You may have learned to ride a bike when you were a kid, but you could be due for an update. Thanks to modern equipment and advances in technique, cycling is more effective at getting you fit than ever—if you do it right. We asked the pros for their top cycling no-nos, from form to training to gear. Read on for the dos and don’ts you should follow the next time you’re on two wheels.
- Shift smart. “On either a road or mountain bike, don't shift when you are standing on the pedals, or pedaling under a heavy load,” says Peter Southam, USAcycling level III certified cycling coach. “This is the most frequent cause of broken chains. Instead, look ahead and shift before you find yourself in too high a gear.”
- Go with the flow. “One of the worst cycling mistakes someone can make when riding on the road is going against traffic,” says Gina Kenny, a League of American Bicyclists (LAB) certified instructor. In fact, riding on the wrong side of the street is the most common cause of a collision with a car, according to LAB statistics.
- Gear up. “Keeping your bike in too low of a gear during long rides will tire you out faster, because your legs have to work harder,” says Jennifer Purdie, a personal trainer and triathlete in San Diego, Calif. “Let your bike work for you by keeping it in a higher gear with a higher cadence. Your muscles won't have to work as hard, and it will keep your brain firing, your endurance up, and your entire body focused because of the constant turnover.”
- Lean back. “When it comes to mountain biking, one of the most common mistakes is for a cyclist to not have their weight back and off the seat when they are going down a steep downhill,” Kenny says. Hit one bump, and you could fly over the handlebars (called an “endo,” in cycling speak).
- Think 360. If you focus only the down stroke as you pedal, you miss the opportunity to get additional power out of each stroke, Purdie says. “Think of each stroke as if you were pedaling through peanut butter, and you must use your leg to power you through the entire rotation—down, back, up and around.”
- Use your head. “The worst mistake any rider can make is not wearing a helmet,” Kenny says. According to LAB statistics, 85 percent of cycling fatalities are head injuries.