A Guide to Becoming a Cyclist
What You Need to Know
- Cycling can simultaneously provide a cost effective mode of transport along with a fun way to get fit.
- Before cycling in traffic, brush up on the laws of the road and practice skills such as signalling and looking around for other road users.
- If you’re cycling to get fit it’s a good idea to start slowly and build up your stamina gradually.
- By making a habit of cycling you’ll quickly increase your confidence and fitness. Simply riding to work and back during the week can provide you with your recommended amount of aerobic exercise.
- In most cases a hybrid bike will be the most suitable choice for a beginner, given their affordability, ease of use and versatility.
- Be sure to be as visible as possible when riding in traffic and always wear a helmet.
Cycling can simultaneously provide a cost effective mode of transport along with a fun way to get fit. With petrol prices putting a strain on household finances and many of us struggling to get the requisite exercise to stay healthy, that’s an appealing combination (and that’s before you consider the economic and environmental benefits). But if you’re not accustomed to taking to the road on two wheels how do you go about getting into cycling?
Preparing for the Roads
Even if you haven’t been on a bike since childhood, you’ll still be able to get back into the swing of the basics without too much hassle. However, if you’re going to be cycling in traffic, you’ll need to have a few additional skills that you can perform confidently. For instance, giving turning signals will demand that you’re able to ride comfortably with only one hand on the handlebars. Likewise, you’ll need to be able continue riding while looking over your shoulder for oncoming road users.
Even if you are a driver with several years of experience, it’s also going to be worth taking a look at the highway code to remind yourself of the rules of the road.
As well as increasing your confidence, you may well need to up your stamina before you can fully integrate cycling into your life. It’s a good idea to build on your fitness by taking shorter rides initially and increasing the amount of time you spend in the saddle gradually.
Choosing a Bike
There are a wide range of different bikes available and if you’re just getting into cycling the amount of choice can be a little bewildering. In all likelihood you are probably not going to need a top of the range model. As long as the model you choose is serviceable and versatile you should be fine. Of course, if you are determined to get off road frequently you may wish to get a mountain bike with decent suspension. If you’re all about flat out speed, go for a road bike. Otherwise a multi-purpose hybrid will be perfectly fine.
That said, there are a few things you should watch out for. Make sure the bike isn’t too heavy for you to easily maneuver and that you find the gear system easy to operate (many beginners find ‘twist’ variants easier to use then ‘trigger’ options.) Sizing is probably the most important thing to think about. Take a look at this article full of tips on choosing the right size bike for help on getting this right.
Work Cycling Into Your Routine
Cycling’s great strength is that it can serve as a past time, a form of exercise, a mode of transport, or all three. As such, it is easy to work cycling into your daily routine. Whether you simply use the bike to get out about with the kids at the weekend, or if you start to cycling to work everyday, once you’ve made it a habit it will soon become second nature.
You’ll soon notice your competency as a rider increasing and the you’ll also get some really noticeable health benefits. It’s recommended that you get 2 and a half hours of moderately intense exercise every week. If you start cycling to work during the week, even if it’s only a 15 minute jaunt, the trips between home and the office would bring you up to this level in of themselves.
Of course, you shouldn’t feel limited to simply commuting. Cycling can provide a great way to get out and see the world. Take a look at cycle-route.com to find trails near you.
In order to stay safe out on the roads it’s important that you are as visible as possible. Ensure your bike is kitted out with an appropriate array of lights and reflectors, and kit yourself out with some high visibility, luminous gear for journeys during the hours of darkness.
An important part of cycling safety is to ensure that your bike is properly maintained. Always check the condition of your chain, gears and brakes before heading of on a journey. Carry a pump with you so that you’ll be able to inflate your tyres to the proper level should the need arise. It’s also a good idea to have a portable repair kit including, a patch kit a spare inner tube and a multi-tool compatible with your bikes components.
It’s a good idea to understand the most common ways that cyclist end up involved in collisions with other vehicles so you can be extra vigilant in potentially dangerous situations. Some of these include;
- Being on the nearside of a vehicle turning left: This is especially true of larger vehicles which may have a larger blind spot. In these situations it’s advisable to fall back.
- Car doors opening: Unfortunately, those alighting a car may not bother to check for oncoming cyclists, so be wary of cars coming to a stop ahead of you. Unfortunately, the same is true of cars pulling out into the road, so keep an eye on driveways and junctions to your left.
- Being forced to close to the curb: Though it may seem like the safest place to be, cycling right up against the curb will encourage cars to overtake you when there’s no need, which increases your chances of being sideswiped. You have as much right to the lane as anyone and it can be wise to use it.
- Junctions and Rounadbouts: As we’ve already stressed it’s important to ensure you’re seen. This is most important when it comes to manoeuvring. Be clear about your intentions and try to make eye contact with drivers to confirm their awareness of your whereabouts.
- The national cycling charity site is a great resource for any cyclist.
- If you want to get into cycling as a sport, check out our guide to British Cycling.
- Looking for more? Visit our top cycling sites.