TOP 15 MOST COMMON CYCLING MISTAKES (AND TIPS TO FIX THEM)

We all make cycling mistakes. Everyone messes something up on their bike when they first start. Some people continuously make cycling mistakes, and you usually know them as “the person who always crashes” or “the person who always has a flat tire” or “the constantly overtrained person.” 

These tips will help you shortcut the 15 most common cycling mistakes. You won’t go from Joe to Pro in a day, but you can avoid a lot of frustration by doing a few simple things.

Good to know:

Always make sure your bike is in safe working order. Take your bike to a shop if you’re not sure.

Mistake 1: You don’t wear a helmet

Do you know bikers who ride around with their helmet hanging from the handlebars? That doesn’t make much sense. So, never make the mistake of riding without a helmet, no matter how short the trip may be.

man putting on helmet

Mistake 2: The saddle is too high or low

If you want to ride a bike, you should look at the height of the saddle. Follow these steps to check whether everything is set correctly:

  1. Put your bike upright.
  2. Stand up straight next to the bike, facing toward the front of the bike.
  3. Now check how high the saddle is. Ideally, it should be at your hip crest. If not, take a minute to move the saddle into a neutral riding position: the saddle should be level and pointing toward the front, not tilted up or down.
  4. The position of the saddle should feel comfortable.
  5. If you buy your bike from a shop, have them help you set it up to be comfortable.

Mistake 3: The handlebars are too high or low

Make sure that you adjust the saddle first and then the handlebars. If you are a beginner, the difference between the height of the seat and the handlebars can be one to two centimeters. After a few trips, you will get used to this position. Then you can move the handlebars down a bit. 

Mistake 4: You’re wearing the wrong clothes

Part of enjoying a good bike ride is wearing the right clothes. Well-padded biking shorts make sense, but the right bike shirt is also essential. The special fibers wick the sweat away from your body.

adidas cycling gear

Mistake 5: You’re riding the wrong bike

A beginner bike doesn’t need to be lightweight or have the latest components. The bike simply needs to fit your body and how you want to ride it. Pick the bike that will make you want to ride it more, not the one that claims to be “the best road or mountain bike.”

Mistake 6: You’re not wearing cycling sunglasses

High-quality sunglasses are not just to protect your eyes from UV rays. They will also keep your eyes from watering, like when you’re on a fast downhill. Plus, glasses will prevent insects and dust from landing in your eyes.

Did you know?

Good cycling glasses also protect you if you fall. The lenses are shatterproof, which provides better protection for your eyes.

Mistake 7: You’re riding without biking gloves

Gloves are not a must – unlike helmets – but it still makes sense to wear them. They will protect you if you fall, and you’ll have a better grip on your handlebars when you work up a sweat.

Mistake 8: You overdo it

Cycling has a lot of benefits. But just like with other sports, it’s all about the right intensity. Don’t overdo it on your first ride – pace yourself.

Overdoing it can also include overestimating your abilities. For example, riding a mountain bike on a too technical trail can lead to serious injury. Planning to ride your bike over several mountains before you have built up enough endurance can also do more harm than good.

man checking his bike

MISTAKE 9: TOUCHING HOT DISC BRAKES

Ever notice your disc brakes make strange noises after using them for long, sustained periods? That noise is due to heat buildup in the disc and the caliper. Never touch hot disc brakes or rims after squeezing the brakes for a long time, as you can seriously burn yourself!

MISTAKE 10: NOT EATING ENOUGH

You plan to ride further than ever before. Midway through the ride, you begin to quickly realize just bringing a sandwich, and a bottle of water was a bad idea. It will happen when you’re in the middle of nowhere and on the hottest day of the year. Panic sets in, and you wonder if you can even turn the pedals another kilometer.

If you plan to ride for more than an hour, bring a minimum of 40g of carbs with you for each hour you plan to ride. Aim to drink 500ml of water every hour, more if it’s a scorching day or you sweat a lot. Plan your stops ahead of time so that you can stop for a snack and fill up your bottles. 

Read more about nutrition timing and what to eat.

woman hydrating

MISTAKE 11: NOT WEARING SUNSCREEN

Cyclists are passionate about their laser-straight tan lines. Do you know what they aren’t passionate about? Skin cancer.

Always wear sunscreen. Plus, it makes your legs shiny, and cyclists think that’s cool.

MISTAKE 12: NOT KNOWING HOW TO CHANGE A FLAT TIRE

You will get a flat tire eventually. Watch a couple of videos and practice at home before your next big ride, so you are prepared when you ultimately flat. Know how to use your tools and pump and always carry a spare tube or two. If you don’t need them, you will make someone’s day when you stop to help them.

MISTAKE 13: JOINING A GROUP RIDE BEFORE YOU’RE READY

You just watched the Tour de France and the events in Japan. You roll up to your local drool-on-the-handlebars group ride about to show them all what a real sprint is. Hold up.

Riding in a group at high speeds is a skill. Knowing how to modulate your speed and ride predictably are group ride requirements. Introduce yourself to the group the first time, then hang out at the back for the first few times. When you feel comfortable and get a feel for riding in a group, practice moving through the pack.

It’s for your and everyone else’s safety. 

MISTAKE 14: NOT SHIFTING GEARS

Your bike probably has at least 20 gears by now. Use them. The smaller gear in front makes things like climbing hills easier. The bigger gear in the rear of the bike likewise makes things like climbing easier. So if you’re climbing a hill and you feel like you’re pedaling through mud, shift into the small gear in the front and the big gear in the back, and you should be able to pedal easier up hills.

Reverse this for pedaling downhill (big gear in front, small gear in back). 

MISTAKE 15: CARING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK

Cars. Other riders. People who don’t ride. Everyone has an opinion about cycling. You may feel self-conscious about wearing tight-fitting bike clothes, sweating a lot or if you have the “right bike.” 

The only thing that matters is that you ride the bike, stay safe and have fun. See you out there!

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