My daily urban commute on a road bike
Apartment door shut, down the stairs, out of the front door - there it is safely chained up in all its silver-blue glory: my road bike. Now six months old in this configuration, although the Wanderer frame has already seen numerous seasons. And with each new day, it’s one of the reasons I look forward to going to work. But by no means the only one.
Using a road bike in the city has pretty much turned my view of the bicycle as a everyday mode of transport on its head. In situations where I would previously have opted for the car or public transport, for example over longer distances, I now jump onto my bike without a second’s hesitation. What’s more, I don’t lose any time racing my bike compared to other forms of transport – quite the opposite, in fact.
Nobody Likes to Arrive Too Late
The term road bike isn’t a matter of chance. That doesn’t mean you should get into merciless elbow-to-elbow races with other riders out on the streets. But lost time is guaranteed to be made up in a flash astride a road bike. What’s more, road bikes have a very low rolling resistance and excellent aerodynamics, which are further improved on new models and with the correct sitting position. Additional speed, especially when pulling away at traffic lights or overtaking, can be achieved by using clipless pedals, which ensure better transmission of power. Small tip: Practise cycling and dismounting with clipless pedals first to avoid accidents in town. I now cover the 8 km journey to work on my road bike in exactly the same time it takes by car. And not only because I can ride at higher speeds on cycle lanes and cycle paths.
Skilfully Through the City on a Racing Bike
When the cry “Traffic jam ahead!” goes out again in town, it generally passes us cyclists by; we simply ride around it on cycle paths. But if you do have to get creative when it comes to navigating your way through the city, the racing bike is your ideal partner: thanks to its low weight, it can even carried past unforeseen obstacles. In cities that allow bikes to be taken on public transport such as underground trains or in buses, carrying a lightweight is much preferred to a bulky bike weighing twice as much.
The Training Effect: Show Us Your Calves
Not to be scoffed at is the training effect that riding a road bike has compared to pedalling in comfort on a city bike. Regardless of whether it’s a multispeed racing bike, i.e. one with a gearshift, pedalling in the lower gears will demand a lot more power than a conventional bicycle. In the case of fixies or singlespeed bikes, the training effect is increased even further compared to multispeed bike.
Have a Seat, Enjoy Your Ride
Even more important than with normal bikes is the correct sitting position on the road bike, especially it if is used daily and over longer distances, otherwise you’ll quickly fall out of love with cycling. That’s why you should first think about the type of handlebar that appeals to you and the associated cycling position. What is essentially true of all road bikes, however, is that they have a very agile steering behaviour, which makes it easier to react quickly in traffic.
Rails and Other Challenges
LRV, tram, streetcar … whatever it’s called, if you live in a city with rail-based public transport vehicles then your new life motto should be: The right-angle is my friend. On the one hand, they are slipperier than asphalt, which is why fast steering manoeuvres should be avoid right on the rails, especially when the roads are wet. On the other hand, road bike tyres are narrower than the rails, which increase the chance to slide into the rails. Bike-friendly rails are currently being tested in Zurich. Until they have been installed in large numbers of European cities, it is safer to slow down a bit and cross the rails at right-angles. Talking of tyres, the right tyre pressure also ensures safety. In a racing bike tyre, that can be up to 8 bar. Important: regularly check the tyre pressure.
Keep Your Distance!
It’s important to stay further behind the road user in front, especially at higher speeds. That applies both to cycle paths and roads. Quiet side streets can be a good alternative to busy paths, particularly for racing bikes.
So, our arguments have convinced you and you’d like to thread your way through the city on a racing bike in future, but your wallet’s seen better times? Then we’ve got good news for you! Older models for tinkering with and restoring are available from just 100 euro, either from flea markets or online from bicycle marts. Models in very good condition can also be had for under 300 euro.
And to ensure that nobody can literally take away the joy you have in your bike, you should invest in a good bike lock. Even if it’s stating the blindingly obvious, always place the chain around fixed objects: who does not want to see his pretty lightweight where he’s locked it the day before.