How To Ride A Road Bike: Great Road Biking 101

Author: Kier

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Looking to get into road biking or just bought a road bike from your local bike shop spontaneously and completely forgotten how to ride a bike?

Well, trust me, you’re not alone and not the only one that finds this difficult.

If you try to speak to someone who learned to ride a bike as a kid, you may often hear the saying “but it’s easy,” “I learned in a week,” but as an adult, it’s not as easy as it would be if you learned as a child.

So don’t worry, I’m not going to bullshit you here; it’s not easy, but learning to ride a road bike will be the best thing you do. Plus, knowing how to do it yourself will make it easier to teach your child in the future.

Or now if this is the whole reason you’ve come to my guide.

Well, whatever reason you’re stumbled across my guide, welcome to road biking 101, where I run through everything you need to know of how to ride a road bike in quick and easy steps.

So enough of me rambling, let’s delve in!

cyclist on proper form

How To Ride A Road Bike Tips:

Before we delve into everything you need to know of how to ride a bike from the basics to the more technical stuff there are a few tips to remember when riding a road bike.

  • First things first, you’ll want to raise the saddle to hip level. Road bikes are super easy to adjust to your height. Raise or lower your saddle, so it’s in line with your hips. If you can stand straight with one leg on the pedal, it should be the right height.
  • Position your pedals horizontally before you mount the bike; this will help you get more power out of your downstroke when you start pedaling.
  • It’s best to look forward and keep your head up, your neck should not feel tense, but you should not hang your head down as otherwise, you’ll go down. Extend your neck slightly lower than your chin.
  • Relax your shoulders and hands, try to avoid hunching forward with your shoulders tensed up; you should try to let them hang and shrug them every so often to loosen them again.
  • Ride with your elbows bent, as if you ride with your arms straight; this tends to put extra tension on your arm muscles, keep your elbows close to your body rather than poking out. This should help absorb shocks of bumps.
  • Move your knees straight up and down as you pedal and try to resist the urge to bow your knees outwards; it will make pedaling less efficient and put a strain on your knees.
  • Hold the drop bars when you’re going downhill. There tend to be three main positions on-road bike handlebars, and the lower curved position is the drop bar. It helps balance the bike when going downhill.
  • Try to remember to begin braking before you get to the curve, especially when traveling at high speeds. You always want to remember to slow down for corners to prevent skidding or crashing.
  • Remember to ride in the same lane in the same direction of traffic, don’t ride, so you’re facing oncoming traffic, being in the same lane is safer. Stay as close to the sidewalk as possible too.

Find A Safe Place To Learn:

When learning to ride a bike you must find a safe place away from traffic and as many distractions as possible– you don’t want to put yourself in danger.

An ideal place to learn to ride a bike could be a park, a traffic-free road, or even a quiet open parking lot. Or even on short grass, it may be harder to learn how to pedal but it won’t hurt if you fall off.

Some cities also offer bike groups and organize events like DC Bike ride which offers car-free rides around Washington DC to allow you to explore the capital without any traffic– it’s a great way to practice plus get to know any fellow cyclists in your community.

proper cycling form

Wear Comfortable Clothing:

Remember when learning to ride a bike it’s likely you’re going to get your clothes dirty or potentially rip them if you fall badly, so wearing old but comfortable clothes is key.

You can also wear protective clothing like knee and elbow protectors which will decrease the risk of injury, you don’t want to wear baggy shorts as they could get tangled around the saddle and make your fall worse.

Also, avoid wearing non-protective shoes like sandals or open-toe shoes. You should wear trainers ideally as they are comfortable and offer a good level of protection and comfort.

Road bike shoes are also ideal but I wouldn’t go for ones that need to be clipped in as a beginner as this just get confusing and you’re more likely to fall.

does riding a bike make your legs bigger

Which Type Of Road Bike Is Best For Beginners?

If you’re looking to get into cycling, the first step is to go buy a bike, right? But for any beginner trying to buy a bike, a bike is no easy task– with thousands on the market to choose from; it can be quite daunting.

There are many different types of road bikes alone, let alone different types of bikes like mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, gravel bikes, etc etc…

But when buying an entry-level road bike, there are a few different types and qualities you should look out for. Or alternatively, you could borrow or rent a bike to get a feel of what you’d like to get out of the bike.

There are many different handlebar configurations, sizes, materials, and prices. Going to your local bike shop may help as they can recommend you bikes for your entry-level. They can even help you with some cycling tips.

But if you have a bike in your garage or can borrow a bike, I would recommend this over buying one, as many people decide they want something different later on and it saves buying two different bikes.

Plus, if you join a cycling club or group, you can get to know the bikes other cyclists use, along with getting to know the components of the road bike. But to get you started, I already spoke about everything you need to know about road bikes in a separate article.


How To Ride A Bike On The Road:

Now, if you’re nervous about getting started, don’t be! It’s never too late to start, and everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t be embarrassed.

As a general rule of thumb, there are two different ways to learn how to ride a road bike, or how to ride any bike for that matter.

First Method:

The first way is that you lean against a wall with your feet on the pedals and one hand on the handlebar. Start pedaling and push yourself away from the wall.

You’ll then want to make small circles and then figures of eight. Test out the brakes by pulling the right brake lever first (this is the rear brake of the bike) and then experiment with the gears.

Don’t push too hard when using the gears, as you can damage the derailleurs, or you could even lose your balance and fall.

Second Method:

If you don’t like the sound of the first method, alternatively, you can put one pedal up and place your food on it and then push down on it and sit on the saddle. Put the second leg on the other pedal and start pedaling.

They’re both pretty straightforward, but they may take a little bit of practice to get used to. You’ll want to start with a lower gear as it’s easier to start pedaling but don’t select the easiest gear as you might fall.

How To Use Gears On A Road Bike:

Changing gears is a key part of learning how to ride a bike; it is the basics before you even think of going on the roads.

Using the gear levers, change gears from low to high, don’t change more than two gears at once as this will jolt the bike and may even damage the chain and the derailleur.

Also, remember not to pedal too hard when changing gears, as this will damage the derailleurs in the long run.

How To Use The Rear Brake:

When learning to ride a bike, you should start by remembering the right brake lever. First, this will engage the rear brakes. If you pull the front brake first, it will jolt you forward as potentially cause you to go over the front– especially when descending a hill.

So to get into practice, start by riding at the speed of around ten mph and gently press the rear brake lever. Use a reference point and practice braking until you get it right.

This will help with obstacles like stopping at a red light or having to stop quickly in an emergency. Try stopping at different distances until you’re happy.

Your tires shouldn’t skid when braking, so if they do, that’s an indication that you’re braking too harshly.

Once you’ve mastered braking on a flat surface, then try braking on different surfaces such as tarmac, mud, gravel, and other wet surfaces and understanding how to brake differently on these surfaces.

Try to brake on different terrains – tarmac, wet asphalt, mud, etc. Notice how the bike acts differently. Braking is very important when learning how to ride a bike.

How To Use The Front Brake:

The front brake is initiated using the left brake lever. This can be quite daunting for many cyclists, but it’s actually less scary than it seems!

The center of gravity is around the middle of the bike, and it is quite high; if you brake with your front brake, then your bike will stop, but your body will move forward as it is heavier than the bike.

This is because you’re slowing down the bike and not your body, so you jolt forward and, in some cases, go flying off the front, so it’s key not to brake too harshly using the front wheel brake.

But your front brake is there for a reason; you must use both brake lever controls in the case of emergency to stop quickly and efficiently.

So the best way to learn is through practice, try using the front brake lever when riding slowly and make sure the motion is smooth; it acts slightly different from the rear brake.

When riding on a very steep hill, remember to only use your front brake as otherwise, you might fall backward– the last thing we want.

Learning How To Use The Brakes Together:

So you may notice experienced riders using both their front and rear brake levers when stopping the bike, and knowing how to use them together is super important.

You should use the front brake as the main brake and the rear brake as the auxiliary brake. Such as when going around sharp bends on icy roads, you’ll only want to use the rear brake to prevent falling. And, when going round corners (fast?) get your breaking done before arriving at the corner!

How Old Do You Have To Be To Ride A Bike On The Road?

This may differ from state to state, but as a general rule of thumb, any age below ten should ride on the sidewalk. But in some states, you can ride on the sidewalk up to the age of 16.

In the USA, there is no clear law stating an age limit of how old you have to be to ride on the road; it is really down to the parents making sensible decisions on their child’s cycling skills, maturity, and hazard awareness.

However, many people recommend that your child does not ride on the road if they are below the age of 10.

How To Ride Faster On A Road Bike:

There are a few different ways you can ride faster on longer rides, many modern bikes have a geometry that is more aerodynamic, so it makes it easier to pick up the pace.

Unlike a bulky mountain bike, a road bike is much lighter and easier to maneuver, so you can pick up some serious pace easily and quickly.

Here are a few different ways you can ride faster on your bike.

The first thing is pretty easy, and that is to bend and tuck in your elbows; the top thing that slows you down is wind resistance, so by tucking in your elbows, you can maintain speed.


Instead of sitting straight in the saddle, try lowering your body closer to the bars and tucking in your elbows; you’ll immediately feel the difference.

Listening to music can also help you pick up the pace; listening to uplifting music can actually reduce perceived effort so you can push further. Music can also help reduce fatigue-related symptoms to help increase the speed.

Riding with others is another ideal way to increase your average speed as you share the work of cutting through the wind by switching positions; riding in a group also encourages you to increase effort level and, on average, makes you ride faster.

Correctly inflated tires can also help increase your overall speed when riding, as riding on soft tires can really slow you down.

You should also avoid unnecessarily braking, as you’re wasting both energy and momentum; try to stop “comfort braking” when you’re going a little faster than you’d like, as this will help improve overall speed.

Braking later will hold your speed for longer, and when braking, you won’t need to brake so harshly so you can easily pick up the pace again.


So there you have it, road biking 101, everything you need to know to take you to know about how to ride a road bike to take you from beginner to experienced like other riders.

But don’t worry, everyone starts somewhere, and it may take some time to get used to riding, and that’s fine; you’re not alone.

Learning to ride a bike will be the best thing you’ll do! Just remember to devise a budget before buying your first road bike and know what features you’d like to look for.

Photo of author


Kier focuses on improving all things bike, and is always looking to take his ability to a new average (hopefully a higher one!). When not on the bike Kier is normally downing coffee and cake.