As beginner cyclists, we make many mistakes – and they can happen at any point. Some of them are due to the lack of knowledge, as we need time and experience to learn, others are made consciously, due to overconfidence. By explaining these most common beginner cycling mistakes we’re hoping to help you avoid them, so that your bike rides are safer and more enjoyable.
Thinking you need the best equipment and the best bike
Don’t let the idea of not having the perfect clothes, accessories and bike stop you from taking up cycling. What really counts is the eagerness and the joy of practicing this exciting sport. Passion is the only thing you need along with a bike and a helmet, which brings us to the second mistake.
Cycling without a bike helmet
“I am not wearing a seat belt, it’s just around the corner”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Bike helmets are equally as important. It’s true that in many countries its use is not mandatory but our recommendation is for everyone, both adults and children, to wear it at all times. If you are going to start cycling and you don’t have a bike helmet, go to a local store and get advice on how to choose the right one. Make sure you wear it correctly, crazy as it may sound, some clueless cyclists managed to put it on backwards.
Know your limits
Don’t try to go too fast, too far, too soon. Of course, you should try to make progress and improve, but take your time. Don’t let a step forward mean two steps back. When professionals start a new training season, they begin with very low intensity rides to gradually get in shape. Learn from them.
Wearing underwear under your bib shorts
Never, ever use underwear under your bib shorts because if they’re not directly on your skin they won’t do their job: evacuate sweat, avoid chafing and provide comfort to your butt and crotch. What you can do is wear cycling-specific bib tights over them, as many professionals do. Do not use gym or fitness leggings as they tend to slip down. This brings us to another common mistake.
Not preparing the route in advance and not checking the weather forecast to choose the right clothes
If you’re going on a long route or planning to spend many hours on the bike, check the weather forecast to decide what to wear. If the clothes you’re wearing aren’t warm enough, you’ll get cold but if you put on too much warm clothing you will end up overheating. In winter or on cold days we recommend wearing some extra layers as you can always unzip or take them off. During the rest of the year it is a good idea to carry a windproof cycling vest and cycling arm warmers in your jersey pockets.
Not carrying spare parts, tools and money
It happens to all cyclists. The way to avoid getting stranded is to never take the saddle bag or tool storage bottle off the bike. Inside you should always carry the following: 1-2 inner tubes, 2 tire levers, 2 glueless patches, a pump or CO2 cartridges, a multi-tool with chain breaker and some money for emergencies. Of course, you must know how to fix a flat bike tire or a broken chain because there’s no point in having the tools if you do not know how to use them.
Not carrying snacks or water and not eating or hydrating enough
Every cyclist has experienced hitting the wall or bonking on the route (sudden fatigue and loss of energy). No matter the level, these things happen, but at least make sure you have snacks or money to save the situation. Fill your bidon before leaving and put a snack or some money in a pocket of your cycling jersey or jacket. Drink water even if you’re not feeling thirsty. Besides, it’s generally recommended to eat every 40 minutes but everything depends on the intensity of the exercise, the level of each cyclist, and on what you had for breakfast in the morning and for dinner the day before.
Not setting the saddle height correctly
Setting the saddle too low or too high is a common mistake. If the front of your knee hurts, it’s probably because your saddle is set lower than it should. If you feel pain at the back of your knee, your saddle is too high. The easiest method to find the right height is to sit on the saddle and place your heel on the pedal with the crank at its lowest point. Your leg should be almost completely straight. If you lean against a wall, a tree or a car, you should be able to pedal with your heels.
Not checking the bike before setting off
Bike helmet, bib shorts with no underwear, spare parts, food, hydration…ready to ride for miles! Wait! Have you made sure you’ll be able to stop your bike if needed? Don’t forget to check if the brakes work. Also, check the tire pressure. Low pressure causes more friction which means losing more energy, wearing out the tire, and risking a puncture. If you don’t weigh much, do not inflate the tires to the maximum recommended pressure as it will make the bike bounce and you’ll feel every little bump on the road. Finally, make sure that the chain is not squeaky, lubricate it if necessary. Do not soak it in oil though, and if it is very dirty, clean it first.
Thinking that cars, pedestrians or other cyclists see you
Even if you’re using bike lights, a vest or clothes with reflective detailing, it’s better to assume you’re invisible and anticipate the possible movements of other vehicles and pedestrians. Especially when there are traffic circles, intersections and crosswalks. On roads with little or no shoulder, it’s better to ride one meter from the edge. This way you’ll be more visible to the drivers and they won’t try to overtake you if there is no room to do so. If you ride too close to the right edge (left in countries with left-hand traffic), you have no room to correct your course or to avoid possible potholes or obstacles on the road.
We’ve already made these mistakes for you so we hope you won’t repeat most of them. Many can be avoided by planning the route and preparing the bike in advance, others by learning from experience we gain with every bike ride, while some you actually have to make yourself. Think about us next time you hit the wall.