What’s the Best Advice Anyone Gave You about Cycling?

Back in the fall, I put together a series that explored D.C.-area cyclists’ views and experiences about riding in the city.

Surly LHT with Ortliebs

#BikeDC Speaks featured 8 local cyclists– six women and two men. Some contributors began commuting regularly within the last year or two while others have commuted for several years. Thanks again to all the people who made this series come to life!

I initially featured each post by contributor. I am now presenting the series to highlight some of the questions and ideas shared.

This time I’m also asking you, dear readers and fellow riders, what are your answers to these questions?

OK, first question:

What is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given you about bicycling?

The best clothes to wear and the best bike to ride are those that you enjoy using. It’s not about how you look or how much money you spend.

Marc M.

One of best things I’ve been told is how to shift gears for climbing up hills. Spinning versus mashing. I’m still getting a feel for what works.


Just ride, just get on your bike, don’t overthink it.

-Joan O.

Stay completely out of “the door zone” even if you have to take the lane. It doesn’t seem that dangerous, but it is – think about where you’ll land when you bounce off that door. You can’t imagine how quickly a car door opens until you see it happen.


Just ride.


Everyone is out to kill you, but don’t take it personally. Just kidding! Cycling is a very safe activity and we all have the same goal: to get from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible, whether on foot, bike, or car (or those awful rollerblades and segways).


Take the lane.

Leslie T.

I dont know if it’s advice, but one great saying about cycling that I read on Twitter lately – @lkono, I believe gets credit- was something like “Only when you’re a cyclist do you actually wish that your commute lasted longer!”

Chris B.

And what about you? What’s the best piece of advice anyone gave you about bicycling?


  1. Johnny Cochrane said it best: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” If your bike doesn’t fit, you’ll soon be sore and you won’t want to bride. You don’t have to spend a fortune, just spend your money prudently. Get a good saddle while your at it..
    If you’re not smiling like a little kid, you probably need to tweak something.


  2. 1. Take the lane.
    2. Try raising your seat 1/4″ at a time till it feels right. Most people (my mentor said) pedal around with their seats too low.
    3. Take! The! Lane!


  3. If you don’t want to get sweaty riding to work in your regular clothes then stop pretending you’re a racer, slow down and enjoy!


  4. Second rootchopper: Bike fit matters for your safety and enjoyment. Before even thinking about lights, helmets, whatever, you need to be comfortable on what you’re riding so that you won’t be fidgeting/thinking about what’s bothering you physically. And if your bike’s not comfortable, you won’t ride it—and you’ll miss out on all the great things biking exposes you to!


    • Yes! I know this is much lower on the importance scale, but I also think you have to like how your bike looks as well, be that color or whatever style you end up riding.


  5. Relax and stay calm.

    Relax all your muscles.
    Relax your hands and arms: no death grip.
    Relax your feet and legs: no matter how hard you are pedaling, no matter if you are stomping or grinding up the hardest hill you’ve ever climbed, keep your legs and feet relaxed. That might also help with your cramp issues.

    Stay calm. No matter what is happening, including if others are crashing about you and even while you’re in the midst of crashing, stay calm. No matter what the idiot in the car/truck or on the bike next to you just did or is about to do, stay calm.


    • I mis-read the title of the post. The above “relax” advice I GAVE to someone, who later told me that it was helping with his cramps.

      I think I learned relax and stay calm in the school-of-hard-knocks.
      Best advice I received”

      POINT out the hazards. Just yelling (e.g., “hole”) doesn’t inform anyone of WHERE the danger is.


      • Martin, I agree about the relaxation to make sure none of your energy is being wasted. Also, I am w/ you on the pointing, too, except that sometimes in the dark that becomes less useful and saying something like “Hole, right!” is really helpful.


  6. You are just another vehicle on the road. Act like it.
    Be confident and predictable.
    Signal your intentions.
    Filter up to the light with caution, many times it’s not appropriate and you force cars to pass you all over again.
    Enjoy the fresh air and the challenge …


  7. Don’t be afraid to fiddle with your bike. Learn how it works and how to maintain it. It’s hard to really screw up a bike – it’s not a rocket ship or a nuclear reactor. If you can’t figure out how to undo the mess you may have created, a bike shop can usually manage the problem for little cost.

    Oh yeah – learn how to change a flat tire and practice it before you are forced to do it on the side of the road.


    • That is something I learned from Felkerino. I don’t like taking stuff apart, but over time I have become a little more comfortable with it. I still rely on Felkerino or the shop for any major work, though.


  8. When it comes to cycling, everyone, but everyone, will tell you you’re doing it wrong. Ignore them. As long as you’re enjoying riding your bike, you’re doing it right.


    • There really is something to that “You’re doing it wrong.” My husband and I were talking about it the other day. Everyone seems to have a slightly different cut on how to ride bikes.


  9. On approaching with trepidation my longest ride: a 100 km Populaire — “Don’t think of it as a 100k bike ride. Think only of getting to the next control station – a series of rides. Your mind will give out long before your legs do. Stay mentally strong.”


  10. “Time in the saddle will make you faster.” I think this works for commuting as well as distance cycling, which is what the racer was talking about. Riding narrow roads with cars is scary at first but do it more and more and be careful doing it – and you will get more comfortable.


    • I see that, though I also think there are some roads that are narrow and trafficky that are probably best avoided. However, it is good to develop some level of comfort with car traffic, and learn how to ride safely among vehicles.


  11. Don’t ride hunched over, roll the hips forward on the saddle and maintain a flat back at all times. This prevents back and neck pain and injury and allows you to ride fast if you want to.


  12. The ten-mile ride you do is better than the fifty-mile ride you don’t do…

    plus…i like anything DISGRUNTLED says…


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