5 Common Bike-Handling Mistakes

We all make mistakes while out riding on the road. Some are minor and relatively harmless—like forgetting a repair kit—while others can mean the difference between staying upright and ending up on the pavement.

Riding or racing in a pack can turn a small error into a dangerous one. When you make an error in a pack, chances are that not only will you crash, others will to. In order to keep yourself and others safe, it's important to continue to improve your bike-handling skills.

Some of the more common mistakes cyclists make out on the road include missed clip-ins and water-bottle fumbles. Here are easy ways you can learn to avoid them.

1. Missed Clip-In

One of the most common mistakes you can make on the bike is the missed clip-in at the start of an event (or even at a stoplight). Everyone has done it. Even experienced pros have a clip-in malfunction from time to time. The cause is almost always psychological. You start to worry that you'll miss the clip-in, and then you do. Pressure to jump off the front at the start, especially when you're in the pack, can lead you to second guess your technique and miss the clip-in.

More: Bike Handling Clinic: Drill That Skill

To avoid over-thinking the clip-in and risk missing it, try these tips when using single-sided pedals:

1. Make sure your unclipped pedal is hanging motionless with the backside down.
2. Push off with your clipped-in foot and raise your other foot to meet the motionless pedal.
3. Tip the front of the pedal forward with your toe before your cleat engages the locking mechanism.
4. Once the pedal is horizontal, use additional pressure to seat the cleat.

If after some practice you're still having trouble, consider swapping out your pedals for a different technology. There are several varieties of double-sided pedals and cleats that can make the process a little easier.

2. Water-Bottle Wobble

This is not so much a bike-handling mistake as it is poor riding technique. The wobble occurs if and when you have to look down to find your water bottle to pull it out of the cage for a drink. When your eyes shift down, your brain loses spatial reference with the horizon, and you inevitably wobble from side-to side to regain balance. If you're in a pack, this wobble can cause an accident. Riders on either side or behind you will likely shout something nasty about "holding your line." At this point, you'll be labeled a squirrely rider by your colleagues or competitors.

No Look Water Bottle 

You can prevent the wobble through practice. Try removing and re-inserting your water bottle with your eyes on the road ahead of you the next time you're out on the road. It isn't terribly difficult to remove the bottle; putting it back is a bit trickier. On solo training rides, repeat the process over until you can effortlessly remove and replace a water bottle from either cage without using your eyes. Once you have that down, concentrate on replacing the water bottle while maintaining a straight line. Try to keep your wheels on the painted white line on the side of the road as you handle the water bottle.

More: 4 Great One-Hour Bike Workouts

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About the Author

Jim Castagneri

Jim Castagneri is a 30-year veteran of competitive cycling and father of two junior cyclists. He spends is spare time coaching the Black Sheep Junior Cycling Team in Denver, Colorado as a USAC certified level-3 coach.

Jim Castagneri is a 30-year veteran of competitive cycling and father of two junior cyclists. He spends is spare time coaching the Black Sheep Junior Cycling Team in Denver, Colorado as a USAC certified level-3 coach.

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