We All Have To Start Somewhere – And We All Made These Mistakes

Even our seasoned cycling experts started out - some further back in the day than they want to admit - and made many a mistake.

By Page Triola |

Making mistakes is part of learning anything new, and riding bikes for fun and fitness is no exception. One of the unexpected outcomes of the pandemic has been a massive revival of interest in cycling—we’re seeing a whole lot more people outside on bikes, and that’s something to celebrate. While some have returned to the hobby with renewed enthusiasm, others are diving into the wonderful world of bikes for the first time.

Trying new things always comes with the risk of making “rookie mistakes.” Maybe you spent your first few outings wearing your helmet incorrectly; maybe you went beyond your abilities and had a very awkward, very public wipeout; maybe you went for a long ride while wearing running shorts and got terrible chafing. The fact is, every beginner makes blunders—it’s just part of the journey.

READ MORE 9 Beginner Mistakes You Don’t Need to Make

To show support for all of the new cyclists out on the roads and trails, we asked our followers on Instagram and Facebook to reach back into the vault and share some of their most embarrassing beginner moments. Seasoned riders can laugh in solidarity, and as for the newbies? Rest assured that whatever mistake you’ve made or will make, you’re not the only one. Keep riding! It just gets better from here.

Mistake 1: The Wrong Gear

“I tried to fake it until I made it, esp when talking about technical aspects of riding/gear, but I kind of wish I just owned not knowing everything. It’s okay to not know everything! (No one does.)”— molritt

“My embarrassing moment was discussing which tires I had on my bike in a LBS where the staff was obviously judging the idiot (me) & I had no idea what tubular vs clincher meant. I found them so unhelpful and judgmental that I never returned. I then educated myself and made sure not to criticise newbies who just want to learn. Talking bikes is hard…a lot to learn.”— justjoshinyu

“I started mountain biking in high school. I showed up to the first meeting with a polo shirt, probably jeans, and a kickstand. My derailleur hanger snapped, and I was overall a total failure. It was super fun.”—Ben White

“Mortified when I was riding in a group one day and a man rode up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, I’m not trying to be creepy, but rule number one: You don’t wear underwear under your bib shorts.” I was so embarrassed and didn’t know that is what you do.”— auddster

Mistake 2: Doing Too Much, Too Soon

“I was out riding for the first time after purchasing my road bike (as quite the novice) when I got to a hill and realised I had no idea how to shift gears. I had to get off and look it up on YouTube.”— apope92

“Thinking I could jump a curb without any prior experience of doing so, while approaching it parallel, and crashing horrifically.”—jgcoulon

“Trying out mountain biking for the first time ever at Trestle in Winter Park, Colorado. First time ever at elevation and first time ever in Colorado for this woman born and bred in the Southeast. ‘It’s an easy trail, you can totally do it!’ Uh huh, sure. I wiped out within sight of the chair lift. Kept wiping out for the rest of the day. Still married the guy I was with two days later.”—Liz Goodman

Mistake 3: Group Ride Fail

“Went on a group ride, and a guy riding next to me looked over at my bike and said, ‘Nice hubs,’ to which I responded very confused by asking if he was flirting with me. He stared blankly, then shook his head and rode away. Googled what hubs were later and felt like a total moron.”—dianna_cameron

“First club rides, one of the sweepers helped me up a climb putting his hand on my back and pushing me. When we got to the top the rest of the group was applauding, him. I kept going back for rides though. I’m grateful for his support when I first started out.”—alexscottfelmeister

“I showed up to an ‘All Levels Welcome’ women’s group ride that I’d seen on Facebook or something, on a gravel bike in lace-up Vans, shorts, and a T-shirt. All the other women were on sleek skinny-tired road bikes, with clipless pedals, white cycling shoes, and stylish kits. Riding up, my mistake was obvious, and I tried to tell them it was a mistake and run away. They insisted I ride with them, that it was social paced and would be fine. They were so nice, and it was a social pace, but I was so embarrassed and wanted to crawl under a rock the whole time—totally stuck out like a sore thumb. We had ice cream at the end of the ride, and—I didn’t die. From that point on, I made sure to find actual beginners groups and also went to a group riding clinic. Things are much better these days! I have road bikes and clip in and just let people know right away what level rider I am.”— emmellebee13

“I pulled up in front of my garage, forgot to unclip, and promptly fell over. A construction crew was framing a house across the street. After I hit the ground, there was a minute of silence, followed by ‘Way to go, Lance…’” — jusduane

“I learned the hard way you shouldn’t walk down stairs with your cycling cleats on.”— katie_fogel

“Was wearing wired earbuds looped under my jersey out the bottom and looped into the back jersey pocket. Tried to mount the bike, that loop caught the underside of the saddle and I couldn’t make it up, just fell straight over in front of about 100 people walking to work. One of many reasons I don’t wear any headphones when I ride!” —matthew_earl

“It was 1982 and I had saved up  for a racing bike. I went to a bike shop and was test riding a Bianchi, and before I left the shop the owner said, ‘Watch out for cars, because they don’t pay attention to cyclists.’ Well, I was riding back to the shop and decided to do a sprint…when all of the sudden a car pulled out in front of me. I fell hard. I tore the handlebars and seat and bent the front rim. I was bloody and had to walk the bike back; I felt so bad that I gave the bike shop a tip for wrecking the bike. It took me about a month before I would test ride another bike. I was 13 at the time, and when I finally got a ‘real racing bike,” I was FREE. Spent many hours riding around the mountains in my hometown in Colorado.”— colorado_sjoberg

“Going out with a newbie mountain biker and trying to do a rear wheel skid at a water stop to show off, only to pull the front brake lever and go over the bars. I was just getting started in the sport as well.”— peron8900

“On the NYC 40 mile Five Boro Bike Tour, came to one of the rare stops where they let traffic through, on the left side pulled up to a drain cover and didn’t unclip all away. I proceeded to fall over and knocked over everybody in the line of bicycles.”— croteaurandy

“Definitely falling over at a busy stoplight when using clipless pedals for one of the first times, even after practicing in a hallway with them. It was all in slow motion: coming to a stop, trying to release my foot, panicking, trying to release my foot, tipping over helpless and—boom—hitting the ground.”—Ali Carr

“I was riding with a friend who was newer to the sport than me (which isn’t saying much) and feeling proud of myself for showing him a new trail and for once not feeling like the total beginner. Right at the start of the trail, I got my rear wheel wedged between two rocks, fell over the handlebars, smashed my elbow and hip, and gave myself a concussion. He had to walk my bike out of the forest and I felt like the biggest klutz on the planet.”— Ali Wines

“Early on in my mountain biking journey, I went on a date with a guy I’d met on the trails – naturally we went mountain biking together. He had been riding for years and years, I was still within my first two weeks. We were riding down the fire road that I was comfortable on when he took off down some singletrack. Even though I knew the singletrack would reconnect with the fire road, I followed him. At first it was fine, but then we came up to a short, narrow footbridge over a creek bed, probably a 4 foot drop. There was a rider coming up the other way who stopped to let me cross. So in front of this guy I was trying to impress, and a random stranger, I rode out onto the bridge and promptly nose dived into the creek.”—Megan Brake

“Stopped at a stoplight on day one of riding clipless, forgot to clip out and fell over so I was leaning against the drivers side window of a car stopped at the light. Had to frantically wave for them to not start driving when the light turned green while I waited for my friend to pedal back and get me upright again.” —Sholeh Mirzai

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