You can have all the gear in the world, but the real key to being a confident and safe cyclist is adopting the right state of mind. It takes a little practice, but it’s easier that you might think.
You’ve got a right to be on the road
The first lesson in confident cycling will always be to remember that you have as much right to be on the road as a car or any other vehicle. Don’t automatically assume that everyone hates you and wants to do bad things to you.
Keep your bike in order and have the right kit
Before you get out on the road, you need to make sure your bike is in good working order and you have all the gear you need – from a helmet to some decent lights. If you haven’t ridden your bike for a long time, get it serviced before you start using it again. You wouldn’t feel safe driving a car with dodgy brakes, flat tyres and no lights – a bike is no different.
Obey the rules of the road
Knowing how to behave around other vehicles helps with confidence. If you hold a driving licence then you’ll already be familiar with how to navigate a road. If you’re not, then it’s time to start learning. The more you know, the safer you’ll be. Buy a copy of the Highway Code and get studying. Make sure you know how to go round a roundabout, give way to other vehicles and what different signs mean. Simple things, like understanding who has the right of way down a street of parked cars or being able to use hand signals correctly, will make your confidence soar.
Respect other road users
It’s incredibly important to respect the people you’re sharing the road with. This means stopping at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings just like everyone else. Be considerate to car drivers and ensure you use hand signals to indicate before you turn off a road – if you make it clear what you’re doing you will be safer, plus other road users will respect you in return.
Don’t cower in the gutter
This is a trick I’ve learnt to help me feel safer cycling on the road. If you cower in the gutter, close to the kerb, cars are much more likely to try and squeeze past you on narrow roads. This is dangerous and is exactly the kind of thing that has the potential to ruin your confidence. I prefer riding in the centre of the road. This ensures that any vehicle that wishes to come past must wait until it is safe for them to overtake me properly on the other side of the road. Repeat after me, you have the right to be on the road, do not cower in the gutter.
Take good decisions
Cycling is a very relaxing way to get about, but you do need to keep your wits about you. Never, ever wear headphones – you need to be aware of everything that’s going on around you so that you can make wise and timely decisions. Always, always look over your shoulder before you do any kind of manoeuvre like passing a parked car or turning down a side street.
Practice makes perfect
The more you use your bike the more confident you’ll feel. It might feel scary at first, so take things at your own pace. If there’s a bit of road or a set of traffic lights that really intimidates you, there’s nothing to stop you safely stopping your bike and pushing it along the pavement. This flexibility is the beauty of cycling – you can take it as fast or as slow as you like.