Test your skills in a traffic-free area

Practise looking behind you Credit: Alix Stredwick

If you haven’t cycled much before, find yourself a traffic-free environment to start off in such as your local park.

You might want to take a more experienced friend with you for help and advice, which where getting in touch with a local LCC group can help.

Begin by familiarising yourself with the brakes and gears. If you are using standard derailleur gears, you can only change gear while you are pedalling.

This means you should learn to anticipate when you will need to change down or up – for example, if you are approaching red traffic lights, you should change down in anticipation of setting off from a stop with lower pedal resistance so you can get away quickly.

Try riding one-handed so that you can make hand signals confidently, and practise looking behind you while still travelling in a straight line: try it with both hands on the handlebars first, then try taking your hand off the handlebar on the side that you're turning (you’ll find you have greater manoeuvrability like this). Holding the back of your saddle with your free hand can help to steady your balance.

Make sure you practise looking over both shoulders – you’ll mostly need to look over your right shoulder, but sometimes left is essential.

Make sure you're happy performing an emergency stop: pull both brakes levers hard, though try to avoid locking up the wheels (which makes you lose control).

At the same time as braking, straighten your arms and move your bodyweight backwards on your seat, so you counteract the braking force.

Also make sure you're happy tackling obstacles, turns and uneven surfaces before venturing out on to the roads.


The Highway Code

Before you start cycling in traffic, read the Highway Code for up-to-date rules and regulations for cyclists.

 

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By employing some basic cycling tips and skills, you'll not only earn a greater appreciation for your bike but also improve your riding experience and get a better workout in the process. Take advantage of the following tips next time you hit the road.

1. Know your gears. Your front gears (located near your right pedal) are used to make the biggest shifts; for example, when you approach a hill and need to get into an easy gear fast. You may have two or three chain rings to choose from, with the smallest ring providing the easiest turnover. These gears are controlled by the shift mechanism on the left-hand side of your handlebars. Flex belt reviews

Your back gears (located on a cogset near the rear wheel) are the "fine-tuners." Use these when you need to get into a slightly different gear to increase pace or make pedaling a little easier. These gears are controlled by the shift mechanism on the right-hand side of your handlebars.

2. When shifting, plan ahead. Watch the terrain and plan what gear you'll need to be in if the terrain changes. When you get to a hill, shift to the gear you need just before you get there. Waiting too long causes you to lose momentum and puts pressure on the chain, making it harder for the bike to shift appropriately.

The best way to familiarize yourself with your gears is to hit an open stretch of road and practice shifting both front and back gears to see what they can do for you.

3. Learn to brake. The No. 1 rule of braking is to use both brakes evenly, particularly if you need to stop suddenly. The front brake (located on the left) provides more stopping power, which is why you want to avoid using it too abruptly. Slamming the front break is a sure way to catapult over the bars. Cookware set reviews

To brake safely, add pressure gradually to both brakes until you slow to a desired speed or come to a full stop. Over-gripping the rear brake will give you less stopping power and cause your back tire to skid. As with gearing, watch ahead and moderate your speed in advance.

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