Whether you are a new cyclist, just starting to cycle again after a long break, or looking to get your family into a healthy activity, there is a lot to consider when starting your cycling journey. We have compiled our top tips to help get you started or to refresh your memory, have a read to help you feel safe and confident on your next ride.
Buy the right bike
It does not have to be top of the range with all bells and whistles, but here are some things you should consider:
(i) Budget. If you are on a tight budget or simply giving cycling a try, a used bike can be a much better value for money. There are many recycle bike schemes across the country, so it is worth having a look to find if there are any near you.
(ii) Frame size. This is essential as it dictates your cycling posture and comfort, not all standard bikes are measured the same, the actual sizes themselves and the sizing methods are all dependent on the bike type:
Road bikes usually come in basic small, medium, and large sizes, as well as numerical sizes. Not all numerical sizes are the same for all brands, however.
Mountain bikes also come in S,M and L sizes, but differing brands are often very close to one another.
Hybrid bikes are a mixed bag, as they can often include aspects of road and mountain bike sizing.
(iii) Purpose. A bike should reflect your lifestyle, to get the most out of your bike and enjoyment out of the experience, think about what type of cycling you will mainly be doing. Cycling for transport, leisure or competition will require a different type of bicycle.
Get your bike fit for YOU
Riding a bike that does not fit is no fun, it is uncomfortable, and you risk injury from being too cramped or too stretched. A bike fit will help prevent injuries, improve overall performance on the bike and enhance your overall comfort and efficiency.
When you buy from a bike shop, they will likely perform a basic fit analysis to figure out what size bike you should be riding. A professional bike fit is recommended for cyclists that spend an extensive amount of time in a static position on the saddle, however, every rider can benefit from one of these.
A professional bike fit is usually comprised by the following.
- Adjusting the bicycle to fit the individual needs of the cyclist.
- Educating and aiding the cyclist to function best on their bicycle.
- What results the cyclist wants from the fit and what their future goals may be.
It is important to note that your bike fit will change over time, so even if you have already had a bike fit many moons ago, it is a good idea to get an updated one!
Learn how to fix a puncture
Death, taxes, and punctures. Despite all advancements in tyre technology, you will undoubtedly suffer a puncture at some point. The last place you want to be is on a roadside, or, perhaps worse, in the middle of nowhere, without a clue how to repair it. Watch this handy video which talks you through the process of fixing a bike puncture for tyres with an inner tube (top tip- it is always a good idea to carry a spare inner tube with you).
Be visible and wear protective gear.
Making sure you are as visible as possible in the daytime is just as important as lighting up like a Christmas tree at night, one of the most effective ways of doing this is by using bike lights. There are plenty of small, easy-fix, rechargeable lights on the market, you can narrow your search by looking out for flashers, pairs (front and back light combination) and a USB recharging option which enables you to recharge from just about anywhere.
A cyclist on a bike presents a narrow profile, front, and rear. The sooner you are seen, the more time other road users have to react. So always wear something light, high-viz, or retro-reflective. Visual perception is all about presenting a contrast to your background, so avoid tarmac grey or concrete beige!
Although not a legal requirement, wearing a helmet can truly be the difference between an injury and a fatality. You do not need to buy the most expensive helmet as they all meet the same safety standards.
Clean your bike
Like any machine, a bicycle will work better and last longer if you care for it properly. Get in the habit of checking and cleaning your bike regularly. Simple checks and maintenance can help you enjoy hassle-free riding and avoid repairs.
Any dirt or grit that is on the moving components of your bike can start to wear and damage them, by giving it a good clean and oiling the chain, you will notice how much quicker and smoother your bike feels to ride.
Communicate what you are doing
Effective communication with others on the roads and paths is vital to keep your riding safe and trouble-free. To let someone know you are overtaking or crossing their path, use your bell or voice. This goes for other cyclists and pedestrians on a shared path.
It is essential to signal turning, changing lanes, overtaking and pulling over (pretty much everything that’s not just riding straight ahead). Making a clear signal is done with a straight arm and held out for a couple of seconds. Do not forget the rearward observations prior to signal and the lifesaver immediately before the turn.
Don’t forget your gears!
Most bikes have gears, changing gear on your bike is one of the essential skills to master, learn how to use them properly and you will be rewarded with a smoother, faster, and more fun ride.
When approaching a hill, get ready to start shifting down the gears as soon as the hill starts or just before, this way, you will not be caught in too hard a gear halfway up, unable to pedal, which means you might have to get off and walk.
Shifting to the right gear at the right time will take a bit of practice, it is better to go too easy a gear and then shift up than the other way round. If you do find yourself in too hard a gear on a climb, try and ride sideways across the slop and change gear, if the chain is under a lot of pressure like when you are pedalling up a hill, it cannot shift properly.
If you have got a big hill coming up, its quicker to shift down using the left shifter, which will shift the front gears, rather than the right which controls the rear gears. This will take you to an easier gear, and then you can fine tune using the rear gears. A good way to remember this is left=big changes, right=fine tuning.
Keep your bike safe!
You do not want to return to your bike only to find a broken lock and no trace of your pride and joy. The sad fact is that bike theft is an extremely common crime and as a result bicycle security is essential. Knowing how to lock a bike properly will keep you a step ahead.
Choose a well-lit area with plenty of people around and ideally, CCTV cameras. There’s safety in numbers when it comes to leaving your bike, so try to find somewhere where your bike is not the only one around.
Even at home it is important to take steps to keep your bike secure, try to keep it somewhere where it is not visible from outside and lock it to an immovable object. Choosing the right lock and using it properly will make your bike much less likely to be a target.
You should ideally have two different locks (D-Lock, chain lock, key lock and combination locks are the best) using the first to secure the bike to the immovable object and the second to secure the front wheel and frame. When you do buy a lock, it is well worth looking for a Sold Secure rating. Sold Secure locks are independently tested for how easily they can be broken into, bike insurers may specify that you use a lock with a Sold Secure rating to validate your policy.
If you will be locking your bike in public regularly, you should also consider getting it registered and security marked, the police offer this service for free.
Assume the correct road position
It is undeniably scary at first- scary to cycle in different cities, to approach unfamiliar large junctions and roundabouts. Do not hide as far to the side of the road as possible near the curb, it is wrong and dangerous. Other road users might not see you or will try to squeeze past when there’s not enough room. Assume a confident position and assert your right to use the carriageway.
You should ride a metre out from the kerb, making you more visible to other road traffic but also giving you space to avoid hazards, potholes and manhole covers etc.
There are times when you should change your position and move further out, the Highway Code calls this the ‘primary position’, important times to do this are:
- Approaching a roundabout
- Turning right at a junction
- Sometimes when the road is narrow or when passing parked cars
Here is how to assume the ‘primary position’: look over your right shoulder then move towards the centre of the lane. After the roundabout or junction, pull back towards the kerb.
That said, if a junction or roundabout looks particularly forbidding, pull in and hop off. It’s important to be aware of the common mistakes made by cyclists at roundabouts.
Lastly, ride with confidence and enjoy yourself
Building confidence on your bicycle takes time and experience, unlocking this key will make you a better and safer cyclist. Not only that but it will also make your cycling experiences more enjoyable as you will spend less time worrying while on the bike.
Do not forget, there are millions of cyclists across the country, there is always someone to answer your questions, share experience and even ride with, you just have to find them. Follow our social media accounts to join our community of cyclists!