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Updated 18 February 2014

Top 7 cycling mistakes to avoid

Riding a bicycle is great exercise, but before you hit the road take note of these seven common mistakes people make.

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 Riding a bicycle is great exercise, but before you hit the road take note of these seven common mistakes people make.

Going against the traffic

Think you’re safer riding against the traffic so that you can see what’s coming your way? Think again. Aside from the fact that it’s illegal in most countries, riding on the wrong side of the road is downright dangerous for you and your fellow road users. A study by Bicycling Life found that riders in the wrong lane were three times more likely to get into an accident than those .

Gear sticking

Your bike has gears for a reason – if you aren’t using them, you aren’t cycling correctly. A pedal rate of 60-80rpm is considered ideal, and shifting gears to achieve this rate will prevent you from wasting energy by being in the wrong gear. As well as saving your muscles, changing gears when appropriate is also a great way of keeping you alert and maintaining your concentration levels, which is always welcome when you are travelling at speed on a bike.

Ignoring safety gear

Did you know around 91% of cycling fatalities are riders who weren’t wearing helmets? Research carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety highlighted this startling statistic, which should be enough to convince anyone to wear a helmet. Even a short ride up the road demands the . That also includes reflective clothing and lights – a car that can’t see you is not going to be able to avoid you.

Staying stationary

Riding a bike properly is all about balance. When climbing a hill avoid the temptation to stand up, and instead lean forward to shift your weight to the front of your bike. The opposite applies when you are riding downhill – lean your body back to keep more of your weight on the back wheel. When you’re taking corners lean slightly into the direction of the corner. As well as reducing your chances of crashing, this is also the most efficient way of riding. Staying still on the saddle will make your ride harder than it needs to be, and could lead to an uncomfortable rendezvous between you and the road.

Corner braking

There’s a knack to cornering on a bike and once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be riding much more safely and effectively. The key to taking on a corner is to slow down before you reach it. When you see a corner coming up in the distance, begin to gradually apply pressure to the brakes so that you are at a suitable speed by the time you reach it. If you sharply break as you’re at the corner you risk crashing, and even if you don’t you’ll end up taking the corner more slowly than you need to.

Saddle height

One of the most common mistakes newbie cyclists make is saddle height. If your only experience of cycling is casual riding, then it’s likely that your saddle is too low. There’s actually a simple test to make sure you have your saddle at the right height. Place your shoe on the pedal, and set it in the most downward position of the cycling motion. In this position your leg should be practically straight, with only a slight bend in the knee. If your knee is noticeably bent, or your foot can’t reach the pedal properly in this position, then you need to adjust your saddle accordingly.

Forgetting the repair kit

Do you have the means to repair damage to your bike when you’re out riding? If you don’t you’re looking at a very long walk, or very expensive taxi back to your house if you suffer a puncture. A repair kit is an absolute must for all cyclists, and you need to make sure you’re familiar with how it’s used before you’re forced to. Being able to repair a puncture could save you a lot of time and money, and is relatively simple when you know how to do it, so be sure to test the kit thoroughly.

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