7 tips for new cyclists

Bicycle against a blue background in Japan

Here are 7 of my favourite tips from last weeks Zalando Competition where people submitted their tips for new cyclists. I’ve included the winning entry at the end.

Ben Broomfield

Don’t ride without protection! Always carry a puncture repair kit and pump.

– I was wondering how this post was going to end and I was pleased with a great and simple suggestion that is so often ignored.

mick allan

It feels counter-intuitive at first but spinning the pedals fast in a low gear promotes excellent cardiovascular health, reduces strain on your joints and on your bike, allows you to accelerate quicker and you get quicker gear changes. But the bottom line really is a bottom line, spinning gives you a well defined rear-end and lovely lean legs.

– Love this suggestion by Mick! An excellent entry – who doesn’t like having a well defined rear – a great side benefit of cycling.


Scope out your cycle route when it’s quiet, say on a Sunday afternoon. This way you’re not navigating around unfamiliar junctions in rush hour. And also don’t always look for the gap – I see so many cyclists who seem oblivious of danger because they’ve seen a gap they can cycle through. If you’re unsure just slow down and assess your options in exactly the same way as if you were driving.

– I’ve given this tip many a time after I’ve my bad first experience of commuting into work. A great tip!


My tip is to take a cycle training course, regardless of how good you already think you are! A lot of local councils will offer free training, so make the most of it! I took level 2 and 3 Bikeability (just a hour or two each) and learnt things I would never have thought of, including many of the tips people have already given here.

– A few people recommended cycle training and I couldn’t agree more about how useful it is. Yet, still most people will read this and keep riding without ever contacting them!


My advice would be – persist! It’s bloomin’ cold out today, your bum will hurt for the first week or so (mine hurt the week before last just after having not ridden for a few weeks over Christmas) and you will forget your towel/a change of pants/your shirt [delete as appropriate] a few times. I have worn a hot pink sports bra under a white blouse for a complete working day, so I feel your pain.

Soon the bum pain will be in the past, you will have a finely-tuned routine and will be thankful you persisted. You will get to work for free, get your exercise for free and in otherwise-redundant time you would spend commuting anyway. Plus you will see and get to know so much more of the city by cycling.


– Well summed up! I’m sure many new cyclists go through the exact same experience.


Keep £20 in your bike bag. If you get a flat at night, in the cold, in the dark, when late or in somewhere unsafe, black taxis are surprisingly friendly about picking up cyclists in distress.

Learn to change flats at a time and place of your choosing. And if you get kevlar belts in your tyres, you may not even get a flat.

– I’ve heard lots of great stories of black cabs stopping for cyclists and allowing them to put their bike in the taxi. Keep that emergency £20 with you!

Our winning entry

I loved all the tips but Julie’s stood out for me:


Hold a confident, consistent line in traffic. I got back on my bike to start cycling to work last year through Central London traffic, and that was the thing that made the biggest difference to me. My instinct had been to hug the curb, or dip back into spaces where there weren’t any parked cars, but holding a firm line a sensible distance out from the curb, and staying out if there’s anything less than a good long gap in parked cars, makes it much easier for other traffic to see you and to know what you’re going to do next. Oh, and enjoy it! Even if it’s chilly or windy or drizzly, it’s still better than being stuck on public transport.

Thanks everyone and keep your eyes open for future competitions!

See also: 10 lessons learned from cycle commuting for a year

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10 Responses to 7 tips for new cyclists

  1. Dave Barker 22/01/2012 at 5:48 pm #

    if it’s not too late: as well as puncture kit and pump, 1, or better still 2, tubes; nine times out of ten you won’t find the hole in the tube at the road side; and if you are on fairly light tyres (23 or 25s) it may well be an unmendable impact puncture; and just once I rode over a pothole and got impact punctures in both wheels.

  2. Kyklos 22/01/2012 at 8:03 pm #

    I would be interested to know what people carry on their commute to work, especially if it is a long commute. I feel I carry too much: u-lock, cable lock, extra lock for saddle (Yes 3 locks – what a pain!) water bottle, emergency nibbles, puncture kit, extra tube, waterproof jacket (in case of a downpour), small tools, plastic bag for saddle.

    And then my laptop, and additional papers, wallet, phone etc (all the things I would usually carry on me.)

    How do you carry it all? One pannier or two and what kind?

  3. Kyklos 23/01/2012 at 8:52 am #

    Thanks for the link Andreas, very enlightening. Although I couldn’t understand how one person didn’t notice 3 stray tins of tuna in his pannier over the course of 3 days! That must mean my weight is small fry to some!

    • Andreas 23/01/2012 at 10:15 am #

      Haha – it seems so – I really like to keep my weight as small as possible, if there’s one thing I hate is when you feel you are having to over exert yourself to get the bike moving forward!

  4. Malcis 27/01/2012 at 11:07 am #

    I endorse so many of these….The thing I say to myself at least once every commute is ‘This is not a race.’ Being a naturally competitive type it’s sometimes hard not to go for the gaps, resent being overtaken etc, but making a conscious effort to stay zen has definitely improved my state of mind and my safety. Deciding to slow down, stay back and wait and see what develops in front of you does not make you a wuss 🙂

  5. Neil Illing 27/01/2012 at 11:22 am #

    Some great tips for the new and not so new cyclists 🙂

  6. EcoHustler 28/01/2012 at 11:50 am #

    Don’t follow the rules of the road that were designed for cars:


    • Patrick Herring 04/02/2012 at 11:44 am #

      Disagree. Predictability is the main thing. Sooner or later we’ll Copenhagenize London, but it will be later if we behave like spoilt kids.

  7. John Gladwin 31/01/2012 at 6:50 am #

    Punctures- obviously carry tubes/pumps a little CO2 gadget is more effective at the roadside for higher pressure tyres.
    Use Specialized Armadillos or Continental Gator Skin Tyres which are Kevlar lined – I rode 3000 miles last year without a single puncture. If you want to go belt & braces you could use Slime inner tubes, although after a while the slime does tend to cause valve problems.

    Lights – don’t just use them at night in London use them 24/7. Likewise HVis clothing!! Be safe & seen!!

    Insurance – seriously consider having it, it costs peanuts & could save you money in the event of an accident. Mine cost £8 a month.

    Happy riding!!

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