Pack-Riding Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms: Your arms and shoulders lock up and your wheel gets squirrelly any time a fellow rider comes within an arm's length. This condition, also known as pelotonaphobia, often results in nervous looks from fellow cyclists during group rides and frequently causes ungainly gaps to open.
RX: First, lay off the espresso (see the Truth About Caffeine for why). Second, relax your arms, pedal smoothly, and focus on a spot over the shoulder of the rider in front of you (not on his rear tire). Once you're on his wheel, don't let your front wheel overlap it. Remember to breathe. Try not to brake (it affects every-one behind you), but if you must, do so gently—or just sit up a bit higher instead. Try riding with three friends in various formations first.
Symptoms: While mountain biking, you fear falling so much that you scrub speed before every bend and obstacle. Consequently, turns are stiff, slow, and characterized by a pronounced mojo deficit, which ironically makes you more prone to crashes, thanks to the physics in play with your bike while cornering.
RX: Hold the brake with one finger—your index. (If you're chronically experiencing grabby tendencies, try braking with your weaker middle finger.) Think of your brakes as a dimmer, not an on-and-off switch. Slow before a turn and ahead of an obstacle, taking care to look 20 feet ahead rather than down at the trail, then release and glide through at a comfortable jogging speed. Remember that momentum is your friend.
Symptoms: You're riding harder, longer, and more often, and you reward yourself for the added effort with a few postride brews, an extra helping of lasagna, and a pint of rocky road before bed. Despite all the miles, you find your bib shorts are shrinking and the number on your scale is rising like Alpe d'Huez.
RX: You're taking in more calories than you burn. It's time to keep track: Start a log of everything you consume in a day; several cool apps, like My Fitness Pal, will do the math for you. Also, consider a heart-rate monitor that factors in your age, weight, gender, and activity level to track what you've burned. Don't forget to count the gels, energy bars, and sports drinks you gulped down while in the saddle. They add up fast.