Cycling survival — 13 beginner mistakes to avoid

We were all beginners once and we all made mistakes. In the hope of helping new riders avoid the biggest errors, here’s a baker’s dozen blunders that you should steer clear of.

Wrong saddle height

Guiseppe measures saddle height

If your saddle’s too low you’ll be uncomfortable and less efficient. If it’s too high, you risk tendon and joint injury, and rocking from side to side to pedal will chafe. There are a number of ways to determine saddle height, but the most useful rule of thumb is that your knee should be 25-35° from straight when the pedal is at the bottom of the stroke.

Not using the gears

Touring bike gears.jpg

We often see newbies grinding along in their bike’s highest gear, and walking up the gentlest slopes. More rarely, a rider will have legs spinning furiously as they potter along at 5mph because the bike’s in low gear and, apparently, staying there.

You’d think people would be used to gears, but with sometimes four levers to operate, a bike’s gears are that much more complicated than a car’s, and it’s far from obvious what all those levers do.

Beginners flummoxed by gears should do two things: ask, and play.

Ask your bike shop how to use the gears. Get them to show you which are the easiest gears that will get you up hills, which are the fast gears for speed on the flat and downhill, and how to shift into them.

Play with the gears. Go somewhere quiet, like back streets or a car park when the supermarket’s closed and ride around, changing gear. Change between the chainrings, using the shift levers on the left hand side of the bar and feel how it’s harder to pedal in the big ring, easier in the small. Click between the rear gears, using the right hand levers. You’ll notice that the differences are smaller than with the front, which allows you to fine-tune the gear you’re using.

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