There are some mistakes that beginners make that instantly single them out as novice riders. Now, there’s no shame in being a newcomer to cycling – we all have to start somewhere – but if I were making glaringly obvious errors I’d want someone to tell me rather than remain blissfully unaware!
So in the spirit of sisterhood rather than finger pointing and giggling, I hereby present the most common mistakes new cyclists make, or how avoid looking like a newbie.
1. Pedalling with your heels: many new cyclists adopt a duck-footed stance and ride with their heels on the pedals. Take care to position the ball of your foot over the pedal for increased efficiency.
2. Seat height: it’s a common misconception that you need to be able to stand on the ground whilst sitting on your seat, when there are actually no circumstances where you’d need to do this. When you’re seated and riding your bike your feet will be on the pedals so they do not need to be able to touch the ground. As long as your feet touch the ground when you’re straddling the cross bar, you’re fine.
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3. Saddle angle: as a general rule of thumb, your saddle should be flat when viewed from the side. If it points down, you’ll put too much pressure on your arms and if it points up, well… ouch!
4. Padded shorts and underwear: in case you didn’t get the memo, padded cycling shorts are specifically designed to be worn next to the skin with the padded part on the inside. Put underwear beneath your Lycra and you risk chafing and discomfort.
5. Big saddles: lots of people think big saddles mean greater comfort. Whilst a nice squidgy saddle does feel pleasantly cushiony, don’t go for maximum width as it could rub and chafe your inner thighs.
6. Flat tyres: the harder you pump up your tyres, the less effort it is to ride. Take a look at the suggested pressure (PSI) written on the side of your tyre, inflate accordingly and regularly top up.
7. Helmet position: take care to position your helmet straight so that it covers the top of your forehead and the curved part at the back of your cranium. Correctly fitted, your helmet shouldn’t slip backwards.
8. Tight grip: whilst it’s important to grip your handlebars firmly, there’s really no need to cling on for dear life. Your arms should remain relaxed otherwise you’ll have a twitchy, uncomfortable ride.
9. Riding in the gutter: don’t hug the curb to ‘stay out of the way’ of other road users. Where possible, ride at least a foot and a half away from the curb and with ride with confidence.
10. Traffic awareness: take extra care to position yourself wisely at intersections. Lorries in particular have large ‘blind spots’ so never wait right next to them. As a rule of thumb, stay back or sit ahead. If the lorry is in front of you wait behind it, and if it’s behind you wait several metres ahead.
11. Late and clunky gear shifting: try to anticipate what’s coming and select a gear before you get there. Lighten your pedaling whilst shifting to avoid clunky changes
12. Big big, little little: try to avoid riding with your chain on the big ring at the front and the big ring at the back, or the small ring at the front and the small ring at the back. It places a lot of pressure on your components and chain as it’s ‘out of alignment.’
13. Signal swerving: find a quiet, traffic free spot to practice looking over your shoulder and signaling without swerving. It can be tricky to maintain a straight line at first! Try and keep your non-signaling arm fairly firm and straight on the handlebars and practice turning your head without rotating your torso.
So how many of those did you make when you started out? I’ve been riding for years and I still find myself riding in the big chain ring at the front, and the big sprocket on the cassette whilst my husband shakes his head at me, so don’t sweat it if you’ve ticked off most of my list! When starting off cycling, there can me a lot to remember, so if you’re struggling with any of the above, find a traffic-free place where you can build your confidence slowly, book on to a course or head off on a Breeze ride. Have fun!
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