A beginner’s guide to road biking

Whether you’re thinking of taking up road biking to boost your health, cut the cost of a commute or live a greener lifestyle, there are very real benefits to be had.

But, if you’ve been out of the saddle for a while, are anxious about being on busy roads or are just wondering how a road bike differs to other types of bicycle, Formby Cycles offer some of their best advice for beginners:


What is a Road Bike?

Road bikes, sometimes described as ‘racers’ are specifically designed for use on the road.

They are aerodynamic, lightweight and usually feature skinny tyres, dropped handlebars and advanced drivetrain systems that allow you to adapt the power and thus speed to the road surface and conditions.


What Should I Look for When Buying a Road Bike?

Although the basic shape and components of a road bike appear similar, the materials used to make them and the specification of the parts differ, which means that the quality and performance you can expect will vary.

Ideally you want to get the best bike for your budget so look for a respected manufacturer.

For example, Specialized Road Bikes are popular with amateur and professional cyclists alike. Their range extends from entry level bikes costing a few hundred pounds to high-spec models for serious enthusiasts that cost a few thousand.

The most important factor to consider is the fit of the frame. It makes a real difference to your cycling comfort and efficiency so visit a bike store and test some bikes out in person. Once you know which size it right for you, you can shop around for the best deal.

If you can’t get to a bike store, look for detailed ‘bike sizing guides’ available from reputable, online cycle shops.

Apart from a well-fitting frame, think about where you will spend most of your time on two wheels and what you need from your bike.

Do you need a comfortable saddle for long journeys? Will you need a comprehensive drivetrain system to manage varied routes? What kind of pedals are best, standard or clipless?

There are plenty of ways to customise a road bike for your needs so whether you buy a new bike in person or online, speak to the seller about your needs and options in detail first.


How do I Build My Confidence?

From potholes to motorists, roads can be hazardous and every cyclist should be wary of taking to them. Getting safely from A to B requires a certain amount of road safety knowledge, skill and confidence and those things come from research and practice.

To ride any bike on the roads you must comply with rules set out by the Highways Agency. These include things like not riding on pavements, wearing appropriate clothing and safety helmets and using lights and reflectors at night.

If you haven’t ridden a bike for a while, or are used to riding a different kind of bicycle like an MTB or BMX, you’ll notice that a road bike forces you to adopt a different riding position, so before you tackle a busy commute or road race, take your bike out when the roads are quiet and practice in residential areas.

Once the riding position, cornering, gear changes and stopping distances begin to feel comfortable and familiar, extend your practice rides to include new challenges like roundabouts, city centre cycle lanes and night-time conditions.


What Essential Kit do I Need?

Road biking requires some essential items so before you take to the tarmac, make sure you have the following:

  • A bike (obviously!) that fits you and is in great working order
  • A safety helmet
  • Front and rear lights and reflectors
  • Some high-visibility clothing
  • Bike lock

To make your rides more comfortable and convenient, consider where you will be riding and what you will need. Optional extras include:

  • Panniers, which make it easy to carry any items you need such as work supplies or a change of clothes in a way that stabilises the weight of them.
  • Multi-tool and emergency repair kits.
  • Water bottle and cage.
  • Computers and GPS systems that allow you to track your performance, monitor fitness levels and plan routes

You can get further advice and support and all the road bike equipment you need, online or instore from the knowledgeable and friendly team at Formby Cycles.

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