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Cycling Advice For Beginners

As the saying goes, once you've learnt to ride a bike, you'll never forget. The next step is to feel confident.
Off road routes and trails are a good way to increase your bike handling skills, especially if you have not ridden a bike for a few years, so find your nearest national cycle network route, former railway cycle path, local reservoir or park which allows cycling. If you are specifically looking to learn the finer skills of Mountain biking, then a Mountain Bike training course could well help you on your way, whether you're a complete beginner, or someone with more experience.
Remember to use your gears, as this will make it much easier to get around and up the hills! A common mistake is to cycle in too high a gear, which soon becomes tiring. Use your full range of gears and aim to start with to make about one revolution of the pedals per second. As you cycle more you can increase this to 70-80 revolutions per minute which will make your cycling much easier but can be hard to do until your muscles get used to it.
Cycling on roads can be daunting for some. Many people start cycling using off road trails and tracks but once you have been cycling for a little time you will probably want to cycle on some roads. Always start on quiet local roads or country lanes, cycle confidently and remember you have the right to be on the road so don't cycle in the gutter.

Holding Your Road Position

How far out you should cycle will depend on the conditions but you should not be less than 1 metre from the kerb and should be further out if it is not safe for a vehicle to pass at that point (i.e. round a blind corner).

Holding your road position has the following advantages:
1) You will miss the drain covers and debris on the side of the road.
2) You will help drivers to make the right decisions about when it is safe to pass you; drivers will rarely overtake you around a corner if they have to pull out far into the oncoming lane.
3) If someone does pass you inconsiderately then you have somewhere to pull into and get away from the vehicle.

Make Eye Contact

As well as keeping your position on the road, making eye contact with other road users, particularly with vehicles coming out of side junctions and at roundabouts, is very useful and will tell you if the driver has seen you or not. Proceed confidently but be prepared to brake if required.

Make Your Intentions Clear

Lastly when turning right be aware who is around you. Looking over your right shoulder whilst having one hand on the handle bars can be tricky at first so it is a good idea to practice this off road first. Make the manoeuvre signal well in advance, and when it is safe to do so (ie there are no vehicles or someone has slowed down to let you pull out) pull out, but keep your position in your lane so people can not overtake closely on your left. When you get to the junction cross when it is safe to do so.

Do I need Training?

As you gain in confidence you can progress to larger roads but if you are unsure (as in approaching a large junction) do not feel bad about getting off your bike and walking until you feel safe to cycle again.
Organisations such as CTC undertake cycle training in the UK, on road and off road. Cycle training has undergone a massive change in the last 10 years from the cycling proficiency test, which was aimed at children, to the National Standards for cycle training and the Bikeability tests, which also provide for adults. The National Standards are delivered though a network of instructors and instructor training providers. The National Standards or Bikeability is on the way to being well established in England. CTC also runs a franchise of Off Road Training providers and Maintenance courses.
© Pennine Prospects 2012.
Routes compiled by Walk England.
© Photography by Steven Morgan,
all images © Pennine Prospects.
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