10 Bad Cycling Habits (And How To Break Them)

Cyclists riding in a group on the road
Guilty of any of these?

No matter our level or experience, there are certain habits that we get into as cyclists that can be detrimental to either our own performance or our fellow road users, cyclists and otherwise. The question is, what are these habits and how do we break them? Let's take a look at some of the most common trends and what you can do to stop yourself from slipping into them.

Using gears incorrectly when climbing

Cyclist in Richmond Park london
Shift down as you head into the start of the climb (Credit: Dan Hughes)

Going into a climb either over or under geared is a common habit. If you’re pushing too hard a ratio, you will find your progress very slow for a lot of effort, which may lead to joint pains. By contrast, if you are too low, you risk spinning out and unnecessarily wasting energy. To combat this, gear down in anticipation of the climb, but not by too much. Listen to your body and find a consistent and comfortable rhythm.

Never not leg day

Cycling is great but if you stick to the one form of exercise alone, don’t be surprised when you hit a performance ceiling. Riding your bike is a great cardiovascular sport, but it’s not an all-round activity, i.e. it only uses your core and lower body muscles to their maximum. As a result, the non-cycling muscles in the upper body may become weak and more prone to strain if neglected. Factoring in gym work, other sports and stretches into your training plan will look after your whole body and may well make you a quicker cyclist.


Bobbing refers to when a rider bounces up and down in the saddle when climbing. This is a total waste of energy and is usually a result of riding at too low a cadence. A combination of the two previous tips will help with this, getting the gearing right and optimising core stability.

Wrong saddle height

Professional bike fit cycling
A professional bike fit will help you dial in your position (Credit: Sigma Sports)

If your seatpost is too high, it may lead to increased saddle pressure, saddle sores and muscle tightness. Too low and you will experience knee pain and a reduction in power output. You can find the right height at home by propping yourself up against a wall and adjusting the seatpost until your knee is at a 145-degree angle on the downstroke. If you are at all unsure, ask your local bike shop for help, or better still, get a professional bike fit.  

Riding with your knees out

If you are unstable on the saddle or have loose pedals and cleats, you may begin to ride with your knees pointed slightly out. Not a good look. A proper bike fit will sort these issues out. Not only that, but it will iron out any unhelpful habits you may have in regard to ride style and form.

Avoiding hills

Which way round the hills?

Riding on the flat too much and avoiding those lumpy bits on your route is often the habit of a first-time cyclist. Of course, it’s best not to drop yourself in the deep end and attempt one of the UK’s 5 Hardest Climbs on your first ride, but ultimately, including climbs in your rides will make you a better cyclist and improve your recovery times and power output. Start with short and shallow hills, and slowly make your way up the climbing ladder until riding uphill is something to look forward to.

Forgetting to fuel

We've all been there

Not eating correctly while on and off the bike is a habit that has adverse effects on your performance. Fuelling is a key part of recovery, so if you don’t factor this into your routine, your energy levels will seriously plunge. Keep in mind that branded energy products don’t work for everyone so if you find they give you an upset stomach it’s best to steer clear. Experiment with what works for you and set yourself a nutrition plan if you find yourself susceptible to this habit.

Not maintaining your gear

Keep your bike and equipment in good shape with regular maintenance

Not maintaining your bike is a potentially costly habit. A bike that is not properly cared for will eventually give out, leading to expensive service charges and component replacements. A pre-ride check is a good habit to get into: lube the chain, check the quick releases and pump up the tyres. Then give it a thorough clean either at the end of each ride or at the weekend. You can also familiarise yourself with our 8 Maintenance Tips Every Cyclist Should Know or take the bike into your local bike shop for a seasonal service.

Too much too soon

Cycling is a great sport that anyone can get into but doing too much too soon can lead to fatigue and injuries. Your body needs time to recover after big efforts and even the most experienced athletes are prone to overtraining. To curb fatigue, you could either simply factor in a rest day or go out for an easier, shorter day in the saddle.

Breaking the law

Make sure you know the rules of the road

Whether intentional or otherwise, breaking traffic laws can be dangerous and tarnishes the image of all cyclists. Habits like riding through red lights are particularly widespread and tend to really rile up other road users. It’s not worth angering someone sitting inside an engine-powered metal box and riding recklessly can land you in serious trouble. You can learn the cycling-specific rules of the road from other cyclists on club rides, but it’s also well worth refreshing your knowledge of the highway code, especially if you’re a commuter at times of the day when the roads are busiest.

An eleventh bad habit could be not having cycling insurance, but thankfully it’s another that’s easy to break. Pedalsure can insure all of your bikes and accessories and cover them even in your home. The fact is, you won’t find many of the things we cover in your typical home insurance policies. Taking out a policy with us means that your bike is protected in cases of bike theft and damage. Pedalsure can also protect you, your bike and your accessories in mass participation events and races, in cases of personal injury, personal liability and when you are travelling abroad. Getting yourself set up with a Pedalsure policy is something you only have to do once a year, but you benefit from on every ride.


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