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I am a casual rider and I am starting to consider switching from a mountain bike to a road bike. My main concern is that I don't ride enough to adapt to a road bike and thus is not worth the switch.

Because of the different position, new muscles will probably be used, I may not be flexible enough, etc. I will need some time to feel as good on a road bike as on a mountain bike. How long will it take if I only ride once a week 40-70 km (25-45 mi)?

I am aware that it depends a lot on the cyclist, my question is more about whether it will take 2 weeks, 6 months, or if it's not enough to get used to a road bike.

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    Depends on the individual, but doing 5-10 miles each day for a week or two will make it feel fine. You don't want to start at 25 miles, since you'll be tuning the cockpit setup for a few days. – Batman Jun 3 '15 at 23:14
  • The fit/geometry of your current bike and the bike you purchase may also play into the time. My custom fat bike has a very long top tube and long stem and honestly doesn't feel that different to me from my Specialized Tarmac. However, my commuter has a much different fit and generally takes me a bit to get used to each spring. – Deleted User Jun 3 '15 at 23:41
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    Why are you switching to a road bike? A hybrid might be more suited to your purposes. – Carey Gregory Jun 3 '15 at 23:55
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    As Carey alluded to you. You are asking the wrong question. Describe what you want to use the bike for and your age and physical abilities and ask what kind of bike. Too many people buy a road bike. – paparazzo Jun 4 '15 at 0:53
  • I am 21 and my average speed is around 26km/h. I am casual rider but I would like to get more serious about it. – Heckel Jun 4 '15 at 8:16
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I'm an MTB rider who occasionally got into a Road Bike for 60 km rides. (5 hours aprox). From experience I would advise several short rides before a very long one. Ride until you feel uncomfortable and keep going for another 10-15 minutes but don't let yourself get into [severe] pain.

For example: Get two 30+ minutes a week for 2 weeks, then grow to two 45+ minute rides a week for another two weeks. So in a month (+/-) you'd be ready for a 1.5 hour weekend ride. After that you grow as you see fit. (These numbers are just a rough reference).

Also, if you are a casual (read non competitive) rider, do not set the bike for the most aggressive position, that is, set the stem angled upwards and choose a short one, place the stem spacers bellow the stem to raise the handlebar.

As you get more used to the bike, you may want to progressively make changes (adjustments or component swaps) towards a more aerodynamic position, but for starters, I recommend setting the handlebar such that the flat part of the handlebar is at the same distance and relative height from the saddle as your MTB (or as close as possible).

Indeed MTB and Road bike geometries are very different, but the measurements I found to be more relevant (regarding pain from not being used to them) are the effective distance from the saddle to the grip point, and the height difference among them.

That means that measuring top tube, stem, etc. is a bit fuzzy and of less practical value for the casual rider. Instead, Measure the distance from the center of the saddle (roughly where your sit bones rest while riding) to the point where you actually grip the handlebar.

For MTB you got only one grip position, but for road you have at least four: On the flats, on the drops, on the hoods and on the "corners" of the handlebar. Most frequently the rider that comes from an MTB geometry would spend more time on the flats and will progress towards the hoods.

With that in mind, if the road bike has the chosen grip position further away from the saddle and/or lower (compared to the MTB previusly ridden) then the torso will be at a lower angle, puting more weight on the arms and needing more effort to keep the head up.

Regarding this last point: Use a road specific helmet or remove the visor from the MTB one. This is because the visor usually found on MTB helmets is designed to be used with an upright head. On a road bike you would have your head leaned forward, so helmet's visor, if any, gets in the way, forcing you to raise up your head, putting additional strain on the muscles of the back of the neck.

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I just went through the same adjustment process. I used to ride only mountain bikes for about 15 years. Then I got a cyclocross bike in March of this year, which we can regard as equivalent to a road bike for the purposes of this discussion.

On short rides (< 1 hour) it was OK, but on longer rides my neck and shoulders started hurting a lot after about 2-3 hours. After 3 months, this is slowly getting better. I've had about 8 longer rides between 60 and 90 miles so far. Strava tells me I've ridden the new bike for 831 miles. Apparently it's still going to take a bit more before I've completely adapted to this bike.

I had some lower back pain at first, but that went away very quickly (maybe 3 rides of 1 hour each).

In spite of the discomfort, I like riding the road bike better. The handlebars are more comfortable for my hands, and I also like that I can go faster than on the mountain bike (17mph --> 21mph)

To get back to your specific question, I think it may take much longer than 2 weeks, and perhaps less than 6 months. I'm 43, so if you're younger maybe you will adapt more quickly.

To add another perspective, my wife switched for a flat bar road bike (similar to a hybrid, but thinner tires) to a regular road bike and never had a single problem. For her, there was no adjustment required at all.

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  • But I don't think you can "regard as equivalent". To me my CX rides more like my mtn bike than my road bike. – paparazzo Jun 4 '15 at 0:50
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    Since it has drop handlebars and a much more aerodynamic position, to me it's a road bike with wider tires. – Nik Jun 4 '15 at 1:14
  • Really a CX is just a road bike with wider tires? CX is on grass, dirt, and sand. Do you also have a road bike? – paparazzo Jun 4 '15 at 1:23
  • Yes, I used to have a Cannondale R800 road bike. Yes, for the purpose of riding position and fit, a CX bike is much closer to a road bike than to a mountain bike. But this is a pointless argument. If my CX bike was like a mountain bike, why am I having trouble adjusting ? And do you think it is likely that if a CX bike requires a lot of riding to adjust to, a pure road bike would require less adjustment ? – Nik Jun 4 '15 at 1:32
  • But I don't ride on grass, dirt, and sand. I ride on paved roads. – Nik Jun 4 '15 at 1:39
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Adaptation greatly varies from person to person - are your core muscles strong, do you have good flexibility, problem in your column/shoulders, etc. It's har dto give you an answer.

One think to take into account is that most road bikes force a a hard posture on the rider, on the pursuit on speed, mainly on your low back and neck. This is true for any ages.

Given that you are 43 I would recommend at the very least an endurance bike, instead of a road one. They are very similar, but endurance bikes are designed to race on hard surfaces like cobalt, and have some compliance on the frame, slightly bigger tires and softer contact points with your body. Take a look here so you have an idea of what I am talking about. Another option is a cyclocross bike which might be even more comfortable, and its still a fast road bike.

Keep in mind the best bike is not the lightest one or the more aerodynamic, is the one you feel better and have more fun in, so resist the temptation to get the cool think on the shop and get something that suits you the best. It doesn't really matter if you take 5 more minutes for the that 10 mile run.

Whatever you choose, make an effort to maintain a good posture while riding and ask your shop to check your biometrics and adapt the bike for your body, and it's also a good idea to start slow, instead of going right away for a 60 km bike ride to test 'the ergonomics'.

With the right bike and since you are a cyclist I am pretty sure you will adapt in 2 or 3 weeks. You should try to cycle more than once per week though, even if it's just small shopping trips.

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  • Thank you for your answer. By the way, I am 21 not 43 but I understand your point. – Heckel Jun 4 '15 at 19:12
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    Ow oups man, I though I read that on a comment somewhere. In this case you should totally go for an endurance bike: they are comfortable and you can get really serious with them. Check the bike radar link to have an idea. Even with your age 2 to 3 weeks seems reasonable, but if riding on a road is what you are exciting about, it is always worth the switch. – super Jun 4 '15 at 20:50
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This year (age 25) I decided to start road biking having never even sat on anything but a MTB.

I got persuaded into trying out a used CX first as an introduction to a more road bike geo and soon got into it. Have since bought a road bike too and absolutely love it.

I started doing 20 mile rides once a week, I wasn't getting anywhere with it, but was happy and comfortable doing it. Then in April I kicked myself into gear and now I try to do 3 evening rides after work of 15-30 mile duration and then a longer ride on the weekend. Strava is a great motivator, competing with friends and for challenges (I plan to do June's 115KM Gran Fondo tomorrow). For the first few weeks you'll really see yourself progress speed wise too which is a great motivator.

The major factor holding me back is weather, I've become obsessed with wind maps and route planning.

I think any reasonably fit person should transition easily, I was terribly unfit but got right into it. If you're worried set the bike up for a more comfort fit (mainly by raising the bars to the top of the stem) while you adjust.

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During the transition, be prepared to crash. A lot.

Your body is tuned to thick tires with treads and shocks that can handle minor transitions in and out of driveways, on and off of grass/dirt, especially (and most commonly) when done at high speed and at slight oblique.

The road-style tires require you to turn into terrain transitions at a steeper angle, otherwise the front-tire will lock up into a divot or step and you will tip over to the right or left.

Fortunately, if you are a rider, this isn't a particularly serious fall -- you can roll into it if you feel it coming and get back up w/o a scratch (just embarrassment if anyone sees it, or thinks they just witnessed a real accident and call after you).

This happened almost weekly when I 1st switched, but a year in (I ride almost daily) I still eat it about 1x/month. This is a fall that wouldn't happen on a mountain bike, which I rode for many years -- my body still fails to warn me, but with increasing infrequency.

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  • I strongly disagree - crashing or simply losing your balance means you're going too slow or riding too gingerly. Remeber learning to ride? You had to get up to a certain minimum speed and then it gets a lot easier? Riding a different bike means committing. I change bikes a lot, fixing them up and donating to the local bike coop. Both my falls in the last couple years have been equipment failure (chain broke on a steep uphill) and traction (wheel slides out in mud or powder) which is nothing to do with the type of bike. – Criggie Nov 1 '15 at 21:53
  • While your autonomic responses are being learned you need to ride with more conscious care. The current buzz-word is mindfulness. Falling daily, or monthly after a year, is far too often. I figure a fall per decade is a good reminder to take notice of what I'm doing. The only time I generally fall is when doing sth silly (such as doing a U turn on a path that was only 175 cm wide) or learning a new skill. – andy256 Nov 1 '15 at 23:59
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The most important part of adjusting to a bike it whether the bike is adjusted to you. If the bike is set up the best, the right angles for the sitting position, the right height for the seat and handlebars and on and on, you will ride away without getting any serious pains. You might get aching muscles due to the new position but those should not be fierce and not be long lasting.

But if the bike is not adjusted to you in the right way, it might be months of adjusting till you get the best position. Any bike where you have part of your weight on your arms, as you do in road bikes, will require a more precise adjustment than bikes where the weight is on the seat and legs.

I think you can say that after a ride on a new bike you are in serious pain, you have to look at how the bike is adjusted to you. In some cases it might be that the bike is the wrong one for you. I had a bike where the stress was on the same group of muscles as were getting too much of a workout at work, I could see that the figuration of the bike was not allowing enough change to avoid that stress. It was a cheap bike and it got handed on to a relative for just a little less money.

When you pay a lot of money for a high end bike, you might not want to take that risk. In that case it might be worth it to see if you can rent a bike of the type to see whether you like it. Or buy a cheap second hand before you spend a fortune on a new bike.

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