I 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
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
One 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.
What cycling gear do I need to start cycling
You 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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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.