Beginners Guide to Road Riding
Firstly, ‘road riding’ generally means the recreational type of cycling you often see on a weekend, if you want to ride on the roads to get to work, or the shops, our Guide to Commuting might be more useful. Getting in to road riding can be a bit daunting, especially when you see all the latest flashy technology and clothing, but it really doesn’t have to be. You can gain a massive amount of enjoyment, as well as gaining fitness and confidence, on a very low-cost bike and minimal kit.
What are the essentials?
While most road bikes have drop handlebars, road bikes with flat bars and hybrids are fine to get started on. As you ride further, drop handlebars are preferable for most as they offer multiple hand positions, this can ease aches and pains on longer rides. Road bikes consist of a frameset, wheels, groupset and components. They and have a selection of gears to enable you to pedal up and down hills and on the flats.
Before heading out on the open road, check your bike is in roadworthy condition, performing an ‘M’ Check (google or youtube) will cover the basics and ensure that you bike is up to the job. While helmets are not compulsory in the UK, it is a good idea to use one, especially when you are first getting to grips with riding on the road and alongside other traffic. Gloves are also very worthwhile as they protect hands if you fall, they also allow a better grip and offer comfort for your hands.
If you haven’t ridden in a while or if you have just started, start small. Practice riding in a straight line and cornering on a path or in a park before building up to riding on quiet roads. When you do start to ride on the roads, avoid riding in the gutter, try to keep around 100cm away from the kerb or edge of the road. Check out www.CyclingUK.org’s online video’s for guidance on road positioning safety.
What to take on a bike ride
If you are heading off on a longer bike ride, think about what you might need on your ride. Taking a drink bottle is important, particularly on a warmer day. If you are riding further, taking a basic puncture repair kit / inner tube and pump will prevent a long walk home or having to call someone for a lift. Carrying a multitool and your bank card, covers more bases for the unexpected things which might happen on your ride.
You can ride a bike in any clothing, if you want to ride further or in more comfort, specific cycling clothing can help make it more comfortable and easier. Cushioning your contact points (padded shorts and gloves) will make bike riding more enjoyable.
Shoes & Pedals
There are two main types of pedals, flats and click-in. Flat pedals can be ridden in any shoes, although a stiffer soled shoe is better. Click-in pedals require a shoe with a cleat attachment on the sole – this clicks in to the pedal and requires a ‘twist’ to click-out. Specific cycling shoes feature a stiffer sole, road shoes have a cleat which is mounted onto the underside of the sole, whereas MTB style shoes feature a recessed sole which is better for walking.
How Do I Start Road Riding?
Start small with short local rides and gradually extend your routes using quieter roads. Setting yourself targets is a great way to motivate yourself, alternatively, there are plenty of group ride options. There are lots of cycling clubs and groups around, if you would like company and camaraderie on your rides. British Cycling ‘Breeze’ groups are another great option for women riders – check letsride.co.uk.
What else can I do?
If you enjoy road riding, the chances are you would enjoy off-road riding too, mountain biking and gravel riding are two great options if you don't mind getting muddy. Alternatively, bike touring is a great way to travel further afield to different regions, even to other countries. If you like to ride faster, you could try racing. Time trials are a good way to get into competative bike racing, alternatively you could join a cycling club and get into local racing. There are lots of opportunities to try different things on a bike, or you could just enjoy getting out in the fresh air and riding!