Hitting the Road

Road cycling can be an intimidating sport to enter due to its complex gear, unspoken rules, competitive culture and the fear of being “dropped”. However, getting started doesn’t have have to be a stressful experience. Here are some helpful tips and information to break it down!

“Complex” Gear

A quality bike shop has expert staff ready to help you pick the right bicycle, clothing, and accessories for your size, skill, and goals. Don’t spend your whole budget on the bike and leave yourself with no room to purchase accessories. Entry level road bikes start around $600 and you can outfit yourself with the most important accessories for another $200.

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Recommended Gear Checklist
– Road Bike (drop handlebars, 700 x 23 to 32c tires)
– Clipless (clip-in) Shoes and Pedals
– Cycling Shorts (we prefer bibs)
– Cycling Jersey
– Road Specific Helmet
– Water Bottle
– Flat-Repair Kit and Multi-Tool
– Cycling Computer

Lycra apparel can look strange to a new rider, but it can really improve your experience and performance. If you are concerned about how you might look try a club fit (looser) jersey. Bib shorts also provide the ultimate comfort and can help keep your midsection in check.

Unspoken Rules

  • Never cross wheels with another rider. This occurs when you are drafting another rider and start to overlap wheels with them. It is very dangerous because if they turn you’re going down.
  • The paceline rotates front to back, not back to front. Each rider pulls for a short time (typically 1-5 minutes) and then rotates from the front to the rear of the group. Keep the pace the same when it’s your turn at the front to keep the group moving smoothly.
  • Communicate with the riders around you before making significant changes in direction or speed. Hand and verbal commands like “stopping”, “slowing”, “car-up”, “car-back”, and “hole” are not just about courtesy, they are key to group safety.

Bikeshoot-89

Competitive Culture

Road cycling has a long and rich history of racing and can feel more competitive than mountain biking. On the road differences in fitness are more visible than in mountain biking. Road cycling also seems to attract more serious riders who are very focused on training and competition.

Everything from the previous paragraph, except for road cycling’s racing heritage, is more perception than reality. There are all types of road riding groups just like there are all types of mountain biking groups. Both sports have plenty of riders of all abilities and neither one is objectively harder to take up.

Where To Ride

Are you going out to ride by yourself? Good for you! Solo rides of any length are great for the soul, and can be meditative and contemplative. But where should you ride? Ask yourself a couple questions about your intended route. Is this a numbered highway? Is this a busy road? Will I have to ride in the lane (no shoulder)? Is the speed limit over 45mph? Are there lots of blind corners on the road? If you are answering yes these questions your route probably needs to be adjusted.

group ride fun
Spencer’s No-Drop, Road Introduction, Ride Extravaganza

Make sure your first group ride is a “No-Drop” ride, or ask a friend to take you out. Our shop runs several introductory group road rides that are excellent for beginner and intermediate riders. Sign-up to receive information about our rides.

Getting Dropped

Everything was going fine; you were feeling the burn but it was manageable. Then the grade increased, you started to see a bit of space grow between yourself and the rider ahead of you. You tried to pedal a bit faster, but your legs were on fire, and now the gap was growing. Soon you had lost the group…

Anyone who has ridden long enough has been dropped from a ride or a race.  Don’t let it discourage you! Use it as motivation to keep riding and improve your fitness.  The best way to improve is to ride with faster riders. The greatest cyclist of all time Eddy Merckx famously said, “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.” 

That’s All

Road cycling is incredibly enjoyable and becomes a lifetime sport (obsession) for many people. It is normal to be worried about looking like a newbie. Just remember, roadies are like mountain bikers, only not quite as friendly…joking! We were all new once and most of us are happy to offer a few pearls of wisdom. At Latitude 45 we are always happy to help you with your passion!

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