave you smelling like one on your return…
Beware of crosswinds
A fast cross-wind when heading downhill will have you gripping tighter than your lycra. I’ve had two high speed wobbles due to wind. I handled the second better than the first, as I shifted more weight to the front which helped.
Hook your thumbs
Keep your thumbs beneath, or wrapped around the handlebars at all times. So when – not if – you hit a surprise bump your hands won’t slip off the bars, which is likely to cause a crash.
You don’t have to wear lycra
While wearing lycra will make you more aerodynamic it is not essential, particularly in the early days. So if like me you don’t feel comfortable in lycra wear other sports clothing instead.
Do wear bike shorts
On the other hand do wear shorts specifically made for cycling. Padded, seamless shorts reduce chafing and improve comfort. If you don’t like the look wear sport shorts over the top. You shouldn’t wear underwear beneath cycling shorts, unless they are cycling undies.
Wearing comfortable padded gloves will help you avoid sore hands. Also don’t forget to move your hand position every now and then.
Maintain your bike
The chain will need new bike lube every couple of weeks. If it looks shiny and dry or starts to get noisey then lube it up the day before your next ride. And don’t forget to pump your tyres regularly – you should check the pressure before each ride.
Take a spare tube
Going to be further from home than you would like to walk carrying a bike?Then take a spare tube, tyre levers and a pump. It is also good to have some basic tools in case anything needs adjusting.
Hydration and energy
Cycling uses a lot of energy and liquid which you’ll need to replace to avoid dehydration or burn out. Make sure you have enough liquid and energy gels or snacks for the conditions and the ride you are planning. It’s always best to have too much rather than not enough.
Don’t forget to ride safely
There are many things cyclists are guilty of that can put you in danger. Check out this list of things cyclists never do to avoid the seven deadly (sometimes literally) sins of cycling.
One of the most important of all these beginner roadie tips is to relax. When you are stiff or tense it will hinder your riding, tire you out more quickly and can lead to injuries. So relax your grip a little, relax the upper body and take long deep breaths.
Beyond month one
Buying a road bike will not automatically get you fit. Fitness improves when you are riding faster and further. In my case I’m not losing weight, but this could be because I’m turning fat to muscle – and turning greed to calories at a faster rate than I burn them off!
My next step is to take it all a little more seriously. Still no strict training schedule yet, but at least three rides per week on top of commuting – so going home a longer route.
I also plan to learn more about sports nutrition, and to get some longer rides of over 35 miles under my belt. Finally, I am going to start using data to check on my progress.
We hope you found these 17 beginner roadie tips useful. After your first month of riding a road bike be sure to check out our cycling holidays as there could be a great break for you.