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8 Common Cycling Mistakes to Avoid

No matter who you are or how long you’ve been cycling, you’re bound to make a few mistakes here and there. Being aware of the most common cycling mistakes can help you avoid injuries and enjoy your rides to the fullest! To prevent unnecessary cycling-related problems, here are some of the most common mistakes bicyclists make and how you can fix them.

1. Riding a bike that’s not adjusted to your body.

View of cyclist taking a slight turn on the street.

If you ride a bike that fits poorly, you’re more likely to have aches and pains after hopping off the saddle. You’ll also experience some general discomfort while you’re riding. This is never a good thing, as it will discourage you from riding and you won’t enjoy yourself.

Solution: First, make sure you adjust the saddle (the bicycle seat) to the right height. To do this, you should stand your bike upright and raise or lower the saddle until it’s about the height of the top of your hip bones. It should be facing straight ahead, not tilted up or down. 

After adjusting the saddle height, make sure the handlebars are about one to two centimeters lower. If you’re new to cycling, this is a good height for your handlebars to start, and you can lower the handlebars further once you get used to riding with them in that position.

2. Not wearing a helmet.

Male cyclist fixing sunglasses with helmet.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 800 American bicyclists are killed, and another 500,000 go to hospital emergency rooms every year. About two-thirds of the deaths and one-third of the injuries involve the cyclists’ heads and faces. But if you wear a helmet when you ride, you can reduce your risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.1

No matter how short your trip is or how experienced a cyclist you are, you should never ride without wearing a helmet. Certain U.S. cities also have laws that enforce the use of helmets while biking.

Solution: If you don’t have a helmet, make it a priority to get one! While you shop, you should consider factors like:

  • What type of riding do you do most often (helmet design features vary depending on whether you’re using it for mountain biking, road biking, etc.)
  • The size of the helmet (it ranges from extra small to extra large, and the fit depends on the circumference of your head)
  • Whether it’s a comfortable fit
  • Any add-ons you’d like (visor/eye protection, built-in mounts or action camera, etc.)

3. Misusing the gears.

View a close up of  bike gears looking over a hill.

If you’re not using your bike’s gears or you’re misusing them, your rides are probably much more uncomfortable than they need to be. Most bikes have more than 20 gears, and they make your riding experience more comfortable and easy over different terrain.

If you struggle with using your gears correctly, don’t stress about it! It’s much more common than you might think. However, it’s best to learn how to use them well. If not, you risk damaging your bike chains.

Solution: It may take a little while to figure out what gearing works best for you, but in general, if you’re riding on a flat surface, try to maintain a cadence of 70 to 90 pedal revolutions per minute (rpm). When you’re tackling challenging climbs, shift down to the easier gears. Likewise, shift up to the harder gears when heading for a flat, downhill section.

4. Not fueling properly.

Cyclists taking a break drinking coconut water.

Cycling requires a lot of physical energy, so you’re bound to crash if you don’t fuel your body correctly. Most cyclists have made the mistake of not eating enough before or during a ride and experiencing an unpleasant experience called the “bonk.” The “bonk” is when your body runs out of fuel or energy and you start experiencing symptoms like tiredness, dizziness, irritability, confusion, and nausea. It makes it extremely difficult and even dangerous to continue riding.

Solution: If you plan to bike for more than two hours, you should bring food. Have a snack about 45 minutes to an hour into your ride, and eat small amounts every 20 minutes or so until you reach the end of your ride. Also, aim to drink about 17 ounces of water every hour to stay hydrated. 

If you bike in the morning, but you don’t have a ton of time to eat before you head out, a small 100 to 200-calorie snack is ideal. If you still don’t have time to eat, check out the pros and cons of fasted cycling. According to USA Cycling, the national governing body for the sport of cycling in the U.S., the following foods are great pre-workout snacks:2

  • A banana with peanut butter or almond butter
  • Toast with peanut butter or almond butter and honey
  • An energy bar
  • A packet of energy chews
  • Oatmeal with berries and brown sugar
  • A sports drink

5. Avoiding routine bike maintenance.

Bike in shop getting routine maintenance.

If you cycle regularly, your bike will undoubtedly require regular maintenance to keep it operating smoothly and prevent unnecessary breakdowns that could leave you stranded. One of the most common mistakes bikers make is forgetting to maintain their ride. Routine bike maintenance will prevent frequent breakdowns and dangerous accidents, and it will also help you avoid costly repair services by catching problems with your bike early. Plus, every ride is more likely to be smooth and pleasant, except for off-road mountain biking adventures. Those may still be bumpy and rocky!

Solution: Check your brakes, gears, handlebars, and tires regularly and keep them clean. Don’t forget to lubricate the chain, too! If you don’t feel comfortable keeping up with bicycle maintenance tasks on your own, take your bike into the shop for maintenance services regularly.

6. Forgetting to bring essential parts and tools.

Man working on biking gears with tools.

Whether you’re heading out on a 30-mile road biking adventure or a quick bike ride through the city, you’ll never know what you might run into along the way. You could run over a small, sharp object and end up with a flat, lose a bolt, or your chain could slip off, leaving you in a sticky situation. If you forget to bring a few replacement parts or tools with you, you’ll be ill-prepared to handle these occurrences and could end up with a very long walk back home.

Solution: Always ride prepared by bringing a few essentials with you. Many of the tools you’ll need are small enough to stash in your pockets or a saddlebag under your seat, so you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of storing them while you ride.

In general, though, it’s always a good idea to ride with:

  • Tire patches
  • A mini pump
  • Tire levers
  • A couple of inner tubes
  • A small multi-tool

If you don’t already own these things, you can purchase them online on Amazon or at stores like REI, Walmart, or your local bike shop.

7. Overtraining.

Physical therapist pressing tap on females back.

Riding a bicycle is fun, but like any other sport, overdoing it can lead to injuries and burnout. Finding the right training intensity with cycling is key to your overall success. If you’re just starting out, it might take some time to figure out what feels right for your body and how you can best achieve your goals. But taking things slow is always the best approach if you want to have a fun and positive experience.

Solution: Pace yourself. Work up to your goals and take baby steps. For instance, if your ultimate goal is to ride 100 miles, don’t try to tackle all that on your first day! Establish a training schedule for yourself. Start with just ten miles per day and gradually ramp up to 100. Taking it slow will keep things fun and prevent injuries, so you can continue to enjoy your cycling experience and the progress you make.

Vingo’s features make it easy to switch things up with fun and adventurous routes. You can also easily adjust the resistance, incline, and route terrain to customize the challenge and ultimately achieve your goals.

8. Not knowing group ride etiquette.

3 male cyclists on paved path.

Group bike rides have a specific protocol and etiquette to keep things organized, enjoyable, and safe for everyone involved. Bicycling in a group may seem easy, but it’s more challenging than you may think, especially if the group is riding at high speeds. It’s important to familiarize yourself with general group riding etiquette, so you don’t unintentionally make common mistakes that annoy other riders or put their safety at risk.

Solution: If you’re riding with a group for the first time, make sure the distance and riding speed are within your skills before joining the ride. Hang out in the back for any new group ride and observe until you feel comfortable enough to make your way up through the group. 

Also, try to keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Focus on the road 100% at all times. Avoid chatting with other cyclists while you ride. You can socialize during breaks or at lunch stops.
  • Do not talk on your phone or wear headphones or earbuds.
  • Ride single file and leave space between you and the rider in front of you, especially when going downhill.
  • Keep a consistent pace.
  • Call out when passing another rider and always pass on the left.
  • Move off the road for mechanical problems.
  • If you get a flat, ask another cyclist to alert the lead rider before pulling off to deal with the breakdown.
  • Use hand signals for cars and pedestrians.
  • Ride between the point (the rider in the very front) and the sweep (the lead rider in the rear). If you decide to leave the ride at any point, let someone know, so they don’t go looking for you when they notice you’re missing.

Key takeaways:

Avoiding these common errors can ensure that you have the most enjoyable cycling experience possible, with fewer injuries and more fun!

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References:

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Bicycle Helmet Safety. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4374-bicycle-helmet-safety 
  2. Rutberg, J. (2021, November 18). Nutrition and Fueling Before Morning Workouts and Races. USA Cycling. https://usacycling.org/article/fueling-for-morning-workouts 

Photo Sources:

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Photo by Dó Castle from Pexels
Photo by Rehook Bike from Pexels
Photo by Alexander Dummer from Pexels
Photo by Yan Krukov
Photo by Munbaik Cycling Clothing from Pexels

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