7 Essential Road Biking Skills
7 Essential Road Biking Skills
You’ve got the bike, you’ve got the kit – it’s time to master these basic road biking skills that will ensure you get the best out of your ride! This quick guide is the perfect starting point to help identify the key skills needed for good road riding, with some additional tools and tips that most riders will find useful.
1. Get the most out of your gear
You’ll find that you tend to have a natural rhythm that you can pedal comfortably, and then you need to figure out how comfortable you’re climbing and sprinting. That said, there are a few extra things to be aware of.
When approaching a climb, downshift to an easier gear on the approach or where the incline is fairly shallow.
The more stress on the chain, the harder it will be to shift and the more likely it will bounce, or worse, the drivetrain will suffer. So try to shift gears without applying too much force, so before the climb gets steeper.
If you feel like you can push hard, shifting from low to high will be easier than the other way around.
Spinning your legs in low gear when climbing is also better than trying to get through high gear, but more on that later…
Another time to pay attention to the transmission is when approaching an intersection where you need to slow down and in some cases stop. If you’ve been riding in higher gears, you’ll find it hard to pass when you start over.
As you approach a junction, shift into an easier, lower gear, and when you start pedalling again, you’ll find it easier to pick up speed again.
Use chainrings to significantly raise the gearing
If you want to raise or lower a lot of gears at once, shift between the two sprockets as they have the biggest difference.
For example, if you’re approaching a hill and want to drop a lot of gear, jump from the big ring to the smallest ring. If you’re already up to speed and want to up some gears, do the opposite.
Note that the chain needs to go around the middle sprocket on the rear cassette, and moving the front and rear cassettes at the same time is not a good idea since you can drop the chain all the way.
As a side note, if you only clean one thing on your bike regularly, it should be the drivetrain. With regular cleaning and oiling, your gears will run smoother and last longer.
2. Use a heart rate monitor
These include monitoring fitness, tracking improvements and using it to train in specific zones, such as a fat burning zone for weight loss or an aerobic zone for lung capacity and aerobic fitness.
What is Bike FTP?
They can also be used to track calorie burn to ensure adequate fueling.
Some monitors work independently, such as wrist-mounted monitors like the Garmin Vivosport, while others use a remote sensor attached to a chest or arm strap that feeds back to a remote computer, such as a pole-mounted Garmin or Wahoo.
To get the most out of your heart rate monitor, you need to find your resting and maximum heart rate, and our simple guide will show you how to do that, walk you through the different training zones and give you some ideas.
3. The importance of refueling and hydration
Bonking is where you completely run out of energy while riding. Your legs feel like lead, your head feels heavy, and the thought of continuing to ride home is just too much.
Fuel yourself properly and not only will you avoid a crash, but you’ll also find yourself riding a lot better, and as a result, the whole experience will be more fun.
It is important to stay hydrated during the day and drink less and often, as dehydration at the start of your ride will not help your riding performance.
Eat a carbohydrate-balanced meal. Breakfast includes whole-grain oatmeal, sprinkled with dates or dried fruit, and has a great base for a day of riding. O Pasta with protein and vegetables is also great. Aim to eat at least 3 hours before your ride.
Best Carbs for Cycling
during your ride
Continue to drink alcohol while riding. To replace the essential electrolytes needed for good muscle function, which are lost in sweat, it is a good idea to use a soluble hydration tablet. This is especially important for long rides and hot weather.
When riding, your body needs a steady supply of carbohydrates in the form of sugar to keep your muscles active. If you do low-intensity cycling, your body does this by breaking down stored fat into carbohydrates. However, above this level, your body can’t break down fat fast enough, and so will be completely dependent on the sugar or glycogen stored in your muscles, which will quickly run out.
Once that happens, it’s the perfect time, so it’s important to keep your body on a small supply of easily digestible carbohydrates while you ride. There are many nutritional products on the market to keep you energized, such as energy bars, gels and even waffles.
If you don’t want to use a specific nutritional product, you can also try:
jelly babies or other jelly candies
Dried Fruits and Nuts
If you feel thirsty, keep drinking water.
A protein-rich meal or drink can help with muscle recovery, so try some of these delicious smoothie recipes or fast food suggestions. Of course, one of the most popular post-ride recovery foods is a tall glass of chocolate milk.
4. Group rides
Group riding is exciting, but also requires some basic skills to make it as safe as possible.
Getting so close to other riders can feel a little nerve-wracking at first, so you might want to gain experience by riding with friends or taking part in a social club ride.
Consistency and communication are key: be predictable, don’t make sudden movements like cornering or braking without indicating you’re going to do it, and keep talking to the riders around you.
You’ll encounter certain types of formations and movements on group rides, and we’ve made a short video to guide you through them. If you haven’t tried them before, most cycling clubs should be happy to help introduce you to these.
How and when to use hand signals on a road bike
How group riding can improve your performance
These skills are also essential in a competitive setting, so if you have a competitive edge or are just curious, it’s worth a shot as it helps hone your skills and fitness.
5. Conquer climbing and mountain training
How you do the climb will depend on its slope and duration. Short, steep climbs require a different approach than long, long climbs. Chances are, there will also be climbs that combine the two, interspersed with harder, steeper sections.
First, find a rhythm and a low gear that you are comfortable with, stay seated and spin up the hill. Don’t try to push the gears too hard – spinning your legs is more effective and efficient than trying to accelerate.
It’s better to start in an easier gear and then push harder, or vice versa, which can cause the rider to stop and have to stop, and once stopped, it’s hard to start again.
For short, steep climbs, use a higher gear to push them up and stand while you pedal. For hills that combine the two, stick to a seated spin or a combination of seated and standing.
Of course, there’s a whole set of racing disciplines devoted entirely to uphill, and if you want to be a mountaineering star, we’ve got this article for you.
Fast turns require commitment and trust. Commit to maintaining speed and body position, as sudden or violent braking or changes in direction can throw the rider off balance, and trust that the bike and tires can hold still when cornering.
Experience and practice are key here, so a good tip is to find a route with multiple corners and practice riding it multiple times, or build it into a regular route. Approach it a little faster each time until it feels familiar.
Speed should be controlled before entering a turn, so apply any necessary braking ahead of time, and if the road is wet, the braking distance will be tripled.
Enter the corner, then lean to the apex of the turn. On the exit of a turn, the bike straightens out naturally.
Watch out for things like obstacles and potholes and only ride on the correct side of the road in your country.
There’s nothing more exciting than speeding down a mountain road with windy hair and tires flying over a tarmac.
Cyclists can reach some dizzying speeds on the downhill. BMC’s Marcus Burghardt hit an incredible 130.7kph/81.2mph in the 2017 Tour de France. But of course, speed comes with risk, and if you’re not actively looking for a yellow jersey at the biggest bike race in the world, a more controlled descent is a better option, and just as fun.
A good bike setup helps here: making sure you have comfortable access to the brake lever will help maintain control on long descents. Some riders also prefer the feel of hydraulic disc brakes, as they provide strong braking and subtle control that doesn’t require a lot of pressure to work and feels easier on long, hands-on downhill sections.
The ideal body position on descents is pedal level, body relaxed, hands on the drop, and one or two fingers over the brake lever. Try to avoid dragging the brakes and use both brakes equally to control your speed.
Bonus Tip…Bike Fit
As mentioned above, bike setup is important, so getting the bike to fit is also a good idea. This is a critical part of getting the most out of your bike, as it’s important to set the bike up for the rider, including brake lever reach, saddle height, handlebar height, and more.
This will help avoid any trouble or pain that might otherwise arise.
If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.