Whether you’re new to the sport of cycling or are a seasoned veteran, bad habits on and off the bike can minimize your fitness gains, cause unnecessary injuries and make it hard to stay motivated.
Below are seven things cyclists often do but shouldn’t and tips on how to make the necessary changes stick:
Riding Without Pumping up Your Tires
Most road bike tubes lose between 5–10 psi per day. Tubular and tubeless tires can lose even more. To avoid unnecessary flats and improve your comfort and efficiency on the road, always check your tire pressure before a ride. Most road tire manufacturers recommend a psi between 80–135. (The max psi is usually printed on the tire’s sidewall.) Experiment with tire pressures in this range depending on your style of riding and road surface. Once you find what works for your specific tire/rim combination, make it a habit to air up to this number before each ride no matter the distance.
Neglecting to Clean Your Chain
At least once per month, clean your bike chain with a degreaser and re-apply chain lube, which helps increase the longevity of your parts and keeps your drivetrain working smoothly. During the winter months or following any wet-weather rides, you may need to clean your drivetrain more often. Squeaking or other noises coming from your chain may indicate the need for additional chain lube.
If you’re looking for more tips on cleaning your bike after a ride in the rain, this advice should do the trick in 10 minutes or less.
Taking a Post-Ride Nap Before Stretching
Squeezing in a nap after a tough workout is usually a good idea — just don’t forget to stretch or foam roll first, which helps you recover more quickly, prevents injury and improves your flexibility. While it might not always be practical to go through a full-blown stretching routine after a short morning commute or quick lunch-time ride, you’ll see the biggest gains if you get into the habit of stretching immediately after you get off the bike instead of pre-ride when your muscles are cold.
Here are a few stretches that can help with common problem areas for cyclists.
Only Riding the Same Route
Riding the same route and doing the same workout repeatedly can lead to a plateau in your fitness and cycling burnout. One of the best ways to stay mentally fresh on the bike is to try a new route once per month. In addition to keeping your training interesting, it forces you to explore new areas, ride on a variety of terrain and find better training routes you might not otherwise discover. Planning a trip and driving to a new, challenging route on the weekend is also highly recommended if you need to shake up your routine.
To find popular cycling routes in your area, use the MapMyRide search feature.
Skipping Interval Sessions
One long ride and a few morning commutes to work each week are good routines to get into. But to increase your speed and endurance on the bike, include interval sessions in your weekly training regimen. Interval training can help you avoid the Zone 3 syndrome — otherwise known as the training zone where performance gains will be marginal and can often happen when you head out for a ride without a real pacing plan in mind.
Intervals also make for efficient training sessions and can usually be completed in less than an hour and on an indoor trainer, which makes it convenient and ideal when your time to train might be limited. Here are a few quick cycling workouts you should do once or twice a week to help you get in shape on those late days at the office when you’ve only got about half an hour to train.
Always Riding Solo
Riding by yourself can be a great way to relax your mind and escape for a few hours of bliss on the bike. But there are benefits to group riding, too. Riding with others pushes you to ride harder than you might normally ride alone and can help to keep you from getting bored. If you don’t have a training partner or two, try joining a local cycling club. Participating in a weekly group ride can be a great way to meet people, build camaraderie with others who participate in the sport, and help you learn new routes.
More experienced cyclists at local cycling clubs can also teach you basic cycling etiquette, help you practice your bike-handling skills, learn how to draft more efficiently and become more comfortable riding in close proximity to others — a necessary skill if you plan to participate in a local century or Gran Fondo. Here are a few tips for basic group ride etiquette along with this guide for how to use hand signals when cycling with others. To mix things up and develop new skills, aim to ride with at least two other cyclists 1–2 times per week.
Not Having Something to Look Forward To
Training without a real goal in mind can make it tough to stay motivated. Whether it’s a short ride just for fun or a long-distance race to test your fitness, signing up for a cycling event can provide a purpose for all the training time you’ve put in and help motivate you to get on the bike day after day. Finisher’s medals, T-shirts, photos and a memorable experience riding an epic course are a few of the other perks you’ll receive for a hard day in the saddle.
If you’re looking for one or two bucket-list rides to try this year, check out these events.