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Common Beginner Cyclist Mistakes

We have all been there in the beginning, made a silly mistake or did not do something really simple needed, ending up with the same result, an abandoned ride or, in the worst case, an injury.  So let us take a look at the common mistakes that new cyclists need to look out for & try to avoid when starting out.

Ride with Incorrect Saddle Height

This is by far the most common beginner's mistake. Due to fear of falling, new cyclists generally set the saddle height too low to be able to put both feet flat on the ground. While this gives us a sense of security, it also puts extra strain on the knees which eventually results in painful knees. Continuing to ride like this will cause knee injury. Refer to our earlier post on Basic Bike Fitting to know how to properly set up your saddle.

Pushing Hard Gears / Not Using Gears at all

Bicycles today generally come with multiple gears to help the rider cope with elevation/terrain changes while maintaining comfortable pedaling pace (called cadence).  Unless you have a single/fixed gear bicycle (called fixie) like our usual commuter bicycle Sohrab, you should learn how to use these gears, e.g.; to make pedaling easier when going uphill or against the wind.  Pushing hard going uphill while keeping the same gear puts unnecessary strain on knees. It takes some getting used to so it is recommended to learn/get used to changing gears at the beginning at some safe location without traffic.
Also, it is important to keep pedaling forward when changing gears. If you change gears while stopped and then start to ride, the chain might drop off the chain-ring or slip causing you to lose balance. Pedaling in reverse while shifting gears will also cause the chain to drop or get stuck causing damage to the drive train.

Tight Grip on Handlebar

This is again a self-securing, unintentional mistake by new cyclists. Riding a bicycle actually requires a strong body core (lower abs & waist area) to balance the bike and a light grip on the handlebar to control direction. But we unintentionally grip the handles tightly due to fear of falling down. That results in numb hands and/or painful wrists.  This is something that needs conscious effort by the cyclist to ease-off grip on the handlebar.
Persons with weak core muscles need to do core strengthening exercises e.g.; Planks so that their body core is able to support body weight while cycling instead of their hands supporting the whole upper body weight.

Using Front Brakes / Braking hard

Body weight distribution on the bicycle is asymmetric. Most of the weight is on the rear wheel while the front wheel is least loaded. As a result, front wheel stops quickly when the brakes are fully pulled while doing the same with rear brakes takes a while to stop the bicycle.  Therefore, it is dangerous to use primarily front brakes and to brake hard.
Stopping the bicycle should start by gradually applying rear brakes. Braking hard causes abrupt stops and if it were the front brakes, the rider is usually catapulted forwards making them lose balance or, in worst cases, fly over the handlebar into the ground. Beginners should keep hands away from front brake handle and only use rear brakes to practice stopping the bicycle. When the speed gets slow, front brakes can be pulled as well to fully stop the bicycle. 
While going downhill, lightly applying rear brakes to keep the speed under control is the recommended technique. It is called brake feathering. Never use front brakes to control downhill speed or you will go over the handlebar. The front brakes on downhill should only be applied "slowly" after rear brakes have been fully engaged, but speed has not gone down as desired.

Eating The Wrong Food / Eating at the Wrong Time Before the Ride

It is true that you need to "load-up" before a long ride to be able to have enough energy to pedal to your long distance destination.  But, the timing of food intake matters a lot.  For storing energy before an endurance (long distance) ride, it is best to load up on carbohydrates (breads, pasta, cereals, oatmeal) a day earlier.
Eating something heavy, difficult to digest food just before the ride is never a good idea.  For example, having a cup of milk just before the ride might make you nauseous / cause you to vomit as soon as you put up a moderate amount of pedalling effort.  On the other hand, milk is one of the best recovery food so it should be a part of your recovery meal after every hard ride (unless you are lactose intolerant of course).
It is best to ride with a "light" stomach. A banana, few dates, etc. make the best pre-ride/mid-ride snack.  People interested in losing weight should ride while in the fasted state, but do eat mid-ride snack if the ride is going to last for more than 2 hours.  If you must need to eat before a ride, take your meal at least an hour before the start of your ride.
Do hydrate well before the ride, especially during summer.
To summarize:
Don't Ride with: A full stomach, while thirsty, after heavy to digest food such as milk, pasta etc.
Do Ride with: Empty or light stomach, well hydrated, replenishing energy with light mid-ride snacks

Insufficient Recovery Break

Recovery time is very important to let your body recover from the exercise effort.  "How much time" varies from person to person as well as the intensity of the rides. The Rule of Thumb is "harder the ride, longer the recovery time". Note that recovery includes rest time AND eating to replenish energy reserves.
There is something called "Active Recovery" in which, people go around doing light effort rides / physical activities instead of fully resting doing nothing. The logic is that by slightly increasing blood flow in the body, recovery is faster.

Forgetting or Ignoring Bicycle Maintenance

This is another very common beginner mistake. It is no fun missing the weekend group ride that you were looking forward to since the whole week.  To avoid it, make it a habit to inspect the bicycle before every weekend ride and get the maintenance done before something breaks down during the ride.  Have a look at our Basic Bicycle Maintenance post to get going at home for basic tasks. It is very easy to do and does not take much time or effort.


  1. I am a working lady but scared of this sport but at the same time i am more interested to learn how to be best in this sport

    1. It is quite normal to be scared in the beginning. But if you start riding regularly, the fear subsides. Your riding becomes by instinct and you start enjoying the ride. Going further, you would want to ride farther and faster. Being persistent is the key.

      For inspiration, follow Asma Jan cyclist on instagram ( She went from a simple housewife to an elite cyclist within a span of a few year.


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