Most common noob mistakes

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a woman starting her bike ride who was making an obvious mistake. That got me wondering — what are the most common mistakes we see new bikers make, time after time? I asked, and Bike Noob readers responded. The results are in!

I guess I’m not surprised by the outcome, although some mistakes I thought were very common didn’t even get a mention by the survey respondents. Anyway, here are the top five most common newbie mistakes, according to the readers of Bike Noob:

1. Inadequate hydration. This got more mentions than any other item. Apparently, we have all had experiences with the bonk.

2. Inadequate food. Could go hand-in-hand with hydration, but it got fewer overall votes. Still, second-highest tally, so nutrition is certainly on everyone’s mind.

3. Riding in too high a gear, at too low a cadence. This one didn’t occur to me, although when I started biking, I was as guilty of it as the next guy. Riding in a high cadence has helped me improve my cycling ability more than any other technique.

4. No helmet. I was a bit surprised by how many mentioned this one. Although I see people ride without helmets all the time, it still isn’t as common as it used to be. And maybe it won’t continue to be a major newbie mistake, because the kids I see on their bikes all wear helmets, and all seem to regard them as a kind of status symbol.

5. No light at night. There’s a guy in my neighborhood who rides for exercise, but always at night, and always without lights. Drives me nuts. I just know he’s going to get hit one of these nights.

Other mistakes that got multiple mentions included: Riding against traffic; the clipless fall; improper tire pressure (usually too low); and having the saddle too low.

Some mistakes that got only a single mention, but ones that I’ve seen: turning with the inside pedal down (it could catch the ground and cause a nasty fall); never resting, and in a similar vein, going hard on each ride; and finally, wearing underwear under bike shorts(!).

Good stuff, everyone. Thanks for contributing. Let’s help our fellow noobs by gently correcting their errors when we encounter them.

Oh, that woman whose mistake triggered the idea for this post — she put her helmet on backwards. Third person I’ve seen do that this summer.


  1. jj says

    thanks Noob! Now i know how to not look like one. However you haven’t told your readers what the lady was doing!

  2. dwb says

    I saw a guy the other day, just a casual rider riding on the sidewalk, who had his helmet on backwards.

  3. says

    I must admit I have made the error of putting my foot down towards the ground and it getting caught. Other things I have seen people do is riding too near to the curve – you have to claim your road space. Not raising your arm when making a turn on a busy road.

    Something that gets to me is when I’m waiting at a light and a slow cyclist overtakes me to come out infront of me when I know full well I will be overtaking him as soon as the light turns green. They then usually repeat this at the next light!

  4. RamonH says

    The thing that has been getting to me lately is people honking their horn constantly at me. I usually ride in bike lanes or wide shoulders, so trust me car-folks, there is no way in hell I am going to invade your precious road space. The one that gets to me the most is when I get honked by drivers going the opposite direction. Why in the world do they need to honk their horn when there is a median dividing us? So far, I just chalk it up to lonely teenage drivers seeking a smidget of attention *sighs*

  5. says

    Funny stuff, Andreas. Considering the esteemed governor of our great state of Texas vetoed a bill that would require cars to maintain a three-foot distance when passing cyclists, the “arm” might become a necessity.

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