Imperial Health at Work


Cycling for beginners. How to build your cycling confidence

Riding a bike if you’ve never ridden one before or haven’t for years can be daunting, but by building up your confidence slowly and following a few simple tips, you’ll be cycling on the road before you know it.

Get the right equipment

If you’re riding a bike that is too small, too big or uncomfortable, you’ll be unlikely to have the best experience. Make sure that your bike is the right height for you – you may have to adjust the seat. You’ll also need to check that the brakes work, the tires are pumped and any lights are working.

To be safe on the roads, you’ll need a helmet that fits comfortably – it should cover your forehead and sit above your eyebrows. Also make sure you have the right shoes – trainers or another flexible shoe are best but if you have laces, do them up properly and tuck them in so they don’t get caught in the pedals or wheel.

Start small

Once you’ve got your bike in working order, start off by going to a grassy area where you won’t injure yourself if you fall off – which you probably will at first, this is nothing to worry about! Begin by practising getting on and off the bike and trying to push off using the pedals. Don’t worry if you find this scary or can only stay upright for a few seconds. Keep doing this until you can cycle for 30 seconds or so and make sure you practise braking (not too sharply or you’re likely to fall off).

Build up your time on the bike gradually

Now that you can stay on the bike, keep cycling in short bursts until you are feeling confident that you can stay upright. You can now start to practise steering and leaning into corners to turn. Again, this is just practice, so don’t worry if you find this tricky at first. Once you’re a little more confident with this, you’re ready to navigate real obstacles.

It’s a good idea at this point to practise cycling in a park or a place with other cyclists or people. This will mean you can practise steering to avoid other people and get into the flow of cycling behind others.

Practise indicating

To practice indicating, try lifting one hand off of your handlebars. You can start by doing this for a second or two and then build up to being able to hold one arm out to indicate. Try this with both hands until you feel confident.

Cycle on a quiet road

Start by riding on quiet roads as opposed to busy ones. Only when you feel confident on quiet roads should you switch to busier ones. Ride on the cycle path where there is one and if there isn’t, ride on the road and not on the pavement or in the gutter.

Act like a car

When you are cycling on the road, you need to feel that you have a valid place on the road, and act like a car as much as possible. This means you need to stick to the rules of the road as you would in a car – no jumping red lights or ignoring other traffic signals. It also means you need to be confident and assertive and try not to hesitate too much or make indecisive manoeuvres.

Make eye contact

Making eye contact with car drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists is the best way to ensure that they have seen you.

Be aware of your surroundings

The best way to be aware of what is going on around you is to look over your shoulder often, especially before you signal to manoeuvre, and also look ahead so you can avoid any potholes or other obstructions.

Never undertake a lorry

When you are on the left hand side of a lorry, the driver cannot see you, so do not attempt to undertake a lorry on the left. If they swerve or turn suddenly, you won’t have space to get out of the way.

Cycling is beneficial for health and wellbeing in many ways. Cycling UK has lots more information on cycling, including some useful How to guides. You can also ask your employer if they have a cycle scheme.

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