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.