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On your bike!

August 2020

Older couple on bike
Cycling is an easy way to keep fit

The Government is making efforts to encourage more people to go cycling.

It makes sense, it’s a good way to exercise, it is very green because it uses no fuel, and it can be fun. But if you haven’t been cycling for decades, or if you never learned to ride a bike, then despite Government encouragement, it can all seem a tad daunting.

Cycling in fact is not difficult, but since our childhood, like many other things, it has become complex. The first thing is what bike to choose. This can be a minefield if you don’t understand recent developments in two wheeled transport.

Today you don’t just go to a cycle shop and ask for a bike! Bicycles now come in specific categories depending on what you want to use them for.

If we are just wanting to get on a bike for a bit of exercise and potter along the road to the shops or to see friends, then generally a hybrid bike is best; or perhaps an electronic bike to help on the hills.

Hybrid bikes are a halfway point between a road bike which has thin tyres, light weight frame and potential for real speed, and a mountain bike which has thicker tyres and heavier frame for fun on off-road paths and rough surfaces.

A hybrid bike is a good choice for general road riding. You can sit in a more upright position than the crouched over style you often see in keen cyclists, and the tyres are not narrow racing tyres but will still give you a reasonable speed on a smooth surface.  They also have a lighter frame than mountain bikes so are easier to move and lift if you have to.

At our age, another solution is an e-bike, or a  power-assisted bike.  These are very similar to normal bikes which you can pedal, so there is still definitely an exercise element, but they also come with a battery and electric motor to assist you on steeper hills and more challenging routes. You still need to pedal but these bikes will just offer that extra boost when needed.

The best way to buy any bike is to visit a proper bike shop so you can speak to someone and try out a bike before you buy it. If you can’t ride yet, that doesn’t matter, just sitting on the bike will give you and the shop assistant a good idea of whether it really will work for you. If you are buying on line or second hand, always check out the height. Sitting on the saddle, you should just be able to reach the ground with your feet.

A comfortable saddle is an essential and again times have changed. Today you don’t just get a saddle! For keen cyclists there are racing saddles, lightweight, narrow and with a stiff top. For adventurous cyclists there are specialist mountain bike saddles which are still fairly narrow but generally with a downward slope and medium padding.

For we of a certain age, the new gel saddles can be the perfect answer. These offer great cushioning and comfort; are slightly wider with a flexible top and have been designed for good support. You can easily change the saddle on a bike, so if you find your perfect bike but it has an uncomfortable saddle, change it.

It is today a very good idea to pick up a helmet. While they are not mandatory on British roads, it is generally accepted that helmets make a huge difference and can often save a life. A good fitting helmet really is important to help protect you even in the gentlest fall.

Once you have a bike and a helmet, you are ready to go. Starting to cycle is really all about confidence…and a little speed. The slower you go, the more wobbly the bike. If you can push off and start pedalling, you will find how easy it is to stay upright and sail along!

The good news is that with the increase in cycling, there are now lots of clubs and training systems available all over the country to help people get the most from their bikes.

Bikeability is a government recognised training system for children and also for adults. They offer courses at various levels from Level 1 up which prepares new or unconfident cyclists in an off-road environment to prepare them for the next step when they go onto a public road.

To find a course near you, you simply put in your local authority or your county, and they will inform you of the best local contacts for learning to ride a bike.

Onyourbike offer similar training sessions and include one to one adult lessons for people who want to quietly learn in their own time. These courses are full of tips on general cycling as well, including how to ride safely in traffic and in urban areas.  They even offer an e-bike master course.
Or email them on:

Cycling is good fun and while it may be a tentative wobbly beginning, with clubs and fun days for all ages, once you get on your bike, who knows where it might take you?

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