Bicycling is a fun and effective way to get outdoors and have a good time while enjoying physical exercise. While a number of other outdoor physical activities can be punishing on beginners and part time enthusiasts, such as running, bicycling is easy to start and has a much gentler learning curve for people trying to break out of sedentary lifestyles. However, before you get on your bicycle and begin to pedal everywhere throughout your neighborhood and community, there are a few common mistakes new bicyclists make that you would do well to avoid. This article will discuss some of these common mistakes so you can skip them on your way to becoming an expert cyclist.
Perhaps the most common bicycle mistake that can easily be avoided is having your seat at the wrong height. The wrong height for a bicycle seat can be defined as any height that differs from the optimal height. The optimal height will vary from person to person, but a quick and easy way to estimate it is to sit on your bicycle and place your feet on the ground. When the saddle (this is the name for the seat of the bicycle) is at the optimal height, the tips of your shoes should barely touch the ground. Alternatively, you can sit on your bicycle and turn the pedals so both pedals are level on either side of the bike at an even height. Once you have reached this point, rest one of your feet on the leading pedal (the pedal pointing forward). The angle between your upper leg and lower leg should form a 90 degree angle. These are both easy ways to get ideas of how close your saddle height is to the optimal position for your height.
If your feet do not reach the ground via the straddling method, then this means your seat is too high and should be adjusted down to fit. However, if your feet are flat or even bent while you straddle your bicycle, it means you should raise the seat until you are on your tiptoes. Similarly, if the bend in your knee via the pedal method is less than 90 degrees, this means your seat is too low and should be raised. However, if the bend is more than 90 degrees, then the seat is probably too high and should be lowered. It is important to have the correct seat height because it will provide you with the most optimal position from which you can pedal, and will significantly reduce your risk of developing knee and joint pains when you ride long distances.
Many beginning riders deliberately adjust their seats so they sit lower than they should because they are afraid of falling and like the reassurance of being able to rest both of their feet on the ground without difficulty. However, when you ride this way, you greatly increase the chances of developing pain and strain when you ride, as the motion at such angles is very inefficient for your lower body. It is worth taking the time to properly adjust your seat so you are able to ride in good health for many miles.
Another common bicycle mistake that can easily be avoided is riding around without properly inflated tires. Riding with under inflated tires makes riding a bicycle more difficult than it has to be, and should be avoided by always making sure your tires have been inflated to the pressure recommended on the sidewall before you start your next ride.
Another common bicycle mistake that can easily be avoided is riding at night without some sort of lighting system. It is a common misconception among both experienced and beginning cyclists that the only lights you need when you are riding are those that are generated by the head lights of cars and street lights. Other cyclists think that as long as they have reflectors installed on their bicycles (and reflectors are already installed with most bicycles), people driving by will be able to see them and their safety will be assured. Unfortunately, neither of these beliefs are true, and believing in them can lead to preventable injuries and deaths. Rather than take such risks, it is a much better idea to ride with a system of lights, no matter how rudimentary it is. You can buy cheap LCD lights online or in physical stores that will provide a large amount of light for not very much money. The cost of even an expensive lighting system will be significantly cheaper than the cost of a hospital stay or a trip in an ambulance. Protect yourself with good lights and you will increase your chances of making it back home safely from your ride, even if your ride takes you out after the sun sets.