The 5 Most Common Cycling Mistakes…and How To Fix Them

So you’re geared up and ready to ride your heart out in 2019! Let’s do it! I love seeing new riders and familiar faces at Ascend. Whether you’re a newbie to cycle or have been riding for years, I want to share a couple common mistakes that can happen before and during your ride and how to fix them to ensure a safe and effective workout.


1. Improper bike set up

There are so many misconceptions about how to set up your bike. A proper bike set up is critical for a safe ride and also for your comfort. And while bike saddles are not the cushiest of seats, if you feel uncomfortable, you’re probably set up wrong. First and foremost, if you are riding with us at Ascend, don’t hesitate to ask one of our instructors to help you. They are experienced enough to take a quick look and adjust your settings in just a few seconds. Please do not be afraid to ask. We love helping! You can also check your own saddle.

Sarah Marcella Creative

The fix

Stand next to your saddle and raise its height to the top of your hip bone. Then, sit on the saddle with your hips at the widest part of the seat. Hinge forward from your hips, engage your core, and reach your hands to the handlebars. You should have a slight bend in your elbows and your shoulders should be relaxed. This is generally how you should be positioned when you are riding in the saddle. Next bring one foot to 6 o’clock and the other to 12 o’clock.  Ensure your foot is flat (not pointing your toe or dropping your heel). Your knee should have a slight bend — nearly full extension but not enough that your leg can straighten all the way. Adjust the saddle height as needed. Then reposition on the bike, and bring your feet to 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. With your hands back on the handlebars, look past your front knee. You should see the top third of your shoe. If you think about your foot, the ball of your front foot should be directly under your knee and over the pedal. Any further forward or back will put undue stress on your knees while you ride, and we don’t want that!


2. A Quad-Dominant Pedal Stroke

Once you’ve mastered your bike settings, the next task is to ensure you are executing a proper pedal stroke. Your foot should always remain in a flat position as you pedal – don’t over think it, but you should feel like your weight is centered over the mid-foot and over the pedal. This will help ensure your body remains balanced in proper form and will especially help you feel confident and in control when riding out of the saddle.

Now for some quick anatomy and physiology. A proper pedal stroke recruits the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The quads are mainly responsible for the downward pushing motion of the pedal. It’s very common to overexert this motion and therefore all momentum from the push is used to complete the full stroke. This is what I call “mashing” on the pedals. I can tell when someone is only using their quads because I see their body swaying side to side to help facilitate the push, especially on heavier resistance.


The fix

Think about pedaling in a circle and a fluid push-pull motion of each leg. When one leg is pushing, the other leg is pulling. This will prevent unnecessary stress on your knees and hip flexors on heavier climbing drills. It will also help you manage your resistance and cadence with more balance, especially if you want to be crushing faster runs out of the saddle. But no matter the drill or cadence, a proper pedal stroke is a critical key to success!


3. Fear of the Resistance Knob

The resistance knob is your friend. I repeat. The resistance knob is your friend. No matter how slow or fast you are riding, you should always have at least enough resistance on your wheel so that you feel in control. You should never have zero resistance on your bike, and you should never feel like momentum is moving the pedals for you. DANGER ZONE. Not only is it unsafe, but it’s ineffective for your workout!


The fix

Try to challenge yourself to put a little more resistance on the wheel than you think you can handle and give it a shot! You can always turn it back a notch – it’s your ride and you’re in control.


4. Distractions

Life is stressful. Everyone is busy and has a million obligations. But you will be a better you when you allow yourself to let go of the outside world for a minute (or 50).

Christi Porter Photography

The fix

Commit fully to class. Leave your phone in your locker and turn off alerts on your Apple watch. Your class time is sacred. Be present in class and tune into your breath, the beat of the music, and the challenge. When distracting thoughts come to mind, acknowledge them and send them right down through the pedals. Bad day? Use your frustrations as motivation, but don’t let them hold you back. The mental clarity you can achieve from a cycle class is like none other, so clip-in, tune-in, and enjoy the ride!


5. Dehydration

Hitting the wall 35 minutes in? You might be dehydrated. Other signs include brain fog, craving salt, and muscle cramps, especially the calf muscles. Let’s face it, we get really sweaty in class, and proper hydration comes before, during and after the ride.


The fix

Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day, plus at least 24 ounces for every hour of sweating. For every caffeinated beverage you have, make sure to have the same amount of water. Finally, if you are still experiencing signs of dehydration, you may need an electrolyte supplement. Try a banana, or even an electrolyte powder – just be wary of ingredients. Personally I like Skratch Labs (I stay away from all fake sugar and stevia, and this one has real sugar in it).


Sarah Marcella Creative

So now that you know the secrets to maximizing your ride, let’s get after it! If you’re new to Ascend, make sure to take advantage of our special new client offer this month. We are offering 2 Weeks of Unlimited Classes in our cycle studio and Ascend Underground for just $20! Click here and scroll to Special Deals. Grab it before the end of January!


  • The latest from Kat
Owner & Operator | Ascend Cycle
Combining her degree in Exercise Science with her past experience as a healthcare consultant, Kat blends her fitness expertise with her background in superb customer service ethic to create the Ascend Experience. And don’t be surprised when she knows your name – Kat’s goal is to get know her community on a personal level. She’s a mom of two energetic toddlers, but still makes time to crush a ride on the bike and just for balance, relax with a glass of wine at one of her favorite local Del Ray spots.

Climb higher, sprint faster, Ascend.

Our classes are crafted with one goal in mind: to help you reach peak performance: We help you unleash your inner power with intentional rides, you leave the studio a stronger version of yourself. Our instructors know how to push you beyond perceived limitations, empowering you build physical and mental stamina. It comes full circle for us when you bring that newfound confidence into every aspect of your life. |

2413 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 22301


1 Comment

  1. Avatar Lisa Morton says:

    Love it Kat. All great tips, and not just for new riders. I can gain from practicing these tips to keep pushing myself to be better.

    If I could add one more tip: BRING a great attitude with you OR if youʻre feeling not so positive when you walk in, make sure you LEAVE feeling stronger and more confident. The experience is communal as much as it is individual; we gain energy from each other as we work hard in class. Take advantage of the fabulous Ascend community. Weʻre all here for each other!

    Mahalo nui (big thanks) Kat!

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