Rookie Mistake! Top 5 Cycling Errors
Getting into cycling is a simple as it sounds: you get on your bike and go. That much is true but if you want to make any progress with the art (or ride from one to the next without being too saddle sore) then you’ll need to consider a few finer points to really get your new hobby underway.
New cyclists regularly fall foul of a few sins that make cycling more of a chore than a fun pastime. If you learn what these ‘rookie’ mistakes are and take the simple steps to combat them, you’ll find that you enjoy your day out on the bike a lot more. By learning these little errors, you’ll add confidence to your ride, build your speed, conserve your energy and finish the day with a smile on your face rather than a frown and a few plasters.
One of the most common riding errors comes from cornering. Cornering, like many things, feels right when you’re doing right. A good corner can be executed by adjusting your speed appropriately and entering the corner smoothly without having any drastic changes of course or speed.
Many cyclists believe that cornering is all about steering, where it’s actually about leaning; not knee to the ground like a motorcyclist but ever so slightly. Leave your weight centered but use your head to make the physics work. We’re not talking about scientific equations, we’re talking about ‘looking’. By looking where you’re going, or rather where you want to go, your head will make your body move appropriately and the bike will go exactly where you want it to and automatically apply the right amount of lean.
This is all you need to know as a beginner; if you’re racing, there’s a lot more to it, involving entry points and exits for maximum speed but for zipping around town, keep it simple.
Like with many other sports involving forwards momentum: going fast is the easy part, it’s the slowing down that’s difficult. The same applies here too. Braking around town is fairly straightforward at low speeds but what happens when you’re going down a steep hill and things are moving a little to quickly for your liking? You still need to use your brakes but rather than grabbing to fistfuls of lever, you’re better off gradually applying both brakes and slowing down at a slower pace.
On really steep descents, it can be better to pump your brakes; applying both at the same time but for short, sharper bursts. Brakes can overheat and hot brakes equals no brakes. You can also use your body to act a sail too – sitting up can help the wind resistance slow you down too but don’t rely on that method alone!
Getting into the correct gear for the terrain you’re in demands an entire article to explain with enough detail to make it relevant so we’re going to simplify it here. If you’re on the flat and just cruising around town, you’ll be on the flat: this is a great time to test your gears to find the combination that suits your body type the best. If you’re encountering a steep climb though, you’ll need to think ahead.
High gears are pretty useless to you in this scenario and lower gears are the way forward but only if you plan in advance. Imagine you’re driving a car or other motorized transport; you need a strong gear to pull the weight and it’s better to pull the weight before the climb rather than during. If you were in a car or on a motorbike, changing from fourth to third mid climb will ensure that your lose your revs and therefore your climbing speed; the same rule applies for cycling too. Start the climb in an appropriate gear, don’t wait until you’re already tired to change down!
Before heading out on their first rides, many cyclists forget to even consider the height of their saddles. The wrong height can really cause you problems; it can affect your cycling ability and cause you unnecessary injury too. Always check and adjust before riding a new bike and check your regular bike regularly too, as saddles can often slip. Luckily, it only takes a minute or two to adjust! More information about the right bike set up can be found here.
Similar to the saddle issue, many new cyclists fail to maintain their bikes and some even forget to set them up correctly before riding them for the first time. We’re talking about tyre pressures, brake assembly issues, and well oiled moving parts. Most of these issues can be remedied at home with a set of spanners, hex keys, bike lube and a thorough clean but if you’ve stumbled across an issue that’s out of your hands, take it straight to the mechanic as soon as possible or you may cause an injury to yourself or another person.
For a more in-depth look at bike maintenance and what regular checks you should make, click here for more information!