We all do stupid things. We all make mistakes. It’s human nature.
How about opening that well-shaken two-liter bottle of root beer while standing in the middle of your carpeted living room? Remember having to go to the bathroom so badly that you were forced to use the Chili Festival’s single porta-potty only to discover there was no toilet paper left… anywhere? What about that time you asked the woman in the grocery store when she was due and she pointedly told you she was not pregnant?
The memories. The embarrassment. The shame.
Fortunately, when it comes to cycling, you have Better-Biking.com. We feel it is our duty to help you become a cyclist who avoids mistakes — like a little voice in your head that says “Don’t open that bottle here!” “Use the bathroom at the gas station across the street!” and “Keep your mouth shut, she could be overweight!”
Over the collective decades that we have been riding bicycles, we, the pundits at Better-Biking.com, have made countless mistakes and done lots of stupid things. However, from that vast catalog of flawlessly-executed ineptitudes, we have learned a few things — little bits of wisdom that we are eager to pass on to you, our bicycling brothers and sisters.
A disclaimer: if you are looking for life-saving, catastrophe-averting tips, tricks, and techniques, this article is not for you. We heartily recognize that a heaping dose of stupidity can get you seriously injured or killed while bicycling. If ‘heaping dose of stupidity’ describes your riding technique (Editor’s note: don’t ask yourself to evaluate this statement, ask your riding buddies and they will tell you the truth), then we have another series of articles you should read. This article is about some of the relatively insignificant things we have learned that, if unheeded, can turn a pleasant ride into a brutal slog.
Here are our top five Stupid Things and their corresponding remedies:
Number One – Not carrying an extra inner tube.
Why? Here’s a formula for turning a 45 minute ride into a three hour death march: Get a flat in the middle of nowhere + It’s starting to rain + Tube of dried-up glue in your patch kit + No extra tube = Argh! Yeah, we’ve been there.
The Remedy — Carry a spare inner tube (rolled tightly in your jersey pocket).
Number Two – Forgetting to lube your chain before a long ride.
Nothing makes a cyclist happier than listening to a dry chain squeak and chirp like you’re being followed by an army of rusty chainmail-clad mice over the last 46 miles of a 50 mile ride. This is fun – just like water boarding — right?
The Remedy — Lube your chain the night before a big ride. Applying the chain lube the night before allows the product to thoroughly coat the chain links and dry (or set) before you ride so that your get longer, gunk-free, noiseless performance.
Number Three – Consuming a new gel, bar, or drink before starting a long ride or race.
Today’s specially-formulated energy products contain everything and anything. Want high protein? Need gluten-free? Prefer extra electrolytes? No problem. There’s a gel, bar, or drink for every athlete. The challenge with having all these choices is figuring out what works best for you. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is try them all — one gel, one bar, one drink at a time. This means slurping, munching, and guzzling your way through a gastrointestinal minefield of concoctions with ingredient lists that cover half the wrapper. The last thing you want to do is consume a new item before an important training ride or race. The possibility of gastrointestinal rebellion against the new substance greatly increases when your body is performing at its top levels. So, don’t do it!
The Remedy – Use what you know works for your body during competitions and extended training rides.
Number Four – Wearing too much clothing.
The nice thing about riding a bicycle is that when you work hard at it, your body produces heat. It can be quite a pleasant sensation — unless that heat is trapped against your body by six layers of clothing. Then, you become a rolling greenhouse. That is not a pleasant sensation.
The Remedy – Unless it is freezing outside (in which case you probably shouldn’t ride outside anyway…), go with a standard, three-layer set-up: undershirt, jersey, and vest/jacket.
Number Five – Wearing headphones and listening to very loud music when you ride.
Oh. My. God! Here at Better-Biking.com this is one our biggest pet peeves. Imagine you are on the road or trail and you politely roll up on another cyclist from behind. You call out a greeting, or a request to pass, and they continue riding along as if they did not hear you. You call out again, louder this time. The cyclist makes no acknowledgement of your presence. Now you are annoyed. Doggedly clinging to your proper road/trail etiquette, you call out again, louder still. No response. Now the horns come out. You pull up along side the cyclist and notice wires hanging down from their head and white blobs of plastic inserted in their ears. You wave as you go by and purposefully make a motion with your right hand of reaching up to your ear and pulling something out of it (like your pea-sized brain!). When you ride, all five senses need to be active. By wearing earphones in both ears and listening to loud music, you are taking away one of the most useful, danger-detecting sensory devices we have — our ears!
The Remedy – If you enjoy listening to music and must do so while riding, considering wearing an earphone in one ear only. Leave the left ear open so you can hear cars, motorcycles, cyclists, and enraged grizzly bears approaching from behind.
Only five Stupid Things? Really? We have a list of nearly 50 little mistakes cyclists tend to make, but we did not want to turn this article into a flaming rant against our bicycling brothers and sisters. Honorable mentions that did not make it into the top five include: riding with no hands on the handlebars, wearing garments that have not been designed for use while cycling, holding your pee until you get to the top of the hill, overlapping wheels when riding in a group, pinning your race numbers on your jersey incorrectly, buying unthreaded CO2 cartridges, riding without sunglasses, not removing a chain grease ‘tatoo’ from your calf as soon as you notice it’s there, and… Well, you get the picture.
About The Author
Aaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita-US VETS Regional Amateur Team. A 27-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 been on the race podium a few times.
Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com
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