All cyclists make mistakes, even the pros. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and learning from the mistakes is part of cycling. Most of the top ten biking mistakes are simple and easy to remedy. Here’s a rundown of the most common.
The good thing about common biking mistakes is that they can be addressed with little effort and require nothing more than a few tools and a bit of thought.
#1: Seat Too Low
You have probably seen this in action many times; riders with folded legs pumping up and down, furiously uncomfortable. It’s difficult to even watch it. Riding with folded, cramped legs is not only uncomfortable, you never develop power speed or anything that resembles efficiency.
Raise your seat until you have only a slight bend in your knee while your foot is at the bottom of your peddle stroke. This article gives a detailed run-down of how to determine your proper seat height.
It’s one thing to use the wrong gear on the back; it’s not that big of a deal but drivetrains do have their limits. Cross-chaining is when your chain is diagonal from the biggest gear in front — to the smallest gear in back — or vice-versa. Cross-chaining will quickly wear out your chain and gears. It stresses the gears and chain sideways and can damage them if done too much. Always strive to keep the gears in a position that allows for a nice, straight chain line from front to back.
Briefly cross-chaining your bike won’t hurt it. If you notice that you’ve cross chained, immediately shift either one — front or back — of your gears to compensate to align the chain back into more of a straight line.
#3: Using The Wrong Seat
First timers are often drawn to the widest, squishiest saddles available. These plush giants are not your friend. A hard, thin saddle gives your sit bones proper support, allows for enhanced movement, and prevents chafing.
You don’t have to go rock-hard and skinny as a toothpick. There are plenty of medium-hardness saddles available. Bike shops have a wide range of proven test saddles. Try them out and read up on choosing the right saddle for you.
#4: Improper Tire Pressure
Riding with under-inflated tires has always been among the top ten biking mistakes. High pressure road bike tires are typically rated at 125-130- lbs or more. Testing them with your fingers by pinching them doesn’t work because unless they’re extremely low, they always feel stiff and hard. Riding with under-inflated tires is incredibly inefficient. You might not even notice that you’ve wasted a whole day, getting nowhere.
Top off your tires before every ride. Use a tire pressure gauge to inflate them to the indicated psi printed on the side of the tire. And then adjust the psi for the conditions at hand.
#5: Wrong Clothing
The experienced – or the well-prepared, at least – pull out a lightweight jacket and protect themselves from the worst of the weather. Other issues with clothing might go the other direction; failure to wear adequate gear in hot weather, resulting in a red, blistering condition known as sunburn.
Watch weather reports ahead of time and take precautions against bad conditions. Include a nylon shell that you can fold up and stash in your jersey pocket in case of rain or unexpected cold weather. If it’s hot, wear light-weight materials and sunscreen.
#6: Stationary Crashes
This first time biking mistake is not isolated to first timers. It catches most cyclists off-guard at some point but happens to first timers almost invariably. You forget to unclip until the last minute and fall over into a curb or beside the road at an intersection — it’s damn embarrassing. Another slow-speed or dead-stop crash is caused from dirty cleats that fail to release immediately and you topple over like a bag of potatoes.
Be aware of it when rolling to a stop. Don’t allow distractions to get the best of you. Unclip your favorite foot a few moments before you stop. If you step in mud, sand, or any other kind of material that sticks in your cleats, it transfers to your pedals. Keep that in mind when you next try an unclip.
Over-confidence manifests itself in a number of ways. One of the most common is blowing up during a climb because of the failure to pace yourself.
Never underestimate hills. They can be steeper than they appear, or much, much longer. Always reserve energy and pace yourself appropriately. Once you’re close to the top, and you are sure, you can then give it your all knowing you will make it. Finishing strong is better than starting strong and then faltering.
#8: Attacking for No Good Reason
Attacking for no good reason is a typical biking mistake of the new rider. Sure, it looks impressive, but why? Attacking or attempting to pass other riders at high speed increases your heart rate to the point of no return and just makes everyone else mad in your group.
Stay with the flow of other riders. If you need to pass, make your intentions clear. When appropriate, slip by them courteously. The exception to this of course is if you’re in a competitive ride. Then attacking is encouraged but there is always a time and place.
#9: Pushing Big Gears
It’s one thing to push the big ring if you’re a pro, you have every right to do so. But first timers or beginners often push the big ring way too much. It leads to cramps, wears you down quickly, and it’s for the most part insufficient for cruising in wind, hills, or rough surfaces.
Your bike has at least two gears up front, get to know them both. Use the smaller ring to spin more often. Find a cadence that you can maintain for the duration of your ride. A higher cadence places less stress on your muscles allowing them to last longer.
#10: Getting Lost
It’s not uncommon on organized group rides to stray down the wrong road for miles and miles when you suddenly realize that something’s wrong. It typically happens when you have your head down, following someone’s rear wheel, and you miss a designated turn. You might not think that this one is a top ten biking mistakes but if you’ve ever ridden with group of cyclists, it’s more common than you might think. It’s an accumulative error; like sheep leading each other.
Never take for granted that the leader of the pack knows where he or she is going. If you begin to feel that you’ve taken a wrong turn, stop. Take a few minutes to evaluate your situation and take steps to get back on the right path again. Use maps if you have them. If all else fails, ask a local where you are.