Male cyclist on a road bike riding up a hill

A Beginner’s Guide to Road Cycling

May 6, 2022

In the widest and most literal interpretation, anyone who rides their bicycle on the road is “road cycling” when compared to cyclists who ride off-road.

While our advice is relevant to everyone who rides on the roads, if you only ride to run errands or to get to work then some of this advice might be more in-depth than you need – but you can still find valuable information that you can adapt to your day-to-day cycling journey.

Choosing the Right Road Bike

Here at Velosure, we’re fans of all types of bikes – and we cover almost every type of bicycle too (including e-bikes). But now it’s time to put road bikes in the spotlight.

Road bikes are made to be fast and easy to pedal on paved roads. If you try take one off road, you and your bike are going to have a really bad time! Some of the defining features of a road bike include:

  • A lightweight frame and components (the more you’re willing to spend, the lighter the road bike!)
  • A drop handlebar
  • Narrow wheels and tires.
  • No front or rear suspension.
  • A wide range of sizes catering to men and women.

If you’re brand new to cycling, it may come as a surprise that there’s significant variations in different road bikes. Here are some of the most common types of road bikes you’ll find at your local bike shop:

  • Aero road bike: These bikes have wing-shaped frame tubes and wheels to minimise drag. They’re intended for use for racing or time-trialing and speed is emphasised over comfort, so one of these may be overkill for a beginner road cyclist.
  • Ultra-light road bike: These bikes are made using the lightest materials to aid in long climbs. Again, these are likely to be overkill for a beginner.
  • Endurance road bike: Endurance road bikes allow for a more upright rider position, which makes them more comfortable for cyclists. These are some of the most popular bicycles for road cyclists.
  • Touring road bike: Built for all-day comfort, these are perfect for riders who are primarily using their road bike for commuting for multi-day rides.
  • All-road road bikes: The are a relatively new style of bikes that were designed to bridge the gap between road bikes and gravel bikes. They offer a more relaxed position than pure road bikes, and enable you to ride on fine gravel.

Choosing the right road bike will come down to what you want to use it for, how experienced you are and, of course, your budget. While more expensive will usually mean lighter and faster, it doesn’t necessarily mean better for you.

Choosing the Right Gear for Road Cycling

When most people think of cyclists, the most likely image that comes to mind is a road cyclist.

You’ve probably noticed that road cyclists wear specialised gear, but when you’re just getting started you can wear whatever you want (except for a helmet – you should always wear a helmet).

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable on the bike and are looking to take your cycling to the next level, you’ll likely want to get some road cycling-specific gear:

  • Shorts. Cycling shorts are padded (this is called a ‘chamois’), which helps keep you comfortable on the saddle, prevent chafing, and wick away sweat. If you don’t like the look of cycling shorts, you can also get padded underwear or mountain biking baggies. While road cyclists do generally wear tighter clothing, you should wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
  • Jersey. Cycling jerseys are purpose-designed to be breathable, protect you from the sun, and have handy pockets where you can store your phone and keys.
  • Gloves. These prevent your hands from getting sweaty, and also absorb some of the shock you’ll feel when riding on uneven roads. If you crash and extend your hands to break your fall, cycling gloves go a long way in protecting your palms!
  • Shoes. You can cycle in any sneakers that have a decent amount of grip, but if you’re cycling for long periods your feet may start hurting. Cycling shoes are less flexible than sneakers to reduce the likelihood of cramping.
  • Cleats. Cleats allow you to clip into the bike pedals to give you maximum pedaling efficiency. Wearing cleats can be tricky for beginners because you can’t remove your foot from the pedal as quickly if you feel yourself falling or crashing, but practice makes perfect. If you do fall, don’t worry about it – even experienced cyclists sometimes have mishaps when they can’t unclip fast enough.

Apart from clothing, here are some other gear and accessories you may want for road cycling:

  • Water bottle
  • Spare tube
  • Tire tools
  • Multitool
  • Lights
  • Lock
  • GPS computer

Staying Safe While Road Cycling

The biggest danger for road cyclists is motorists, so most safety tips are all about ensuring you’re visible to motorists and are able to share the roads safely:

  • Always wear your helmet! Accidents can happen in a split second, even during quiet hours or when you’re riding short distances.
  • Limited visibility is a huge danger to cyclists. Ensure you wear bright, reflective clothing and have lights on the front and back of your bike.
  • Many bike accidents occur near intersections, so make sure you know your hand signals and use them. Being predictable to other road users allows them to modify their behaviour and accommodate your next move.
  • Limit your distractions. While upbeat music may provide you with the motivation you need to push harder, using earphones prevents you from being aware of your surroundings.
  • When riding on the roads, behave like you would if you were a motorist. Don’t slow down to speed up suddenly, don’t make unexpected movements, and don’t weave through traffic.
  • There is safety in numbers, especially for beginners. Try to ride with a group . In instances where you have to ride alone, ride on quiet streets in areas you know well.
  • Make sure someone always knows where you’re going and when you’ll be expected to be home.
  • Protect your investment by riding with bicycle insurance from Velosure. We’ll cover your bike against theft, accidental damage, malicious damage and more so you can ride with ultimate peace of mind.

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