Breaking Bad Cycling Habits

Kick these no-no's to the curb to get the most out of your cycling routine.


As far as bad habits go, making indoor cycling mistakes may not seem like a big deal since at least you’re exercising, right? On one level, that’s true. But some subtle cycling blunders could leave you with an injury or compromise the benefits of your workouts and prevent you from getting the results you want. While some no-no habits—including form faux pas like riding with splayed knees and taboo moves like pedaling backwards—are fairly obvious, other common bad habits are so seemingly innocuous that you may not even realize you’re making them.

Here are seven bad habits to kick right now:

Not adjusting the resistance before pedaling. If you hop on the bike and start pedaling without checking the resistance, you could strain your knees if there’s too much resistance on the bike. Ideally, members of the previous class would have taken off the resistance before exiting (or at least brought it down to the level of a flat road) but that doesn’t always happen. Save your knees by checking the resistance before you start pedaling. 

Leaning on the handlebars. It’s a bad idea for a few reasons: Not only does it compromise your posture on the bike, which can lead to back and shoulder strain, but it also robs you of the opportunity to build core strength (as you would while riding in an upright posture). Plus, when you off-load your weight onto the handlebars during a standing climb, you place excessive stress on your knees and compromise your ability to build leg-muscle strength and gain optimal momentum in your pedal strokes.

Your best bet is to keep your center of gravity over the pedals at all times.

Pedaling fast without enough resistance. When your instructor continuously tells you to turn up your resistance, it’s not because she’s a control freak. It’s because she’s trying to help you build muscle strength, power, and endurance in your legs.

So if you fake a resistance increase, you’re only cheating yourself. Plus, pedaling fast without sufficient resistance could lead to injury if you lose control of the pedals and your feet slip out of the cages or clips.

Letting your hips wobble. If your tush is tilting from side to side as you ride, this is probably a sign that your seat is too high and you need to set up your bike properly to suit your physique. To protect your muscles and your body alignment, your hips should remain stable as you pedal, and there should be a slight bend in your knee when your foot hits the bottom of each pedal stroke. 

Using a death-grip on the handlebars. Gripping the handlebars so tightly that your knuckles turn white sends a current of stress into your upper arms, shoulders, back, and neck. It can also lead to numbness in your fingertips. Hold the handlebars with a light, gentle grip (imagine holding an egg) to prevent injury.

Cranking up the resistance too much. This may sound like a good way to get a challenging workout but it’s not; it is, however, a good way to get injured.

Pushing against excessive resistance (if the pedals stick on their way around or you are struggling to move the pedals) can strain your knees. If you can’t maintain the proper cadence at a particular resistance level, you’d be better off lowering the resistance until you can build up greater strength.   

Stopping abruptly without cooling down. You may be in a hurry to hit the shower but it’s a mistake to just hop off the bike after riding hard. At the end of a challenging ride, your heart rate is elevated and blood is still pumping vigorously to your leg muscles. You need to let your heart rate come down gradually so you can avoid blood pooling in your legs, a phenomenon that can lead to a rapid drop in blood pressure, along with dizziness, fainting, muscle cramping, nausea, or other unpleasant symptoms. A proper cool-down—cycling at a gentle pace and low resistance for three to five minutes—can help your blood pressure naturally return to normal and allow you to leave the studio on steady feet.

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