Do you feel nervous about riding a bike? That's OK! Riding a bike isn’t fun when you feel uncomfortable or worried. There are expert cycle trainers who can teach you basic skills - and even ride your route to work with you - so that you can ride confidently.
There's no substitute for training from a qualified instructor (NSIP) but the following tips will help you take to the roads more confidently.
1. Be in the Right Place
Start with a quieter neighbourhood street with lower traffic speeds to get the hang of things.
Generally, avoid the pavement - it seems counterintuitive at first, but it's actually a lot more dangerous and often illegal to ride on the pavement.
Don't hug the curb - hugging the curb means other vehicles might be tempted to overtake you when they shouldn't and puts you in the path of potholes, drains, and all the nasty debris that ends up at the side of the road. It’s usually safest to ride at least 1 metre from the edge of the road.
2. Have the Skills and Techniques to Thrive
There are a couple skills and tricks that can make you feel a lot more comfortable on a bike:
Scanning - Obviously being attentive is important when riding a bike, and headphones and the like are discouraged. But you can go one better and practice gently turning your hips and shoulders outward to give you a better view of vehicles approaching from behind you. This will make it easier to change lanes, signal, and wave to your friends!
Signalling - Make sure your intentions are crystal clear to other road users: signal early and decisively. A quick hand out to the left or right will do wonders to help you effectively communicate your intentions and ride safely. Not comfortable taking a hand off the handlebars yet? All good - practice a little bit at a time.
Learn the skills of the Bike Ninja. Ok, it's not martial arts, but learning things like the rock dodge, quick stop, and other more advanced skills can make you really feel like a master of your bike! The best place to gain this is by reaching out to your local advocacy organisation and asking about safe cycling classes in the area.
There’s really no substitute for practicing a skill, and the more you ride (and in new situations) the more comfortable and confident you’ll get. Start with something easy, and slowly build your confidence in more challenging environments. If a road is too intimidating for you, that's ok - see if you can find another route (and if there isn't another route, tell your city or county that you want a Complete Street!).
Key skills to practice:
Note: Please always practice the below in a safe and comfortable environment (the park, quiet streets, etc)
Riding with one hand - essential for being able to signal.
Start off with just taking one hand slightly off the handle bars, so you can easily grab it again if needed. Get good at doing this with both hands.
Next, try riding with one hand controlling the bike, and one hand by your side.
Next, practice signally, with your arm fully extended in the intended direction of travel. Practice with both arms.
Looking over your shoulder - when you’re starting to ride and you hear a vehicle coming up behind you, your mind can trick you into thinking there’s a giant truck right behind you! That’s why getting the skill to confidently look behind you whenever you want to is so important.
First look ahead and map in your mind where the bike will be going for the brief moment that you’re looking behind you.
Turn your head to look behind you. You can start off practicing with small turns, before building up to a more full rotation.
It can be easier sometimes to take your hand off the handle bar first of the side you want to look back over. This opens up that side of the body more so your head doesn’t need to rotate as far and you can get both your eyes looking back
4. You Don’t Have to Go It Alone!
Remember, there are many cyclists across the country. There's always someone to ask questions, share your experiences with, or ride with - you just have to find them. If you're not sure where to start, visit your nearest bike shop. Also, you can also always reach out to us, we're happy to help or connect you with other resources!