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UR DOING IT RONG - Mistakes Cyclists Make

9th May 2008, 08:00:05

By James Stocks

"Just a second, honey, Daddy's on his high horse."

These are the most common mistakes I see other cyclists making. Because I am an obsessive pedant, I made a list. Most of it is stuff I learned not to do the hard way.

Saddle Too Low

Remember Mr. McManus; part time burly fireman, part time sadistic bastard PE teacher? Remember how he used to make you crow walk around the assembly hall until you cried because your legs hurt so much? Maybe it was just me. Well anyway, this is what you are doing to your legs when the saddle is too low, so you will tire quickly and won't be able to use the full power of your leg muscles to pedal the bicycle.

Simple fix: Loosen the seat post clamp and raise the saddle so that it is about level with your hip bone when you stand next to the bike. Tighten the clamp again and take off your shoes. Lean against a wall, or get someone to hold the bike while you sit in the saddle. Place your heels on the pedals and back-pedal. Your heels should just be able to touch the pedal when they are at their lowest point, you will need to do a bit of fine-tuning of the saddle height to achieve this.

"But now I can't reach the ground when I sit in the saddle" you say. Good, you're not supposed to be able to. Stand on the pedals and lower yourself on and off the saddle when you need to stop.

If you are going to buy a new bike, go to a good local bike shop who will spend the time to measure you and determine the right frame size for you. If you're anywhere near Wolverhampton, I thoroughly recommend Fred Williams Cycles.

Pedaling Too Slowly or Using the Wrong Gear

Choose a gear that allows you to maintain a pedaling cadence of at least 60 RPM. About 80 RPM is considered optimal by most experienced cyclists. Check this by counting each time you press down with your dominant leg. If you are counting slower than once per second, either change down or speed up.

Pedaling slowly in a high gear is bad for your knees, since it puts pressure on the cartilage and tiring because it does not stimulate enough blood flow to your leg muscles.

Pedaling With the Heels or Insteps

Using the wrong part of your foot will probably hurt your ankles and at least prevent you from pedaling as efficiently as you can. You should use the ball of your foot (the lump where your big toe joins the rest of your foot) to pedal, allowing you to straighten the ankles a little.

Using toe-clips or clipless pedals will force you to position your feet correctly.

Using the Wrong Bicycle

Unless you are spending the majority of your time on very rough, loose surfaces, you do not need a Mountain Bike and great big knobby tyres. The majority of people would be better served by a Road, Hybrid or at most a Cyclocross bike. At least try one of these before you consider a full-suspension Mountain Bike. On the road, suspension really just serves to soak up your pedaling effort.

Using the Wrong Tyres

Knobbly tyres are designed to be used at low pressures so they will deform and grab the surface like a pair of pliers. This is precisely what you don't want on the road.

The best road tyres have no tread at all. Bicycle tyres don't need tread because bikes don't aquaplane like cars do, partly because of the U-shaped profile of the tyre, and partly because their tyres are only 20-30mm wide rather than 200mm.

A bit of trial and error is needed to find the rubber that best suits you, but I find something like a 700x28c slick to be the best compromise between speed and the ability to deal with potholes. 700c is the wheel size and 28 means 28mm wide, if you have 26" wheels, you'll need a tyre to fit that, obviously. Ask your local bike shop.

Finally, get a decent track pump with a pressure gauge. The standard frame pumps are OK in an emergency, but you'll never get enough pressure into the tyres. Halfords sell a decent one for about £20.00 and it is worth it.

Puncture Repairs

When you have a puncture it will be raining and you will already be late for work, that's just the way the world works. To properly repair an inner tube with a puncture repair patch takes at least 30 minutes, since to have a hope of the patch sticking you have to wait for the vulcanising solution to dry completely.

Much better to just carry a spare inner tube, they only cost a couple of quid. If you have quick release wheels, you can change the tube in two minutes, then repair the punctured tube in the warm and dry when you get home. Although to be honest I usually just throw the old tube away.

If you're worried about getting more than one flat on a journey, carry a 'dry' patch kit, these are patches you can stick straight on to a punctured tube without the need for vulcanising solution. If you don't have quick release wheels, carry a spanner (15mm usually) to get the wheels off!

A pair of disposable gloves are really useful if you don't want to arrive at work covered in oil, brake dust and bits of aluminium.

You're a Bit of a Self-Righteous Pedantic Git Aren't You, Stocksy?

Yes, but this is just a list of stuff I wish I'd known when I started cycling. And anyway this is my site and I can write whatever I want to :-P

2 Archived Comments

11th Dec 2009, 00:21:47 by rpriv2000
You really are a bit supercilious with it. But I think that makes you a better person than most who are not prepared to put themselves outside the box.
I value your advice. How do you feel about the use of the English language? I draw your attention to Lego using "dice" as a singular in their advert and "from whence" in any useage.
Regards, Grimald.

11th Dec 2009, 08:35:04 by stocksy
I'm not ashamed to say I had to look up the definition of <a href="">supercilous</a>.

I dislike the use of the reflexive pronoun 'myself' to mean 'me'. I dislike the use of the word 'data' in place of 'datum'. I dislike it when a speaker can't or won't differentiate between 'less' or 'fewer'. I dislike it when 'via' or 'utilising' is used in place of the more common and appropriate 'using'. I dislike greengrocer's apostrophes.

Maybe I should write an article about it.

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