17 problems that all cyclists can relate to
We're always hearing claims about the UK's growing love affair with pedal power, as more people turn to cycling. Whether it's to get fitter or save the planet by ditching the diesel and petrol on the way to work or even save money on fuel and public transport, cycling comes with many advantages. However, cyclists know that their passion also comes with its fair share of problems.
1) Bicycle theft
If you're cycling as part of a group or on a day bike tour, then you probably won't be leaving your bike alone for long. However, for all other moments, it's worth putting some time into considering bike security. According to BikeRegister, the national cycle database, roughly one bike is stolen every 90 seconds and most of those thefts occur around the victim's home, so think before you leave your bike unattended and unlocked at home. Even if your bike is in the shed, make sure it's locked and attached to something secure. Use a D-lock and maybe even a second lock to deter thieves.
2) Cycling club membership
Cycling is something you can enjoy alone, but many people like the experience of riding in a group. However, the problem is finding a good fit. Every cycle club will have its own culture, whether it's competitive and aggressive, supportive, friendly and welcoming or a bit of a closed house. Riding in a group can help you keep going for longer and you'll have the benefit of expertise from more experienced cyclists. A club can be the perfect place to talk all things lycra, rubber and gear-based. Decide if you want a fun, leisure experience or something goal-focused to push you and then shop around before you sign up
Too many cyclists get out on the road without good lights, meaning other road users can't see them easily, putting everyone at risk of an accident. You should always ride with powerful lights on the front and back of your bike. In winter, it's worth having those lights on day or night because daylight can fade quickly, especially on a dull day. Pick LEDs with a powerful beam to ensure you can see and be seen.
You've got a great route planned, with a few breaks along the way, but really this ride is about covering some ground and building your stamina. You may want to push yourself to the limit, but that's not going to go well without some good quality fuel. Carbohydrates are your friend, as they are a key source of energy for your body, but you need food that's portable and won't go off. Bananas are a good staple - packed with carbs and potassium, which is good for your muscles. Dried fruit and nuts are easy to fit in a pouch, but in summer it might be worth taking salted ones if you're sweating a lot. Skip the expensive sports drinks and either take water or make your own water mixed with juice or fruit infused water.
5) Winter cycling
Cycling in winter can be a real test of endurance, especially if you go into it unprepared. The biggest issue in the UK is rain. There's nothing worse than cycling in driving rain, not only because you get to your destination wet, but decreased visibility and slick roads are a serious hazard. If you wear cycle shoes, all those lovely ventilation holes will leave you with soggy feet, so invest in overshoes. Also consider some gloves and make sure they are waterproof. Add a waterproof jacket to your winter kit and make sure you've got good lights to see you through those dark days.
6) Wheels of fortune
Your wheels do the bulk of the work on your bike, but they're probably the one thing cyclists forget to check on a regular basis. The average cyclist might not realise exactly what that rattling or hum means. It could be a loose spoke nipple, which means the structural strength of your wheel is compromised. When you hit that rock or bump up the kerb too hard, your wheel might buckle slightly, without you noticing. Now you're cycling on an out of shape wheel. If this could be you, then it's time to check your bike's wheels are fit for purpose.
7) Tyres make the difference
When you want to make good progress and maintain the best performance in all seasons, then a tyre upgrade can make the difference. Good quality rubber reduces your resistance, giving a better grip for a safer, more controllable ride. You may even reduce your punctures. It's worth remembering that low rolling resistance and low weight means your tyre is more prone to punctures, so consider this before you buy. Also consider the weather and changing to wider tyres with better grip during the winter. Alternatively go for leaner, lighter tyres in the summer.
8) Cycling heavyweights
When it comes time to really take your cycling to the next level, start thinking about reducing the weight of your bike. If you want to climb a little bit faster, a light weight could help you get up the hill. Even if you've got a bit to lose, turn to your bike first as it's much easier to shed some grams there. Believe it or not, giving your bike a clean can make a difference, if you're carrying around a lot of mud. Carry only the essentials in your saddle bag – jettison old inner tubes or rusty tools. Ditch one of your water bottles for short rides. Upgrading your wheels and your fitness will help you be more aerodynamic.
9) Buying a bike helmet
Cycling helmets are primarily designed to protect your head from injuries. But with different shapes, styles and brands it becomes more than just head protection. Pick a helmet from a reputable make and then decide whether you want breathability for summer cycling or rain protection and warmth for winter months. If you want to buy one helmet for all seasons, go for one with ventilation and add a cycle cap underneath to keep the winter chill off.
10) Cycling and lower back pain
A common complaint from cyclists is lower back pain. This could be caused by several things, but there are some unifying reasons. Check your bike set up first. Rather than adopting the posture of pro cyclists, raise your handlebars higher than your saddle to avoid stressing your lower back. Look at your handlebar position, as well as your saddle height and angle. Also, check that your bike frame suits your height and build.
11) Finding the right size bike
An incorrectly sized bike could cause all manner of problems. The wrong bike will feel uncomfortable, making you reluctant to cycle as much as you'd like or take longer trips. In addition, it might cause neck pain, back pain and knee issues. Crucially, if you're not confident on your bike because it's too big you may feel unsafe on the road, putting you at risk of an accident. To find the right bike you need to know your measurements, such as your height and inside leg. This means you can measure the saddle height and pedal position, as well as the wheel size to choose a bike that's the perfect fit.
Ensure your brakes are in good working order. Slow brakes could result in an accident or serious injuries. Your brakes could be the difference between a safe trip out and a nasty accident, so pick the right ones and maintain them.
13) Selecting your bike gears
There are a wide variety of gears for bikes, which can make it seem like a bit of a mine field. Some bikes come with single gears, others offer as many as 30 or even more. Then there are the gearing systems, with chain-rings, cogs and cranks. The number of gears will make it easier to maintain a steady speed without killing yourself. Also, if you are riding on hilly or rough terrain, then it's a case of the more the better. For flat routes or cycling in town you won't need as many gears. Single gear bikes are good if you want a lightweight ride, but you'll need to be a strong cyclist and may come a cropper on a hill, so choose carefully.
14) Saddle sore
Saddle discomfort is a universal experience for cyclists, especially when starting out. Sitting on a bicycle puts pressure on parts of the body that weren't designed to support all that weight. The wrong saddle, or one that's poorly designed for the rider, could be the source of discomfort. Selecting the right saddle is down to personal preference, so it's worth trying some out. However, you also need some time with a saddle, especially leather ones, to wear it in. That means short, regular rides for a few months. Discomfort could also be caused by the wrong bike fit or a seat or handlebars at the wrong height or angle, so adjust your riding position. Otherwise, invest in padded cycling shorts to reduce discomfort.
15) Protect your eyes
Although most cyclists know about the damage sun can do to their skin, many might not be aware of the need to protect their eyes. Pro cyclists don't just wear sunglasses because they look cool and please sponsors; they also do an important job. Sunglasses block out potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Exposure to UV could cause cataracts and eye degeneration in later life, or just crows feet from squinting. Good quality sunglasses will block out 100% of the sun's harmful rays and keep you safe on the road by reducing eye strain and being dazzled by bright light.
16) Cycling in hot weather
One of the biggest challenges of cycling in the UK is the cold and the rain. However, we do get those too rare summer days when the sun beats down, enthusing cyclists who rush out to soak up the rays. But cyclists can fall victim to heatstroke, which is serious if not caught quickly.
A close-fitting helmet with little ventilation is problematic as it keeps all the heat in, increasing the risk of heatstroke. Ensure you have adequate water and sunscreen before setting off and plan in lots of pit stops to take on water. In addition, wearing the right gear clothing is key. Consider buying separate winter and summer gear, especially in the UK, when sunshine seems like such a rarity. Make sure your jersey has mesh to wick away perspiration and keep you cool in high temperatures.
17) Too old or unfit to cycle? Think again. Think E-bike
Cycling has a macho image, which means it tends to attract younger, fitter enthusiasts. In addition, some motorists are aggressive and don't think cyclists should be on the road, which puts pressure on them to speed up and power through traffic to justify their place. The only trouble is, not everyone is young, fit and strong enough to keep up the pace. Fortunately, the rise of the ebike is making cycling accessible for more people. With a little power behind them, older people or unfit riders can still enjoy the magic of cycling. E-bikes are also an eco-friendly choice with all the health benefits of a traditional bike.