New to cycling on the road.

  • By Fatma_sh on at 11:56am 13 November 2013
  • Posted in: General
  • Tagged with:

I have no idea what made me want to stop communiting using public transport. Perhaps its wanting to get fit while making my way to work or the conditions on the northern line every morning!

The headlines made in the news about the struggle cyclists have during the day to day basis led to people being hurt/injured or even losing their life. I then looking further into cycling to work and now I want to be able to enjoy London wihlst being over the ground, working out without actually commiting an hour of my life to the gym on top of everything else and actually save some money in the hope that one day I will actually own my own place in the city that I have grown up in ~ maybe there is some hope.

Sorry for the long essay. I need tips on how to cycle on the road, the essentials I need to carry with me on a day to day basis ~spanner? Also, I want to buy a dutch bike (I think they look pretty) but are they great for the busy London roads? I am slighytly worried about riding a bike on the road.. I have only done this in the parks!

Will love to hear your tips.

Many thanks


For the bike I suggest you get one which is the most mechanically efficient rather than looks good - there's a lot of stop-start to commuting in London which takes muscle and effort.

Most local councils offer free or heavily-subsidised cycle training - go onto their website and have a look.

In terms of fitting yourself out, you need a decent set of waterproofs. Underneath you wear layers, so that you can add/subtract easily - you'll find the temperature varies considerably during the day, and you may wear different quantities on your trip home from your trip to work. Decent lights are a must - people don't see you without them, and you need to be seen for safety; ask a specialist in a proper bike shop for the best lights.

Tools: a pump for your tyres (for home I'd suggest a floor pump, because you'll get to full pressure, but you need a hand pump for when your out-and-about), a set of tyre levers and a spare inner tube (of the right size to fint your tyres - check). I have a multi-tool, but to be honest I very rarely use it when I'm out-and-about - I did have my chain come off a couple of weeks agao, and had the tool for that but a few cars had run over my chain before I could retrieve it and it was damaged beyond repair! You do need a tool (spanner) for getting your wheel off and on as you change your inner tube on a puncture. The most important thing is being able to deal with a puncture - it's a pain if you have to wheel your bike for miles because you can't repair it yourself. Have a look on Youtube for how to change an inner tube.

Hope this helps. Happy cycling!

This post was edited by veryrarelystable at 10:49pm 13 November 2013.

Safety. Aside from BEING VISIBLE (how visible? There is no such thing as too visible), below are some general safety tips I have picked up.

Number one rule. Do no undertake large vehicles unless they are stationary and only then if you know they will not move before you get past them and IN ADDITION only if there is sufficient space in front of the vehicle so that you will be seen there. 

Number 2 rule. Do not overtake buses which are at a stop and indicating to pull out. At the minimum you will delay it's journey and put yourself in a hazardous situation (other cars will be overtaking, plus the bus may not see you and pull out anyway).

Number 3 rule. Slower cycling = safer cycling. You have more time to react if you're not caning it down the street at 30mph. This is especially true in bad conditions.

Number 4 rule. Keep your brakes in tip top condition. I do an emergency stop at least once per week. 

All I can think of. 

Good for you Fatma_sh. The more of us there are cycling on the roads and commuting by bike, the better. All the tips above are very good advice. I'd add one other, which is hard to do but makes a difference and that's to be confident. You have every right to be on the road, and to be in front of other vehicles, in the middle of your lane. Don't let them bully you into hugging the kerb, where you are less visible and more likely to get punctures from broken glass or hit potholes. Take your time, especially while you're getting used to cycling on the road. I also find it helps if I've worked out the route first, so I can concentrate on cycling safely without having to try to read road signs.

Glad to hear you are taking up cycling Fatma_sh. All the above are good tips, though I just want to reiterate Tomo's golden rules about never filtering up the left hand side of a lorry. It can be tempting especially when you see a lot of people doing it but it simply is not worth the risk. Anna is also right about not being bullied. You have as much right to be on the road as everyone else.

Anyway, I hope this helps and happy cycling!

  • By phufbl at 7:46pm 13 November 2013

Welcome to the club Fatma_sh! Cycling is a good way to get a bit of exercise everyday and you will get to see and know the city in a way which you never would while stuck in an underground tunnel. Plus, it is much more fun.


Don't be put off by horror stories, cycling is much safer than many people think it is, but there are things which you can do to protect yourself.


Other people have made good points already, although you are unlikely to learn the best ways to cope with traffic situations from reading a forum, the best way is to either do a cycle training course or just get out there and give it a go.

In my opinion the most important thing for your safety is your attitude. I try to put safety first in my mind, even if it means I end up waiting a bit longer at junctions or don't always go to the front of the queue. Don't always copy other cyclists jumping to the front or filtering up the left hand side!

There are times when you will have hairy moments but make sure you learn from them and try to think about what you could do differently to avoid the same situation in future.

I also always try to remain calm (although may not always succeed). There will be stressful moments and times when you feel vulnerable but keeping calm is almost always the best way to cope.

I think being familiar with your route is important. If you are going to be going the same way to work everyday can you walk it one day first and keep an eye out for any tricky junctions? You can then think about how to alter your route to avoid those difficult bits. Maybe you could do a trial run on your bike at the weekend when it is quieter before braving the rush hour?

I always carry with me: lights - I keep at least two front and at least two rear lights so if one fails I am not without. High vis vest - you don't need to splash out on expensive jackets, you can get vests or tabards for under £10 from Halfords (or other places). Spare inner tube, tyre levers, hand pump (although I have been cycling 50 miles a week for over 3 years and never had a puncture!) and a set of allen keys.

Don't forget the importance of good bikje maintenance! It would be very handy if you at least knew how to adjust your own brakes and change the pads. Depending on which borough you live or work you might be eligible for a free bike maintenance course through bike works (

Good luck! 

  • By Shannon at 6:34am 14 November 2013

Good on you Fatma, welcome to the road. Here are a few tips (essay?). It can take a little time to build up confidence at first, so be patient and don't be hard on yourself if you make mistakes. Every mistake will make you a more experienced rider. I'd recomend a short period 'getting to know your bike'. Firstly, get your saddle at the correct hight, ask the shop how. Go to a supermarket car park, test how it handles. Ride in circles and a figure of eight. See how different speeds affect the arc of your turning circle. Understand your stopping distances, you will find they will vary a fair bit in in the wet etc. Learn to use your front brake, it has the stopping power. Using only the rear can lead to skidding (check it out). Bicycles start to become a little wobbly below a certain speed, so find out how slow you can go and still feel stable. Once you find that speed, practice your hand signal left and right. Then try it faster. The bigger the car park, the more road markings/junctions the better. It's important to learn these skills in a low pressure environment where there are few moving cars. You will feel relaxed after a suprisingly short time and see how much fun it is. Do your commute at least once in daylight and at night as a trial run at a quiet time of day. You will gage roughly how long it takes and won't waste brain space navigating for the first time. Don't jump red lights. Concider every red light as a gymnasium for you legs. The effort involved in moving from a standing start will build specific muscles. Maintaining these muscles is important. You will need them to accellerate out of danger from time to time. Those muscles have saved me the odd knock and bump more than once. It also makes us look bad. Don't copy riders who ride to close to the kerb or car doors! Get a jacket with vented armpits (so important). Very slim commuter tyres are a must if you are getting a dutch bike, less effort and less sweat than heavy Dutch tyres. The shop will swop them for you, if they want the sale. If not, find a different shop. Lights are important and you can get good ones heavily discounted on line, as with most bike bits. Aim to spend about £10 more than the cheaper ones (they are dim and always brake). Just as importantly, use rechargable batterys. Batterys loose charge and go dim fairly quickly, and there is a temptation to leave them in for just one more journey. Topping up rechargables keeps them as bright as new for years. Detach and pocket lights etc when leaving your bike, if not, they will be stolen. Get at least 1 quality D lock and a second lock of a different sort if you are leaving it outside. Watch a 'how to lock your bike' video on You Tube. Get the best gear you can afford. When it comes to spending money on bike stuff, I do a simple calculation. I compare it to how much it would cost for a weekly tube fair. It puts things into perspective. Let us know how your first day goes. In short, be predictable, look behind you and have fun!

  • By Kepi192 at 10:16pm 14 November 2013

Agree with phufbl. One further tip, on a very regular basis make sure you have a good look over your shoulder, by that I don't mean a quick flick of the eyes to the 4 o'clock position but rotaate your head and look properly behind you in the 6 o'clock position. It never ceases to amaze me how few cyclists actually bother to do this. Forwarned is for armed. For confidence and knowledge you might want to consider taking the Basic Cycle Maintainence class at the London Bike Kitchen, best money Ive ever spent. They also run a women only class if the thought of doing something like that surrounded by men is of putting. Check out their website.

  • By Fatma_sh at 9:31am 15 November 2013

Wow, so much to take in. Thank you all so much for all the tips. Its really is a whole new world and I cant wait to tap in to it.

I am going to view some bikes this weekend and possibly do a test run of my route the upcoming week. I cant wait to get started and will keep you all updated on how things turn out.


  • By Stily1 at 1:04pm 15 November 2013

Fatma_sh, really enjoyed your description of seeing cycling as a way to work exercise into your daily life. I've done the same, sort of by accident, and haven't looked back since. Regular exercise, fresh air, save money, save sanity, perfect antidote for a desk job. I think you are on the right track.

All of the above advice is good - visibility (high-viz vest), lights, of course a helmet, I recommend gloves just in case.

To others comments about not being bullied - I believe everyone has the right to be slow, but with this comes the responsibility to keep to the left. Faster riders have to pass you and this is their maneuver, but you do need to keep to your side of the available space. If you do that, you can go as slowly as you want/need to, IMHO.


my two rules.

do not undertake lorry's especially at junctions or left turns.

always look over your right shoulder before moving out, no matter how small the movement to the right is.  

If you're new to riding (or recently returning, or just want to polish your skills) I'd recommend getting some Cycle Training:

It'll help you learn best practice, and build your confidence for dealing with the variety of situations and conditions on our roads.

Post a reply

Sign in to post a reply.