Worried about getting back in the saddle if you haven't cycled for a number of years? There is no need to be. Sky Ride ambassador Davina McCall only took cycling up in her 40s and is hooked. She has completed a number of impressive cycling challenges since getting back in the saddle and urges others to take the plunge too.
Davina McCall shares her top tips to getting back in the saddle:
1. Give it a go
There really is no need to dread getting back in the saddle if you haven’t cycled for a few years and feel unfit. I learnt the basics when I was a child, but didn’t get back on a bike properly again until recently (in my 40s!) and now I’m hooked! Why not get friends and family involved – it’s better cycling with a buddy - so head down to the park with a picnic and it’ll feel more like fun than hard work!
2. Cycling essentials
The kit is the best bit! All you really need is a t-shirt, shorts and trainers to get started, but my go-to cycle wear is usually a lightweight high vis t-shirt, padded shorts and my helmet – plus a high vis waterproof jacket for this British weather! It’s personal preference and although you may feel a little ‘all the gear, no idea’, it’s worth it and makes the journey way more comfy.
Stay dry with some waterproof cycling gear - it will make all the difference!
The one thing you don’t want to do when you head out on your bike is pull a muscle and prevent yourself from doing anything whatsoever for weeks to come. I’ve been injured before and it’s miserable! Stretch properly before you set off; try just 5-10 minutes to make sure you’re good to go. Cool down and stretch out afterwards too to help avoid aching for the next few days!
Check out our essential guide to stretches for cyclists.
4. Get the right bike & be comfortable with your position
It sounds silly but it’s so important – the right bike will be the one that feels great to cycle – not the one that looks the nicest! You want to be as comfortable as possible, especially if it’s over long distances.
Do this by making sure your bike is the right size for you and that your seat is raised/lowered to a comfortable height. Don’t just jump on and go – we’re all different, make sure your bike is tailored to you; it’ll helps prevent injuries too. Get advice from an experienced cyclist friend, or get fitted at a cycling shop. Then you’re good to go!
5. Give your bike some T.L.C
We all feel guilty about that old rusty bike sat unloved and unusable in the shed. Don’t let your bike go down the same rickety road. Keep your tyres pumped up, check your brakes and make sure your chain is well oiled. If you don’t have the equipment at home, bike shops will do a basic service cheaply. Give your bike a bit of attention every now and then, and it will look after you in return!
6. Know your highway code
I’m a bit of a teacher’s pet and a big one for obeying the traffic laws. Avoid being that guy who jumps the red light or strays up onto the pavement. Not only is it illegal its bloody frustrating for the rest of us and gives us cyclists a bad name!
The very last thing you want to do is get lost and cycle miles further than you intended, particularly if you’re new to cycling! So although it sounds obvious - plan your route before you leave! If you know where you’re going you can avoid dangerous roads or areas of majorly heavy traffic – traffic jams are boring and weaving in-between cars could get a bit hairy! The more effort you put in to planning your ride, the more you’re likely to enjoy it. If you’re cycling to work or to a friend’s it’ll also help you get there on time too!
8. Hydrate and snack!
It’s always worth keeping a bottle of water with you however far you’re cycling. It’s really important to keep hydrated, particularly on hot days or on a long cycle. Take provisions with you, or meet friends at a park for a picnic halfway through your ride. Otherwise, make sure you’ve eaten well before heading out; you need enough energy for the ride you’re about to go on. I usually take a couple of cereal bars and a banana out with me – along with a sarnie for the longer rides!
9. Start simple
I get it, cycling can be a daunting, particularly on some of Britain’s roads. Start simple; get confident with your bike and with your surroundings before pushing yourself too hard. I’m an ambassador for Sky Ride, a national campaign between Sky and British Cycling encouraging thousands of people of all ages and abilities to get on a bike and discover the benefits cycling can offer. The campaign’s Big Bike Events are a great way to ride your bike safely on traffic-free streets in a major city or town. Best of all - it’s FREE and the whole family can get involved!
I’ll be up at Sky Ride Liverpool on 7th September so come and join me if you’re in the area. If not, there’re plenty of other Big Bike Events or why not try a Sky Ride Local - a guided ride which will give you a chance to explore the local area led by British Cycling trained ride leader. Find a ride near you at www.goskyride.com– it’s a great starting point for you, your friends or your family.
10. Feeling brave?
Once you’ve been out a few time and got more confident on your bike then challenge yourself – it’s fun! Develop a cycle plan and try to incorporate some great hills – they’ll help improve your fitness levels and give you a buzz on the way down!
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