5 Common Commuter Mistakes to Avoid

Mildred's been on the lookout for cycling offenders, are you one of them?

It always makes me happy to see lots of people cycling. Most cyclists I acknowledge and then instantly forget, but others stay with me a little longer. This is usually because something’s struck me as odd about the way they’re going about their commutes; this isn’t me judging, but hoping some of these lessons will find their way back to them.

While there isn’t a right or wrong way to cycle, there are things that can make the experience better, or worse. So here are five common things I see other cyclists doing, which just cannot be comfortable or enjoyable for them. How many are you guilty of?

Riding the wrong size bike

This bike is far too big

You wouldn’t wear shoes that are the wrong size, and it shouldn’t be any different for your bike. A badly-fitting frame makes for an uncomfortable ride, though you may not even notice it at first. But over time, you’ll feel it.

How to get the most from your bike fit

A bike that’s too big will cause you to overstretch, placing strain on your lower back. Throw on a backpack, and you’re signing up for endless back troubles. The angle between your arm and torso should be about 90 degrees. Look in the mirror or ask a friend to check.

Buying Guide: Your first bike

A bike that’s too small will feel cramped and difficult to ride. If your wrist almost touches your knees as you pedal and steer, that’s a sign that your frame’s too small. If your knee is really bent while your foot’s at the bottom of the pedal stroke (think 6 o’clock), then your saddle is too low.

Pedalling on their heels

Heel pedal vs. Ball pedal

While it’s quite comical to see people pedalling with their heels and their knees pointed outward, it’s not doing their joints any favours. If you pedal in this way, it’s also likely that you’re wasting precious energy. You may not be competing in the Tour de France, but you don’t want to wear yourself out unnecessarily on your way to work.

How to perfect your pedal stroke

Your hips, knees and ankles should all move in alignment. When you look down as you’re pedalling, there shouldn’t be any side-to-side movement. So keep your ride comfortable and efficient, and pedal with the ball of your foot.

Poorly-fitting helmets

Fit your helmet correctly

If your helmet has a visor, it should be at the front, with the adjustable wheel at the back. Yes, I’ve seen many people wearing their helmets backwards. I’ve also seen them worn on a slant, and tipped towards the back of the head. A helmet is designed to cover the most precious areas of your skull, and it can’t do that if it’s not correctly fitted.

It should sit flat on your head, with the front resting in the middle of your forehead. Tighten your helmet enough that it grips firmly, and when you wiggle it back and forth, your eyebrows move with it. When doing up the straps, tighten them so that you can still slip two fingers through under your chin, but no more than that. While you’re at it, the straps around your ears are fully adjustable to lay flat against your skin.

Riding in the wrong gear

Some people are afraid to use their gears. I see cyclists grinding along in a gear that’s way too high, heaving their whole body with each revolution. Or, they’re in too low a gear, spinning out at a ridiculous rate, and bouncing up and down on their saddle. Neither of these is making efficient use of their energy, or their bike.

How to use your gears efficiently

Learn how to shift up and down, and adjust your gear to suit the gradient you’re on. It’s just like driving a car: you wouldn’t start off in fourth gear, would you?

Riding on flat tyres

Sometimes people get a puncture and they just need to get to their destination before they deal with. Others genuinely don’t realise they need to keep their tyres inflated. Either way, riding on flat tyres won’t get you anywhere fast, and what’s worse, you’re doing damage to the rims of your wheels. If you’re running rim brakes, then these are your braking surface. You don’t need me to spell out for you how important they are!

How to find the right tyre pressure for your riding

Make a habit of carrying a spare inner tube or puncture repair kit, so that when you’ve got a puncture, you can deal with it straight away. If you forget to do this, the best thing you can do for your bike is walk it, and failing that, lock it up somewhere and return with the inner tube and tools you need.

Bikes are a fun and efficient way to get around, but if you’re doing any of these, you might be missing out. Hopefully, this will help everyone to get the most out of their bike and have more fun while they’re doing it.

You may also enjoy:

5 Must-have essentials for commuter cyclists

5 Top tips for first-time commuters

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