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Wednesday 14th Nov 2018

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Cycle Clinic

Q I would like to be able to commute to work by bike but want my cycling to be a bit more smooth and stable. I can ride a bike already but I am not confident about riding on the roads.
Robin, Stockheath

A That is not unusual, even experienced cyclists may need to get used to a new bike, and feel slightly less stable until they get used to it.

In your case it might be a good idea to get an experienced cyclist to help you with a short training session.

You say that you can basically ride a bike but a good instructor will start by checking that the bike is roadworthy and set up right for your size. Leg length and saddle height are very important in terms of you being comfortable and feeling safe.

The next thing they will want to see you riding and may lead you on a short ride on a quiet street or paths where they can ride beside you and see how you go.

Even starting and stopping have little tips and techniques to make things easier. You may be doing everything perfectly, but if not, a little tip here and there as you both ride along will make you feel more "at one" with your bike. If you are comfortable then there is one less thing to worry you.

After a while I would expect your guide to lead you out on some roads with a little traffic, and talk you through riding on the road.

With someone riding behind you, your confidence will improve, and with that help you will manage road junctions more positively.

If your proposed ride to work involves bigger roads your guide will help you with the dreaded Roundabouts ! !

The most important thing when cycling is to be aware of the traffic around you, and with roundabouts particularly, knowing how to check when it is safe to move out and which bit of road to use is vital. Alternatively, if the traffic is too heavy for you, there is no shame in pulling to the side and finding a pedestrian crossing where you can walk your bike across.

After about an hour you will probably welcome a break, a stop for refreshment, and to let all that has happened sink in. Sitting and talking through things will help it all to get locked into your memory. If that is before the end of your session you will both have to ride back to your start point, and by now you will be happier, even if the road is busier.

You should notice that you are now a little more relaxed and confident even if a van or lorry passes you.

It won't happen all at once, but like many other things in life, it is practice which helps. The more you cycle the better you get at automatically doing things that you now have to think about . The steadier and smoother your cycling will become, and the more confident you will be as you cycle along whilst always being aware of what is happening around you.

To sum up, the more you ride, the more confident you will become, and so the smoother, and more stable you will be.

Keep going, have fun, and stay safe.

By: 
Mike Skiffins, Portsmouth CTC
Mon, October 15 2018