Avoid Common Cycling Mistakes!

We all make mistakes.  Getting your high school girlfriend’s name tatooed on your chest.  Buying 1,000 shares of Facebook IPO stock at the opening price. Eating a handful of Habanero chilis on a bet.  Skiing naked. Yes, we all make mistakes; it’s part of being human and our lives are full of opportunities to experience an “Epic Fail.”  Learning from our mistakes is also part of the human condition.  For most of us, we make a mistake once (maybe twice), suffer the consequences, undertake a process of reflection and analysis, identify what we did incorrectly, and (hopefully) use that knowledge to prevent us from making the same mistake in the future.

Cycling is full of opportunities to make both simple and catastrophic mistakes.  Think of every ride as a sequence of cascading right/wrong decisions you must make in order to make it back to your driveway in one piece — the greater number of correct decisions you make, the more enjoyable (and successful) your ride will be.  But, rather than focus on trying not to make mistakes, use every ride as a learning opportunity.  Experiment. Ride your regular training loop backwards. Do your entire Saturday ride in the small chainring.  If you see a cyclist on the side of the road with flat tire, stop and offer help. Consume only one bar or gel instead of two (or three).  Fill your water bottles with water only — no energy drink.  These are all examples of learning opportunities.

We only have so much time to ride. Family, work, and personal commitments take up most of our time leaving just a few hours each week to get out and ride.  So, why waste your precious time repeating the mistakes of other cyclists?  That’s why is here — to help you avoid the most common, time-consuming, and potentially life-threatening mistakes cyclists make — so you can spend your time doing what you most enjoy: riding!

So, follow along as we reveal the 10 most common mistakes made by cyclists of all ages and experience levels.  Here are the first three:

1. Riding without wearing a helmet

Two decades ago, this was cool.  Now, not so much.  Thanks to advances in technology, today’s bicycle helmet is lighter, stronger, more aerodynamic, and much better looking than the helmets of yesteryear.  The UCI — the world’s bicycle racing governing body — now requires all competitors to wear helmets while on the bike — even when cruising around the course or start/finish area.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 91% of cyclists killed in 2009 were not wearing helmets.  Recent studies also reveal that helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85%.  Hmmm.  Imagine that?  So, don’t make this mistake.  Do yourself, your family, and your fellow cyclists a favor: wear a helmet every time you get on the bike.  The last thing we need (or want) to hear is something in the news about a cyclist being killed because he/she wasn’t wearing a helmet.  That is some bad news we can do without.

2. Breaking traffic laws

We’ve all rolled through the empty four-way intersection.  ‘No cop, no stop,’ right?  Hopefully, that only happens once in awhile (no judgement here, just sayin’).  As a cyclist, it is important to know and abide by traffic laws. Don’t ride on the sidewalk. Don’t ride through red lights. Ride with the flow of traffic. Ride as close to curb as is reasonable and safe (not in the gutter!). Think of yourself a vehicle and act accordingly. Set a good example for other cyclists. We are all judged by non-cyclists based on the actions of a single bicycle rider.  So, be a good two-wheeled ambassador for the rest of us and we’ll try to do the same.

3. Ignoring the limits of your fitness, skills, and experience

Testosterone.  Oi!  If there is one chemical (other than EPO) that has made an indelible mark on the cycling experience for pros and amateurs alike, it is the male hormone, testosterone, or “T” in its abbreviated form.  It is a mind-altering drug that has the ability to transform a meek, unsure, wobbly newbie into an overconfident corner-carving, downhill-blasting, riding-with-no-hands-on-the-handlebars-in-the-middle-of-the-highway goober.  A really good rule to follow, whether you are on the road or on the trail, is “When in doubt, be careful.”  There is nothing wrong with dismounting and walking down a steep rock face that you have never ridden (or never cleaned).  There is nothing wrong with opting for the route home that only has one mountain pass to climb, rather than four.  There is nothing wrong with turning around halfway through a ride because it has started to rain.  Be cautious in your cycling endeavors and over time you will gain the fitness, skills, and experience needed to ride one-legged in a single gear, climbing over two snow-covered mountain passes while fighting a 35 mph crosswind, the last 55 miles of your 100 mile ride.  Do you think Yoda ascended to the level of Jedi Master by taking unnecessary risks?  No way, young padawan.

In our next “Avoid Common Cycling Mistakes” installment, we’ll explore the next three most common mistakes cyclists make:

4. Trying a new drink/gel/bar during a long ride or race

5. Leaving your cell phone at home

6. Riding at night or in the rain


About The Author


Aaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita Regional Amateur Team.  A 25-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.

Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work.  He has even won a bike race or two.

Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at:


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