10 Common Cycling Mistakes You Can Avoid
Whether you're unsure of what you should bring on a long ride or how you should take a corner when heading downhill, we've got you covered. Follow these 10 tips to avoid common cycling mistakes so you can be safer and more knowledgeable out on the road.
Mistake #1: Forgetting to Do a Pre-Ride Inspection
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Before you leave house, there are a few things you should check to ensure your bike is in proper working condition. While it might seem time consuming or even unnecessary, it can mean the difference between arriving safely or being injured in an accident.
The checklist below is a good place to start:
1. Make sure your tires are inflated and have no cuts or damage to sidewalls.
2. Check the stem bolts to make sure they are tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
3. Tighten the quick release wheel skewers.
4. Check brake pads, especially if there's a chance for rain. Wet conditions can wear brake pads much quicker.
5. Check your chain for signs of wear and clean if necessary.
Mistake #2: Leaving Home Without Spare Tubes
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You can go thousands of miles without ever having a puncture. You will have one, sooner or later. When you do, you'll need to be prepared. This includes learning how to change a tire yourself and having all the equipment you'll need to complete this task.
Here's the minimum equipment you should always carry:
1. 2 spare tubes
2. Patch kit
3. Pump/CO2 inflators
4. Tire levers
Mistake #3: Not Bringing Enough Food or Fluid on a Long Ride
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For any ride longer than an hour or two, you'll need to bring food and fluid to replenish your energy stores to avoid the dreaded bonk. You should aim to eat 100 calories and drink at least 12 ounces of fluid for every hour you ride. Failure to do so can make the last few hours of your ride miserable, not to mention dangerous, if you're cycling in extreme weather conditions.
If you don't have the means to carry what you'll need, plan out where to stop before you leave the house.
Mistake #4: Waiting Too Long to Unclip From the Pedals
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It's harder to balance the slower you go. If you wait to unclip your foot from the pedals when you're almost at a complete stop, you increase your chances of toppling over.
Instead, unclip one foot as you approach a stop sign or red light before your speed decreases. This will allow you to put your foot out and avoid the panic of a last-second mistake.
Mistake #5: Waiting Too Long to Switch Gears
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Learning when to switch gears is an important part of cycling that can help you to avoid a loss of momentum and prevent you from dropping your chain. On a climb, don't wait to switch gears when it becomes too hard to pedal. Try to anticipate the need for easier (or harder) gears. This will keep the force off the chain and make your shifting smoother.
Mistake #6: Braking in a Corner
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Navigating a sharp turn can be tricky. If you wait to brake once you're in the turn, it'll force you to sit up and move in a straight line, which can lead to an accident. Brake before you enter the turn and let off the brakes once you've slowed to a more manageable speed. This will help you maneuver the bike more easily.
Mistake #7: Saddle Height That's Too High or Too Low
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A seat height that's too high or too low can make cycling less efficient and lead to injury. When your saddle is positioned properly, you should have 25 to 30 degrees of knee flexion when your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke (6 o'clock).
A rough way to calculate proper seat height is to take your shoe off and put your heel on the pedal. If your leg is completely straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke, you're probably in the correct zone. To make more accurate measurements, have a partner measure your knee angle with a goniometer or schedule a bike fit at your local bike shop.
Mistake #8: Putting Your Cycling Clothes In the Dryer
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Cycling clothes are made with high-tech materials that don't do well when they're exposed to heat from a dryer. This can ruin your expensive Lycra and chamois pads, and make other items shrink to a size that you'll no longer be able to use. Wash all your clothes on the delicate cycle and line dry instead.
Mistake #9: Skipping the Post-Ride Bike Cleaning
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If you skip cleaning your bike after you're done with a ride, dirt and grime from the road can build up. This can make your components wear quicker and mask damage to your frame. Get into the habit of wiping excessive grime from your chain and giving the rest of your bike a quick rinse. It'll keep your bike looking and riding like new.
Mistake #10: Waiting to Eat After a Ride
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Your muscles will recover quicker if you replenish the calories you've lost within the first hour after a ride. Don't wait until it's time for the next meal. Plan what you'll eat before the ride to avoid having to make decisions when you're tired. Whether it's leftovers in the fridge or a quick shake, have a plan for recovery so you can ride stronger the next time out.