6 Things Every New Cyclist Needs To Know!
By Catherine Bedford, Dashel
Kick start your cycling adventure!
First people started digging old bikes out from garages and sheds to make their daily exercise more varied during lockdown and then many people decided that cycling was a far better option for their commute to work than public transport. Many families have been enjoying bike rides when many other facilities have been closed.
Have you seen this and considered following suit? Here are some things to consider when getting back into the saddle after a long time:
Getting geared up
Firstly, don’t think you need to go and buy loads of Lycra before you can get on your bike. Indeed, you can ride in your everyday clothes, up to a point, although you should avoid heavy shoes or loose laces and baggy skirts or trousers which could get caught up the pedals or chain. Wear light and comfy clothes and avoid things like jeans for long cycle rides as thicker denim can chafe after a while. If you already own leggings for yoga or running they’ll be perfect.
If you are considering cycling to work, look out for cycling gear specifically designed to transition between bike and office. Not only can you get helmets that don’t cause ‘helmet hair’, there are stylish jackets which look great in a meeting but glow at night when you’re riding home. Similarly, there are some amazing shoes out there, perfect for cycling in that really look the part when you are sitting at your desk. There are even pannier bags available that you can take off the bike and hide the clips so you look like you bought from a local designer boutique. Similarly, this gear is great if you are cycling to meet friends for a pub lunch, cream tea or picnic.
Do invest in some rain gear – after all, this is England. A lightweight jacket and over-trousers are good to have to hand and a poncho is great for showery weather too.
Which bike is best?
The best way to decide which bike is best for you is to think about what you will be using it for and where you are likely to be cycling.
If you are looking for speed, perhaps to commute to and from work in the quickest time, then a road bike, or racer, is probably the right bike for you. They are lightweight and designed for speed. A tourer is similar to a road bike but is slightly sturdier so if you are likely to use your bike for longer journeys where pannier bags might be useful, for example if you are fishing or camping, this is worth exploring.
Alternatively, if you’re considering something a bit more adventurous and fancy taking your bike off-road in your free time, perhaps on forest trails or over hilly paths, then a mountain bike is probably what you need. These have better suspension and thick tyres designed to grip in muddy or loose terrain.
If you can’t decide or fancy a bike that you can commute to work on but ride off-road at weekends, have a look at the hybrid bikes. They are lightweight but also sturdy and comfortable and a good all-rounder.
And there is a lot more choice than these three, too. If you have a long commute but still want to cycle either side of the train ride, a folding bike is lightweight and practical, or for people with back and knee problems, it’s worth considering a recumbent bike, where you sit in a reclining position.
When it comes to cost, like anything you mostly get what you pay for. If you’re on a tight budget, do look at second hand, reconditioned bikes. They save money and are obviously also better for the environment.
Once you’ve decided on your bike you need to ensure you will be safe. This also doesn’t need to cost the earth but do make sure you have the essentials. Starting at the top, helmets are not actually legally required but I do feel it’s important because, in the unfortunate event of an accident, it will protect you! If you think helmets mean looking silly, think again. There are some really stylish helmets on the market these days which means you can make a fashion statement while keeping safe.
Also key is visibility. You must have lights on your bike and, if you are likely to be riding in traffic, consider one you can wear on your (stylish) helmet too. This will make you even more visible to 4x4s and buses. Even if you’re not planning on riding after dark, it’s wise to carry something reflective with you at all times just in case you get caught out. You don’t have to be clad head to foot in day-glow; a simple sash that can be easily carried with you is enough to be sure you are seen.
Finally, I’d recommend you learn a little bike maintenance so you can ensure your bike is fit for purpose on a regular basis. Make sure you know how to check the air pressure in your tyres, test your brakes and ensure you have sufficient lube on your chain. Again, a good bike shop should talk you through the basics when you buy.
Plan your route
Whether you are cycling to work or for pleasure, consider sensible routes when starting out. You don’t want to begin your new pastime weaving in and out of inner-city traffic. Not only is it dangerous to do so without experience, you’re highly likely to put yourself off before you start. Try some rural off-road routes to start with. When riding to work, ask about and find some quieter routes that go through parks, for example, or beside the river. It may take a little longer but it will be safer and far more pleasant. Also consider the difficulty of your route. Novice cyclists are unlikely to enjoy hilly rides initially and would be much more sensible to opt for easy terrains and low gradients. You can always build up as you gain confidence and fitness. Best of all, use your early days cycling to explore local routes and find some you really enjoy.
For those planning to go cycling as a family and take the kids along, there are additional considerations. Again, safety is key.
With children, as adults, until they’re fully competent, I advise keeping them off roads or sticking to safe, quiet roads. Let them gain their confidence and mastery of their bikes. Make sure that their bikes have a bell and that they know how, when and where to use them. Teach them hand signals and relevant points of the Highway Code.
Make sure their helmets are correctly fitted to their heads, put on knee and elbow pads as appropriate and ensure that they are wearing brightly coloured clothes at all times, even if it
is a bright and sunny day. If and when you decide to take them on the roads, they will be lower down than adults in the group and, therefore generally less visible. As ever, you need to avoid cycling close to parked cars. Children are also likely to be more wobbly on their wheels and drivers should be aware that they need to give them a wide berth. I’ve found that children can brake unpredictably if scared by traffic revving past them, which could cause other cyclists to collide with them. So, if the roads are too busy and it doesn’t feel safe just walk the bikes along the pavement and try another time when it will be quieter or another route. Councils need to be lobbied to provide safe, segregated cycling now more than ever so that families don’t need to use cars to travel with social distancing.
If you’re not confident with your children riding independently yet but they are too big for a child seat or trailer, consider a tag-a-long or trailer bike. These are essentially like a tandem but obviously the rear bike is smaller. This is a great way to get your child used to cycling and teach them all they need to know but you are in control of the bike and they can rest on longer rides.
Remember not to get overambitious with your early family bike rides. Start small and build up according to your child’s age and ability. There’s no point putting them off by asking them to do too much in the early days. I’m certain that, as their confidence and ability grow so will their enthusiasm for new, different and longer routes. You may find you’re the one asking whether you can go home soon!
Once you have considered all these points, it’s time to get out there! Ease yourself in, get comfortable and, as your cycling journey continues, you will learn what your and your family’s mode of cycling is. Wherever your cycling journey takes you, I’m sure you will have a wonderful time!
I’m always happy to hear other peoples tips & advice to help keep ourselves and loved ones safe!
Disclosure: Contributed Guest Post
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Catherine Bedford is Founder of Dashel. Dashel offers a range of slim, ventilated, lightweight cycle helmets manufactured in the UK. With a distinctive urban feel Dashel Helmets are made from recyclable materials – ensuring that they are low impact at the point of manufacture and produce very little waste at the end of life. The new Re-Cycle helmet will be ground down into new helmets at the UK factory when it is finished with. The helmets are portable, sold packaged in a handy rucksack that means there is no superfluous packaging. They come in an array of classic colours. Choose from black, blue, sage green and red. Dashel helmets are £79 and available from all good cycle shops and online at Dashel.co.uk
Web: https://www.dashel.co.uk Instagram: dashelcyclehelmets Twitter: @dashelcyclehelmets Facebook: facebook.com/dashelhelmets Pinterest: dashel cycle helmets LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/catherine-bedford-b55a