They say that learning from your mistakes is the best way to improve your skills. Of course, this tip isn’t applicable in every situation, and biking counts as one of them.
Making rookie mistakes, in the beginning, might be alright for some. But it’s best to learn from the mistakes of others to not only accelerate your progress but to avoid the most common bike injuries sustained by beginners.
So what are these mistakes and how do you avoid them?
1. Saddle Up
Riding with the wrong saddle can lead to tendon or joint injury, so it’s important to know the height that you’re compatible with. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to know your ideal saddle height.
Simply hop on your bike and ride along with your heel on the pedal. When your leg is at the very bottom, it should be almost fully extended. Of course, different strokes for different folks so ensure you’re fine-tuning the saddle height to a level you’re comfortable with.
2. Don’t Overexert Yourself
In running, there’s this saying that goes “too much, too soon,” which means you’re overreaching your limitations. The same thing can be said when riding a bike.
Make sure to pace yourself and build your stamina over time. Avoid getting caught by the rush of adrenaline that might spur you to push yourself beyond what you can do that will lead to losing interest in riding, over-exhaustion, or worse, getting injured.
One thing to avoid overexerting oneself is learning when to bring a car with or without bikeracks especially if you are just new to cycling and not used to riding more than 100kms.
3. Know your Brakes
Braking poorly is a common rookie mistake that can lead to crashing or flying over the handlebars. To brake properly, you must anticipate when to break. For instance, when you spot a corner up ahead, brake before turning the corner, not while you’re already negotiating the turn.
Also, it’s important to know if your bike has rim brakes or disc brakes, especially when cycling on wet roads. Disc brakes are more effective than rim brakes on wet pavement, so if you’re sporting the latter, be extra vigilant.
4. Ready Yourself When Riding
When going for a ride, make sure you’re ready for anything. In this section, we’ll be talking about the clothes you should wear, the food you should eat, and the pace you should be cycling.
Clothing is arguably one of the most overlooked aspects when riding. The best clothing to wear are those made with polyester fabric. It moves sweat from the skin to the surface of the fabric and quickly dries it, ensuring that the rider isn’t getting chilled by the moisture. There have been reported cases of mild exposure when cyclists wear cotton underneath a waterproof jacket where the moisture is absorbed by the material and kept it there.
Also, avoid wearing underwear and cycling shorts together as it can cause chafing. But for anyone who isn’t comfortable about this, simply choose cycling shorts that are tight on the thighs and but has a snug inner pad.
Another rookie mistake is not eating properly before a ride, which can result in two things. First is the dreaded “bonk,” which means running out of body fuel during a ride. This occurs when the cyclist doesn’t bring food with them on the journey and runs out energy in the middle of the stretch without a source nearby for resupplying. To remedy this, simply bring extra energy bars and water bottles with you to fuel your body once you feel you’re running out of gas.
Second is the post-lunch syndrome where riders eat a lot that leads up to nausea and being sluggish during the ride. Small frequent feeding is the best way to go when riding.
Next, ensure that you’re bringing tools with you. The most basic tools and repair kits you should bring are two inner tubes, tire levers, instant-stick patches for punctures, a mini pump, and a multi-tool, particularly one with a chain link extractor. All these are necessary when riding as you can’t always trust that someone will be there to help you once you get a flat tire on the road.
Lastly, prepare for the weather. Always bring with you a windproof layer that can easily be stashed in your pocket in case of a rainstorm. For warmer conditions – or even on cloudy days – make sure you’re wearing sunscreen as the breeze rushing on your screen during a ride can hide the fact that you’re already getting burned. A sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor of 50 is the best option, applying it to areas that are usually exposed like the nape and knees.
5. Gear Up
Failing to familiarize yourself with your bike’s gears is a huge problem for beginners since it can be daunting to learn them. The best way to learn, however, is to simply start doing it. Look for an empty parking lot or a park that’s not too busy and start shifting gears.
You’ll soon find out that the best way to start a ride is when you’re geared down, meaning the chain is on the big gear on the back and the small gear on the front. In this setting, you’ll be able to pedal easier, but the output will not be as powerful.
Conversely, gearing up means that your chain is on the bigger gear at the front and the smaller gear at the back. In this case, you’ll be pedaling harder, but the output helps you build speed. Thus, start your ride geared down and gradually shift to a higher gear to accelerate. Practice shifting gears until it becomes second nature.
6. Maintain your Bike’s Condition
Ensuring that your bike is in tiptop shape lessens the chance of accidents, like when your brakes aren’t biting properly or your chain getting loose. Since this is a beginner’s guide, it’s best to have it serviced by a bike shop rather than doing everything yourself.
Having experts check your bike will give you a chance to ask questions about basic maintenance. Besides, most shops nowadays offer a free service check every 30 days anyway, so it’s best to use that resource to maintain your bike’s condition, while also gaining useful knowledge about the practice.
7. Know Where to Position During a Ride
Often, beginners would feel compelled to stay behind experienced riders to “not get in the way.” The problem here is due to your stamina, you’ll usually lag, which would result in you expending more energy to catch up. This is a big no-no as it can slow down the group and tire rookies easily.
The best position for beginners is near the front, just behind the lead riders. The draft from the lead riders can reduce your effort by up to 40 percent. This positioning is beneficial for everyone in the group since no one is constantly catching up, the experienced cyclists are getting the training they need, and the beginners are also building up their stamina for longer stretches in the future.