Are you a passionate cyclist? Does your heart flutter with excitement when you see the telecast of Le Tour de France on television? If yes, have you pondered over the road bike basics that are very important for cycling? Cycling as a routine is serious business, and bike riding skills should never be taken lightly. Let us look at some of the apparently small, but very important details that will make your cycling experience enjoyable and exciting. Road cycling is no rocket science, but this does not mean that it is easy and effortless.
You must devote ample time for understanding your bicycle inside out and practice every day if you want to get the most out of your road biking experience. A very common point of view is that just getting on the bike and pushing the pedal will make you an expert. Sadly, this is not entirely true. Of course, you need to practice a lot, but practice without knowing road bike basics will not lead you much ahead.
Top 10 Road Bike Basics: Tips to Know
A lot of things need to be considered for mastering cycling skills and techniques. For example, you should know all about the gears, the specifications of the bike for different terrains, bike equipment, and biking accessories. Also, you should have a basic knowledge of bike parts and a fair idea about how to ride a road bike in a group. We have compiled a list of points that will polish your technique.
Tip #1 Understand the Gears
As soon as you buy a bicycle for road cycling, you should devote a good chunk of time to know and understand the various gears it has. Most road bikes have two sets of gear cogs- the front cogs, known as chain rings; and the back cogs, known as sprockets. A thumb rule of road bike basics is that the gear lever on the right side of the handlebar controls the rear cogs (remember the alphabet R), and the gear lever on the left side of your handlebar controls the front cogs.
Most cycling skills drills are the outcome of an interplay of these gears. Once you know the gears, you will be able to figure out how to ride a road bike with gear shifting. The front gears are used to make major shifts, like when changing terrain or going uphill suddenly. The rear gears work for fine tuning, i.e. changing the pace slightly or to make pedalling easier.
Tip #2 Set Your Saddle Right
Having the right saddle height is vital for road biking for beginners and for experts. If your seat is too high, then you will have problems alighting and getting off correctly, and won’t be able to pedal comfortably. If your saddle is too low, your posture will not be right, you will get tired more easily and end up in pain. Saddle height is an important point in road bicycle tips.
You must use an Allen key to move the seat up or down and find the right height. This might take a few attempts but this step is highly recommended. The sooner you find the right saddle height, the better.
Tip #3 Learn to Brake
In road bike basics, braking is much more than just halting. You will have to find the right way to brake, using both- the front and the rear brakes. If you use the front brake with force, you will most likely topple over and fall off from the bike. Abruptly pressing the rear brake will make you skid.
Your bicycle handling skills will be determined by how you halt in different terrains and situations.You should press both the brake gradually such that you hit the target slow speed or halt, as the situation demands.
Don’t wait for the last moment to hit the brake, always plan to brake in advance.
Tip #4 Know How to Pedal
Road biking is not about randomly pushing the pedal of your bicycle. You should try to imagine that the pedals are making a full circle as you apply force to them. Now imagine your foot guiding the pedals on this circle. This minor habit will have a big impact on your biking efficiency. Simply pushing down the pedal will tire you sooner. Many manuals and blogs on road biking for beginners stress this fact.
Tip #5 Opt for Clipless Pedals
It is a general opinion of bicyclists that clipless pedals are more efficient. This is because all your pedalling force is transferred to the pedal and crank if there are no straps on the pedal. This simple point of road bike basics will ensure that you don’t get tired easily while pedalling a clipless pedal.
Tip #6 Stay Away from Avoidable Obstacles
A very important tip for cycling for beginners is to keep the eyes wide open and stay alert to spot the obstacles on your biking trail. Watch out for debris, potholes, bumps and boulders. Try to steer clear obstacles that can be avoided. For others, it is advisable that you stand on the pedals and avoid braking. This way, you are less likely to fall and the momentum of your bicycle will make you pass over that obstacle.
It is a good habit to anticipate the movement of other cyclists and motor vehicles, especially around turns and bends. This will give you the time to decide your next move.
Tip #7 Master the Art of Turning
As a beginner, it is obvious to believe that you have to turn the handlebar in the direction that you want to turn. This is not entirely wrong. In fact, this is the way to take a turn when you are at low speed. But as you master your road cycling skills, you will realise that most of the turns at high speed can be taken simply by leaning your body in the direction of the turn.
With some practice, you will understand how to make your bicycle turn without turning the handlebar. You have to keep your legs such that the inside pedal is up and the outside pedal is down. This will make your bike tilt a little. Now you have to put your hands in the drops (which means that you have to hold the handlebar in the middle) and lean towards the direction of the turn. That’s it. This is a very important part of road bike basics.
Tip #8 Know How to Ride Uphill
You will face a lot of uphill climbs on your biking trails. A very popular tip among road bicycle tips is to learn how to cycle uphill. This is because different slopes and different terrain require balancing and positioning differently. A correct blend of energy and strategy is the key to pass through even the challenging uphill climbs.
At the beginning of the uphill climb, chose a gear that allows you to pedal swiftly without spending a lot of energy. The golden rule of uphill road bike basics is to conserve energy during the climb.Don’t focus on speed at this stage. Relax and train your mind to focus on a distraction like the scenery around or a signboard at the end of the climb.
Tip #9 Prepare a Checklist Before You Ride
It is a great habit to prepare a checklist with all the minor points that come to your mind. It is also a great idea to update this list after every ride. This list will serve as a reminder for you to check tire air pressure, lubricate the chain, check the gear mechanism for rust and friction etc. Also, keep some spare parts with you at all times during the ride.
Tip #10 Know How to Repair/Change a Flat Tire
This can be a life-saving skill. As a bicycle rider, you will encounter a flat tire at odd times. If you are lucky, you will find a repair shop nearby. But what if you don’t see one near you? For unfortunate instances like this, you should always be prepared to repair or change the flat tire. You should even know how to prevent and deal with flat tires, so that they don't turn out to be a road block during your rides
Keeping a new tube, tire levers and a pump handy is a great way to find a way out of flat tire situations. This should be a practice as it is one of the most important road bike basics.
The above-mentioned points will make sure that you progress as a cyclist. In addition to the above points, it is good to remember the importance of practising. The more time you spend riding the bicycle, the more familiar you will get with it. The more you know about your bicycle, the easier it will be for you to ride it in different conditions. Practice makes perfect, and this applies to bike riding too.
Setting up achievable targets is a great way to start. Once you get familiar with the fine details and tricks of riding a road bike, you will find it easy to achieve challenging goals. Invest in good quality clothing and helmet for biking and you are pretty much set. As you keep cycling, all the road bike basics will prove useful to you.What are you waiting for? Take out that bike and hit the road. Just remember to enjoy the ride and absorb the natural beauty around you.