By Alex Stieda
As a neo-pro in 1986, I’d already been racing for nine years as an amateur. I thought I was pretty hot stuff, going to Europe to race. Knowing that I couldn’t climb well, I made up my own strategy: Fade to the back on the ascents, then bomb the descents to get back to the front. I was having a blast until one of the old-time pros asked my teammate Bob Roll in Italian—back then most racers didn’t speak English—to tell me to settle down or I’d find myself at the bottom of a ravine. I realised that I still had a lot to learn. Here are five of the most frequent mistakes new riders make and how to correct them.
Buying The Most Expensive Gear
Fancy parts don’t make you a better rider. What matters is how well you take care of your gear—and that you actually use it. The best-looking bike has a clean chain and bar tape, but a well-worn saddle and brake hoods.
Starting Out Too Hard
It’s fun to ride fast, but it’s not fun to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Use the first third of a ride to warm up, the next third to settle into a rhythm and the final third to hammer. This strategy prevents mid-ride burnout and trains you to push hard when you’re already fatigued.
Not Refueling Enough
Eat before you get hungry and drink before you get thirsty. For rides lasting more than one hour, take some sips from your bottle every 10 minutes and eat a few small bites of food every 15 minutes. Finish one bottle and eat one energy bar per hour.
Acting Like A Know-It-All
New riders can be over confident, especially if they’ve enjoyed success in another athletic discipline. Cycling is a complicated sport, and you’ll progress faster once you realise that every ride offers an opportunity to improve. When you reach the point where you can help others, offer a single piece of advice at a time so they can focus on improving one skill before building to the next one.
Breaking The Group-Ride Rules
There’s a protocol to riding safely in a group, but new riders often don’t master the system until they get yelled at. If you’re new to pack riding, hang out at the back and watch what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.
Alex Stieda was the first North American to wear the yellow jesrey in the Tour de France, with 7-Eleven, in 1986.