Thinking of taking to two wheels, or want to start riding to work, but not sure where to start? There are lots of things you can do to make your first forays into the world of cycling safer, and more enjoyable as a result.
In our recent competition by Cycle Assist, we asked our readers to share their best advice for beginner cyclists, and we had some brilliant responses.
The top piece of advice, which won the competition, came courtesy of Laura Coombs:
Stay visible, and don’t ride in the gutter – you’ve every right to ride on the road as well as cars.
The suggestions our readers have put forward cover all the essentials; from signalling and looking, to road positioning and lights. Have a read, and if you know a beginner cyclists, share this with them and help get more people out on their bikes!
EVERYONE had to start as a beginner.
"Confidence will grow each time you ride. If possible, ride out with a friend or someone who has been riding a while with them behind so they can pre-warn you when traffic is overtaking etc."
Signal your intentions to drivers and occupy your rightful part of the road with confidence.
Take a group cycle training course.
"Doing a structured course with others at a similar level to you is a great way of building confidence. Support and encouragement from your fellow cyclists and instructors can help you work through the ups and downs of cycling."
Cycle with a confident friend- they can advise you, show you safe ways of riding and boost your confidence.
Build up your confidence slowly before you tackle busy roads
Do a Bikeability or similar course to get confident about road position.
Join a cycling group or network for support and advice.
"Getting to grips with riding while doing it with others helps you keep on the bike and not the bus!"
If you’re planning to commute by bike and live in a busy city or town, practice your route on a Sunday morning.
"It will give you chance to familiarise yourself with road layouts, potholes and any natural hazards when the traffic is lighter."
Practice on quiet roads to get comfortable on your bike!
Never ride up the left hand side of a lorry or bus!
"You might feel more secure sticking close to the curb but the driver can't see you, and you're stuck if it turns left."
Buy a really good helmet, ensure you have strong, clear lights on the bike and high visibility clothing when riding.
Know your hand signals, don't jump red lights and avoid riding in the gutter.
Always keep the bike & brakes well maintained, a bike service is well recommended.
Never cycle or stop along the curb next to lorries at traffic lights or junctions. They can't see you!
Keep an eye out: look 100 metres ahead of you in addition to just in front of your bike.
"This is especially important in a city where you may have to pull out to avoid a parked car, or bus stop etc. Knowing what's coming up allows you to stay in control."
Make your intentions clear, signal with plenty of notice and make eye contact with drivers
Get the right bag or pannier for commuting – there’s nothing worse than a bag flapping around or getting twisted up to break your concentration and ruin your ride.
Sarah Jane Ballantyne
Make friends with your local bike shop.
"The people at my local shop have been so helpful and friendly, offering advice and organising rides for people of a similar level."
Don't skimp on your helmet.
"Get a good fitting one, and ask for advice in a cycle store if you are not sure which will be best. Also at this time of year during dusk it’s harder to be seen by others, so wear some good reflective clothes."
Get to know your bike, especially if it's been a while since you've ridden.
"Familiarise yourself with how the brakes feel and how they work, and make sure you can reach the brake levers comfortably. Practice using the gears. Above all though, HAVE FUN!"
And finally, one of the most important in our opinion;
Take your time and enjoy it
Cycle Assist are a specialist cycling accident compensation solicitors firm, providing no-win-no-fee support, and free advice, to cyclists who have been involved in a bicycle accident in the last three years.