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Top 14 Cycling Faux Pas to Avoid

By Andrea Champredonde

Like any other activity or community, road cycling has a set of understood rules of the road. You won’t find them printed in an official rulebook. They are insights that come with experience. The longer you’ve been in the sport, the more obvious they are.

If you are new to the sport, it’s an opportunity to learn them the easy way. As a seasoned rider, don’t be shy in politely pointing them out to new cyclists in your entourage. Someone probably took you under their wing, so pay it forward. Some are for safety reasons, others are pure cycling culture.

1. No pump or spare, food or water

Cyclists should be self-sufficient on the road. If you get a flat and you don’t have a pump or a spare, a fellow rider will probably bail you out. Lending you a pump is one thing but giving up a spare? Helping you out means they may be left with none. Don’t put other cyclists in this precarious situation, carry a patch kit and a spare tube.

You also need to carry sufficient food and water to complete the ride. Riders that bonk, meaning they run out of gas because of poor fuelling and hydration, slow down to a fraction of their normal pace or worse, suffer a more serious reaction. If a fellow cyclist comes to your rescue by giving you a gel or bar, be gracious and tell them you’ll replace it the next time you see them.

2. Littering

When you flat on your ride and change your tube, don’t leave it as trash on the side of the road. Roll it up and tuck it in your back pocket. Used inter tubes can be put to good use in many useful ways, including being patched for reuse.

Stuff the wrappers and pull tabs from consumed gel and bars into a rear pocket or tuck them under the band of your short leg or sleeve but don’t litter. A used food wrapper can be used to boot a damaged tyre to get you home. If this happens to you, you’ll be happy to have one handy.

3. Glasses under your helmet straps

Sunglasses should be the last item that goes on as you head out the door. Doing so means you wear them on the exterior of your helmet straps and not underneath them. It’s not just following pro-style, it’s for your safety. In the event of a crash, the glasses will fall away from your face. Having them on the outside also makes it easier to take them off and on as you ride.

4. Don’t text and ride

Texting and driving while controlling any vehicle is a bad idea and illegal in most places. Safety comes first and your full attention needs to be on the road. There’s plenty of time to check your phone during the coffee or water stop. If it can’t wait, let others know you are moving out of the bunch before pulling safely out of traffic and doing your stuff.

5. Threadbare shorts

Riding in a group means being in close quarters with your fellow cyclists. The rider behind you doesn’t want to see a full moon in broad daylight. You may be friends but that much detail is too much. Cycling clothing, especially shorts, has a life. If you aren’t sure of the wear factor of your shorts, ask a good friend to give you honest feedback. Don’t forget to be in the cycling position for an accurate assessment.

Group ride
Be mindful of your fellow cyclists. © Profimedia, Alamy

6. Not washing your kit

Have you ever ridden behind a smelly cyclist? It can be an eye-watering experience. Cycling clothing needs to be washed after every use. This is especially true for shorts, as undesirable bacteria develop down there around the sensitive bits. If your wardrobe is limited, don’t worry, they’ll be dry in time for your next ride. Or maybe it’s time to invest in another pair.

7. Half-wheeling the person next to you

When riding next to someone, half-wheeling, or riding half a wheel’s distance in front of them, is bad manners. Are you riding together or being passive aggressive? If you can’t keep yourself in check when riding next to others, maybe it’s best to ride on your own.

8. Spitting or blowing your nose into the wind

If you need to empty the contents of your mouth or nose, there is a safe way of doing it without putting others at risk of being an unlucky target. The best option is to signal and safely move out of the group and head to the back where no riders are behind you.

If you absolutely have to expel whatever it is and you can’t get out of your current position, raise your shoulder on the side involved (like an “I don’t know” motion), tip your head and trunk in that direction, bending a bit at the waist and aim below your armpit. This sends your gift to the universe down to the ground and not free-flying into the air towards a random victim.

9. Wearing underwear under your riding shorts

Wearing underwear under your riding shorts screams rookie to the more experienced. Cycling shorts are worn directly against the skin. It’s not gross. Everyone does it, and precisely why shorts need to be washed after every use. Wearing something underneath adds bulk and seams, which quickly causes massive irritation due to friction between you and the saddle.

10. Taking a triathlon bike to a group ride

Yes, that triathlon bike looks hot and fast but it doesn’t belong in a group ride. They are meant to go fast in a straight line with the rider in a fixed aero position but aren’t great at turning. Their shorter wheelbase means the front wheel may touch the rider’s shoe when deviating from that straight line. It’s a recipe for disaster on a group ride. Seasoned triathletes have a road bike for training, so bring it to the group ride and keep the tri bike for when training alone.

11. Riding clipless pedals for the first time in a group ride

Getting new gear is fun, especially as you progress in a sport. But don’t show up to a group ride with clipless pedals if you just got them. You are a rolling hazard until you’re proficient in their use. Practice clipping in and out on a patch of grass on your own before using them for a group ride.

12. Passing on the inside of corners

As tempting as it may seem, cyclists should never pass another rider on the inside of a corner. It is a very dangerous move, and a crash is almost always the result. Passing should always take place on the outside.

13. Not saying hello to fellow cyclists on the road

If you’re on a bike, you’re part of the cycling community. When you see another rider on the road, say hello. A nod of the helmet or a quick hand wave will do. If a rider is on the side of the road or looks in distress, check in and see if all is okay. This is not only polite but you may be in a similar position one day and will appreciate the gesture.

14. Don’t be a knuckle dragger

Men, seeing a woman riding in front of you is not your cue to pick up the pace and blow past them. Many do but sit up after thinking the job is done. But to your surprise, she caught you, returned the favour and dropped you. Yes, most men are stronger riders, but not all! Show your class and respect for female cyclists by not assuming they are automatically the weaker and slower sex.