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Good Beginning Racing Road Bikes

If you're just breaking into cycling, the sport can seem extremely daunting. Racing road bikes come in a vast range of styles, some of which can be intimidating to ride for a beginner. The best racing road bike for a new rider will have the speed and capability of the best racing bikes, but with a few key design features that make it better for someone who's just getting started.

Climbing Steady

Racing bikes are almost always set up with a 10- or 11-speed cassette and two chainrings, giving them between 20 and 22 possible gear ratios for everything from climbing to steep downhills. For beginners, a third chainring in the front is usually preferable. Because of the speed professional cyclists ascend with, they often don't need extremely low gears, but a beginning rider may find the added utility of very low gears a big help on steeper sections. The lower gears make pedaling much easier so you can build your way up to faster ascents over time.

Keeping Your Feet Planted

Clipless pedals allow riders to attach their shoes to the bicycle. This improves efficiency, since you can pedal much harder and at higher cadences without risking a foot slipping off the pedals. These pedals are ubiquitous among serious riders but can be difficult to master and, frankly, a little frightening for new riders. Look for pedals that have a clipless bracket on one side and a flat section on the other so you can choose whether or not you want to wear your cycling shoes on a ride.

Feeling Good in the Saddle

A road bike usually has a masochistically tough saddle. Professional riders balance their weight precisely on the sit bones of their pelvis, eliminating the need for an overly padded saddle. If you're just getting into cycling, a seat with a little more cushion will make your first rides much more enjoyable. A saddle with too much padding, however, will fill the space between your legs, distributing weight onto more sensitive tissue, which can lead to numbness and pain.

Getting in Position

For the best aerodynamics, a seasoned cyclist uses "drop-style" handlebars to take a very low stance when going for a steep descent or a sprint. This kind of extreme body angle may not be as easy for a new rider. The best beginner road bikes have handlebars that are a little higher up than an expert's road bike so you don't have to lean as far forwards while riding. This more upright riding position doesn't put as much strain on your lower back and neck. You still can practice getting down in the drops, but the bike will be much more accessible.

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About the Author

Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.

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