A Complete Guide To Road Bike Geometry and Handling

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Road bike geometry and handling can significantly impact your cycling experience as they determine how the bike responds to our inputs and how it feels to ride. The geometry affects factors like stability, agility, and comfort, while handling refers to how the bike maneuvers and responds to turns, descents, and obstacles.

Our comprehensive guide will explore everything you need to know about how road bike geometry affects your riding experience—from the various measurements and angles, like the head tube angle, seat tube angle, and the frames, to how they impact your bike’s handling.  

What Is Road Bike Geometry?
Guide to Bike Geometry for Better Handling
What is Road Bike Handling
8 Tips For Skill Building
8 Essential Bike Handling Skills

What Is Road Bike Geometry?

Road bike geometry refers to the specific measurements and angles determining how a road bike is designed and built, such as frame size, stack and reach measurements, head tube angle, seat tube angle, and wheelbase. These factors are crucial in how the bike handles, performs and fits the rider while also affecting your riding position, comfort, stability, and responsiveness. 

One important aspect of bike geometry is the frame size, which affects the overall fit and comfort of the rider. The rider’s height usually determines it, and different frame sizes are available to accommodate riders of various heights.  

Another critical component of bike geometry is the head tube angle. This angle affects the bike’s steering responsiveness and stability. Steeper head tube angles provide quicker handling, which is ideal for agile maneuvers, while slacker angles offer more stability and are suitable for long-distance rides. 

Then, we have the seat tube angle, which determines the position of the rider’s body in relation to the pedals. A steeper seat tube angle pushes the rider forward, optimizing power transfer and efficiency. On the other hand, a slacker seat tube angle provides a more relaxed and comfortable riding position.

Bike geometry also has the chainstay length, which affects the bike’s handling and stability. Shorter chainstays produce a more responsive and agile bike, ideal for quick accelerations and tight turns. Longer chainstays offer strength and comfort, making them suitable for endurance rides.

Additionally, the wheelbase, bottom bracket height, and fork rake are other elements of bike geometry that contribute to a bike’s overall handling characteristics and ride quality.

Remember, bike geometry is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You must test-ride different bikes and consult with experts at bike shops to find the best fit for your needs.   

Guide To Bike Geometry For Better Handling

Bike geometry is crucial in your bike’s handling characteristics, influencing everything from agility and stability to climbing efficiency and comfort. Here’s a breakdown of essential geometry metrics to consider for better handling:

1.  Frame Size

Choosing the correct frame size is crucial for optimal handling. It should be based on your height, inseam, and riding style. A proper fit ensures better control and maneuverability. A correctly sized frame ensures adequate weight distribution and optimal power transfer and reduces the risk of injuries.      

Here is a handy guideline you can follow when choosing the correct frame size:

  • Height and Inseam Measurement: Start by measuring your height and inseam. To measure your height, stand against a wall without shoes and use a measuring tape to measure from the top of your head to the floor. This will give you your height. To measure your inseam, stand with your legs slightly apart and measure from the crotch area to the bottom of your ankle. This will give you your inseam measurement. These measurements will serve as a starting point for determining the appropriate frame size. 
  • Size Charts: Most bike manufacturers provide size charts that correlate height and inseam measurements with frame sizes. These charts can help find the right fit.

An example of a road bike size chart:

  • Standover Height: Standover height is the distance between the top tube of the bike frame and the ground when you straddle the bike with your feet flat on the ground. Aim for a few inches of clearance to ensure comfort and safety.   

To aim for a few inches of clearance, you’ll want to straddle the bike with your feet flat on the ground and ensure some space between the top tube of the bike frame and your body. 

You should have a few inches of clearance to comfortably and safely stand over the bike without discomfort or risk of injury. This clearance lets you quickly get on and off the bike and maintain stability while stopping.

  • Reach and Stack: Reach and stack measurements determine the bike’s horizontal and vertical dimensions. These measurements can vary between bike models and brands, so it’s essential to consider them when choosing a frame size that suits your riding style and preferences. For example, if you prefer a more aggressive and aerodynamic riding position, you might look for a bike with a more extended reach and a lower stack measurement. On the other hand, if you prioritize a more upright and relaxed riding position, a shorter reach and higher stack measurement would be more suitable.
  • Professional Bike Fitting: If you need clarification on the correct frame size or want a more personalized fit, consider getting a professional bike fitting. A bike fitter can assess your body proportions, flexibility, and riding style to recommend the best frame size. During a bike fitting, they may measure your inseam, analyze your riding posture, and even use motion capture systems to fine-tune your bike setup. It’s a great way to optimize your comfort, power transfer, and overall riding experience. A motion capture system is a technology used to track and record the movement of objects or people in real-time. It involves placing small markers on specific points of the body or object, which are then tracked by cameras or sensors. These cameras or sensors capture the movement of the markers and create a digital representation of the motion.  
  • Test Rides: Whenever possible, test-ride different bikes with varying frame sizes to get a feel for how they fit and handle. This hands-on experience can provide valuable insights into your comfort and confidence on the bike.

2. Head Tube Angle

Head angle in bikes refers to the angle formed between the head tube (the vertical tube holding the front forks) and the ground. A steeper angle provides quicker and more responsive handling, while a slacker angle offers more stability at high speeds.

Steeper angle (71°)

It offers quicker steering and sharper handling, ideal for technical terrain and fast maneuvers because the steeper angle brings the front wheel closer to the bike’s center of gravity, allowing for more responsive and agile maneuvering.   

However, it can feel twitchy at high speeds and less stable downhill.  This is because the quick steering response can become exaggerated, making it more challenging to maintain a straight line or stay in control when descending at high speeds. The bike may feel more sensitive to small movements or inputs, which can be unsettling for some riders.

To find the right balance, consider your riding style, the type of terrain you’ll be tackling, and your personal preferences. A slightly slacker head tube angle can provide stability and confidence at high speeds and downhill sections while offering good handling characteristics. Ultimately, it’s about finding the proper bike geometry that suits your riding needs and gives you the confidence to tackle any terrain. 

Slacker angle (62°)

It provides increased stability at high speeds and downhill, perfect for confidence-inspiring descents. The front wheel is positioned farther away from the bike’s center of gravity, creating a more planted and stable feel. It helps keep the bike on track and gives you confidence when going fast or tackling steep descents.

However, it sacrifices some responsiveness and agility in tight corners. The bike’s steering may feel slower and require more effort to maneuver quickly through tight turns. The front wheel has a larger turning radius, making it less agile in tight spaces.

Finding the right balance in head tube angle is crucial to match your riding style and the terrain you’ll be encountering. A slacker angle is excellent for stability and confidence during descents, while a steeper angle offers quicker steering and agility for technical terrain and maneuvering.

3. Trail

In road bikes, trail refers to the horizontal distance between the point where the steering axis of the front wheel intersects the ground and the point where the front tire contacts the ground. In simpler terms, it’s how far “behind” the tire contact patch the steering axis is.

More trail:

More trail creates a more prolonged “wheelbase effect,” resulting in stable handling, especially at high speeds. 

More trail creates a more prolonged “wheelbase effect,” which means the bike’s handling becomes more stable, especially at high speeds. The longer wheelbase provides better stability by evenly distributing the bike’s weight between the front and rear wheels. This can give you confidence and control when riding fast or on rough terrain.

However, the trade-off is that more trail can make the bike feel sluggish in tight turns. The longer wheelbase and increased stability can make it slightly harder to maneuver quickly through tight corners or switchbacks. The bike may feel less responsive and require more effort to navigate sharp turns.

Less trail

It makes the bike more agile and maneuverable, ideal for quick handling in technical terrain. Having less trail is the way to go when making a bike more agile and maneuverable. 

With less trail, the bike’s handling becomes more responsive and quick, making it ideal for quickly navigating technical terrain and tight corners. You’ll feel like you have better control and can adjust quickly.

However, there’s a trade-off to consider. Less trail can make the bike feel a bit twitchy at high speeds. The increased responsiveness means that even small inputs from the rider can significantly impact the bike’s direction. This can require more active rider input and focus to maintain stability and control when riding at higher speeds.

Additional tip: A trail between 54mm and 58mm is usually expected for a race bike. But if you’re designing a bike for a casual rider who wants a super stable ride, you should increase the trail to around 60mm or more.

4. Wheelbase

Wheelbase in a road bike refers to the horizontal distance between the center of the front wheel and the center of the rear wheel. It’s essentially the length of your bike’s wheelbase!

Longer wheelbase:

It enhances stability, especially at high speeds and downhill. It helps keep the bike steady and planted on the ground, giving you confidence and control.

However, it can make the bike less maneuverable in tight corners. With more trails, the bike may become less maneuverable in tight corners. Navigating those sharp turns can feel more challenging because the increased stability of more trails can make the bike feel sluggish.

It’s all about finding the right balance that suits your riding style and the terrain you’ll be tackling. Some riders prefer more trails’ added stability, especially when riding at high speeds or on rough downhill sections. Others may prioritize maneuverability and opt for less trail to make those tight corners easier to handle.

Shorter wheelbase:

It improves agility and makes the bike easier to flick around in tight corners. It gives you that extra responsiveness and lets you quickly flick the bike around.

However, it can feel less stable at high speeds and downhill. The bike may feel less stable when riding at high speeds or downhill with less trail. The decreased stability can make it more challenging to maintain control and confidence in those situations.

It’s all about finding the right balance that suits your riding style and the terrain you’ll be tackling. Some riders prefer the increased agility and maneuverability of less trail, especially when tackling technical terrain with many tight corners. Others may prioritize stability and more trails to feel more secure when riding at high speeds or on steep descents.

Additional tip: A wheelbase of around 1m or 1000mm is a relatively narrow window that road bikes handle optimally. The bike will still handle nicely, with roughly 20 mm of variation in each direction. However, when the wheelbase drops below 980mm or rises beyond 1020mm, things might go wrong.

5. Bottom Bracket Drop

The bottom bracket drop refers to the vertical distance between the center of the bike’s bottom bracket (where the crankset is attached) and an imaginary line drawn between the axles of the front and rear wheels. 

The line connecting the axles of the front and rear wheels is considered imaginary because it’s not physically present on the bike. It’s a conceptual line used to measure and understand the bottom bracket drop. Think of it as an imaginary reference point that helps us analyze and compare different bike geometries. 

The bottom bracket drop variations can also result in higher or lower measurements. A higher drop can provide more clearance for pedaling through turns, while a lower drop can lower the bike’s center of gravity for improved stability. The specific drop measurement depends on the bike’s design and intended use. 

Let’s discuss them in further detail:

Higher drop (65mm)

When we talk about a higher drop, we’re referring to the distance between the bottom bracket (where the crankset is) and the ground. 

The bottom bracket is positioned lower to the ground when the drop is higher. Since the bottom bracket is where the rider’s and the bike’s weight is concentrated, lowering it to the ground reduces the overall center of gravity.

A lower center of gravity translates to increased stability, especially in corners. It also makes you feel more grounded and balanced, a plus point when navigating tighter turns. 

However, it can increase pedal strikes on rough terrain. Pedal strikes happen when your pedals hit the ground or obstacles, throwing off your balance and potentially causing you to lose control.

It’s a trade-off, but many riders find that the increased stability gained from a lower center of gravity outweighs the occasional pedal strikes. Knowing the terrain you’ll be riding on and adjusting your riding technique accordingly minimizes the risk of pedal strikes.

Lower drop (80mm)

When we talk about a lower drop, we mean that the distance between the bottom bracket and the ground is reduced, typically around 80mm.

It provides more clearance for pedaling on rough terrain, improving efficiency. This means you have less chance of hitting obstacles with your pedals, which can improve your efficiency and help you maintain a smooth pedal stroke without interruptions.

However, it can raise the center of gravity, potentially affecting stability. With higher center of gravity, you might feel less grounded and balanced, especially when navigating corners or challenging terrain.

It’s all about finding the right balance that suits your riding style and the terrain you’ll be tackling. Some riders prefer a lower drop’s increased clearance and efficiency, especially when riding on technical trails with many obstacles. Others may prioritize stability and opt for a higher drop to feel more secure in their rides.

Remember, choosing the proper geometry depends on your riding style, terrain, and personal preferences. It’s about individual numbers and how they work together to create a balanced and responsive bike. The specific drop measurement depends on the bike’s design and intended use.

Many road bikes have a BB drop of roughly 70mm for smaller sizes and scale up for larger sizes. A bigger bike should have a little less drop to accommodate longer crank lengths when pedaling around turns. This helps with clearance and ensures smooth pedaling. 

However, we’ve seen the move from 23/25mm tires to 28mm tires over several years. This is done to account for the higher ride height caused by wider tires, road bike manufacturers decided to add a bit more BB drop. 

What Is Road Bike Handling?

Road bike handling refers to how your bike responds to your inputs and maneuvers. Good road bike handling means navigating different road conditions safely and smoothly, making your rides more efficient. It encompasses several aspects, including:


How your bike turns and corners in response to handlebar movements. When you’re steering, you must lean your body and shift your weight to steer the bike in the direction you want. You can navigate corners and curves smoothly by gently leaning into turns and using your handlebars to guide the bike.


How your bike maintains its balance at different speeds and on various terrain. Stability on a road bike is like having a solid foundation that keeps you balanced and in control while riding. It’s about feeling steady and secure on your bike, especially when encountering bumps or uneven terrain.


How your bike changes direction quickly and precisely. It’s about being able to change directions, weave through obstacles, and react rapidly to whatever the road throws at you. 


How your bike absorbs bumps and vibrations to provide a smooth ride. It’s about feeling relaxed and at ease while you pedal away without any unnecessary strain or discomfort. 

It is important to know that good road bike handling is essential for confident and safe riding. It allows you to navigate corners, avoid obstacles, and maintain control in challenging conditions. 

Here are some factors that contribute to good road bike handling: 


The quality of your brakes, tires, and wheels can significantly impact handling. Wider tires offer more grip and stability, while high-quality brakes provide confident stopping power.

Having high-quality brakes is essential for your safety and confidence on the road. Good brakes provide reliable stopping power, allowing you to control your speed and come to a halt when needed. 

Now, let’s talk about tires. Wider tires provide more grip on the road or trail, improving stability and control. With wider tires, you’ll have increased traction, especially in corners or uneven surfaces. So, if you’re looking for added grip and stability, wider tires are a great choice.

Lastly, wheels also affect your bike’s handling. High-quality wheels are typically lighter, stiffer, and more durable. Lighter wheels can improve acceleration and responsiveness, while stiffer wheels enhance power transfer. So, investing in well-built wheels can make a noticeable difference in your riding experience.

Body position:    

Your posture and weight distribution on the bike affect steering and balance. A relaxed, centered position with slightly bent elbows offers reasonable control and comfort. Whether leaning into turns, shifting your weight, or staying comfortable on the bike, how you position your body can make a big difference in how smoothly you handle your bike.

By keeping a relaxed posture, you allow your body to move with the bike and absorb any bumps or vibrations. This improves your comfort and enhances your control over the bike. Having slightly bent elbows helps to absorb shocks and maintain stability.

When it comes to turning, shifting your weight and leaning into the turns can help you navigate smoothly. You can counterbalance the bike and maintain better traction by shifting your weight towards the inside of the turn. This technique allows you to maneuver through corners with more control and confidence. 

Riding technique:

Smooth pedaling, proper cornering, and efficient braking contribute to good handling. From how you handle corners to shifting gears at the right moment, honing your riding technique can make your cycling experience feel like a breeze.  

8 Tips For Skill Building

Before we move on to the techniques of road bike handling, it’s important to first focus on building your skills (like improving your balance, coordination, and bike control), which lays a strong foundation for your overall bike handling abilities. 

Once you feel confident in these fundamental skills, you’ll be better equipped to learn and apply specific techniques for handling road bikes.  

Here are seven handy tips for skill-building:

1. Ride in a Straight Line

Riding in a straight line keeps your bicycle moving forward in a straight path without swerving or deviating to the sides. It helps maintain a steady course without any unnecessary zigzagging or drifting. 

So, when you’re out on your next ride, hug the line on the side of the road (edge lines or shoulder lines) to practice staying on a straight path without veering off. Remember to stay relaxed and keep your elbows slightly bent for better control. 

Another approach to riding in a straight line is to choose an object in the distance, like a tree or a lamppost, and keep your eyes locked on it. Hold the handlebars with a relaxed grip, keeping your upper body loose as tension can make it harder to steer smoothly. Avoid sudden movements and stay smooth with your pedal strokes.

Then, follow the path leading to the object in a straight line while keeping a consistent rhythm with your pedal strokes. 

2. Ride Close To Other Riders

By riding in close proximity, you become more attuned to the rider’s subtle movements and adjustments. This can help you develop better balance and coordination over your bike, and you’ll learn to anticipate their movements, enhancing your bike handling abilities.

To work on this skill, find a vacant road or a parking lot without traffic with a rider friend to eliminate the risk of colliding/ causing hazards with another vehicle while practicing. 

Start by taking one hand off the bars and sticking your elbows out to practice bumping into the rider’s elbow beside you. Then, attempt to touch the rider’s shoulder. Remember to keep your hands in the drops to avoid mishaps with the rider’s handlebars next to you. 

As you progress, get even closer and lean into the rider next to you. Make sure your friend leans back, too, and try to maintain control. It may feel challenging initially, but you’ll become more comfortable riding in close quarters with practice. 

3. Learn to Track Stand

Track standing is balancing and staying stationary on your bike without putting your feet down. Track standing can be helpful when you need to pause or wait without having to unclip from your pedals, such as at traffic lights or in tight spaces.

To practice track stands, find an empty spot like a parking lot or even some grassy area where you can give it a go; even if you take a tumble, grass can be a softer landing. And if you have flat pedals, pop them on for extra stability while practicing. 

Start by stopping slowly with your hands on the handlebar hoods and your fingers on the brakes. This position allows easy access to the brakes for added stability. Then, keep your pedals level to the ground and shift your weight into your feet. 

To help with balance, turn your front wheel slightly. Remember to look ahead, not at your front wheel. When you feel comfortable, try releasing the brakes and rocking back and forth.    

4. Grab a Water Bottle

Practicing grabbing a water bottle while riding can improve your bike handling skills by helping you become more comfortable taking one hand off the handlebars and maintaining stability. It may seem simple, but requires maintaining balance and coordination while reaching for the bottle. 

Start with short practice sessions, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable and confident. Remember to keep your eyes on the road and maintain a steady grip on the handlebars with your other hand. 

To practice grabbing a water bottle while riding, find a safe and open area and place a water bottle on the ground. Begin by riding toward the water bottle at a comfortable pace, and when you feel ready, reach down with one hand and try to grasp the bottle without losing control or veering off course. With practice, you will be able to grab your water bottle effortlessly while riding.

On the other hand, in an actual ride scenario with other riders, catching a bottle that another rider passed to you from the side of the road is a crucial skill, especially during races when you need to stay fueled. But, dropping a bottle during a ride can be a hassle—an instant U-turn to go back and retrieve it.

To practice this skill, find a quiet road with no one behind you. Then, try juggling a bottle with one hand while riding. Start by throwing the bottle in the air and catching it. Practicing in a controlled environment will help you handle those accidental drops and avoid any steering mishaps or, even worse, crashes. 

5. Learn To Unclip On Both Sides

Learning to unclip with both feet is a crucial skill to practice. It allows you to be prepared to put a foot down whenever needed, whether to maintain balance, stop suddenly, or navigate tricky situations. 

Practice in a safe, open area to learn how to unclip on both sides. Find a stationary object, such as a wall or fence, to hold onto for balance. Then, you should clip one foot into the pedal and the other onto the ground. Shift your weight to the foot that you want to keep clipped in. 

Then, look down at your foot and locate the release mechanism on the pedal. It’s usually a small lever or button. Use your heel or the side of your foot to push or twist the release mechanism, depending on your pedal system type. The method can vary depending on the type of pedal system you have. Let’s go over two common types:

  • Clipless Pedals: These pedals have a mechanism that securely holds your cycling shoes in place. To unclip, you typically need to twist your heel outward. Some clipless pedal systems may have a release lever that you push with the side of your foot to disengage the cleat.
  • Toe Clip Pedals: These pedals have a cage or strap that secures the front of your foot to the pedal. You can loosen the strap or slide your foot out of the cage sideways to unclip.

After this, lift your foot up and out of the pedal once you hear or feel the release. This action will release the clipless pedal mechanism and allow your foot to detach from the pedal easily. Apply gentle pressure to the heel and gradually increase the force until the cleat disengages from the pedal. It may take a bit of practice to get the motion right, but with time, it will become second nature.

Once you feel comfortable unclipping one foot, switch to the other foot and repeat the process. Gradually increase your speed and practice unclipping and clipping back in on both sides while riding in a straight line. As you gain confidence, practice unclipping and clipping back in while making turns and navigating different scenarios. 

6. Learn to Bunny Hop

The bunny hop is a helpful bike-handling skill because it lets you lift both wheels off the ground simultaneously. This is useful for navigating obstacles like curbs, rocks, or logs. Leaning the bunny hop allows you to maneuver over obstacles smoothly and efficiently without losing momentum or getting stuck.

To practice this drill, find an open parking lot where you can safely do it. Start by standing up on your pedals. Then, push down and spring up while slightly moving back to lift your front wheel. For the rear wheel lift, push down, spring up, and scoop your feet to lift just the back wheel. To make it simpler, here’s a handy guide you can follow: 

To lift your front wheel, you’ll want to:

  • Push down on the pedals to generate some power.
  • Spring up using your legs while slightly moving your weight towards the back of the bike.
  • Pull up on the handlebars with a bit of force as you spring up.
  • Pushing down, springing up, and shifting your weight back will help lift the front wheel off the ground.

For the rear wheel lift, the process is slightly different:

  • Push down on the pedals to generate power once again.
  • Spring up using your legs, just like before.
  • As you spring up, scoop your feet backward, almost like you’re trying to lift the back wheel with your feet.
  • This scooping motion, combined with the upward force, will help lift the back wheel off the ground.

Once you’ve mastered lifting individual wheels off the ground (rear and front), challenge yourself by lifting both wheels simultaneously. It may take some practice, but you’ll eventually master it.

7. Parking Space Figure 8’s

Parking space figure 8s are helpful for bike handling because they allow you to practice tight turns and maneuverability in a controlled space. By weaving through the Figure 8 pattern, you can improve your balance, control, and coordination. It helps you get comfortable with leaning your bike into turns and making quick direction changes. 

This skill is beneficial in tight or crowded areas, such as navigating traffic or busy streets. 

To practice parking space Figure 8s, find a spacious parking lot or open area. Set up two imaginary points with an object or marker to mark the beginning and end of your Figure 8 pattern. Begin by riding towards the first point, then make a tight turn to the left or right, depending on your preference. 

As you complete the first loop, transition smoothly into the second loop in the opposite direction. Remember to use your body weight to lean into the turns and maintain balance. Keep practicing, gradually increasing your speed and tightening your turns to challenge yourself. 

8. The Slalom

Slaloming requires quick changes in direction and precise bike control. By practicing this maneuver, you’ll develop better agility and coordination, essential for navigating tight spaces, avoiding obstacles, and reacting swiftly to unexpected situations on the road.

To practice the slalom, place a few cones or water bottles on the floor of an empty ground or parking lot. Ride towards the first cone at a comfortable speed, shifting your weight slightly towards the outside of the turn as you approach each cone. Keep your eyes focused on the next cone in the course. 

Maintain a consistent speed throughout the slalom, fast enough to navigate the slalom with precision. Try to avoid obstacles as much as you can. You can increase your speed or shorten the gap between the obstacles to make it more challenging.

You must also make multiple turns, which allows you to practice and refine your cornering technique. This technique teaches you to lean on your bike, position your body, and choose the optimal line for each turn. This will greatly benefit you when navigating corners at higher speeds or in traffic.

A bonus tip for practicing road bike handling: taking your bike off-road onto a soft patch of grass or a gentler gravel section can be a great way to get used to handling it on trickier terrain. You could even try some static 180 turns or tackle a steeper gradient for an extra challenge.

8 Essential Bike Handling Skills 

1. Pedaling Technique

A smooth and efficient pedal stroke helps you maintain a steady rhythm and power delivery, which is crucial for road bike handling, especially when navigating tricky terrain or making tight turns. 

A good pedal stroke maximizes your power and efficiency while cycling. When your foot is at the 3 o’clock position, it’s the point where you can generate the most downward force on the pedal and even more power if you pedal efficiently throughout the full 360 degrees. 

To practice this, you can consciously focus on four parts of the pedal stroke: the push down at 3 o’clock, the pullback at 6 o’clock, the lift up at 9 o’clock, and the transition to the push down again at 12 o’clock. 

  • The most intense muscle activity during the pedal stroke happens from around 12 o’clock to 5 o’clock. This is when your quadriceps, the muscles at the front of your thighs, work hard to straighten your knees. 

However, you also want to engage your hamstrings and glutes to boost your power. These are the muscles in your buttocks and the back of your thighs. Imagine pushing your knees towards the handlebar or kicking a soccer ball to activate them. 

  • From around 5 o’clock to 6 o’clock in the pedal stroke, the same muscles we talked about earlier are still working, but not as intensely. 

In addition to those muscles, it’s also helpful to engage your calf muscles, which are responsible for pointing your toes down. Imagine scraping mud off your shoes or dragging your toes along the floor to activate them.

  • You don’t have to pull up on the pedal from around 6 to 9 o’clock in the pedal stroke. Instead, use your hamstrings and gastrocnemius muscles to lighten the pressure on the pedal. This allows the downward-moving pedal to work more efficiently without pushing the other pedal up.

The muscles we’ve been talking about are still hard at work from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock in the pedal stroke. Your quadriceps also play a role in flexing your hips during this phase. 

 2. Hands Behind

Taking one hand off the bars while cycling opens up so many possibilities. You can do so much with just one hand! But it is also important to prioritize safety as we don’t want any trouble, right? When practicing this skill, it’s best to start slow and easy. Find a comfortable speed because going too slow can make it more challenging.

Start by taking your hand off the bar for a few seconds, then put it back down. Keep doing that until you feel more confident. Gradually increase the time and height as you take your hand off the bar.  

Once you’re confident, you can grab your water bottle, as discussed in the above section, putting your hand in your back pocket or giving someone a wave. Taking your hands off the bars is especially handy during group rides when you need to point out potholes or signals and during long rides when you need to eat on the go.

3. Looking Behind

Cyclists need to be able to quickly look behind them while keeping a straight line on the bike. 

There are so many situations where this skill comes in handy, like checking for cars before turning off the road or when riding in a group, like looking behind to keep an eye on the riders behind you. This ensures that everyone stays together and no one gets left behind or encounters any issues. 

It is also helpful when you need to turn or change direction; looking behind allows you to signal your intentions to the riders behind you, ensuring a smooth and coordinated movement within the group.

It allows you to see if cars or other vehicles are coming from behind, helping you make informed decisions about when to move or change lanes. I’ve had moments when I turned to look behind me and accidentally drifted into the middle of the road—but don’t worry—we can work on this skill together!

I recommend practicing in a quiet car park or a park where it’s not too busy. Start by sitting on your bike, hands on the hoods, looking straight ahead. Then, gently turn your chin to your shoulder and back, keeping your shoulders and core still. This way, your bike will stay on course. 

Once you’ve practiced that, let’s try it while moving. Follow the same steps, but start comfortably and ensure you have enough room on either side. Just a glance behind you is all you need.

4. Moving In/Out of the Saddle

When cycling, sometimes you need to shift your body position to maintain control and adapt to different terrain or riding situations, like avoiding obstacles or a curb. Moving in and out of the saddle is a bike handling technique that can be very useful in such situations.

Moving in and out of the saddle is a cycling technique that requires shifting your position from sitting on the saddle to standing up. It can be beneficial for various reasons, such as changing muscle engagement, increasing power, and improving overall comfort during different riding situations.

When moving out of the saddle, you shift your weight forward and rise up from the saddle while keeping your hands on the handlebars. This position allows you to use your body weight and engage different muscle groups, such as your core, arms, and upper body, to generate more power. It can be beneficial when climbing steep hills, sprinting, or accelerating quickly.

Moving back into the saddle requires smoothly transitioning from standing to sitting back down. This helps you regain stability and conserve energy, especially during longer rides or when you need to recover after a burst of intense effort.

Properly timing your gear shifts is key when moving in and out of the saddle. When you stand up, shift down a gear or two to maintain a comfortable cadence and generate more power. Conversely, shifting up a gear or two can help you maintain your speed and efficiency when you sit back down. 

It’s important to note that moving in and out of the saddle requires practice and proper technique to avoid strain or discomfort. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Start with short intervals: Begin by incorporating short bursts of standing up out of the saddle during your rides. This will help you build strength and get used to the movement.
  • Maintain a balanced position: When standing, keep your weight centered over the bike and maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars. This will help you maintain control and stability.
  • Smooth transitions: Practice smoothly transitioning between sitting and standing positions. Avoid sudden jerky movements that can disrupt your balance or cause unnecessary strain.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels when you’re out of the saddle. If you experience discomfort or pain, adjust your position or seek advice from a cycling professional to ensure proper form.

5. Cornering

When you’re going around a corner, it’s crucial to lean your bike into the turn and follow a curved path. 

However, applying the brakes while cornering can cause your bike to straighten up and go in a straight line instead of following the curve. That’s why braking before entering the corner is important for better bike handling. Here is how you can handle your bike correctly while cornering:

First, approach the corner at a controlled speed and position yourself outside the turn. As you enter the corner, lean your bike into the turn by shifting your body weight towards the inside of the curve. Keep your eyes focused on the corner exit to maintain a smooth line. Once you’re by the apex, it is recommended that you look at least  20 meters out of the corner. Mastering this technique will make you a better cyclist and give you a sense of security and control on the road.

Remember to gently use your front and rear brakes before entering the turn to adjust your speed. Finally, maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars and trust your bike’s stability as you navigate the corner. 

6. Steering to Remain Upright

Steering to remain upright is an essential bike-handling skill. It refers to adjusting your bike’s direction while maintaining balance and stability. You must make small adjustments with your bike to keep yourself balanced and prevent falling over.

It also combines physics and body mechanics because when you steer, the bike’s front wheel creates a gyroscopic effect, helping to stabilize the bike and keep it upright. The gyroscopic effect occurs when a spinning object, like a bicycle wheel, resists changes to its orientation. This effect helps to stabilize the bike by providing a self-righting force. 

Additionally, your body’s natural balance and weight distribution play a role in maintaining stability. When you ride, your body instinctively adjusts its position to counteract any weight shifts or terrain changes.

For example, when you lean into a turn, your body weight shifts towards the inside of the curve, helping you maintain balance and prevent tipping over. Similarly, when you encounter bumps or uneven surfaces, your body adjusts to absorb the impact and keep you steady on the bike—stay loose and let your bike flow beneath you. 

Here’s a handy guideline to remember when steering to remain upright.

  • Use your body: Shift your weight and lean into turns. For example, lean your body slightly to the right while keeping your bike more upright when making a right turn. This helps you maintain balance and control through the turn.
  • Practice gradual steering: Instead of making sudden and sharp movements with the handlebars, you must steer gradually and smoothly. This allows your bike to respond more naturally and keeps you stable.
  • Countersteer when needed: Countersteering can be helpful for quick maneuvers or avoiding obstacles. To do this, push on the handlebar initially in the opposite direction of the turn you want to make, which helps initiate the desired turn. 

This might sound counterintuitive, but it helps initiate the desired turn smoothly and effectively. Pushing on the handlebar in the opposite direction shifts the bike’s weight and balance, allowing you to lean into the turn and navigate around obstacles or make quick maneuvers. This technique can come in handy when you need to make sudden changes in direction while riding.

7. Descending

Road bike handling is crucial when descending because it helps you stay in control and navigate safely down those speedy descents. There are a few key things to remember regarding bike handling while descending.  

First, it’s important to maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars and balance your weight between the front and rear wheels for better stability and control. Secondly, look ahead and anticipate any upcoming turns or obstacles so you can adjust your speed and line accordingly.

When descending through a corner, keeping your eyes on the exit of the turn is very important. This becomes even more important when you’re blazing down curvy descents at higher speeds.

Remember that if you focus too much on what’s directly in front of your bike, you might over-manage your turns and get caught off guard if the turn becomes sharper than expected. That’s when braking and loss of control can happen. So, make it a habit to look as far up the road as possible, with occasional quick scans of the road directly in front of you. 

8. Braking Safely on Descents

Descending at high speeds can be thrilling but poses risks. By mastering braking safely, you can prevent accidents. Effective braking also allows you to adjust your speed and confidently navigate corners. It helps you handle your bike more efficiently, especially when encountering unexpected obstacles or bad road conditions.

Remember that braking your bike shifts your body’s center of gravity. This means most of your braking power will come from the front brake, which becomes more critical for stopping power. 

However, while the front brake is powerful, it requires some caution. Applying too much brake too quickly can cause the front wheel to lock up, potentially leading to a loss of control. To prevent this, slide back in your saddle while applying the brakes. The harder you brake, the farther back your butt should go. You can even push it slightly off the back. If it’s hard to visualize pushing your butt back, think about pushing your bike forward under your body. 

Additionally, you should start practicing in a parking lot to improve your braking skills. Set up a bottle as a marker to indicate where you need to come to a complete stop. Ride towards it briskly, and when you’re about 15 or 20 yards away, start braking so that you come to a complete stop right at the bottle. Repeat this exercise, gradually reducing the stopping distance each time.  

However, although practicing braking skills in a parking lot may not simulate descending on a road with a gradient, it can still be a useful exercise to improve your overall braking technique and control. In a parking lot, you can focus on developing your ability to modulate your brakes, maintain balance, and come to a complete stop smoothly and precisely. 

While it may not replicate the exact descending conditions, it can still help you build confidence and refine your braking skills. Once you feel comfortable in the parking lot, you can gradually progress to practicing on descents. 


In conclusion, mastering road bike handling is essential for any cyclist. By understanding the principles of bike geometry, cornering techniques, and bike control, you can navigate the roads with confidence and precision.

Hopefully, this blog post has provided you with a comprehensive guide on road bike handling. Remember to practice regularly, gradually push your limits, and prioritize safety. With time and dedication, you’ll become a skilled road cyclist, enjoying the thrill of the ride while staying in control.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What are the key factors when choosing a road bike for better handling?

When choosing a road bike for better handling, important factors include frame size and geometry, handlebar and stem length, seat tube length, top tube length, and the type of brakes. These aspects greatly influence the bike’s handling and performance on the road.

2. What should I do if I encounter rough road surfaces?

If you encounter rough road surfaces, keep a relaxed grip on the handlebars, bend your elbows slightly, and shift your weight back slightly to absorb the vibrations.

3. What should I do if I encounter strong crosswinds?

 If you encounter strong crosswinds while cycling, stay calm, slow down, lean slightly into the wind, maintain a straight line, and watch for gusts.

4. What should I do if my bike starts to skid? 

If your bike starts to skid, try to stay calm and don’t panic as it could hamper your balance on the bike. You must ease off the brakes and gently steer in the direction you want to go. Remember to keep your weight centered and your body relaxed to regain control.

5. Does my road bike model hamper my bike handling skills?

Unless your bike is wildly mismatched to your size, it probably does not hamper your handling skills. All Modern road bikes are built for control, so focus on mastering your technique – smooth pedaling, balanced posture, confident cornering, and controlled braking.