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8 Cycling Mistakes Every Beginner Makes

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    You Think It's the Same as Spinning Class

    Sure, you can make plenty of mistakes on your Spinning bike too. And yes, you are on a bike in both scenarios. But hopping in the saddle in a dark, packed room is nothing like suiting up for the streets. After all, you're not going to run into traffic in your classroom, there are no nasty weather elements to face (hello, wind), and it's waayyy harder to fall over on a Spinning bike. So before you head out on the open road, make sure you acquaint yourself with new variables. "Learning how to ride in a straight line while looking behind you so you're always aware of what's around you is an important skill," says Janette Sherman, global communications manager of Liv cycling. Practice in a quiet area where there's little to no traffic before you ride on a busy street. And always, always wear a helmet.

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    You're Dressed Wrong

    Your thin leggings and strappy tank won't do you any good here, especially if you're in it for the long haul. Cycling more than 20 or 30 miles means you're likely in the saddle for over an hour, and your butt is bound to get sore. Ward it off with a well-fitted pair of bike shorts that have a chamois (the padded part of the booty). And always go commando—these shorts are designed for it, so adding an extra layer of fabric will only cause crazy amounts of chafing and un-sexy saddle sores. To be extra cautious, add a layer of chamois cream (we like Petal Power Joy Ride Creme). It's similar to runners using BodyGlide, but chamois creams don't contain petroleum jelly, as it can break down the foam in your chamois and shorten its lifespan. As for the rest of your gear, wear what's comfortable. So long as it's sweat-wicking and you're dressed appropriately for the weather—remember, you may be facing wind which will make things cooler—you should be good to go.

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    You Don't Get Professionally Fitted

    Grab your bike and get over to a professional bike shop, stat, says Emily Bremer, women's marketing manager for Trek Bikes. Getting the bike fitted to you personally will help you perfect your posture on the bike, and make sure you're not hyperextending anything while you ride. Not only will they be able to properly set your seat height—your leg should have a slight bend in the knee when at the bottom of your pedal stroke—but they'll also be able to help you find the best saddle and adjust the handlebars so you aren't too cramped or overstretched. Go into the shop prepared, though: Fittings can take at least two hours (they cover everything from a physical exam to tiny adjustments on the bike) and cost an average of $200.

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    You Don't Get a New Saddle

    Sure, the seat that comes with the bike could be great—but it could also not. If after a few rides you notice continuous discomfort (that's not attributed to getting used to riding on a bike seat, which always causes a little discomfort in the beginning), head to a bike shop to have it evaluated. Your pelvis could be rotating backward, which would cause your spine to round and your shoulders to overextend, giving you a hunched position, says Kyle Russ, biomechanical engineer for Bontrager. Consider a saddle design that relieves that pressure—usually through a cutout or contoured seat—so you can rotate the pelvis forward, keep a straight spine, and take pressure off your hands neck and shoulders.

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    You're Not Clipping In

    It's an intimidating idea for many beginning cyclists—after all, nobody wants to fall over while connected to their bike. But for most, the scariest part is all in your head. "It's a strange concept not having total control of your feet, or not being able to use them quickly if needed," says Bremer. But many work themselves up so much before they even try it, and "once you get the hang of it, you can react just as quickly as someone riding on flat pedals." Avoiding this technique really hinders your workout, as connecting your foot to the bike "allows you to pull up on the pedals, as opposed to just pushing down, making your pedal stroke more efficient and increasing your overall power," says Sherman.

    The key, she says, is practicing until it becomes almost instinctive. If you're a regular on the Spin bike, see if your studio has clipless pedals and shoes—many boutique studios, like Flywheel Sports and Swerve Fitness, now only use these pedals and rent shoes to riders for free. "To clip out, aggressively kick your heel to the outside, away from the bike, in one quick, forceful sweeping motion," she says. After you're comfortable doing it in class, move outdoors. Practice on the grass, so if you fall you're on a softer surface. Then upgrade to a small parking lot, and finally, push the pedals on the streets.

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    You're Gripping Wrong

    It's all too common for beginners to have a vice grip on their handlebars, with arms fully extended, when they first start cycling. But that's a mistake, says Sherman, as not having a slight bend in the elbow will tire your forearms out, hurt your wrists, and make it harder to maneuver the bike and absorb unexpected bumps in the road. Instead, try this progression of positions from Sherman:

    • Very beginner: Gently rest hands on the hood of the handle bars, which is the upper part of the handlebars right next to your brakes. Fingers should be loosely wrapped around brakes, so you have access to them at all times, with thumb resting on the hood.
    • Intermediate: Rest hands on the flat portion of the handlebars (the section closer to you), with thumb wrapped around the bar. Remember: Unless you have in-line brakes as well (beginner bikes usually don't), the brakes will be farther away.
    • Advanced: The ideal cycling position is when you ride in the drops, or the lowest section of the handlebars that curve outward, with your hands directly behind the brake levers. This allows you to lower your center of gravity—making you more stable. It also gives you better leverage on the brakes and makes you more aerodynamic (translation: you'll ride faster).
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    You Forgot Fuel

    This is a big no-no, as athletes in any sport need to take in calories whenever they're working out for more than an hour. Sherman says the general rule for cycling is to take in 100–200 calories per hour, depending on how much energy you're exerting (you need more if you're working harder). It's smart to pack a snack every time you head out. GUs and energy chews like CLIF Shot Bloks are great, but if they upset your stomach you could also go for easily packable protein bars, like Luna Bar (we're obsessed with the Chocolate Salted Caramel flavor), or even squeezable sauce pouches, like GoGo Squeez (have two).

    And don't forget about hydration, says Bremer. It's great to have your bike fit with two water bottle cages, and bring one with water and another with an electrolyte powder, like Skratch Labs Rescue Hydration, mixed in. "Fluids are just as, if not more, important than what you consume while riding," she says. "Drink even when you aren't thirsty—if you wait until you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated—and if you start to feel leg cramps, that's a sign you need more electrolytes or salt."

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    You Don't Know How to Fix a Flat

    No, you don't have to be a bike-parts wiz in order to ride one. In fact, most cyclists aren't. But it is important that you know how to fix a flat tire, says Sherman, especially if you're riding solo. After all, how else do you plan on getting home if something goes wrong? Check out this tutorial to brush up on your skills, and always bring your cell phone and money for a cab. Better safe than sorry!