This list of rookie mistakes female road cyclists make is simply a list of seven things I did when I first started riding a road bike more than 13 years ago. I share it with you in the hope that other newbie riders might skip them. And I’m sure there are many more, but these are the seven that spring to my mind:
Grinding the gears
This seems to be a common mistake that most road riders make, and I was certainly guilty of it. It seems that when we start out, we expect it to be hard to turn over the pedals so we tend to use a gear that challenges our legs. What you actually do is fatigue your legs and make it harder to ride long distances. Over time you learn to ‘spin’ your legs more, and increase your cadence (pedal revolutions per minute), saving energy while still keeping up with the pack.
Expecting perfection from your bike
When you break it down, the gears and brakes on a bicycle are a pretty simple mechanical system and like all mechanical systems, they are not perfect. So if your gears jump occasionally, or your chain comes off, or you hear a rare clunk, you don’t need to be alarmed. Please note that I used the word ‘occasionally’. If your bike does any of these things over and over again, then you need to take it to your local bike shop to be checked out, but occasional noises are perfectly normal. In fact, you’re probably the one that caused the problem with a rough gear change.
Getting chain grease on your leg
When I first started riding a road bike I regularly got a greasy chainring mark on my right leg from pressing against the chainrings on my bike. I’m not sure how I did it, but it must have been from leaning against it while I was standing over the bike. It certainly didn’t happen while I was riding the bike. Over time I broke the habit, but you could skip this one altogether if you’re aware of it.
Not embracing lycra
Like many newbie cyclists, I was reluctant to show the world my curves in such tight-fitting garments. I remember being horrified when someone told me you didn’t wear undies under your cycling knicks. My first jersey was an oversized freebie and I felt it covered me well. The knicks were three-quarter length cheapies, and I loved that they covered my knees, but the rest of them was pretty ordinary.
Buying cheap gear
I started riding with a second-hand helmet and plenty of cheap gear like gloves and glasses. The old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true when it comes to cycling gear. I should have valued my head more, and bought myself a new helmet from day one. Thankfully that blue hand-me-down never got put to the test. You don’t have to go out and buy heaps of expensive gear, but buy a small number of quality items, and you’ll have them for years.
This is one of my favourites. You are much better than you think you are. I was lucky that I had a fantastic mentor (my partner Phil) who convinced me that I could ride a bike much further than I thought I could. Within the first six months of riding, I completed the Spring Cycle (55 km), the Gong Ride (a hilly 60 km), and the JDRF ride (a very hilly 80 km). So don’t be afraid to test yourself, and sign up for a few organised rides that will push you along.
Thinking you know how to ride a road bike
When I started riding I thought I knew how to ride a road bike. What I did know was how to balance on a bike and propel it forward but I knew nothing about how to change gears, brake effectively, corner, descend, climb and more. That shouldn’t stop you from getting on a bike and giving it a go, but be ready to learn much, much more about skills.