Cycling has the ability to be anxiety-inducing. Hawk Incentives recently conducted a study asking people if they would like to cycle to work. 34% of people said they would like to but don’t because of the fear of danger. It is completely understandable why the prospect of cycling next to speeding cars, or on badly maintained roads can be scary. Here at Litelok, we would love to get more people on bikes, so we have put together a list of tips for cycling beginners on how to ride whilst staying safe.
1) Start on quieter roads
If you aren’t confident cycling alongside traffic, then build up your confidence on quieter roads. This will allow you to get used to signalling when changing lanes, turning smoothly, braking quickly, and checking for traffic. All these things are essential skills when road cycling and are very easy to master. Don’t throw yourself into the deep end before you can swim. Get used to cycling on easier roads before hitting the busy city streets.
2) Signal when changing lanes
Speaking of signalling, it is very important to make your intentions as clear as possible to other road users. If you wish to turn right, then hold out your right arm and that will inform any traffic behind you of where you are planning to go. If you simply turned right, this could catch people by surprise and you could likely end up causing an accident. As well as signalling, always look over your shoulder to assess the traffic. If you feel like it is dangerous to turn then don’t.
It can be quite overwhelming for new cyclists to take one hand off the handlebar and look behind them. Perhaps practise doing this on a quiet road with no cars around, or on a patch of grass.
3) Stay out of the gutter
It seems logical to avoid traffic by cycling as close to the pavement as possible. However, this part of the road is the most likely place to find road debris which can puncture your tyres, as well as wet leaves which can be slippery. Often designated cycle lanes will suffer from the same problem as they are narrow strips on the side of the road. If you do find yourself cycling in these conditions then be cautious and be alert.
4) Good positioning cycling downhill
Cycling downhill can be scary. You can feel forced to go faster than you feel comfortable with and worried that you’ll crash if you pull the brakes. When cycling downhill, make sure you have good body posture. Keep your bum firm on the seat, hold the handlebars with your arms straight, and keep your feet on the pedals at the 3 and 9 positions. Try and maintain a comfortable speed. If you do feel you are going to fast then gently pull both brakes to slow your self down.
5) Be wary of busses
It is very important to be aware of busses. They are large vehicles and the drivers have limited visibility. Although you do want to give them plenty of space, riding to close to the curb could mean that a bus will try to overtake you, which can be quite scary. If they also try pulling in front of you too soon then you are in danger of being hit by the rear of the bus. By riding in the centre of the road, busses will not overtake you and will be unable to pull in front of you. If you are going to attempt to overtake a bus that has stopped at a bus stop, make sure you pull out with plenty of time. This will give other road users time to know what you are doing and will avoid any unexpected sudden collisions.
6) Never undertake
By undertaking a vehicle you may be inadvertently putting yourself in their blind spot which could cause an accident. This is especially the case if the vehicle is making a left turn. Even if the driver could see you, you can’t always rely on the fact that they will look for you. So do take extra caution near junctions and if you see a car slow down then slow down with them.
If you are at a set of traffic lights and you are unsure of which way they intend to go, then hang back and give them room.
7) Ride with someone
Riding behind someone can be very helpful when starting out. This doesn’t necessarily mean ride with someone you know, it could be anyone travelling in your direction. By riding behind someone you can watch how they act on the road and learn from them. Also, cars will often not risk overtaking multiple cyclists unless they have ample space, so if this is something that worries you then find a fellow cyclist and ride with them.
8) Buy an independently tested bike lock
It is advised to spend roughly 10% of your bike’s value on it's security. The more expensive your bike is, the more attractive it will be to thieves, so don’t scrimp on your bike lock. In order to make sure you are confident with the security your lock will provide, make sure you purchase a bike lock that has been independently tested by security professionals. Sold Secure is the UK’s leading testing house for security products. They compare a range of bike locks and test them using tools and methods used by real-life bike thieves. This will ensure that you buy a lock that you are confident in. Here at Litelok, we sell Sold Secure Gold bicycle locks which are perfect for anyone commuting in an urban environment. Sold Secure Gold is the highest rating they provide for bicycle security so you can be confident securing your bike with a Litelok. We also sell Sold Secure Silver bicycle locks, they may not be as secure as our Gold range, but these bike locks are perfect for leisurely cyclists out on weekend rides. Light, flexible, and secure.
Do bear in mind that all bike locks are deterrents and can be broken by determined thieves. A Sold Secure Gold lock will take much more effort and time to break than cheap, unrated locks. We would also recommend making sure you have bicycle insurance, and you check out our additional tips on how to keep your bike safe from theft.
9) Be visible
Always try and be as visible as possible. Wear Hi-Vis clothes, make sure you have front and rear lights attached to your bike, and position yourself so you are clear and visible to any drivers that are around you. If drivers can’t see you then there is the very real possibility that they may collide with you
10) Wear a helmet
There is a large debate amongst cyclist when it comes to wearing a helmet. Many people believe that by not wearing a helmet, vehicle drivers actually take more care when passing you. Although that may be a very valid point, there are many other factors that could come into play to throw you from your bike. This is especially the case if you are still getting used to road cycling. We would strongly recommend wearing a helmet to protect yourself in case you do come off your bike.