Nobody is perfect, and I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve made my fair share of cycling “faux pas” as I became more enthusiastic about my daily cycle. Maybe this quick list will help you avoid them or perhaps you can chuckle as you identify a couple you’ve made yourself.
It’s worth saying that there’s no right or wrong way to cycle, so there are no rules you have to follow – these are just a few suggestions that might make your experience even more enjoyable.
Crossing the chain
Crossing a chain is when you ride in the largest (hardest to pedal) chainring, and largest (easier to pedal) sprocket on the cassette. Riding in the smallest (easiest to pedal) chainring and smallest (hardest to pedal) sprocket is also crossing the chain.
The first version is much more common, mainly because often people simply don’t want to ‘wimp out’ and ride in the ‘little ring’. However, it’s not very good for your chain as it stretches it, and often causes a nasty rubbing noise – so you might want to avoid it.
Not using gears
I’ve seen many a beginner rider on the roads grinding away in a high gear, or spinning their legs insanely fast in a tiny gear. Quite often, they’ve been riding a bike that looks like it might have been pulled from the garage that morning, for the first time in a few months. In these cases, I expect the gears might be unused because they’re not working too well. These riders should check out our London Cyclist Maintenance Guide, and skip to ‘adjust derailleur’.
The other option is that the rider is just happy pedalling at that speed. It’s hard for me to criticize because I ride with a characteristically low cadence. However, the recommended ‘revolutions per minute’ (RPM) is 90. You can check what you’re doing either using a cycling computer, or counting how many times you turn the cranks over a minute – and it’s a good idea every so often to have a go at sticking to 90, as getting into a habit of turning a high gear slowly can put stress on your knees.
No puncture repair kit
Heading out without an inner tube, tyre levers and pump isn’t that dissimilar to driving down the motorway with a quarter of a tank of petrol and no cash or card to top up. If you don’t have puncture repair tools, you are not self sufficient. If you are unlucky and get a puncture, you’re going to have to find a helpful stranger, a bike shop, phone a friend, or walk home.
Of course – there are a few things you can do to reduce the number of punctures you get.
I am so guilty of this. Apparently it’s a real ‘beginner cyclist’ mistake, but I just seem incapable of avoiding it…
Wearing underwear under cycling shorts
Cycling shorts are made with a chamois – the padding is usually seamless – because seams can cause nasty chafing that you definitely want to avoid. The idea of not wearing underwear is a little alien to some people , but it really is what is advised by all cycling clothing manufacturers. You should however always wash them after wearing.
Not eating enough on a ride, or eating too much
If you’re heading out on a long ride, you’ll be burning quite a lot of calories, and you need to make sure you replace these – generally with carbohydrates. Nutrition brands such as High5 and SIS make this easy for you with energy drinks (most effective for topping up carb stores quickly), gels, and bars. Energy from solid food, eg energy bars, takes longer to be absorbed, but a lot of people like the familiarity of ‘normal food’.
Of course, some people go the other way… if you are on a ride where you are aiming to push yourself, avoid big meals along the way – stop for a Full English and you’ll be feeling it.
Forgetting to unclip
This is only relevant for those riding with clipless pedals or cages – but hands up if you’ve done it?
There’s a few common “mistakes” from us – we’d love to know if you’ve got any additions?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.