How to Avoid the Common Beginner Cyclist Mistakes

Written by : Mr Mamil
Last updated :

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Just getting started with cycling?

Like many other hobbies, we all make mistakes and learn from them. I’ve made these mistakes myself in the past and have learned from the experienced cyclists around me.

This article will discuss beginner cyclists’ common mistakes that will help you through your cycling journey.

Riding the wrong type of bike

Today there are many types of bikes aimed at different riding styles. There are road, time trial, gravel, mountain, commuter, electric, hybrid, and track bikes. While you can use them across various riding styles, they won’t perform to their best capabilities and will not give you the most enjoyment.

First, determine the type of riding that suits you best. From there, then narrow down your choices. Among the things to consider are the group you ride with, terrains, time availability, speed, and usage type.

More reading : 3 Common Types of Road Bikes Explained

Riding the wrong bike size

Sometimes, the answer isn’t about the bike but the rider. And how our bodies tolerate being bent over and flexed in a forward position.

What are the effects on the muscles in our back that hold us there for hours under effort? Is it better to bend more at the hip or the spine?

Look at the backs of the pros next time you watch a race. You’ll see some with backs rounded like cats as they pedal vs. others you could serve a drink on.

Cyclists who tend toward a rounder position, which involves more of the spine, statistically experience more low back problems. The answer to easing your back pain is to strengthen your core and focus on your position on a bike that fits.

More reading : What Bike Size Do I Need for My Height?

Saddle height too high or low

Ask any experienced cyclists, and chances are they know their ideal saddle height down to the millimeters.

Generally, it’s better to have the saddle slightly lower than higher, although you want to find your ideal saddle height as soon as you can to avoid long-term discomforts and injuries.

It’s easy to spot a cyclist whose saddle height is too high. The hips will rock back and forth, causing you to be bouncing instead of being planted. You’ll feel like you’re on a step machine, and your pedal strokes aren’t smooth, especially on higher loads.

More reading : What Affects Saddle Height?

Too long and low, too soon

Look at the pro cyclists’ bikes, and you’ll often see stem lengths above 120mm. New cyclists often want to look as pro as the real pros and often want to go longer and lower. The main reason is to look good and be more aero.

The pros are different. They’re much younger in their 20’s and 30’s, have stronger core muscles, better flexibility, clocking over 20,000 miles yearly, and ride their bikes every day for 10 months in the year.

Instead, you want to go for a shorter reach and gradually increase the length as you ride more. Some experienced cyclists also opt for a shorter stem when coming back from a break and then increase the length as they gain more fitness.

More reading : How Stem Length is Measured?

Not wearing gloves

Gloves help protect your palm when you fall and help ease numb hands.

In many crashes, the palm is the main point of contact with the tarmac because the body’s natural reaction is to stick the hand out.

Many gloves have a microfiber thumb wipe that functions as a sweat towel for the summer.

Not stretching post-ride

Yoga may not be your thing, but there’s a reason this activity has lasted for centuries. Flexibility is the key to a healthy skeletal and muscular system that allows us to live injury-free. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

We lose flexibility as we age, so make a resolution to add it to your cycling activity. Tight, overworked muscles on the bike lead them to compensate in other ways to get the job done. It can cause joints, tendons, and ligaments to work outside of their normal plane and cause you pain.

Stretching after each ride will relax muscle tension and keep you flexible, injury and trouble-free.

Constantly upgrading for the best

One of the most common things cyclists talk about is upgrades. The legendary Eddy Merckx is famous for quoting, don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.

Unless you custom-built your bike, some of the components that came stock standard might not be of your liking. It can be the color, shape, weight, functionalities, or performance.

Hold off on that thought of upgrading for the short term. Instead, focus on riding the bike, get to know your riding style, and whether that upgrade you’re after is what you need.

Or perhaps the money is better spent elsewhere?

More reading : How to Find Bargains and Discounts on Cycling Gear

Forgetting to check the weather

The weather plays a big part in your ride. If it’s raining, you probably won’t even ride. But what if it rains in the middle of the ride and you’re not aware of and prepared for it?

Always check the weather forecast for the entire route before leaving home.

Pay attention to the rain (and snow), UV index, wind direction, and strength. You don’t want to be riding in a block headwind for the last 10 miles home after a long and hard ride.

Not drinking and eating enough

Eating and drinking during the ride are crucial to keep yourself fueled and hydrated to avoid bonking. If you bonked while riding, it’s generally too late to eat anything, and you probably have to stop and take a break.

Keep hydrated with electrolytes, especially during hot and humid days. Have two large (750ml) water bottles with you, and refill them whenever you have the chance. Bring along some energy or muesli bars in your back pocket. Bananas are also a favorite among cyclists.

Even the seasoned professionals such as 4X Tour de France winner Chris Froome, and Mathieu van der Poul famously bonked on the bike during races.

Wearing underwear under the bib shorts

The chamois (pads) inside the bib shorts are supposed to be next to your skin. Many beginner cyclists aren’t used to the idea of going commando; hence they wear their underwear, which is not the right way to wear bib shorts.

The friction between your skin, underwear, and chamois will lead to bacterial growth and saddle sore. The chamois is a technical fabric that wicks sweat more effectively than cotton underwear.

Not taking care good care of your clothing

Cycling clothing is expensive due to its technical fabric nature. The summer cycling clothing is often made of thin, stretchy fabrics and prone to tears. Pay attention to the washing labels. Generally, you want to wash them separately in cold water (86ºF/30ºC) and not tumble dry except for jackets.

For me, I’d prefer to handwash them in a separate bucket while I’m having my showers.

Not learning basic bike maintenance

Cycling is not just about riding the bike but also about taking care of it. Learn how to identify worn-out chains, cassettes, and tires.

Go on Youtube and learn the basic bike maintenance tasks such as how to replace the tire, cassette, chain, brake pads, tune your gears, and adjust your saddle, stem, and handlebars.

These skills will be invaluable and save many trips to your local bike shop, not forgetting the labor charges.

More reading : How to Fix A Creaking Bike

Free-wheeling and half-wheeling

The similarity between free and half-wheeling is they will annoy the riders around you.

  • Free-wheeling is when you stop pedaling and let the bike coast. Free-wheeling is acceptable when going downhill but not while riding in a paceline, especially at a high pace. Free-wheeling breaks the group’s rhythm and smoothness. Some refer to this as the yo-yo effect.
  • Half-wheeling is when you’re riding two abreast at the front, and you’re constantly half a wheel in front of the rider next to you. When riding in front, always try to be side by side and avoid micro surges.

If you feel you’re always in front, back off a little (continue pedaling but with lesser power) and let your partner catch up. Conversely, ask your partner to back down a notch if you’re struggling to keep up.

The worse culprit of all is when you free-wheel after you realize you’re half-wheeling your partner.

More reading : Bunch Riding Etiquette

Not using the correct gearing

Today, road bikes have up to 24 gears with the latest electronic groupsets from Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo. There are plenty of gear choices, so make sure you fully utilize them.

Most cyclists consider anywhere between 80 to 90 rpm as their ideal cadence range.

Change to a lower gear to increase your cadence if you feel like you’re grinding. Conversely, change to a higher gear if you’re bouncing all over the bike due to a high cadence.

More reading : Compact vs Standard Crankset - Which One to Use?

Not thinking about the safety of other cyclists

Always look out for each other in a group ride. We often ride in close proximity at high speeds. Any aggressive and unpredictable riding behavior can be dangerous and cause a crash.

Call out any hazards, look up and ahead, ride in a straight line, have both hands on the handlebars (except when drinking), avoid sudden braking or swerving, and do not overlap wheels with the rider in front.

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