Tips For Cyclists
We have put together some handy tips for cyclists from buying your bike to what to wear and of course the all important puncture repair guide. As well as all the handy tips below, when heading out for a bike ride there are some things that you shouldn't forget.
Always tell someone where you are going; especially if out riding on your own.
Tool kit; including pump, spare inner tube, cycling multi-tool kit and tyre levels.
First aid kit; including sun cream.
Mobile phone; for emergencies or incase you loose your way!
Drinks and snacks; for refreshment and an energy boost.
Extra layers; including a waterproof jacket.
Buying a bike
If you're buying a second hand bike, make sure the seller really owns it. If you think that it might be stolen, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The right size bike is essential. One size does not fit all! The inside leg measurement is the most important as this determines the frame size you need.
It is best to buy from a specialist cycle dealer who can advise on a bike to fit, and also offer services/repair. Whichever bike you choose, always ask for a test drive to try the bike out (it is normal to pay a small deposit).
What will you use your bike for?
If you are going to use a bike along roads (e.g. into town or to work) then opt for a "road bike" which has narrow tyres. This will mean that you can go faster with less effort. You might want to go for a fully equipped bike with easy-reach handlebar's (curving towards you), mudguards, a lighting system, a rear rack (with quick-release panniers).
If you want to use your bike for leisure (riding off road, or along rocky tracks) then opt for a "mountain bike". For undemanding rides look for medium-fat tyres and a light frame.
If you want a bike which is good for on-road and off-road riding then opt for a "hybrid". These look like mountain bikes but are lighter, and more responsive. They have larger wheels than a road bike.
If you want to travel by bike to the train station, to catch the bus, or drive most of the way by car and cycle the remainder then opt for a "folding bike". They're fine for short journeys, they're light enough to carry on a train or bus, and collapse small enough to put in the boot of a small car.
Tandems are a great option when 2 people want to ride together. They go faster than solo bikes and are more aerodynamic.
For information and useful tips on mountain biking click here.
For families buying bikes
You can begin with a one or two seat child trailer. These attach to your own bike and can be used by children who can sit up (e.g. approx. 1 year old). Alternatively you could opt for a childseat on the back of your own bike. Make sure that your children are fitted with cycle helmets.
When your child is old enough to pedal they could have a "child-back" tandem also known as a "tag-along bike" it has one wheel, and pedals and attaches to your own bike. These can give children a thrilling sense of speed and ease at an age when they would be struggling to keep up on an individual child's bike.
When your children are old enough to have their own bikes, they can start with stabilisers to help their balance. Look for a design which allows the bike to "grow" with your child (adjustable saddles and handlebars).
Setting up your bike
Saddle: The seat pillar should be clamped to the saddle in a central position, and the saddle should be set to a flat position. You should be able to bend your leg slightly at the knee when the peddle is at its lowest position.
Handlebars: The height is determined by the position of the handlebar stem. For general use the handle bars should be set at the same height or approximately an inch lower than the saddle. This will allow you to support some body weight on the bars without causing back pain.
Brake levers: You should be able to reach your brake levers on your handle bars without shifting the position of your hands on the bars. The levers are clamped to the bars so can be loosened and rotated on the bars. Some also allow you to provide adjustment for the span.
Gear shifters: Most of the cheaper bikes are fitted with twist-grip gear shifters, these are not as convient as the trigger system. Ask your bike shop to change them if you are not happy with them.
Pedals: Your feet should be placed in the correct position, the centre of the pedal should fall under the ball of the foot. The shoes you select to wear should be non slip on the surface of the peddles.
Lights: Essential for any bike. You must fit a white light at the front of your bike and a red light at the back. These should not flash and should comply with Lighting standard BS6102/3). Battery lights are the most widely available and commonly used. They are cheap to buy, simple to fit and can unclip for security, Dynamo lights are the most economical if you ride a lot at night. They cost practically nothing to run, and are generally lighter than other lights. They are bolted on, and give good light (they do not produce light when the bike is stationary)
Computer: These are now widely available (and cost between £5 and £15). The bike computer will tell you how far you've travelled, your time, and your top speed. They're great motivators, especially if you are commuting to work.
Kit: Always carry a pump and puncture repair kit
Lock: Choose a lock that matches the quality of your bike. If your bike is expensive opt for a top of the range, hardened D-lock, and also a cable lock to secure one wheel to the frame. For a complete list of Police approved security products visit the Sold Secure website or contact your Crime Prevention Officer at your local Police Station.
Helmet: make sure it fits snuggly and is comfortable. Choose a helmet which meets BS, SNE, ANSI or AS standards. There are 3 types of helmet: hard-shell (usually moulded from plastic), micro-shell (with a thin outer layer of plastic), and no-shell (light with a soft surface). Your helmet should be marked CE (it shows it has been approved by the EC), some helmets also have a BS Kitemark (BS6863) or the ANSI (ANSI Z 90.4) AS (AS 2063) or SNELL Foundation stickers. These show that they are made consistently of a high quality. Buy the smallest size that gives a snug fit. When you have strapped on your helmet, it should not move backwards and forwards or from side to side. Check that it doesn't restrict your hearing and vision. Look for a helmet with ventilation slots to keep your head cool. If you squash, scratch or knock your helmet replace as soon as it is damaged. All helmets should be replaced after a few years, even if they have been carefully used.
What to wear
Clothes: Layers are good (as you can add or remove clothes as appropriate). Avoid jeans (unpleasant when wet!) and very loose clothes (e.g. floaty skirts).
Winter: wind-proof gloves make a big difference, breathable waterproof jackets, trousers and overshoes also help.
Go for shoes with firm soles, or special cycling shoes (it's also good to invest in toe clips which stop your feet from slipping off the pedals and increase your pedalling efficiency)
Punctures are a fact of life for cyclist but there are some measures that you can take to try and avoid getting a puncture.
Go for good tyres (some have anti-puncture reinforcement)
Your bike shop can fit anti-puncture tape between the tyre and inner tube or can provide anti-puncture sealant which is squirted into the inner tube through the valve (even before you have a puncture!). This seals any small holes from inside.
Opt for good quality inner tubes
Keep your tyres well pumped up (so that less tread surface touches the road)
Take a spare inner tube and puncture repair kit with you.
At the end of your ride, check your tyres for glass, thorns, stones, etc. and remove them so that they don't cause problems on your next ride.
Don’t cycle too close to the kerb as this is where glass, stones and thorns collect.
If you are unlucky enough to get a puncture you might prefer to take your bike to a bike shop to have it mended. Click here for a list of local bike shops. If you wish to mend your inner tube yourself or you want to know how to fit a new inner tube click here (151 KB) to download our 'How to mend a puncture' guide. The Environmental Transport Association offer a rescue service, click here for more details.
Wear light, bright, (fluorescent if possible) colours during the day. At night, add reflective materials. These are best applied to the back of you (e.g. on the back of your jacket, sashes, arm and leg bands, and on the backs of your shoes). Every bit helps!
You should add reflectors to your pedals, and at the rear of your bike. You can also add reflectors to spokes, mudguards and cycle bags
The Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations demand that bikes used on the road between sunset and sunrise must have lights and reflectors. The minimum requirement is that you have a white light at the front, a red light to the rear, a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors. The lights must conform to (and be marked with) British Standard BS6102/3, and the reflectors must be market BS6102/2. You can also mount additional lights and reflectors on your bike (and these do not have to conform to the British Standard).
The Government are currently considering changing the law to allow flashing lights on cycles (as long as the BS standard steady lights are also fitted). It is proposed that the flashing lights must match the colour of the steady lights e.g. white at the front, red at the rear.
Know your highway code. It applies to cyclists too!!
Take your place on the road confidently; clinging to the gutter will only increase the risks, as other traffic may not see you, or try to squeeze past you. Try to ride at least a metre from the kerb.
Signal clearly and take up the correct position in the road in plenty of time. Try to get in front of the traffic or into the middle of the lane at lights.
Never swerve to avoid a pothole. Instead, lift yourself off the saddle as you ride over it.
Watch out for pedestrians. They can't hear you. Put a distinctive bell on your bike to warn them.
Mark and register your bike with a registration company, or with the Police. Make sure that they mark your bicycle in 2 separate clearly visible places, with a tamper proof label.
Always lock your cycle when leaving it, even if it's only for a few minutes. Lock your cycle through the frame, secure or remove the wheels and remove smaller parts and accessories (e.g. lights, pumps).
There are 3 main types of lock: coil/cable locks (these use plastic-coated steel wire, they're cheap, light and easy to use, but are easily cut and best for short-term parking in low-risk locations), chain & padlock systems (the heavier and more expensive the more secure), shackle locks, which are also called "U" or "D" locks. These are regarded as the most secure (the more expensive, generally, the better security and quality)
Get your bike insured, either by extending your household insurance, or by taking out a separate policy. The Environmental Transport Agency offer insurance services. Click here for more information.
Be safe – plan ahead and follow any sign
Even when going out locally, it's best to get the latest information about where and when you can go; for example, your rights to go onto some areas of open land may be restricted while work is carried out, for safety reasons or during breeding seasons. Follow advice and local signs, and be prepared for the unexpected.
You’re responsible for your own safety. You may not see anyone for hours and there are many places without clear mobile-phone signals so as an added precaution, let someone know where you’re going and when you’re likely to be back.
Follow advice and signs. Download and print out our Finding Your Way Advice Sheet (59 KB) to take with you. It shows all the up to date signs and symbols.
Check weather conditions before you leave, and don't be afraid to turn back.
Leave gates and property as you find them
Please respect the working life of the countryside, as our actions can affect people's livelihoods, our heritage, and the safety and welfare of animals and ourselves.
A farmer will normally leave a gate closed to keep livestock in, but may sometimes leave it open so they can reach food and water. Leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs; if walking in a group, make sure the last person knows how to leave the gates.
In fields where crops are growing, follow the paths wherever possible.
Use gates and stiles wherever possible - climbing over walls, hedges and fences can damage them and increase the risk of farm animals escaping.
Our heritage belongs to all of us - be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.
Leave machinery and livestock alone - don't interfere with animals even if you think they're in distress. Try to alert the farmer instead.
Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home
We have a responsibility to protect our countryside now and for future generations, so make sure you don't harm animals, birds, plants or trees.
Litter and leftover food doesn't just spoil the beauty of the countryside, it can be dangerous to wildlife and farm animals and can spread disease - so take your litter home with you. Dropping litter and dumping rubbish are criminal offences.
Discover the beauty of the natural environment and take special care not to damage, destroy or remove features such as rocks, plants and trees. They provide homes and food for wildlife, and add to everybody's enjoyment of the countryside.
Wild animals and farm animals can behave unpredictably if you get too close, especially if they're with their young - so give them plenty of space.
Fires can be as devastating to wildlife and habitats as they are to people and property - so be careful not to drop a match or smouldering cigarette at any time of the year. Sometimes, controlled fires are used to manage vegetation, particularly on heaths and moors between October and early April, so please check that a fire is not supervised before calling 999.
Keep dogs under close control
The countryside is a great place to exercise dogs, but it’s every owner’s duty to make sure their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.
By law, you must control your dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. You must keep your dog on a short lead on most areas of open country and common land between 1 March and 31 July, and at all times near farm animals.
You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it.
Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections – so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also make sure your dog is wormed regularly.
You can also find out more by phoning the Open Access Helpline on.
Consider other people
Showing consideration and respect for other people makes the countryside a pleasant environment for everyone - at home, at work and at leisure.
Whether you’re walking on your own or with a large group, you’ll have an impact on the local environment. Follow these brief rules to make it more pleasant for visitors and locals alike.
Busy traffic on small country roads can be unpleasant and dangerous to local people, visitors and wildlife - so slow down and, where possible, leave your vehicle at home, consider sharing lifts and use alternatives such as public transport or cycling. For public transport information, phone Traveline on.
Respect the needs of local people - for example, don't block gateways, driveways or other entry points with your vehicle.
By law, cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways.
Keep out of the way when farm animals are being gathered or moved and follow directions from the farmer
Support the rural economy - for example, buy your supplies from local shops.
Rules for cyclists click here
For more information click here. You need a permit to cycle on British Waterways canals, click here to obtain one.