Getting Back On Your Bike: Cycling Essentials Part Five
Words by Jane Bedford McLaren and Jonathan Keenan.
Image by Lucy Sykes.
Now that you have all the gear you need and the right bike for you, we thought some tips on riding might be helpful:
- Pedalling – this is most efficient if the ball of your foot is on the middle of the pedal. When setting off, have your foot on the pedal at the top of the pedal rotation so you get good momentum as you push off and have enough to get your other foot on the other pedal to begin pedalling.
- Gears – unless you have hub gears, you will probably want to change gears before you stop, so that you can set off easily. Try to change down gears (easiest to pedal) before you stop so it is easier to set off again. Same goes for hills – change down as you hit the hill to make it easier to pedal up the hill. Then, as you start to go downhill, change up (harder to pedal) so that your legs are not frantically spinning. I would recommend playing around with the gears (changing up and down) as you pedal to find the ones that feel right for you.
- Braking – use both brakes evenly and at the same time. Not braking evenly can cause wheels to lock up; particularly when it is wet. It is also a good idea to brake before you go into a bend on a road and not during.
- Route planning – Planning your route could make your journey much more enjoyable. Don’t assume the route you went by bus or car is the best way for you to cycle. If you can, spend some time looking at a map or asking around – those online cycling interest groups will be happy to help. Many people that cycle often have found great little routes that avoid heavy traffic or go through a park rather than down a main road without adding a great deal of time onto the journey. Gently pedalling through a park looking at the trees and flowers is a real luxury as far as commutes go!
- Bags on handlebars – they can get caught in wheels, so it is not worth it!
Cycling is not dangerous. Other road users can make it feel dangerous sometimes though. So here are some tips designed to improve your experience on the road:
- Positioning – try to ride about a metre from the pavement as this means you won’t be riding over drain covers and will give you some wiggle room as motorists overtake – you are also more visible.
- Primary position – sometimes it is a good idea to move into the middle of the lane if there is no space for a safe overtake (e.g. ahead of where there are traffic islands) or you are coming up to a right turn.
- Indicate – let other road users know what you are doing.
- Check around you – if you need to change your path of travel, make sure you check over your shoulder before you do and then indicate – much the same way you would if you were driving (i.e. 1. mirrors, 2. signal, 3. manoeuvre).
- Cycle lanes and other infrastructure – some bad infrastructure exists, so don’t follow it blindly and you don’t have to use it if you feel safer not using it.
The current circumstances we find ourselves in are scary and unusual. I find it reassuring in these times to see those helping and supporting others. I thought about what I might be able to offer. As an experienced cyclist seeing loads of new and returning cyclists out and about, I thought I might be able to give some simple tips on making your cycling experience easier and more comfortable. I have collaborated with Jonathan Keenan of Walk Ride Greater Manchester on putting this blog series together.
The main thing to remember is that cycling is a simple pleasure. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. If you have a bike that you like and feel good riding, then read no further!
But if you are wanting some pointers on either improving your cycling experience or are looking to start riding, then I hope this series is helpful.
About the writers:
Jane Bedford McLaren – is solicitor acting for vulnerable road users at Leigh Day and also rides a bike regularly. She cycles to work and likes to ride bikes at the weekend with her local women’s cycling group, Team Glow, of which she is ride leader coordinator. She also gives her time and voice to Walk Ride Chorlton.
Jonathan Keenan – is a freelance photographer based in his Northern Quarter studio and living in Chorlton. He’s a secret petrolhead and occasionally drives for work but it makes him very grumpy. He took to cycle touring as a youth, including organising an expedition to cross Iceland long before that was somewhere anyone went. Interest in architecture, regeneration and urbanism came together with his interest in cycling when kids came along and it became obvious how much their independence and freedom was stifled by our car-centric design and planning, so he became an activist for better cities through the medium of cycle infrastructure. He now has an unfortunate inclination to suggest a bike is the solution to any and every social problem. Because it is.