Making the decision to take up cycling is certainly one that you won’t regret; but it’s essential to be properly prepared. For those who are new to cycling it can be daunting, but by following some of our standard tips you can ensure that you protect yourself on your ride.
By taking the right steps to ensure that you feel safe and comfortable on your bike, you’re sure to feel confident enough to take up cycling permanently. For commuting to work – or for leisure – we’ve put together 5 great tips for cycling beginners.
Whilst there are other good bits of advice to follow, these key cycling safety suggestions should make for essential reading for anyone new to the road:
Stay Visible + Use Correct Equipment/Gear
It’s simply essential that you are a clear presence to other road users. Bike lights in both dark and wet conditions are a must, as they highlight your position on the road to other road users – they could literally save your life. The same goes for reflective clothing.
With regards to safety gear to wear, helmets are always going to polarize opinion amongst cyclists. Whilst studies have shown that motorists may drive closer to cyclists who do wear helmets; there is equal cause to say that if you do unfortunately come off your bike a helmet could save your life.
The best piece of advice we can offer is to read up on the topic and make an informed decision of your own. We’d certainly be interested to hear people’s thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.
For your clothing, you’ll obviously need to match different attire to varying conditions. In the rain for example, a heavy-duty waterproof jacket, overshoes and gloves will help keep you protected from the elements.
It is an issue that is particularly important in colder, damper weather. Keeping your core warm is vital to retaining you concentration throughout a ride. Heightened concentration means that you’ll be more aware of your surroundings; and better able to stay safe as a result.
A good start is to never be afraid to take the centre on narrow roads, particularly when a car wants to overtake, but may pass too closely to you if they do. Riding centrally on narrow roads is completely legal; and will ensure that any cars behind you are less likely to undertake risky manoeuvres.
You should also look to take the centre when:
– There’s a risk of ‘dooring’ (people opening parked car doors on to you)
– You’re making a left turn.
Another good tip is to make eye contact – where possible – with other road users before a manoeuvre. This can help you to signal your intentions; and they may also give you an indication on whether they feel it’s safe for you to pull out in front of them for example.
Whatever you do, don’t try to second guess other road users. Whilst you have every bit as much right to be on the road as a car, always allow for the fact that they may not move as you expect them to.
Finally, whilst it’s good to ride confidently, don’t let yourself be pressured by other road users (that includes other cyclists) – they can wait to overtake. Don’t put yourself at risk due to another person’s impatience. Find the balance and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring your cycling safety.
Please Like the Wheelie Good Guys Facebook Page – Click Here
Obey the Rules of the Road
Obeying the rules of the road is not only essential in terms of legality, but also for making sure that you stay safe. In the UK, the Highway Code implemented by the government offers information on rules that must be followed when cycling; and some that don’t have to be but are suggested. Below are a few selected issues:
The UK Highway Code advises that you SHOULD wear ‘a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations’; as well as ‘appropriate clothes for cycling’, with particular mention to ‘light-coloured or fluorescent clothing’.
Section 60 of the code states that you MUST have ‘white front and red rear lights lit’ on your cycle; and that it must also ‘be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85.’
Cycle lanes should be kept to ‘when practicable’. UK infrastructure has shown some minor improvements, but there are circumstances where cycle lanes have been poorly implemented and don’t actually improve safety – hence the allowance for individual judgement.
Section 64 states that you ‘MUST NOT cycle on a pavement’, and section 65 says that ‘most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs.’
Finally, not stopping at red traffic lights is something that many people cycling are guilty of. Whilst some people question the safety of moving off at the same time as traffic, that is in fact against the law.
Section 71 of the highway code clearly states that: you ‘MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic.’
More rules for cyclists can be found in sections 59-82 of the Highway Code; which is listed on the UK government website.
Adjust Your Style for Different Riding Conditions
We do a lot of Peak District cycling, so we’re used to changeable weather. Learning how to ride in different conditions is something that you’ll naturally become better at over time, but to get you started it’s worth following a few pieces of advice. Damp conditions require a more careful riding style than dry, summer cycling; and understanding when to alter your style is vital.
In the rain; rainbow patches (colourful slicks of oil left behind from motor vehicles), grates and rail lines can all cause problems. Avoiding the first two and ensuring you always ride as close to a right angle as possible to the latter should stand you in good stead.
Avoid hard braking in the wet. Doing so could cause the wheels of your bike to slip on the road; meaning that you’ll lose control of your bike and potentially come off it in the process – not good.
Another useful piece of advice is to lean your weight onto the outside pedal when cornering in the rain – this should help you maintain maximum control over your bike when turning. Considering a winter pair of tyres could also help.
In drier conditions, you can ride less cautiously, as your bike will handle the conditions of the road much better. If you’re commuting, do be careful not to be over-confident in busy traffic; as motor vehicles may not allow for your presence in the same way.
Here’s our more comprehensive guide to cycling in the rain
Properly Maintain Your Bike
If you want to be sure of your cycling safety when on the road, you must make sure that your bike is properly maintained. Looking after your chain, tyres and brakes are just 3 of the issues that you’ll regularly need to consider.
There are bike maintenance courses offered throughout the UK – some completely freely – and they are sure to be a valuable use of time for cycling beginners. Learning how to fix bike problems for yourself could save you some decent sums – it’s really worthwhile.
From checking your tyre pressure with a floor standing pump to make sure it’s not over/under-inflated; to cleaning your bike chain with hot water, rags, a degreaser and some chain lube, there’s plenty of tips to pick up.
Keeping your bike running smoothly will not only prevent damage to your bike; it could also prevent damage to yourself. Once you’re on your bike you’ll want to stay on it – keeping it properly maintained will go a long way towards helping with this.
We’ll look to put together an article on the Wheelie Good Guys website soon that goes into some more detail on some basic bike maintenance tips – so make sure you keep coming back to us.
Read our extensive guide on why Cycling to work is great
A Word About Our Sponsor
It is important to stay safe whilst you are out cycling and at Wheelie Good Guys we are champions of cycling safety. None of the work we do however; would be possible without the help if Ian Brown. Ian is the UK Cycling Speedway Commissioner; as well as a personal injury solicitor for Wosskow Brown.