Getting started

So you've decided to cycle. Congratulations, you'll be entering an exciting new world with a complicated social structure and endless stuff to lust after and purchase.

Before we get too excited however, let us all remember just how scary and bamboozling it can all be...... Anyhoo, here are some of my top tips:

Don't be put off by scary cyclists
Not everyone likes lycra, sometimes a Pashley is appropriate, going two miles to the local station is important and impressive if you haven't cycled in a very long time. You don't always need a carbon-fibre dream machine.

Experienced cyclists can forget the scariness of being a novice. You know what you want and need when you start cycling. Go to a good bike shop and talk through exactly what you want. If they snigger, leave. Give your money to a real professional.

Don't be embarrassed, ask questions
Many cyclists are lovely and want to encourage others. A and A2 were instrumental in getting me cycling every day. Their support was invaluable and, no matter how 'silly' or 'simple' the question it was answered constructively.

The bike buddy I cycle with came across the office one day and asked for help. I advised on gears, braking and cycle with her to work to get her used to the roads. I'm happy to do all of this.

No one is born with the knowledge that the rear brake is on the left, don't struggle in silence.

It's meant to be fun
Cycling should be a nice experience. If I'm brutally honest, not everyone is cut out for commuting on London's roads. However, there are often alternatives and nice off-road routes. Do some research and look for routes you're comfortable with.

I've seen more than one person on the Uxbridge Road looking terrified and upset, don't let it be you.

Know your rights
  • You do not have to use cycle lanes if you deem them unsafe, whether by design or because there are faults in the road surface. 
  • You do not have to ride in the gutter.
  • You have every right to be on the road. 
  • If there is a cycle track sign, you can ride on the pavement as long as you give pedestrians priority. Many people do not understand this sign. Don't get cross, educate these people.
Know the law
  • Cycling on the pavement is illegal (unless it's a marked cycle track).
  • Front and rear flashing lights (white on the front, red on the back) are required for cycling in the dark.
  • Red lights and pedestrian crossings apply to cyclists as well as motored vehicles.
  • Helmets/reflective clothing are not currently compulsory when riding a bike in the UK. It's a personal choice, I choose to wear both.
  • Being drunk on a bicycle on a road is an offence that police are taking increasingly seriously. It's also a very silly thing to do.