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Man in a loose helmet riding a bike

6 Simple Cycling Habits To Nip in the Bud for a New Year

More often than not, New Year’s resolutions are about new habits you want to establish or goals you want to strive toward. And that’s how it should be — a positive approach is usually more motivating than a negative one. 

But the turn of the year isn’t just the start of a new chapter; it’s also a chance to turn the page on the little proclivities that stop us from being our best.

In cycling, it truly does come down to the little things in many cases. Small habits add up to big momentum killers, getting in the way of full enjoyment or maximum performance. That’s why, on top of his many recommended goals and targets for the New Year, longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie sees the end of the year as a great time to nip a few bad habits in the bud.

Here are six things every cyclist should put a stop to this year. 

Stop Riding With a Loose Helmet Strap Loose 

At the top of Coach Darryl’s list is a critical error he sees too many cyclists make: allowing their helmet to become loose and insecure. 

“This could be life-threatening,” he stresses. 

A loose or poorly adjusted helmet strap makes it far too easy for your helmet to pop off your head when you need it most. The impact from a crash may send you flying off the bike, but it shouldn’t cause your helmet to break free from your noggin before your head hits the ground. 

Over time, the connecter that links the two straps below your ear gradually slides down, allowing the helmet to move too freely from front to back. When Darryl is out pedaling, he can spot cyclists who have allowed this to happen from 20 or 30 feet away. To avoid being one of those riders, all you need to do is take a moment to adjust the strap so the connecter is right beneath your earlobe — you should be able to touch both your ear and the connector simultaneously with the tip of your finger. 

Typically, you need to make this adjustment once or twice a year, so why not start the New Year out with your helmet snug and secure?

Stop Leaving Old Unused Tubes in Your Bag 

Tubes are one of several items cyclists should always have in their cycling bags. Even tubeless riders may need one in a pinch, and Darryl recommends always having at least two with you on a ride.  

More than simply having tubes handy, however, you need to be sure the tubes you have are functional. They tend to degrade over time, or they may even get damaged in your bag. When that happens, you may be out of luck trying to fix a flat on your next ride. 

If you haven’t had to repair a flat in a while, the New Year is a good time to rotate some fresh tubes into your bag to replace some old ones. That way, you’ll be ready for whatever the road throws at you.

Stop Leaning Your Bike on the Frame

Many cyclists have the bad habit of leaning their bike with its frame against a pole or tree when they stop for a break. When you lean your bike's frame against a pole, tree or other object, you risk scraping the paint on your top tube and diminishing the look of your prized possession. A new paint job on your frame will be an expensive proposition, and if you care about making a statement with your bike, it’s best to avoid this practice entirely.

Instead, make this your goal for the year: Whenever you take a break, lean your bike using its saddle or handlebars, not its frame.  

Stop Leaning Your Bike on Your Car While You Prep 

For years, Coach Darryl adhered to some bad habits when he would arrive at the start of a ride. He would park, get his bike out, and lean it on the car while he prepared everything for his ride. 

Typically, this meant he would go to his passenger side, where all his cycling gear was stowed, and start putting on items like his heart-rate monitor and gloves and walking back to his bike to mount gear like his water bottles or cycling computer. As a result, he took many unnecessary trips back and forth, all while his bike leaned against his car and risked scratching his vehicle’s paint.

Now, he leaves his bike in the car and goes straight to the passenger side. He sets any items for the bike on the floor, gets his entire body ready, and then takes the bike items to the back. That way, he can remove the bike from the car and quickly install the necessary gear without leaning it on the car.

“It saves the paint on my car and the walking back and forth three, four, five times,” he says.

If you’re stuck in a similar pattern, why not start fresh this year?

Stop Putting the Wrong Wheel First 

If you’ve been cycling for any time at all, you’ll know there are distinct differences between your front and back wheels. While the rear wheel is fixed and connected to your rear cassette and bike chain, the front wheel is attached only to the fork and moves freely from side to side. 

These distinctions mean you should put different wheels first in different scenarios:

  • In the bike stand or rack: When you need to lock up your bike or mount it in a stand at home, you should always put the rear wheel into the stand. If you opt for the front wheel, the wheel may turn, causing the bike to jackknife and fall over.
  • In the car: When you put the bike in your trunk, it’s always best to do so rear wheel first. That way, the front wheel isn’t turning and flopping while you push the bike in or pull it out.
  • In a tight squeeze: If you have a smaller vehicle and need to take off a wheel to get the bike into the trunk, you should always remove the front wheel. Because it’s not attached to the drive train, the front wheel is much easier to take on and off the bike.

As you start a new year, make it a point to memorize these three scenarios until the right moves are second nature.

Stop Mounting Your Front Light Incorrectly

Any cyclist who has ridden at night or in other dim lighting has probably used a front light for better visibility. And if that’s you, you may have experienced the frustration of banging your wrist against the light when you put your hands on the tops of your handlebars. 

There’s a simple trick to avoid this situation: Turn the light mount upside-down. If you hang the light below your handlebars rather than mounting it on top, you’ll be free to move your hands without running into an obstruction.

Some bad habits are easy to break, aren’t they? None of these is particularly hard to change, but making these adjustments will set you up for more cycling success. Happy riding this year!


Looking for new ways to improve as a cyclist? We’re sharing Coach Darryl’s tips every week on our blog and in our newsletter. Follow along so you never miss the latest advice. You can also find more of Coach Darryl’s thoughts over at his website.

Photo by Max Ravier on Pexels