5 Common Mistakes That New Cyclists Make

5 Common Mistakes That New Cyclists Make

Are you new to cycling?  Check out this guest post by Kingston Wall, a Snoqualmie Ridge resident, an AVID cyclist!

Bike riding changed my life! In 1997, my mother gave me a bicycle for Christmas. At the time, I was so overweight and out of shape that if I exercised at all, I usually injured myself to the point where I couldn’t exercise again for weeks. I couldn’t even walk up five stairs to my apartment without acute pain in my knees.

Since I had the bike, I began commuting to work five miles one-way, staying in first gear the entire ride. That was my starting point.  That inauspicious beginning developed into commuting to work 16 miles one way in 2000,  I also rode over 3,000 miles in 2002 which included participating in the Seattle to Portland (STP) ride (200 miles).  I also completed the STP in 2003. For many people, these numbers are underwhelming, but for me, they were the beginning of a new lease on life.

If you happen to be considering using bicycling to gain a new lease on life, what I can offer is a list of some of the more significant mistakes I’ve made over the years!  Hopefully, you can go directly to more pleasurable riding and skip some of the rough spots.

Mistake #1 – Failing to get professionally fit to the bike
In my defense, I didn’t know it was possible to get “fit” to one’s bike when I first started; nevertheless, I nearly ruined my knees in just a few short months. Just about any bicycle shop will have someone qualified to fit you to your bike (seat height and position, stem length, and bike size, etc), and for a fee of probably $50 or less, you can ensure that your riding doesn’t actually injure your body slowly and degeneratively.

Mistake #2 – Commuting by bicycle wearing street shoes and using normal bike pedals
It’s probable that the large majority of people ride their bikes with normal flat pedals while wearing normal street shoes. My mistake was commuting by bicycle in traffic with “normal” shoes and pedals. I discovered while flying downhill in the rain, with cars streaming by mere inches away, that having my shoe slip off the pedal could be potentially fatal.  In my case, I was able to walk away with just some scrapes, bruises, and some nightmares.

Mistake #3 – Using toe straps on my pedals
I learned that toe straps will keep my foot from slipping off the pedal, but I also learned that squeezing the ball of my foot with a tightly cinched strap can actually cause damage to both the bones and the circulation in my feet.  I had to deal with foot pain quite a lot before I finally learned to ride with clip-less pedals and real bike shoes, which incidentally, raised my top speed from 15 mph to just over 20 mph.

Mistake #4 – Jumping the light at intersections
I must be a slow learner, because the very fact that the word “intersections” is plural, means I didn’t learn my lesson the first time I nearly became road kill.  I would, for reasons too embarrassing to admit here, sometimes jump out into an “empty” intersection before the light changed. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Because after committing to crossing the intersection, I met cars, trucks, even buses trying to beat that yellow light at the last minute. Don’t do that!

Mistake #5 – Failing to know and keep all traffic laws
Did you know that in King County, bicyclists are required by law to ride only on the far right hand shoulder of the road, and not on the sidewalks?   I didn’t know that when I first began commuting, and I rode on the sidewalks. This left me vulnerable to injury by vehicles turning off the road, pedestrians who couldn’t see behind them, and people walking their dogs on or off leash.

Other mistakes I’ve made include finishing a training ride in an ice storm, and attempting to catch up with a car so that I could yell at an aggressive driver! I am hoping that by offering up tales of my mistakes, you will be able to enjoy more pleasurable riding without accidents and bodily injury.

Happy riding!

Are you an avid cyclist?  If you have some comments or tips you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you!

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