Why Am I So Bad At Cycling? 7 Common Cycling Mistakes

cyclist riding no hands

Whether you are a new cyclist or a professional wondering why you’re not doing better, you should always look to improve your cycling. This includes figuring out if you are making any mistakes and work on correcting them.

It might be a good idea to start looking at the basic mistakes before you look at more advanced or complex issues. To get you started, here are some of the most common cycling mistakes.

1. Not riding with the right saddle height

One of the most common mistakes in cycling is riding with the wrong saddle height. Not only this make cycling less efficient but can also cause injury to the rider.

Another disadvantage of not having the saddle height at proper height means that the power from the legs is not being delivered efficiently. If the saddle height is too low, riders might start feeling pain in the front of the knee.

This usually results from under-extension of the knee during the pedal stroke. If the seat is too high, you are missing out on the maximum power of the legs and you are also risking overextension of your knee, ankle, and hamstrings.

The proper height for each individual is going to be different. The basic rule of saddle height is to have it at a height where at the bottom of the pedal motion your legs are straight but not fully locked in a straight position.

In other words, your legs should not be fully extended. Also, you should be able to ride the bicycle with the ball of your big toe sitting on the center of the pedal.

Saddle height can also cause issues with the reach. The correct reach should have your torso and arms make a 45-degree angle with the bike.

If you are having to stretch, the reach is too long and you might feel pain in your back and shoulders. If the reach is too short, you might hit your arms with your knees.

2. Trying to ride too much too soon

Cycling requires you to build stamina over time. Not only do you need to build physical stamina but also develop the mental strength required to keep going when your muscles are aching and your body is tired.

The key is to gradually build your stamina and not try to do too much too soon. You might injure yourself or just give up on cycling.

Keep in the mind, it’s not all about distance, the intensity is also important.

Don’t follow the cycling programs of professional cyclists. It has probably taken them many years to reach that level of fitness and form.

It is also important to give yourself enough time to recover between cycling sessions. Have you ever felt how your cycling or running stamina is improved after a break?

That is because your muscles got the time to recover. Once the muscles recover, they become more efficient.

Not only does the endurance get better, but the power also increases. Therefore you must give yourself adequate breaks between cycling sessions.

3. Not paying attention to bicycle maintenance

Regular bicycle maintenance is important for the safety of the rider and better ride quality. It also helps in reducing the chances of expensive repairs by catching problems early.

Cyclists often make the mistake of not following a regular timeline for bicycle maintenance. Do not wait for something to go wrong.

A malfunction could lead to serious injuries or damage to your bicycle. Regular bicycle maintenance means inspecting, tightening, and lubricating the parts.

If there are any signs of damage, corrosion, squeaking noise, etc., the part should be repaired or replaced immediately. A squeaking chain is not just annoying to you and your fellow riders, it could be damaging the cogs on the rear hub.

It is recommended that you tune up your bicycle at least twice a year, depending on use. If you are not able to maintain your bicycle yourself, seek assistance from a professional.

4. Not wearing the right clothes when cycling

Not wearing proper clothes for cycling can lead to pain and an uncomfortable ride. Clothes that are suitable for cycling ensure the riders have a full range of motion, the clothes soak up sweat and there is enough padding for the bum.

For a good fit, make sure the clothes are loose enough but not too loose. The last thing you want is the chain of the bicycle to catch on to any clothing.

If you plan on cycling for longer distance or if the weather is warm, consider Lycra fabric shorts. They are made from a stretchable material and also keep you dry from sweat.

Having padded shorts can add a lot of comfort to cycling. One of the most common complaints from newbie cyclist is pain from chafing.

The extra padding helps reduce chafing. For the top wear, try to avoid cotton material.

Look for breathable materials. Also, consider using cycling gloves or wristbands to wipe sweat from your face.

5. Not using gears efficiently

Not using gears efficiently can make cycling tough on the body especially on the knees. If you using a gear that is too high, the RPM (revolutions per minute) of the pedal will be too low.

It is a common mistake to see cyclists cranking up the gears. By doing that, the rider is just wasting their energy.

Most probably, the legs will give up soon while you watch your fellow riders spin on. Using gears efficiently depends on several factors such as the type of terrain, the elevation of the terrain, the speed at which you are going, and more.

A basic rule to follow is that if there is too much effort going into the pedaling, you need to gear down. On the other hand, if the pedals feel too light or fast to control the pedaling motion, you need to gear up.

According to most experts, keeping the RPM between 80 to 90 is ideal in most situations. If you are going uphill, you would want the RPM to be close to 60.

6. Not fueling correctly  

This refers to eating and drinking correctly before, during, and after a relatively long ride. Runners often refer to “hitting the wall” when the body seems to run out of energy.

In cycling, there is something similar called a “bonk” which is sudden fatigue and loss of energy. One of the reasons for this is the depletion of glycogen levels in the muscle.

Without glycogen, muscles have no energy to perform. Eating a small portion of complex carbohydrates before your ride can help.

Don’t eat right before you ride. Give your stomach a chance to properly digest the food before you cycle. Also, carry with a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated.

As an alternative to meals, bars and gels can work but can cause some stomach discomfort so be careful when using. For peal performance, stick to real food.

The key is to find a balance between overloading and beating the bonk. It also depends on your objective from cycling.

If you are cycling to lose weight, then bonking isn’t too bad, but if you want to build endurance or complete the cycling route with your fellow riders, you would need to fuel up adequately.

7. Forgetting about spare parts

For those who are new cycling, fixing your bike might seem daunting. There are two major options to get cycle repairing, either take the bicycle to a repair shop to fix it yourself.

For simple repairs, you should try to have enough spare parts at home that you don’t have to take to a repair shop which can be expensive. There are also situations where the bike gets damaged on the road.

It is a good idea to keep some common spare parts with you while riding. Some of the common spare parts include the chain, which can be the weakest component of the bike, brake pads, pedals, grips, a portable pump, and tires.

You can’t carry all of this with you, the most likely spare part to fail is the chain or the pedal. Having spare parts is only good if you know how to use them.

If you can’t learn how to use them, then you have to rely on a professional.

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