How to start cycling

A dutch style bike which is good for starting to cycle in an inner city areaI know more than one person who’s new year’s resolution is to start cycling. As a regular reader of this blog you’ve probably already made the jump to cyclist but maybe some of your friends haven’t. Send them the link to this post on their Facebook or email because it will help them out with a simple framework they can follow.

I’ve helped a few of my friends start cycling in the past 12 months and I’ve been able to witness the sort of questions they’ve had. Sometimes it’s not so easy to follow up with the promise to yourself to start cycling to work so hopefully this guide will help out.

As always I hugely appreciate any Facebook “likes” which you can do with one click at the end of this post..

Buying a bike

Starting budget

How much do you have to spend? £500+ will get you a fairly good bike plus accessories. If you don’t have such a budget then you can start with something a little cheaper or buy second hand. Make sure you look further down this page for some money saving tips.

Good starter bikes around the £500 mark:

  • Start cycling with a hybrid bike: I highly recommend the Marin range of bikes as they use good quality components that minimise time wasted on maintenance. I’ve always found them very speedy too! Cycle Surgery tend to stock them.
  • Start cycling with a single speed: Charge do a well-regarded range of single speed bikes. If your route involves hills then be prepared for a steep boost to your fitness levels.
  • Start cycling with a folding bike: The Brompton M3L for around £629 is a fantastic folding bikes that will give you many years of good service. It’s definitely on the higher end of a budget but putting that extra bit of cash in is worth it for such a reliable and fast folding bike.

What kind of cycling will you be doing?

The next question to ask yourself is what will I use the bike for? Here’s some quick benefits of each bike type:

  • Hybrid – My bike of choice. A hybrid bike is a “best of both world’s” cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. It’s speedy but it can also take on potholes and win. I’ve done some pretty extreme mountain biking and road biking with my Hybrid and it has faired well with both. It also typically features all the bolts needed for adding attachments such as panniers.
  • Dutch – These stylish bikes are designed for city use and are a good choice for when you start cycling. The bicycle chain is often enclosed in a case to prevent getting your trousers or skirt stuck. They sometimes have a step over frame to allow for quick hoping on and off the bike without swinging your leg round like you are practising a kung fu kick. They are also often hub geared lowering the maintenance cost. The frames tend to be a little on the heavy side making them difficult to haul up and down stairs and a little slower to ride.
  • Road – Featuring a thin frame, narrow wheels and drop handlebars. They are built for speed and for longer rides thanks to their dynamic and comfortable design. They are good for racing and can be used for commuting. Although the thin wheels can be a disadvantage if you ever need to do any off-road riding and encounter potholes.
  • Single speed/fixed –a similar design to road bikes with a distinguishing feature of only having one speed. They are favoured for their minimalist design and low maintenance. The single gear can pose some problems if cycling up a lot of hills.
  • Mountain – if you start cycling with a mountain bike, like many people do, you may be put off by the slow speeds. A mountain bike has thick wheels and a sturdy frame. Fantastic for off-road terrain but not that great for riding on roads. Touring – similar to road bikes but with slightly thicker wheels and space to fit multiple pannier racks. These are built for very long rides lasting weeks or months where you need to carry your supplies with you.
  • Folding – whilst wrongly occasionally scoffed at by other commuters folding bikes have some major advantages. Without compromising too much on speed they can fit anywhere. It’s perfect if your commute involves sections in trains and if you are tight on space at home or have a fear of leaving your bike outside. With a little bit of practise a folding bike can be unfolded in a matter of seconds.
  • Electric – Whilst often more expensive electric bikes are a great way to start cycling especially if you are put off by the amount of pedalling required.

What frame size?

When thinking about how to start cycling you’ll inevitably want to think about what size bike you’ll need. This is where a test ride comes in useful to see how the bike feels. Evans Cycles have a good page on bike sizing.

At a basic level your bike should be setup so that when your leg is fully stretched out the knee is only very slightly bent.

A note on buying online

You should check when buying online how much work you’ll have to do to assemble the bike when it arrives.

Saving money when you first start cycling

When thinking about how to start cycling you should definitely consider a few of these money saving tips. The first is taking advantage of the cycle to work scheme. Check if your company supports the scheme and if they don’t bug them until they do!

The second is to remember that companies, such as Evans Cycles, will price match. Therefore check bicycle prices online and in other stores and they’ll match it.

The third is to look for the bike in last years model. Often this will save £100+.

Finally, don’t forget to do a bit of negotiating. Most bike shops can’t drop the price of a bike by much but they can throw in a few of the accessories.

How to start cycling on busy roads

cyclists in LondonOne of the main fears people have when they start cycling is how they’ll cope in busy traffic. The single best thing you can do to combat this fear is to undertake cycle training.

Now, the words cycle training may bring up images in your mind of the sort of big group training you had at school. That’s far from the truth. Cycle training is a one on one course that is often subsidised by local councils. You learn how to take the correct position on the road to prevent cars from closely overtaking you. You also hugely boost your confidence by learning techniques such as creating eye contact between you and the driver.

To get started speak to your local cycling campaign or local council about sessions available.

See also: 7 mistakes you are making with your cycling and how to correct them

What cycling gear do I need to start cycling

Bike lock to start cycling withYou only need the basics to get started. A good bike lock (Kryptonite New York 3000) and a secondary lock are fairly essential. If you are cycling in the dark then a pair of bike lights is a necessary purchase.

As your cycling progresses a cycling jacket and various gear to help you with the maintenance can come in handy.

See also: Cycling gear

How to start cycling to work for the first time

It’s a good idea to do a test run of the ride into work. That will help you estimate how long it will take and prevent you getting horribly lost. A great website I recommend is Cycle Streets. They have a tool which will plot your route using cycling friendly roads.

How to safety check your bike

A quick check involves: tyres are fully inflated (shouldn’t be able to press them in), brakes should stop the bike quickly and there’s no loose parts or unfastened quick release levers.

One important thing I nearly missed..

Bicycle insurance – a boring thing to consider when you are getting excited about how to start cycling but non the less a good idea if you are buying an expensive bike that will be left unattended often.

See also: Bicycle insurance

Any questions about getting started with cycling?
Ask in the comments below

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66 Responses to How to start cycling

  1. Sasha @ The Happiness Project London 20/01/2011 at 9:22 am #

    This is a really helpful post – thank you very much :) As you know, I’m buying my lights tonight, doing a test run on Sunday and starting cycling on Monday! I’m nervous but can’t wait to start and hoping that this will be the regular exercise I’ve been missing for ages….

    I’m especially interested in the cycle streets website as trying to plan a route as we speak. Thanks again! Sasha

    • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 9:31 am #

      Looking forwarding to our meeting Sasha – I’ll get back to your email in a sec!

    • Kevin Campbell's Blog 21/01/2011 at 9:44 am #

      sounds great, hope all goes well for you, sounds like you are well planned and sorted

  2. Phil 20/01/2011 at 9:27 am #

    How about cyclo-cross bikes? Don’t ride one myself, yet, but I see them recommended time and again for commuting; they are nearly as nimble as a road bike but a touch more robust and can cope better with potholes, canal paths and some off-road.

    Downside is they can be a little pricey though

    • Angi 20/01/2011 at 11:56 pm #

      Exactly the sort of bike I’ve been considering. Good for winter (which we have a lot of here).

  3. JdeP 20/01/2011 at 9:43 am #

    You wrote: “If you are cycling in the dark then a pair of bike lights is also a good purchase.”

    No, it’s not a “good purchase”: it’s essential, it’s a legal requirement, and if you cycle in the dark without lights you will confirm many motorists’ opinion that cyclists are irresponsible law-breakers who should not be allowed on the roads.

    C’mon Andreas!

    • j4 20/01/2011 at 10:21 am #

      Seconded wholeheartedly. High-visibility clothing might be a non-essential “good purchase”, but lights are absolutely non-negotiable for cycling legally and safely in the dark.

      The rest of the article is useful/interesting, but unless this point gets altered, I’m afraid I won’t be forwarding/recommending it to anybody.

  4. brain in a box 20/01/2011 at 10:03 am #

    All this and not a single mention of a bike helmet! I don’t want to start the whole pro/anti debate but to not even mentioning helmets is quite irresponsible. They save lives. I also second JdeP’s comment on lights.

    • free_brain 20/01/2011 at 11:03 am #

      They don’t save lives. I can’t prove they don’t you can’t prove they do. Stop the fear-mongering – it’s not about downhill racing but about commuting to work.

      • Helmet 20/01/2011 at 1:48 pm #

        The argument for or against helmet wearing is brought into sharp focus if you’ve been unfortunate enough to be involved in a road accident.

        In my case the driver was subsequently charged with reckless driving, i was hit side on with no clue as to what was about to happen, the impact stopped my bike dead as the pedal stuck in the front of the car and i was catapulted over the bars into a somersault…for some of that flip my cycle helmet was getting battered by the road surface before i landed on my back…without the helmet there is no question that my head would have been dragged across the road and i’d have been in far worse shape. It was a vital to my safety in that incident.

        Some bike crashes don’t involved heads and roads, in those incidents a helmet may make no difference, but it’s not fear-mongering to advise cyclists to wear a helmet, more so if they are new to the roads. If anything it’s an oversight not to advise that beginners kit themselves out as safely as possible, regardless of the % chance of being in an accident.

        Although commuting to work is clearly not downhill racing, many of the people in and around your commute, be it cyclists or drivers are trying to get from A > B as quickly as possible, so despite your cycling skills the accident may not be anything to do with your skills on the road…or indeed the speed at which you as an individual cycle, but more to do with the speed and manner in which you are involved in any accidents. As a cyclist on the roads i am within my rights to hit 30mph during a lot of my commute…it’s not a race, but some folk that pass me with real pace, not wearing helmets are increasing the risk of serious head injury within the speed limit.

        Within the last month i have seen two slow accidents. A ‘novice’ Boris Biker getting there flappy coat caught in the wheel and getting spun onto the road, hitting the back of their head…a helmet would have saved a bleeding wound, and a ‘pro’ courier on Gt Portland St stopping at lights on a fixie and losing balance with pedal clips not unclipping, she hit her head on the front of car as she went over, this would have been far less of a bruise had she not had her helmet strapped to her back pack. Neither accident was expected…both involved head injuries that helmets would have lessened.

        Good luck on the roads.

        • Mike 20/01/2011 at 2:09 pm #

          One of the arguments for not wearing helmets is that cars give you a wider clearance space as they see you as ‘a risk and less confident’ rather than someone covered in padding and a helmet that looks more confident and road aware.

          If you’ve cycled in London you will know that regardless of a helmet, the drivers on the road invariably give you as little space as possible as the cycle lanes and routes are not good enough or clear enough.

          ———————————————————————-
          Wear a helmet and give your head a chance if you fell off.

          Don’t wear a helmet and add to the risk if you fall off.
          ———————————————————————-
          Clip your flappy trouser legs in and don’t get oil on your cloths.

          Don’t clip them in and risk getting oil on your cloths.
          ———————————————————————-
          Use lights at night and increase your chance of being seen.

          Don’t use lights at night, presume as you are cycling down well lit streets that you will be seen.
          ———————————————————————-
          Talk on a telephone as you are in control of your bike

          Don’t talk on your telephone and have an idea what may be coming up behind you
          ———————————————————————-

          Cycling is all about choices…almost all of them relate to how you help your safety and chances should anything bad happen.

          What is clear, is that if you wear a helmet, lights, clips, etc, or if you don’t and you listen to music or use your phone, very few if any cyclists will say the accident was there fault…it is always someone else to blame…driver, pedestrian other cyclist…so regardless of how you perceive your bike skills and safety why not help your chances??

          For the sake of a few quid your chances can be enhanced greatly. Is it not worth it??

        • Dave Escandell 20/01/2011 at 2:41 pm #

          Ask James Cracknell if a helmet saved his life and he’d say yes. Hit on the head from behind by the wing mirror of a HGV. It saved his life yet he still has a brain injury.

          There are an almost incalculable number of scenarios in which you may be thrown off of your bike.

          It’s probably universally accepted that a helmet is not designed to protect your head if it hits the ground or a car bonnet at 30mph. but there are so many other ways that your head can come into contact with something hard, and for most of these a helmet will help…or even save your life.

          The choice is yours.

          I still advocate pro choice over compulsion.

        • free_brain 20/01/2011 at 3:06 pm #

          He survived but had brain injury. How is that a proof that the helmet worked. Would he have died if he wasn’t wearing a helmet? We don’t know. But studies show something completely different. Bicycle helmets are not good enough to protect you from anything bar a stationary fall. Yet they create the illusion that cycling is more dangerous than it really is.
          It’s great that you are pro choice. But it pains me to read comments from people who are upset because no one mentioned helmets. People know they exist. They now where to buy them. So let them be.

        • Jonny 21/01/2011 at 10:22 am #

          I would be dead or seriousl handicapped by now if I didnt have a helmet on when I crashed. My helmet had a large gouge on the brow from where I skidded into the kerb and knocked myself out

          I lost a bit of elbow skin and had a road rash on my face but thats all healed – if I didnt have a helmet on i wouldnt be here today and thats that.

          Its a shame that it might take a similar accident for people to realise the value of head protection.

        • Mr Colostomy 21/01/2011 at 4:18 pm #

          Kudos for not mentioning helmets.

          The arguments in favour helmets can all be applied to pedestrians, but no-one is suggesting that pedestrians should be wearing helmets. Motorists would benefit more than cyclists or pedestrians from helmets, but no-one is suggesting that they should wear helmets. As most people know, a helmet is only designed to offer limited protection in the event of a fall when stationary or slow riding. If a motor vehicle is involved, the helmet provides no useful benefit.

          Many of us have seen pictures of broken helmets after a crash, but very few realise that a helmet isn’t supposed to break, it is supposed to compress; a broken helmet is a helmet which failed in the crash. The vents in helmets can catch on the uneven surface of a road putting stress on the neck as the victim slides along the road, and they effectively increase the size of the rider’s head, increasing the size of the injury target. What benefit they may provide in some circumstances can easily be negated in other circumstances, with the added hindrance of having to wear and carry a plastic hat every time you want to go somewhere.

          The main thing I have against helmet promotion is that it suggests that cycling is dangerous when it is not. The only real danger comes from the negligent motorists, a helmet won’t save you from one of those. Promoting helmets distracts from the real problems on the roads, negligent motorists, inappropriate speed limits, minimal enforcement and punishment for motoring crimes and the complete lack of dedicated Dutch-style cycle infrastructure. I dislike the dangerous precedent which helmet promotion sets; that it is the responsibility of the victim to defend themselves from those whose behaviour endangers them.

          If anyone feels safer wearing a helmet, great. It is sad that things have gotten so bad that many of us feel the need to defend ourselves with things like helmets. When trying to encourage someone new to try cycling, telling them they need to wear a safety helmet isn’t going to make cycling sound like the safe, convenient and brilliant way to get around that it is.

      • Jon 22/01/2011 at 10:08 am #

        Okay, prove it then… There are a lot of different report and studies for AND against. It hasn’t definitively been proven one way or the other I’m afraid.

        If people feel safer or more confident wearing a helmet then what is the problem?

        • Mr Colostomy 24/01/2011 at 2:13 pm #

          If someone feels safer and more confident wearing a helmet, that is great, definitely better than stopping cycling. If you want to persuade someone new to take up cycling, telling them that it is so dangerous that they need special safety equipment is not going to help your argument. On top of that, considering the limited protection helmets are designed to provide, and the lack of any consensus on their benefits, I would not advise anyone to wear one in an article aimed at new cyclists.

          If they try riding and then decide for themselves that they’d prefer one, fair enough.

  5. Jon 20/01/2011 at 10:12 am #

    I’d also add one addition for “if you’re not sure you want to take the plunge but want to give it a go etc etc …”

    Get yourself on a cycle hire bike. They’re bog easy to ride, sturdy & visible and if you find that you’re really not enjoying it you just re-dock and walk away.

    • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 10:44 am #

      Not all readers are in London or have a bike hire scheme where they live – hence lack of mention of this. But I agree with you Jon for London it’s a good idea

  6. iamnotacyclist 20/01/2011 at 11:07 am #

    Good article. Well done for mentioning the dutch bike – it get omitted so often in post like this one. The best thing about them though is not only the chaincase and hub gears, but the fact that it’s a complete bike with light, mudguards, rack for panniers, basket, bell sturdy wheels and comfortable seating position which means you don’t need to but any extra gear (except a rain poncho) which saves a lot of money. I don’t think a lock should be in “gear” cathegory.

    • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 11:29 am #

      Thank you – Knew that Dutch bikes (or city bikes) should be in there as they incorporate a lot of useful features for inner city and casual riding.

  7. Christiaan 20/01/2011 at 1:19 pm #

    For first time commuter cyclists I would highly recommend 3-speed internal hub gears. They’re a great compromise between fixed speed and the ridiculous complication of 21 gears.

    I have a Cooper Zandvoort and the 3 gears are more than enough for London roads and hills. I have less to worry about both while I’m cycling and in terms of maintenance.

  8. Helmet 20/01/2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Really?! No mention of ‘buy a helmet’? Given this is aimed at ‘beginners’ it should be right at the top before buying a bike…If you won’t wear a helmet because you feel it makes you look silly or may ruin your hair before work…do everyone else on the roads a favour and don’t bother buying the bike.

    More experienced folk may argue the case for and against, but beginners cycling through London need helmets, bright lights and no earphones/telephones (Which is an idiotic life choice when on a bike regardless of the standard).

    Argue about the merits of not wearing one once you’ve been flipped off a bike onto the road and a helmet has done it’s job instead of your skull meeting the road.

    No helmets seems to be far more an issue for Boris Bikes, the convenient nature of the bike stands attracts a lot of fair weather cyclists unprepared for riding the roads, no helmets, flapping suit jackets and macs etc etc…The Boris Bike user who bounced off the road near Trafalgar Square a few days back should now fully understands the need for a helmet…why risk finding out the hard way on streets and routes that are still very far from being cycle friendly…at best they are cycle aware.

    • free_brain 20/01/2011 at 2:39 pm #

      Anecdotal evidence is no evidence. Studies show that bicycle helmets offer little protection. It’s just a piece of styrofoam. Anyway – they are widely available – if someone wants it they just buy it. But for some reason Dutch don’t ride with helmets – they have safe infrastructure and are not required to mix with cars. In UK, when you crash with a car the helmet will do nothing to protect your head, however it does make cycling look dangerous and unappealing. So please leave the choice to the people.
      Your level of smugness is astonishing.

      • Dave Escandell 20/01/2011 at 2:58 pm #

        Free Brain –

        I’d point you to the helmet comments above, teh Jmaes Craknell example is not anacdotal, it’s factual.

        Many people who wear a helmet remain pro choice. I think the comments to Andreas were simply assistance in helping him provide a complete list/article.

      • Helmet 20/01/2011 at 3:05 pm #

        Evidence can come from experience. And experience may well be anecdotal but if the experience being passed on helps then it’s effective and useful. That isn’t smugness.

        Of course everyone is free to ride without a helmet, no one here suggesting that helmets are a good thing are doing anything more than sharing experience…which is the idea of a forum whether you agree or not with the view. The choice ‘is still being left to the people’.

        Be great to see some links for the studies you mention.

        The Dutch don’t all not wear helmets…it’s still a choice individuals make rather than a blanket result due to a safer cycling infrastructure, the fact is a % of Dutch cyclists still wear helmets.

        “In UK, when you crash with a car the helmet will do nothing to protect your head, however it does make cycling look dangerous and unappealing.”

        That line is possibly one of the most idiotic things written on these boards…really.

        • Kim 20/01/2011 at 3:36 pm #

          Helmet, I rather think you miss the point. This article is about encouraging people to cycle, not trying to frighten them off. If you are really concerned about safety, , why not think of way to deal with it rather than blaming the victim?

        • Helmet 20/01/2011 at 4:07 pm #

          Kim

          I totally get the point, i’m all for encouraging cyclists, new and old to get on (back on) their bikes.

          I don’t believer for a second that my opinion on wearing a cycling helmet (which for the record is pro choice – but still something that should be mentioned in an article about beginner cyclists) is going to frighten anyone off.

          The article mentions locks, hi viz clothing etc, these are all optional, as is a helmet…the one thing not mentioned.

          Having been the victim of a cycling accident which saw the Police charge a driver i’m not blaming any victim…but AS a victim i’m passing on my experience of what it’s like being knocked off, and that for me means that it’s fact that wearing a helmet saved serious head injury.

          The main way to deal with safety on the roads (in London) is to invest in building a cycling infrastructure and system…until that happens, MY opinion is do all you call personally to make your ride safe.

          Kim 20/01/2011 at 3:36 pm #
          Helmet, I rather think you miss the point. This article is about encouraging people to cycle, not trying to frighten them off. If you are really concerned about safety, , why not think of way to deal with it rather than blaming the victim?

  9. Dave Hodgkinson 20/01/2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Very good article and I’m with you on the cycle helmet thing.

    My contribution:

    1. Not only dry run, but find a quiet route. I’m going from Camden to Paddington and being able to use the canal for most of it was a great, confidence-building start. I also use the back roads through St Johns Wood to Primrose hill often on the way back as it’s quiet.

    2. High-vis clothing is a must-have. I have visible-from-space jacket and backpack cover.

    3. “Owning the road” when in tight situations is important, such as at pedestrian-crossing chicanes and I’ve found cars to be very understanding when you do. Getting cut up as a car dives into the narrow space is horrible.

    4. Having waterproofs to hand is useful. I’ve been caught in an instant deluge halfway to work and spending the day steaming gently isn’t nice. Some trews for the bag is on the list to get.

    5. Consider some form of eye guards as summer approaches and the bugs start getting more frequent.

    6. Watch out for BMW’s. I don’t know what it is but if any make of car is likely to come too close behind or pull out in front of you, it’s these.

    I’m now looking to upgrade my six month old Evans bike for something somewhat better, now that it’s largely paid for itself.

  10. Dave Hodgkinson 20/01/2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Bloody hell, there’s a whole site about the helmets “debate”:

    http://www.cyclehelmets.org/

    Lots of fun there!

    • Helmet 20/01/2011 at 3:17 pm #

      Bottom line, it’s all personal preference.
      All arguments are weighted to suit the cause. The dudes in the Tour de France wear them…it’s a must for the London to Brighton rides, people in cars get seat belts, motor cyclists get crash helmets…some folk argue against seat belts and crash helmets…and so it will always be.

      As i cycle day and night i do notice that the people cycling with no lights (breaking the law) are invariably also people who choose to not wear helmets…maybe some people generally feel safer out there than others

    • GL 20/01/2011 at 3:43 pm #

      Great link. At last a website fuly referenced to proper peer reviewed research and not just “my mate fell off and without a helmet would have died so we should all wear helmets”. Would he? Really? Did he have a mate cycling along to act a control test?

      I hate people using this as evidence. It isn’t. Speak to a research scientist and see what they have thorough to get proper evidence and why that is important. In fact, look here:

      http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/30

      People who advocate the use of helmets need to look at the research and I mean RESEARCH!!

      I say this and here is the shock…..I wear a helmet. I choose to wear a helmet and I think eveyone should have the choice.

  11. Paul 20/01/2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I only had a quick glance through the comment box posts and about some argue over wearing helmets.

    This shouldn’t really be up for discussion. A helmet is an important safty feature just like wearing a safty belt in a car.

    Any freak accident can occur on the road and one serious bang to the head could be the end of you. im sure if you google you will find many people with stories of accidents and where they wish they wore a helmet.

    Be safe on the roads

  12. AJ 20/01/2011 at 3:25 pm #

    For most people: go and buy an upright bike supplied complete with mudguards, dynamo lights and pannier rack. Use it to ride to the movies or the tube station, visiting friends and to drop in at the shops on the way home. Take it to the supermarket with some pannier bags. Enjoy the good visibility and the social aspect of riding an upright bike, and use it as a faster, more efficient form of walking.

    Most people will get far more enjoyment out of that than doing a long distance cycle commute, which they can always progress to later. And sure some people will embrace it as a sport and want to go fast, or go off-road. Great – trade in your old bike later and buy a road bike or mountain bike.

    I ride a hybrid, and spent heaps just making it “normal” (lights, rack etc) and I still have to replace the bloody batteries and carry my lights with me when I leave it. My partner has a Dutch upright bike she never has to think about anything – just gets on and rides, day or night; normal clothes and no helmet. So convenient and somehow so civilised. I wish I’d gone the same way.

  13. AJ 20/01/2011 at 3:50 pm #

    As I understand it, less than 1% of adult cyclists in the Netherlands wear helmets.

    And I bet a big chunk of that 1% are expats from countries like Australia and UK where paranoia reins supreme!

    • Dave Hodgkinson 20/01/2011 at 3:52 pm #

      And in the Netherlands:

      1. They have dedicated cycle tracks everywhere

      2. Everyone obeys stop lights: pedestrians, cycles, cars.

      • Tim Lennon 20/01/2011 at 4:27 pm #

        1. But not all the Dutch ride on separate cycle tracks
        2. I absolutely defy you to prove that. I also defy you to provide any meaningful statistics or justiication to suggest just how much safer the average cyclist would be if no-one jumped red lights, but everyone wore a helmet.

        And, frankly, legions of cyclists pedalling by in high-vis is a great way to emphasise the idea of danger. Everyone should feel comfortable hopping on a bike, and not feeling they have to leave home with every possible accountement.

        Excuse the ramble, I must stop reading this thread and do some work. (And then cycle home in my ski jacket, without a helmet, but admittedly with bright-ass lights)

        • Dave Hodgkinson 20/01/2011 at 4:41 pm #

          I lived in Amsterdam for a year. It’s my experience. They’re a pretty obedient lot and breaking the rules would result in a long hard disapproving stare from anyone else around.

          As for cycle tracks, in the three cities I’m most familiar with, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Leiden, the only places there aren’t separate tracks tend to be in the cobbled, historic centres which are pretty car-hostile.

          “And, frankly, legions of cyclists pedalling by in high-vis is a great way to emphasise the idea of danger.” -WTF? OK, I’ll go back to all black then to make everyone else feel safer. Oxymoron much?

        • Jonny 21/01/2011 at 10:28 am #

          the amount of times ive staggered out a coffeshop and wandered into a bike lane….haha.

  14. Steven Katt 20/01/2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I’ve read the entire thread (busy day at work)

    No one appears to be saying YOU MUST WEAR A HELMET, some people are suggesting it should have been included in the article but these cyclists also appear to Pro Choice but passing on their opinion that they pull on the helmet. Not sure why the non helmet folk seem so upset.

    Nice article.

    Pro Choice – Pro Not Getting In Accidents.

    • free_brain 20/01/2011 at 4:45 pm #

      The whole point here is the question why some people post angry comments because the sacred helmet had not been included. I want to know why there’s no mention of blue, woolly gloves – I’ve fallen of my bike once and avoided massive hand grazing thanks to them.

      • Mike 20/01/2011 at 5:47 pm #

        Is anyone being ‘angry’ ? Different opinions but i’m not reading ‘angry comments’ here. But hey, each to their own.

        Good article, those New York locks are heavy bazzers…

      • John 07/02/2011 at 2:00 pm #

        Hi,
        I have read an article stating that a helmet will only save injury up to 7 mph, after that they will not help you. That being the case your statement about gloves protecting you is very valid just the same as wearing a bobble hat would avoid grazing to your head which in general is what people have said saved themselves from when reading the threads here.
        I dont wear a helmet from choice, I don’t tell anyone not to wear a helmet either if they feel safer doing so, just state the facts as they are if they ask – if your riding along at 10 mph and fall off your helmet won’t protect your skull.
        For beginers I would always say to go and find a quiet car park etc and ride around there until you get the feel of the bike, then quiet roads before entering the main roads.
        I had a head on collision with a new cyclist who could not balance when she stopped as we were about to pass one another, she fell on me and took me out sideways with her, we were on a bike path and neither of us suffered any harm just had a laugh as we untangled ourselves and bikes! That’s the way to learn about your bike though – quiet places, Oh and by the way, yes she did have a helmet on and no I did not but that’s my personal choice over the last 40 years and have had my crashes over the years too.

        John

  15. nicolep 20/01/2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Love it, free_brain!

  16. juleslostinlondon 20/01/2011 at 10:21 pm #

    i started on a £50 second hand mountain bike, graduated to a pretty upright hybrid and now doing 26 miles a day on a beautiful road.

    just a note on the heaviness of the new york locks – twice in the last year the bracket attaching it to my frame has snapped – london’s pot holes don’t really mix with it and waiting while several buses and taxis run over your lock can get a bit dull! (it survives well!)

    Jules

    • Andreas 21/01/2011 at 10:29 am #

      Hah – absolutely love this comment! Thank Jules – I always shove mine in my bag but the bracket does take the weight off the back nicely.

  17. Adam 20/01/2011 at 11:41 pm #

    Mountain bikes having 26″ wheels can sometimes make people feel slightly safer with a lower centre of gravity than road wheels which can help beginners (In know this helps my Dad). You can also overcome the rolling resistance of the nobbly tyres by fitting slicks which are still ok off road (being wide and not too high pressure) and good on tarmac. I found that made a lot of difference when I rode a MTB to commute on years ago. I felt as if I was suddenly twice as fit when I first used them!

    I’d also put cycle training higher up the list than helmets. Yes, the right to choose is important on the helmet issue, but the power of knowledge and confidence training can give you is more important in my opinion. Prevention rather than cure. I’d really recommend the modern bikeability training. I rode in the city for 15 years and then did the level 3 to see what it was like and can honestly say even well seasoned cyclists can benefit from it.

    Above all don’t have an all or noting approach. A lot of people are put off cycling because they seem to have the idea in their head that if they do it, they always have to do it. Even just doing occasional journeys on roads or tracks you’re comfortable with is a great start. Don’t feel like once you start to cycle there’s no alternative. Alternate methods of transport to suit your needs / mood / confidence.

    And ride with other people sometimes too. Maybe start riding socially without the pressure of the start of the working day ahead of you.

    Above all remember to enjoy it and have fun! There’s not many other ways of getting around that can be so pleasurable once you’re accustomed to it.

  18. Angi 21/01/2011 at 12:04 am #

    Cycle training was definitely a great boost to my confidence and also taught me a lot about safety, correct positioning and a bit about my rights.
    Am so grateful for the subsidised training and would highly recommend it to everyone who hasn’t had any training yet.

  19. Kevin Campbell's Blog 21/01/2011 at 9:43 am #

    also remember when buying online you will obviously not be able to try before you buy, which is what i say you should always do unless you are 100% sure you are getting exactly the right bike in exactly the right size

    • Andreas 21/01/2011 at 10:29 am #

      True that – buy you can do returns although I’m sure its a pain.

  20. Tim 21/01/2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I really support the idea of the Marin hybrids as excellent starter bikes for the new commuter. Good quality, look nice, strong and well made with excellent parts. Whizzy too.

  21. Christiaan 21/01/2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Why we shouldn’t wear bicycle helmets:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07o-TASvIxY

  22. alistair 21/01/2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Yoiu should maybe mention about weight of the bike. so many girls I know have bought really heavy bikes, I think they feel more stable when they try them out… but it means it’s a misery to go up hills etc.

    I don’t know why girls seem to do this more than guys, I guess step through bikes are always a little heavier.

    • iamnotacyclist 21/01/2011 at 2:58 pm #

      The weight of the bike is not an issue unless you are in a performance race. The bikes are not heavy because they are instep frame. They are heavy because they are made of more durable materials in contrast to road bikes which are made for performance. I have quite a few big and steep hills in my area and take them on my bakfiets. No problem. Of course if you want to beat the land speed record going uphill then it’s going to make you sweat, but that’s not what riding the bike is about.
      Girls don’t care about being the fastest but about comfort, safety and practicality, which is why they tend to disregard the weight of the bike.

      • CAFEWANDA 21/01/2011 at 9:02 pm #

        Err, I disagree about us wimmin not being concerned about the weight of the bike. I live on the 3rd floor of a small block of flats with no lift and it was after I’d bought my first bike that I became aware of the weight of bikes being a factor in buying one, and I lifted weights then!

        As for being the fastest. That’s my aim on sections of my route. Not that it will ever work but I try and those sprint sessions work my lungs and legs on my hybrid.

        I now have a road bike and hope to acquire a singlespeed and a Brompton by the year’s end.

        • WallToAll 13/02/2011 at 11:41 am #

          Hello cafewanda, look at the Strida. I’ve used Strida for five years and I’m a 66yo blue-badge-toting semi-cripple. Catch me via twitter @walltoall if you need more but this (very strange) concept of cycling will answer all or most of the needs I see in yr post.

  23. AJ 21/01/2011 at 3:34 pm #

    I agree with that. Having a heavy bike makes almost no difference unless you’re racing, unless you need to lug it up and down stairs!

    Gears are important for hills! Having a single-speed light bike is worse than a heavy one with seven gears!

  24. KingstonBiker 21/01/2011 at 10:20 pm #

    I thought this was a very good article and was about to send it to a couple of work colleages thinking of starting commuting by bike. Unfortunately the comments, which often make an article, have to some extent put me off – primarily the usual arguements over pros and cons of cycle helmets (and all that talk of accidents)

    I took up commuting by bike only a year ago so a lot of things mentioned in the article are still fresh in my mind. One thing I did find useful that I would recommend was reading Cyclecraft (John Franklin).

    I’ll probably still send the article to my colleagues but tell them to ignore all the comments about accidents!

  25. jc 25/01/2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Nice article, but I think the Mixer has an 8 gear internal hub.

    • Andreas 13/02/2011 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks for pointing that out! Correcting now..

  26. WallToAll 13/02/2011 at 11:35 am #

    Surprised yet not surprised that you failed to include what I consider to be the ultimate folding bike for integrated London transport; the only folder one can carry on a bus or the tube between your legs, which can be carried up a stairs, lift escalator by a 67yo blue-badge-carrying semi-cripple. Now to surprise YOU: it’s called a Strida and I’ve only once seen one apart from my own.

    • Andreas 13/02/2011 at 1:26 pm #

      WallToAll – would you consider writing a review of the Strida with some pics?

  27. brucie445 08/10/2011 at 11:01 am #

    I would recommend watching gaz545’s silly cyclists channel for new commuters as it gives lots of tips on common mistakes on a bicycle in London’s mean streets as well as the best way to navigate buses, cars and HGVs

  28. Tim 08/10/2011 at 11:55 am #

    2nd that Brucie445 and it is very amusing!

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