Immerse yourself in any sport for long enough and you’ll start hearing fallacies and distorted truths that form a confusing and self-contradictory mythology.
Cycling is no exception, and getting involved can mean you’re exposed to more than your fair share. So here are five cycling myths to look out for.
1. Legs must be shaved
Many aspiring riders look to their heroes’ toned, hairless legs and think it’s a requirement of anyone donning Lycra to whip out a Bic and some shaving foam. Most people assume it’s an aero thing, but the truth is unless you’re a sasquatch or a racer there’s not that much difference.
Specialized put this to the test last year in its in-house wind tunnel, and found there was an average 70 second saving over a 40km ride. To a pro that’s a lifetime, but for amateurs who want to maintain their masculinity and don’t race regularly, it may not be worth it.
That said, if you enjoy regular rub-downs, constantly worry about road rash or just want to fit in, we’re not here to judge.
2. Long legs, long cranks
Many riders think a longer crank is better suited to a longer leg or taller rider, but recent studies suggest size doesn’t matter as much as ‘pedal speed’.
Results have shown that shorter cranks can be linked with lower oxygen deficits, and also give an added aero advantage. So before you start upgrading your drivetrain components, you should take it upon yourself to read up on the science.
3. 29ers are for tall people
Although lofty mountain bike riders may find a 29er’s benefits to be more obvious, you don’t have to be tall to ride one – wheel size choices are still in their infancy, so there’s a fair bit of received wisdom and pseudo-science kicking around.
Many modern bikes have their geometry designed or adapted specifically for each frame size, so regardless of the wheels, the contact points should fit.
So whether you’re 5’3” pro XC racer Emily Batty or are looking for your first mountain bike, if you like the idea of larger wheels then you shouldn’t hesitate to give them a try.
4. Rotational mass
There’s a notion among cyclists that losing a gram of weight off the rims gives the same benefit as losing two off the frame. While this appears to be true during acceleration it’s not the case when the bike and rider are in any other state, so the actual benefit to most riders is negligible.
It might be more noticeable to mountain bikers – who accelerate more often – but not so much on the road.
In the real world, shaving grams from your own body is far cheaper and will make just as much difference when the road turns upwards. So the bad news is that that carbon wheelset you had your eye on might not offer the performance gains you were hoping for.
5. Running the arms of your sunglasses over your helmet straps
This one is for anyone out there who believes The Rules are actual rules. In fact, they’re more like guidelines. Running the arms of your sunglasses on top of your helmet straps can actually be quite impractical.
Many a rule-abiding rider has nonchalantly removed their helmet, only to rip a brand new pair of Oakleys from their face, to a scratch-full fate below.
Most pros do it because they need to show their sponsor logos, but as with most things, you should do whatever works best for you, and if that means going straps-over then you’re in good company.