I second the suggestion to visit your local bike shop(s) to get fitted, even if "local" is an hour or so away. Take a day trip, if you can. Most everything can be amended (how high the handlebars are, the tilt of the saddle and its position relative to the pedals), but the frame size can't be changed. Find out what size you need. If you have time and multiple shops you can visit, get two or three opinions, and definitely take them up on their offer to ride several bikes.
Take notes either while you're in the shop or summarize when you get back to the car. Of particular note: which bikes you tried and what size you tried, but anything else will be helpful too (shifters, triple or compact cranksets, clipless pedal brands, and whatever other jargon you've learned). This will be invaluable as you look for bikes -- particularly used bikes (Craigslist, etc.). You might be one size in, say, a Specialized brand, while a slightly different size on a Trek.
If it's just not possible to get to a bike shop to get fitted, you can save yourself and the person selling their bike a lot of time by asking if the frame will fit your height. I've been through that, too, with a 6'2" guy coming to look at a bike sized for someone 5'6"-5'9". Most bikes have a sticker on them noting their size (either in S-M-L or in centimeters), and sometimes a suggestion for rider height. If they don't know, see if they can give you the size of the rider. Always be prepared to test ride the bike, too (IOW, if you're wearing pants, have some way to anchor them so they don't get caught up in the cranks and wear closed toed shoes). Helmet is mandatory. Most stores have loaners, but purchase one before going to meet someone.
Used is probably the most cost-effective way to get into road biking. About half our bikes bought in the last year (or 3 of the 7) were bought used. Aside from a few nicks and scratches (which will happen anyway), they work just the same as the new bikes. And we got a lot of features (better shifters) for our money. And buying used, if you decide to "upgrade" or just get a different bike, it seems easier to make that decision than if you spent all that money to buy a new one.
One more tip: search online to see if there's a road bike club in your area. They'll be an invaluable resource.
Having been through this process numerous times in the last year with various members of my family, I can safely say that fit is THE most important factor in finding an enjoyable bike.
Everyone here has good comments on this ... and I agree ... getting better and faster basically means....start pedaling. There are ways to help you get more efficient and all ..techniques, etc ... but the main thing is to ride...and enjoy riding. If you get too hung up on the technical things at first, then it might get less enjoyable...and that would be just junky.
As to how to go about looking for a road bike. Whew...tough question. My wife and I used to do a lot of hybrid rides...and those were super fun. Then ... wifey switched to a road bike ... and I had a hard time keeping up. So I decided to make the jump into a road bike. At first I was super worried I would not like it. Argentpuck pretty much covered all my fears for sure. For me, I ended up totally LOVING road bikes. (My poor mountain bike...all alone....)
But each person is different. I'd say borrow a friends road bike to see if you like it...but, like everyone has said, the fit is the key. A bazillion dollar bike will feel like blech if it does not fit well.
If you can find a used one, wooo hooo. I think it would be a good idea (again Argentpuck mentioned this) to take a trip into town to at least talk to a bike store person. Let them know up front that you are wanting info...any good bike place worth their salt will be more than happy to help you with information, even if you aren't buying a bike from them. (Heck, most know if they help you, they have a pretty good shot at getting maintenance/repair/accessory business from you. And in general, most just want to help I find.)
Ask them about fit ... not just frame size ... but ask them about saddle info...what to look for, seat height, extension to the pedal and foot position. That way, if you do find a used bike, you'll have an idea about fit.
You can also gain information on components to look for etc. And also, by looking at what new bikes cost, you'll have an idea of what a used one should cost.
Good luck on your searching. And ... I say try not to stress too much on it...make it a fun learning thing
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Before you invest in a road bike, try putting some new slicks on, assuming you're running knobbies right now. Cheaper, and will give you time to figure out what elements you want. Maybe you like upright riding and would want a "performance flat bar road bike", or a cyclocross rig. Depends on what you want to get out of it.
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Look around on craigslist if you dare. You can find nice things there, but it can be a bit of a crapshoot whether the thing exists and the person selling it is living in the same reality as the rest of us. Caveat emptor and all that.
Most cities have used bike shops galore and they're reasonably common in towns. I would wander over to one of those. If there's a bike co-op in the area, that can be even better, though it does mean hanging around with hippies.
Personally, I generally recommend people steer clear of road bikes unless that's absolutely what you want. They come with a host of little nuisances, not least of which is that they're quite uncomfortable until you get used to them and not well-suited for leisurely pacing. They're also a bloody nuisance to mount and dismount at stop signs and lights. I ride a hybrid (specifically, a Specialized Crosstrail). It has roughly mountain geometry but narrower tires and front suspension. I can hit just about any terrain without fear on this (granted, I don't do hardcore downhill mountain biking). I can also sit up if I'm going slow for any reason, like riding with a less fit friend. Hybrids make great commuters.
Which isn't to say there's anything wrong with a road bike, but you really should be sure of what you're getting into. I can keep up with my road-riding friends just fine on my hybrid, albeit because I'm strong, and have done centuries on this thing. The only thing I really dislike about it is the straight handlebars. I would replace them with drops except that I'm planning to get a road bike in the near future.
Really, though, the best advice when it comes to riding is just put foot on pedal and go. Everything else is details. Make friends with a couple mechanics and let them handle the details until you're ready to step into that role.
It took me a year on my son's old mountain bike before I got fed up and bought a new road bike. I had the benefit of a terrific local bike shop and bike club to check in with.
My first road bike is still my one and only road bike: a Specialized Tricross. I spent WAY more money on it than I thought I would, but I'm very happy with it, even though I'm beginning to see it's limitations for touring. It's been great for everything else!
If $$$ are limited you may want to start with a used bike as it's possible to get a pretty decent road bike for not too much. There are many great brand names, but the most important feature is how the bike fits and feels when you ride it. If speed and distance is what you are aiming for, then I would stick with a road bike, not hybrid or mountain.
As far as improving your cycling, just get on the bike and ride, ride, ride! If possible try to find someone who can join you on your rides. The company is great and you can challenge each other.
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HI, I am new to road cycling (bike riding in general), but I already love it. I ride a very large, heavy and old mountain bike. It hasn't bothered me (I have nothing to compare it to) until I realized how slow I'm actually going. It takes me an hour to go ten miles. Going slow doesn't particularly bother me. But i would like to go farther, and faster. And have an easier more enjoyable ride too. What are your suggestions on when to buy a road bike? New, used? A good one for a beginner? And any other basic riding tips would be much appreciated. I've searched the internet, but I feel overwhelmed, and I live in a very rural area without a bike shop where I could seek advice. Thank you for taking the time to read this!
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