Most of us may have shrugged off the stabilizers and learnt how to ride two wheels in elementary school, but navigating the daily commute can feel a bit like learning a whole new skill.
When faced with traffic, pedestrians, unpredictable weather and the Highway Code, cycling can suddenly seem a little daunting – especially if you’re just starting out. If you’ve decided you want to explore the roads more as a cyclist, but find yourself searching things like; ‘‘What kind of bike do I need?’, and ‘Do I have enough gear?’ – then this post is for you!
From safety to comfort, here are some cycling dos and don’ts to help beginner cyclists hit the road with confidence.
DO… Put Safety First
Cycling gets a bad rep for putting form over function, and it can seem like there are a thousand ‘must have’ bits of gear out there. While it’s nice to have certain bits and pieces (we can definitely think of a few!), there’s time to build up your gear collection as you become a more regular rider.
For new cyclists, it’s all about protecting your safety, and helmets are absolutely top of the list. For those planning on cycling in the dark, we strongly recommend you invest in lights, reflectors and a reflective piece of clothing or accessory to make you as visible as possible to other road users.
DO… Study your Local Cycling Regulations
It’s not uncommon for cyclists and motorists to share a mutual frustration, and conflicts often happen when there’s a lack of understanding of respective rights. To ensure you’re following the written rules of the road, make sure to familiarize yourself with a recent version of your local cycling regulations. Head to your provincial government site to check out the rules where you are.
This way, confrontation can be kept to a minimum (and if there is any, you can bask in the knowledge that you’re actually in the right!)
DO… Plan Ahead
Accidents can happen when you make a last minute reroute or find yourself on an unfamiliar road or area. When you’re new to cycling, it’s best to choose a route and stick to it. This way, you can build your confidence on the roads, sharpen your cycling etiquette and remain focused on getting to your next destination as quickly and safely as possible!
DO…. Familiarize Yourself with your Bike
There’s nothing more annoying than finding yourself five minutes into a cycle and realizing your bike is uncomfortable, laboursome or has a finicky feature on it you have no idea how to use.
It might sound obvious, but if you’ve recently invested in a new bike for your commute, we recommend taking it out for a few spins first. This way, you can get to grips with the gears, sort out the correct seat height and identify any particular glitches the bike might have – for example a temperamental chain, dodgy brakes or sticky pedals – before you commit to an uncomfortable, stressful, or even dangerous, commute.
DON’T… Just Hope for the Best
The idea of taking up a new skill is exciting, and it can be tempting to just hop on your bike and hope everything goes smoothly. If you’re unfamiliar with cycling on the roads, this is not only potentially dangerous, but your body might struggle physically too.
New cyclists should aim to build up their fitness levels. Start off on shorter journeys before adding in those extra kilometres. This way, you’ll build up your confidence, speed and fitness. If you’re not super active and attempt to cycle an hour to work each morning, your legs (and lungs!) won’t thank you for it. Remember: slow and steady wins the race!
Start out with shorter cycles and build up to longer periods on your bike. Put too much strain on your body in a single ride and you may have to take the next few days off the saddle in order to recover!
DON’T…. Forget to Energize
Cycling can be exhausting at the best of times, and if you’re new to the road you may experience a noticeable slump after 30 minutes of intense cycling. As well as regular hydration, on longer rides you should aim to eat something snack-sized every half hour – this could be a banana, a cereal bar or an energy ball. This will help replenish your energy levels and help you keep up the pace.
DON’T… Succumb to ‘Gear Pressure’
There’s a preconceived notion that in order to cycle on the roads, you need to be kitted out with all the expert gear. This isn’t true at all.
While certain bits of gear can make your ride more comfortable and efficient, and others (a helmet, lights and reflectors) help keep you safe, it’s absolutely fine to wear your regular clothes on a bike. As long as you’re dressed appropriately for the weather (waterproofs and layers are your best friends) and avoid baggy or flowing pieces of clothing, which can get stuck in the wheels or chain, you and your bike are good to hit the road.
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