Whether you’ve just bought your first road bike or are upgrading your old ride, you’ll probably need to make a few adjustments before you test out the pedals.
For your toolkit
If you’re setting up your road bike yourself, make sure you’ve got a good bike toolkit. Most road bikes on the market today don’t require many, but good quality Allen tools and a screwdriver with a flat blade are a good place to start. If you’re planning to play around with it on the road, a multi-tool is handy and there are lots to choose from, depending on what you want to change. This one from B’Twin is ideal if you’re not sure!
Tinkering at home? Consider investing in a workstand, which will elevate the bike off the ground so you can get to both sides while the wheels spin freely. We recommend using a model such as this Elite one as it secures your bike and is compatible with all bike types!
Things to check
- Handlebar height
If your handlebars are too high or low, it’s easy to adjust the height. Simply take an Allen tool and remove the top cap on the stem, loosen the bolts and move the spacers. Then, refit the stem by tightening the top cap, followed by the stem steerer bolts.
- Stem length
Too short a stem will lead to a cramped, uncomfortable ride and possible injury, and a stem that’s too long will encourage you to stretch further than you should, again risking discomfort and increasing the chances of an accident. For better control and a more enjoyable journey, adjust your stem length, mount the bike and check it feels right. If not, keep adjusting it until it’s spot on.
- Saddle height
Finding the right saddle height for you is probably the most important adjustment you’ll make to your road bike – it can make a huge difference to how efficiently you pedal, as well as how long you can ride for and how well you avoid injury. New cyclists might want to consider visiting a bike-fitting specialist to ensure the perfect fit, but more hardened bike tinkerers can follow the ‘heel-to-pedal’ method.
The ‘heel-to-pedal’ method
Sit on your bike and hold onto something to stay upright. Then put your heel on one pedal and pedal backwards until you reach the six o’clock position. Your knee should be straight, but if it’s not you need to increase the height of your saddle by raising it bit by bit. If your heel loses contact with the pedal, you need to lower the saddle height.
Clattering chains and clunky movements are not what you want when you’re trying to enjoy a relaxing ride, which is why you need to make sure your gears are properly adjusted before you disembark. Regular riders and professionals will probably already know how to do this, but if you’re a bit of a novice there’s no need to panic – there’s an app! The Otto Tuning System is a voice-guided iPhone app that helps you check and tune your rear derailleur easily and it’s free to download.
All the bolts on a road bike have a recommended torque setting, and to make sure they’re as tight as they should be, you’ll need a torque wrench. The ideal torque setting should be printed near each bolt – just adjust your torque wrench to that setting, then turn the appropriate bolt with the wrench until you hear it stop. Just like this one!
- Tyre pressure
You don’t need to inflate your road bike tyres to the maximum inflation pressure (it’s usually around 120psi and printed on the sidewall.) Equally, setting off on a ride when your tyre pressure is too low will make you feel like you’re going nowhere, slowly. Your individual weight and the condition of the road will impact what your tyre pressure should be, so the best thing to do is experiment. Lower or increase the pressure by about 5psi and then go for a ride. Too low? Go up another 5psi. Too high? You know what to do…
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