How to get started cycling
Spring is in the air, the sun’s (almost) out, and you’re fed up with public transport (who isn’t?). It’s the perfect time to start cycling, but it can be daunting. However, with bike sales soaring and the number of female cyclists rising, you’ll be far from alone!
‘Cycling is invigorating, liberating, and a great way to stay active,’ says cycling coach Holly Seear. ‘It gives you a sense of freedom, is easily built into your routine, and there are endless websites and apps to help you enjoy it.’ Here’s why you should join in:
What are the body benefits?
Lots of research has found that cycling reduces risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. A moderate ride burns up to 500 calories per hour, and it boosts your mood, keeps you slim, ups cardiovascular fitness and strength, and is easy on your joints. ‘It’s particularly good for toning your lower body and core, which keep you steady as you ride. Your upper body gets a workout if you stand, climb hills or ride off road,’ says Seear.
How can I get bike confident?
‘Start somewhere traffic-free, like a park, to master riding single-handed so you can signal, and get used to looking over both shoulders so you’ll be aware of traffic,’ says Seear. Book an introductory course if you feel nervous (see Fact File, below).
Road cyclists benefit from using cleats, which clip your shoes to the pedals, so you can apply pressure all around the revolution, not just when you push down. ‘If you’re new to them, start on the loosest setting and practise stationary next to a wall. Practise changing gears, too, until it’s instinctive. Using your gears correctly will help you accelerate or make hills easier.
When you go for a ride, be assertive and stay out of the gutter. Remember you’re a road user like anyone else – don’t apologise for being there. When you look back to signal, make eye contact with drivers.
Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, take your phone, emergency cash and a puncture repair kit.’
What are the riding basics?
When going around a corner, keep the outside pedal at the lowest position, with pressure on it for more grip. Try to keep a cadence of 70-90 revolutions per minute. ‘Be ready for hills by shifting to an easier gear as soon as you feel a slope, then spin up,’ say Seear.
What bike should I go for?
It depends what kind of rider you intend to be. ‘For off-road or rugged trails – a mountain bike. If you plan to do events, sportives, races or commute daily, a road bike is best. For the occasional commute and riding for pleasure, a hybrid might suit, or perhaps even an e-bike. Your bike shop can help.’ Hybrids are the most popular choice among women: they’re light, and can cope with most terrains and weather, thanks to wider tyres, straight handlebars and a more upright position. The shop will help you with the right frame size. Also get a helmet, padded shorts, a cycle jersey, glasses (to protect your eyes from bugs, stones and weather), and a repair kit.
- Beginner’s courses: Bikeability; Cycling UK; Sustrans.
- Events: Let’s Ride; British Cycling.
- Safe routes: Sustrans; Tfl Cycling (London); CycleStreets; Cycling UK journey planner