1. Not Using the Gears
Your bike may have twenty gears or more – but those won’t do you any good if you don’t use them. Besides looking bad, poor gear use can place heavy stress on your muscles and put your joints at risk for injury.
2. Letting Yourself Overheat
Especially if it’s warm out, stave off the heat by wetting your clothes in key areas, such as the neck, armpits, and backs of the knees, to cool you off – just be careful not to get too cold by doing this before a downhill stretch.
3. Forgetting to Hydrate
Even light dehydration can handicap a rider by up to ten or twenty percent, and puts you at much higher risk for injury. You will be sweating no matter how cold it is, so be vigilant and drink often.
4. Going Too Hard Right Away
It takes time for your heart rate to raise to the optimum level and for your muscles to warm up, and not allowing your body to acclimate can lead to muscle weariness in even the most well-trained athletes.
5. Poor Pedaling Technique
Pedaling isn’t just about how hard you can slam your foot down – the best pedaling puts power in to the gears on all 360° of the movement. Use a mirror or video camera to monitor your feet, and strive toward a smooth, circular motion.
6. Matching Other People’s Pace
Even if someone else is going a certain speed, it might not be the right pace to take. Stay with your personal pace and ride in your zone, or risk burning out or injuring yourself.
7. Neglecting Injuries
If your body is sending you pain signals, listen to it or risk permanent damage. Stop what you are doing, rest for more time than you think is necessary, and start back out slowly.
8. Taking the Inside Bend
When going uphill, your first instinct can be to take the shorter route on the inside of the curve. This is the point with the steepest grade, and you can save your stamina by swinging around on the outside, where the grade is more forgiving.
9. Poor Positioning
When taking curves, especially downhill, learn your lines and make sure you are positioned so that you can see oncoming traffic. You can get all the speed you want, but if you get hit by a car, your time won’t be worth much.
If you are riding with a team, make sure to take your turn in the front. If you are the person consistently riding in the easy spots, be prepared to be asked to help out or get out.