First time test riding a road bike yesterday after years on ATBs. Loved it.

But when powering up a hill I'm used to standing up. So did that instinctively, and immediately found I had to sit back down because the steering became like a unicycle - guessing my CofG was a way forwards of the steering axis.

Is this that

  • the specific bike I was riding is the wrong size for me?
  • I just can't do that on road bikes?
  • I can do that, but need to learn a different position to what works on an ATB?
  • 1
    What was your hand position?
    – paparazzo
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:00
  • Holding the top of the brake levers, fingers covering levers and shifters
    – eftpotrm
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:01
  • Odd, that is a good position for climbing
    – paparazzo
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:08
  • Quite willing to believe the problem was in the saddle not the frame :-)
    – eftpotrm
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:11
  • Was it a bike someone rides regularly? Or some possibly mistreated ride?
    – Criggie
    Jun 22, 2017 at 4:57

2 Answers 2


Riding out of the saddle is a totally valid way to ride, you may just need to practice more. I remember having much the same reaction to my first road bike.

Almost all road bikes are twitchier/have faster steering than mountain bikes.

Mountain bikes are typically designed to be very stable to stop ruts, roots, and rocks from throwing you into a ditch or off of a cliff.

Road bikes are designed for nice flat, smooth tarmac and don't really have to worry about these obstacles.

Even within the road bike gamut, you'll find that the stability can vary wildly. A bike for touring will be very stable but one designed for criteriums will likely be the twitchiest of the lot.

I can't comment on the sizing, if you're test riding at a shop, why not try something bigger or smaller?


When your bike is twitchy under whatever circumstances it is a good idea to check the front. A slightly lose headset will cause excessive twitchiness.

check headset

you may find more information in the context of the question: How often should the headset be tightened? A brief rundown:

  • stand next to your bike, hold the handlebar with both hands and apply the front brake.

  • move the handlebar fore and aft, rock it a bit, see if there is play or movement.

check front hub

Put the bike in a stand or turn it over. Hold the front wheel and move it sideways. There should be no play in this direction. Try this at diferent positions with regard to the wheel and the fork.

There may be many different reasons for an unstable bike, however, this is one of the first checks you ought to do as a lose headset is a safety concern.

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