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Ten Steps for Buying Your First Road Bike

You’ve made the mental leap to sport the spandex. Congratulations and welcome to the Club!

Before you run out and buy a bike, consider these 10 steps when buying a new road bike:

1. Set a Budget – Few beginner cyclists have the coin or commitment to shop with an unlimited budget and even fewer beginning cyclists will see value in buying “too much bike.”  Instead, Road Bike Mike recommends that you settle on a budget you’re comfortable with ($600 – $1,500 should be plenty for your first bike) and get as much ‘bike’ as you can for the money.  Remember, bikes have specs and specs are easily compared.


2. Add $300 to Your Budget – A lot of good a road bike will do if you don’t have a helmet, pedals (yes, many road bikes do not come with pedals), shoes, clothes, tools, water bottles, etc.  If this extra $300 breaks the budget, revisit Step 1 with this in mind.


3. Determine the Frame Size – You can believe *almost* everything you’ve read and heard regarding bike fit.  Yes, it’s incredibly important to your comfort and enjoyment.  Yes, you should spend time getting the right size frame.  Yes, you should have a professional fine-tune the fit.  No, you should not be paralyzed by this step in the process.  Using Road Bike Mike’s most trusted fit source: Competitive Cyclist’s Fit Calculator will help you identify the appropriate geometry and frame size.  Armed with this information, you can safely buy a bike and ride it out of the box.


4.Research – Spend some time with your local bike shop, on eBay/Craigslist, reading online forums.  This research will help you understand the basics, know what questions to ask the shop/seller/vendor you ultimately buy from, and ultimately help you decide what bike best fits your criteria.  Research is more than just reading.  Ask questions of your roadbike friends.  Ask questions at the local bike store.  Heck, ask us questions!


5. Pull the Trigger – You’ve set your budget, checked it twice, determined the proper frame size and learned all you can about frame materials, bike components, pricing, used options, new options, etc.  Could you be more ready? Maybe.  Is it worth delaying your first ride to get from 95% comfortable to 100%? No.  It’s a bike, not a marriage.  Nothing against marriage, but in this deal, you can easily fix almost anything that doesn’t match your expectations.


6. Assemble the Bike – Since you’ve done your research and learned (from Road Bike Mike and others) that your budget goes further with online retailers and “non-brand name bike” you ended buying a Motobecane, Tommaso or other brand that gets you twice the bike for half the price; you’re now patiently waiting for a bike box to arrive.  If you’re mechanically inclined, the assembly is easy enough to do yourself.  If you’d rather trust the pros, drop it off at the local bike store and have them assemble and tune the bike.


7. Fit the Bike – Formally or informally, set an appointment with your local bike store to help with a preliminary fit.  From seat height to seat setback; stem rise to stem angle your local shop can get you in proper position to begin piling on the miles.


8. Ride – Log your miles.  Enjoy the bike.  After you’ve accumulated the miles and grown accustomed to your bike and the sport in general, move on to step 9.


9. Perfect the Fit of your Bike – After several hundred miles, you’ll be able to identify everything from minor nuisances to major discomforts.  Head back into your local bike store and share your experience.  Slight discomfort in the lower back?  Tell them, it could mean that your reach is too long and that a new stem could alleviate this discomfort.  Elbows feeling strained?  Let ‘em know, perhaps your handlebars need a slight adjustment.


10. Share the Love – Welcome to the Club!  You’ve gone from road bike newbie to road bike groupie.  Spread the love and get a friend, co-worker, sibling, parent, neighbor, etc. involved in the sport.  Share what you’ve learned, share what you love and let’s fill the streets with cyclists.





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What to Bring on Your Ride

If you’ve put more than a few hundred miles on your road bike, you probably already know what to bring on your ride and you either took the easy way and heeded a veteran’s advice or took the hard way and learned through trial and error.  In the spirit of choose your own adventure books, here’s a little story about what to bring on your next ride.


You’re a relatively new cyclist.  You have a bike, some spandex and a couple water bottles.  Before walking out the door, you think to yourself, “hmmmm, wonder what else I’ll need on this ride.”  Choose one:

The Easy Way (read the rest of this article)

The Hard Way (ignore the rest of this article)


For those cyclists new to the sport, allow Road Bike Mike to offer some sage advice that could save you some trial and some inevitably painful error.  Here’s a basic list of “must-haves” for any ride:

  1. One Spare Tube – Yes, you will have flats and yes, they will come at the most inopportune time
  2. One Ziplock Bag – Nothing worse than fixing a flat only to find that your spare was punctured prior to install
  3. Three Tire Levers – Yes, three
  4. Air – We prefer 2 c02 cartridges over a bulky, and ‘non-pro’ air pump
  5. Patch Kit – Either a kit or glueless patches for the not-so-fun-but-bound-to-happen double flat
  6. Cash – You never know when bribery, cab fare, or a bonk-breaking twinkie will be needed
  7. Identification – Like clean underwear, it’s there in case of emergency and you hope that no one has to see it




Gooney Goo Gu

Known in cycling circles as the nectar of the gods; or at least, the nectar of vengeful gods that gain satisfaction in the torture of tastebuds, energy gels have rapidly become a mainstay of pre and during-ride nutrition. Ounce for ounce, these tiny packets of phlegm-like substance are the perfect source of energy that fits in your jersey and goes down easily without forcing you to stop and chew.

The following chart is a breakdown of the more popular gels, their nutritional values, and excellent online sources for you to buy in bulk:

Gel Serving Size (g) Cals. Carbs (g) Protein (g) Fat
Total (g) Sat. (g) Trans (g)
AccelGel 41 100 20 5 0 0 0
CARBBOOM Gel 49 110 27 0 0 0 0
Cytomax Gel 40 110 27 0 0 0 0
Hammer Gel 36 90 22 0 0 0 0
POWERBAR Gel 42 110 27 0 0 0 0
Clif Shot Gel 32 100 25 0 6 0 0
Gu Gel Roctane 32 100 25 0 0 0 0
GuGel 32 100 25 0 0 0 0

Meet Mike

My name is Mike.  I live in Colorado.  I only recently became addicted to the sport of road biking. This is my story:

As a Colorado Native, I’ve always been active in skiing, mountain biking, running, and other athletic endeavors. Living in Colorado, I had seen road cyclists at nearly every turn but never given much thought to taking up the sport…until the phone call.

It was my brother Ryan. It was late February. He asked if I wanted to join him on that year’s Ride the Rockies (a 6 day ride covering 420+ miles of scenic Colorado biways). Having never been on a road bike, having never owned a bike that weighed less than 20 pounds, having never ridden on tires narrower than 2″, I logically answered “you bet!”

With less than 4 months until the 6 day, 420+ mile affair, I dove headfirst into the sport. I studied hundreds of online sites, read numerous articles and asked millions of questions. I climbed the learning curve faster than Lance, Contador or the Schleck’s climbed the Alpe d’Huez. I made incredible progress and I made some really stupid mistakes.

When not making mistakes (i.e. buying inferior pedals, failing to understand how to fix a flat without pinching the tube, etc.) I was busy training. In 3 short months I went from needing a crash course in how to shift (I was looking for thumb or grip shifters familiar to my mountain biking days) to renting a road bike while in Maui and climbing 10,023 vertical feet to the top of Mount Haleakala because it sounded fun.

By the time the June ride came about, the 6 day, 420+ mile, 26,000 vertical feet route for Ride the Rockies was a walk in the park. I was now a road cyclists for life.

Soon thereafter, I recruited some friends and built this site with one goal in mind: to share my new found love of road cycling. For those that are new to the sport, I want this site to help answer questions, get you up the learning curve, get you out from behind the keyboard and get you up on a road bike saddle.

I’ve tried to capture the heart of my story to the right, under “The Beginner’s Book on Biking.”  I’ve surrounded myself with incredibly knowledgeable, incredibly experienced cyclists and together we’re tearing down the barriers to the sport.  I encourage you to check the site often for updates as my story and the “Beginner’s Book on Biking” continue to unfold.

Give me a shout anytime, I’d love to hear your story!




Supplement Throwdown

Looking for that competitive edge this race season?

Ever feel like you’re barely surviving your weekend group rides?

Just looking for that extra boost to your overall health and energy levels?

Worried your urine isn’t worth as much as you think it is?

Three of our staffers volunteered to take the most popular over-the-counter endurance supplements during the course of an 8 week period in a classic Road Bike Mike throw-down to see which supplement was worth your hard earned money.  Our guinea pigs, errrr I mean staffers, were each given a 60 day supply of their respective supplement (probably the reason these cheap bastards volunteered) and an 8 week High Intensity Training (“HIT”) regime.  All of the participants consumed the supplements on a blind basis and all of the participants believed they were taking potent performance enhancers (coincidentally, they also believed that the experience and resume building potential of working at RBM was adequate compensation).  Ha!

To protect the innocent/guilty and limit ridicule outside of the RBM clubhouse, we’ve altered the names of our participants.  Meet the subjects and their supplements:

OptygenDanny D

According to 1st Endurance: Optygen “is a legal, safe and stimulant-free formula designed specifically to optimize performance for endurance athletes. This revolutionary formula is based on human clinical trials and the latest scientific research on increasing endurance.”

Active Ingredients:

Chromium, Cordyceps, Calcium Pyruvate, Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate, Ribose, Adenosine, and Rhodiola Extract



According to SportLegs: “Muscle “burn” and next-day soreness are so last century.  Get your SportLegs on!”

Active Ingredients:

Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Lactate


Sugar (Placebo) - Maximillion

According to the Wikipedia: “Sugar is a term for a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose and fructose characterized by a sweet flavor.”

Active Ingredients:


After 8 weeks of intense training and intense rivalry between the test subjects, the results were interesting.  As a proxy for performance gains, each tester was subjected to a one hour controlled spin to calculate the average watts/kg produced over a 60 minute period.  The before and after results for each tester are displayed below:

Subject Supplement Beginning Watts/kg Ending Watts/kg % Gain
Danny D Optygen 3.15 3.91 24%
2.73 3.26 19%
Maximillion Placebo 3.04 3.31 9%


As you can see by the chart, all 3 testers posted significant improvements in power output over this short 8 week period.  Proof once again that high-intensity training (especially interval training) has a beneficial impact on power and performance.  Interestingly, the Optygen and Sport Legs produced significant gains!

According to Danny D,

through week 4, I was convinced that I was the guinea pig taking the placebo.  I was pushing it during my workouts and still feeling the effects.  Something kicked in during weeks 5 through 8 and I really started to hit my training stride.  Intervals were less taxing, my recovery was accelerating and my legs would feel fresh the day after particularly grueling intervals.

When told that he was on Optygen, Danny D was quick to admit he was a believer.

When asked to describe his response to the training and the Sport Legs, NateDogg explained,

I felt good the entire time.  From day 1 through the last day I felt like I was making good progess and I never felt like I hit a wall or plateau.

When asked if he noticed any difference in the lactic acid burn that cyclists grow accustomed to (and that SportLegs claims to minimize), NateDogg said,

you know, I actually had a few moments of doubt when I looked at the power readouts on the stationary and compared them to my perceived exertion levels.  I thought you guys were f#*%&% with me and hacking the bike to throw bogus power numbers out.  I never would have guessed it was the pills.

Maximillion had little to say regarding his training after learning that his compadres doubled their average power output while his modest gains were apparently handicapped by the placebo pills.  Scratch that….he had a lot to say, none of which was publishable or productive.  Thanks for being a good sport Max!


Pre Ride Nutrition

You wouldn’t start a roadtrip in the family truckster on an empty tank of gas.  So why are you starting your rides on an empty stomach?

At Road Bike Mike, we spent weeks putting pre-ride nutritional supplements to the test so you wouldn’t have to. From home-baked to half-baked, outrageously-priced to stupid-cheap, we have scoured the cycling world and come up with the top 3 pre-ride meals based on performance, taste, digestibility, and price.

1.  Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Made with two slices of white bread, two tablespoons of peanut butter, and two tablespoons of grape jelly, you’re looking at 432 calories with macro-nutrient mix of 59 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of fat and 12 grams of protein. Light on protein and price, this snack delivers enough carbs to get you through a 120 minute ride without the need to refill. Beyond 2 hours, consider some gels, sports drinks or other simple carb snacks to replenish glycogen levels.

2.  Energy Bar

Pioneered by the original PowerBar, the energy bar market is exceedingly popular; and for good reason. Packing an average punch of 200–300 calories, 3–9 grams of fat, 7–15 grams of protein, and 20–40 grams of carbohydrates these high energy food bars are bound to come in a flavor, nutritional profile and price-point that you’re comfortable with.

3.  Oatmeal

Figuratively (and probably literally, though we haven’t tried) a pre-ride meal of oatmeal will stick to your ribs. One cup of cooked oatmeal provides 166 calories, 28 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of fat. Add in your favorite fruit or sweetener (i.e. bananas, blueberries, raisins, honey or brown sugar) to give the calories and carbs a bump and you’ll be pedaling for 2 hours before the need to refuel.

Your cycling pre-ride nutritional strategy should be designed to deliver an optimal amount of fuel and delay the onset of fuel depletion. Pegged correctly, the proper pre-ride snack will sustain your scheduled workout at the desired level of completion, particularly for tougher rides.

Obviously digestion and timing are two important considerations. At Road Bike Mike, we strongly encourage riders to consume the primary pre-ride fuel about one hour before getting in the bike saddle. Experiment to see what works best for your tolerances and schedule.

If you don’t have 60 minutes before your next ride, fear not…we have a few options for the time-crunched cyclist that can be consume 15 minutes prior to your next road bike ride.


What Road Bike Pedals Do You Need?

Clipless road bike pedals will simultaneously bring your road biking and your humility to brand new levels.  From a performance perspective, clipless pedals will reduce inefficiencies and help you put more power through each pedal stroke.  In terms of humility, every new road cyclist will contend with the dreaded slow-motion fall: the routine stop that turns a bit more interesting when you find yourself falling to one side while both feet remain clipped into your pedals.  The good news: slow-motion falls only happen one or two times whereas the power and efficiency gains last the entire life of your new clipless pedals.


Rather than promote the clipless pedal, we’ll jump to the conclusion that you’re set on adding some clipless pedals to the new rig but need a bit more direction in terms of what pedals (and associated shoes) to buy.  In classic Road Bike Mike fashion, we’ve scoured the web and the bike shops; tested dozens of clipless pedals; and distilled the selection process into a simple choice based on your riding style and budget.


If maintaining a budget is your primary concern: Pick up the Look Keo Easy Ride Pedals

 The Look KEO Easy Pedal is exactly that – easy! Look has designed the easiest pedals to get in and out of, in addition to a wide platform to give excellent power transfer. The Look KEO Easy pedal is for anyone starting to cycle or Looking for a simple, reliable system

230 grams

Price: Under $60

Bottom Line: 90 grams heavier than the Look Keo Classics and $45 less.

If you want the best performance bang for the buck: Pick up the Look Keo Classic Pedals


Description: The large base makes it easy to enter and exit the pedal and the slightly heavier weight help makes entry a bit more manageable. . The Look Keo Classic maintains adjustable spring tension, low stack height and overall lightweight construction (140g) thereby helping the new rider grow comfortably with this quality clipless pedal.

Weight: 140 grams

Bottom Line:
 Look is to road bike pedals as Kleenex is to facial tissue.Price: About $80



If you simply want the best: Pick up the Cycle Keo 2 Max Carbon Pedals

Look Keo 2 Max Carbon

Description: People loved the weight and function of the Look Keos, but found they wore out the carbon fiber pedal bodies. To combat this, Look added a stainless steel wear plate atop the center of the pedal body that will never wear out. In addition, the shape is wider (amongst the widest clipless pedals around) which helps increase the surface area that contacts the cleat. All this platform width is coupled with a narrow bottom that helps these pedals corner better than the older Keo design and better than Shimano Dura Ace.


Weight: 122 grams

Price: About $175

Bottom Line: You’re going to love these pedals.