A Beginner’s Guide & Tips for Road Biking

Road biking is one of the most popular forms of outdoor exercise today. It's also a great way to explore your local area. Get started with these helpful tips!  

Songwriter Woody Guthrie once said, “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.” To us, road biking fits squarely into the latter category. The beauty of the sport comes down to its utter simplicity, the fact that you can use your own energy for exercise, transportation, exploration, and so much more. With the right skills and knowledge, road biking opens up an entire world of possibilities — all with just a little sweat equity.

Speaking of which, there are somewhere around 3.9 million miles of road in the United States, so we’re definitely not short on options. Road biking is one of the few pursuits that just about anyone can enjoy right out their front door. And, if there’s anything we can get behind at Iron Flask, it’s simple, everyday activities that can improve your life at just about every level.

But regardless of its simplicity, taking on a new pursuit like road biking can still be a little intimidating. There’s gear, safety, conditioning, and hydration to consider, not to mention dealing with helmet hair. So, that’s why we’re offering some cycling tips to get you up and moving even faster. Here’s our beginner’s guide to road biking.

Why Road Bike?

Before we dive into the specifics of road cycling, let’s talk about why you should even consider it. First, there’s health. Obviously, using your own energy to move instead of pushing the accelerator means you’re burning calories, which is a key way to lose weight. But, on top of weight loss, you can build muscle, improve circulation, boost mental health, as well as a massive list of other benefits.

Efficiency is another thing to consider. Even if you spend a decent amount on a road bike, you’ll pay for it in no-time with all of the gas you’d be buying for your car, not to mention oil changes, parking, insurance, registration, inspections, and regular maintenance. If you’re in an area where it makes sense to commute or exercise on a bike, it’s a no-brainer. Plus, you can maneuver more efficiently on a bike, skipping the traffic to ride on a trail or parking even closer to your destination. And, while we’re talking about efficiency, just consider the fact that you’re getting exercise and traveling at the same time.

Third, it’s highly sustainable. We mentioned that road biking is inherently simple, which also means that you’re not burning anything other than calories — no fuel, oil, or electricity needed. The United States emits over five billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year — any bikes we can add to the road means one less car adding to the total, and that’s a good thing.

Lastly, there’s the community aspect. Cycling has been growing year over year across the country, which means there are plenty of people who share similar interests. In fact, many people see cycling as the new golf and you don’t have to worry about slicing your tee shot into the woods, either. There are social groups, non-profits, businesses, and brands across the country dedicated to the pursuit of cycling at every level and you could be part of it.

Gear Up

Now, let’s talk about some specifics. The gear involved in cycling can be the most intimidating part, especially if you’re not sure where to start. But, once you break it down, you’ll see that it’s not so complicated.


It probably goes without saying that you need a bike if you’re going to take up road biking. One mistake people mistake as they get started is thinking that they need the perfect setup. Really, if you can find something that’s structurally sound and you can ride it, then you’ve found the right bike for the job. Especially as a beginner, don’t worry so much about the lingo and jargon.

But, if you’re looking to do a little research, there are a few things to consider. First, you need to decide if you want a road bike, mountain bike, or something in between. Because we’re talking about road biking, it may seem obvious, but if you want to road in a wide variety of settings (roads, gravel, trails, etc.) then a mountain bike may be your best choice. Plus, they're a bit more comfortable if you’re new to the sport. 

That being said, if you know that you’ll mainly be riding on roads, a road bike is more efficient, lighter, and built for pavement. They’re designed to convert your effort into speed more easily than a mountain bike, which is made for durability and comfort more than speed.

Lastly, you could go with an in-between option. Cyclo-cross bikes are made for gravel, light trails, and pavement, which means it’s pretty good at doing a lot. Or, cruiser bikes are made for comfort, so if you’re planning casual rides on pavement and don’t care about speed, that may be a great choice.

This may seem like a lot, so remember our earlier point — don’t overthink it. Just about any bike in good condition will get you moving and that’s all that matters. Of, better yet, try renting different types of bikes to see what you like best.


We’re not going to spend too much time on helmets, other than saying that you definitely need one. Road biking comes with inherent risks, many of which are outside of your control, so mitigate that risk by wearing a helmet at all times — it’s the right thing to do. As for which type of helmet to buy, keep it simple and lightweight. There’s no need to spend a fortune on something meant for Olympians. Just try something that's comfortable, be sure to wear it properly, and you’re all set. 


Just in case things don’t go to plan, there are a few things you’ll want to have on-hand:

  • Bike Pump
  • Water Bottle and water bottle holder
  • Patch Kit for for flat tires
  • Tire Tool for removing tires
  • Bike Lights for visibility and riding in low light

We’ll cover this a bit more in the next section.


Depending on where or how you’re riding, the right clothing is essential. For light, short rides in good weather, it doesn’t matter too much what you wear — if you’d put it on for the gym, it’s probably a good choice. Just be sure to wear closed-toe shoes. If you’re riding longer distances (more than 10 miles, for example), it may be worth investing in some cycling shorts, which have padding for comfort. Also, we’d recommend moisture-wicking clothing made out of synthetic materials or wool — this will keep you warm if you happen to get wet and keep sweat off of your skin, which will cool you down and also prevent chafing. Lastly, sunglasses are generally a good idea for both visibility and protecting your eyes from objects kicked up by other cyclists and vehicles, as well as those pesky bugs.

Essential Road-Biking Skills

Before you get started, there are a few things you should know. By its nature, cycling is an independent activity, which is the best part, and by knowing how to navigate safely and maintain your bike effectively, you’re making the most of that independence.

Basic Maintenance: If you’re going to be on the road, you need to know how to take care of your vehicle, and this includes bikes. Knowing how the bike operates, what to inspect, and how to lubricate various parts is a great starting point. You also need to know how to fix a flat tire on a bike as well because it will happen at some point. It may sound intimidating, but it’s very simple once you know how — you just don’t want to learn on the side of the road. 

Riding Techniques: Once you’re on the road, practice how to maneuver the bike effectively and make the most out of those precious calories. Things like riding with or against the wind, coasting in appropriate sections, standing on your pedals for more power, and even drafting off of other riders are things that you’ll learn over time.

Traffic Laws: Too many people don’t view a road bike as a form of transportation, but there are traffic laws dedicated specifically to cyclists. As a cyclist, it’s your responsibility to know those laws and follow them, both for your safety and others. 

Defensive Riding: When you’re on a road bike, safety is everything, and much of that comes down to perspective. As you’re on the road, you need to ride defensively. This means that you need to assume that no one sees you and, if they do see you, that they don’t know how to react to your presence. Even if it means you have the right of way, assume that other riders, pedestrians, and vehicles don’t know that, and react accordingly. Be conservative, ride at an appropriate speed, and always have your head on a swivel. Soon this will be second nature.

Conditioning: Your first couple of rides may be a little difficult because it takes time to get your body and muscles accustomed to riding a road bike. Start slow and work your way towards longer distances and more difficult routes. At first, your bike and arms may hurt or feel awkward, particularly on a road bike, but in time you’ll adjust and it’ll feel like, well, riding a bike.

Hydration: As we’ve covered before, hydration is key to any kind of exercise, and it takes special consideration when it comes to cycling. First, make sure you have a quality water bottle holder on your road bike, or at least a small backpack to carry water. Then, pick up a quality, durable, insulated water bottle that will keep you hydrated on rides of all lengths/intensities. We recommend our Iron Flasks 22oz Bottle with Spout Lid. Road biking can be deceptive, particularly on cool, breezy days, because your sweat is evaporating faster than you’ll notice, which can lead you to believe you’re not dehydrated. When in doubt, drink water often.

Hit the Road

To us, road biking means freedom. The beautiful part is that, other than traffic laws, there aren’t many rules or limitations to what you can and can’t do. If there’s ridable ground in front of you go for it — explore that new neighbourhood, find a new route to work, or discover a state park. Once you get the basic gear, tools, and techniques down, the road is much more than a way to travel — it's a world of opportunity.

Originally published by Iron Flask Team, Monday, Nov 14, 22

Image courtesy Iron Flask