Everything You Need To Know To Start Cycling

Family cycling

Want to start cycling for fun? Here’s what you’ll need to get out and experience the joy of two wheels.

Whether you want to take the whole family with you for a cycle, or are apprehensive about tackling the hills, here’s what you need to know to start exploring on two wheels – and to have an amazing time while you’re at it!

1. What shoes and clothes should I wear?

The type of clothes you wear will depend on how far you are thinking of cycling. If it’s just a short ride to the park, then jeans, t-shirts and skirts will all work fine, but if it’s a bit longer and you are concerned about being comfortable, something cycling-specific will be best. Cycling kit is designed to avoid the chafing that can be caused by seams on jeans and trousers, and the shorts will usually come with some sort of padding to protect your bum.

In terms of footwear, you don’t need to invest in a flashy pair of cycling shoes when you’re just starting out, but a pair of plimsolls, flip-flops or super-cheap trainers are not going to give your feet the support they need. Opt for a decent running shoe or trainer with a stiff sole.

2. What other essential pieces of kit do I need when cycling for fun?

It’s definitely worth having a pump, spare inner tube and set of tyre levers just in case you get a puncture – that way you can still enjoy your ride without having to either walk home or phone a friend to pick you up.

3. What kind of precautions do I need to take on country roads?

As well as visible clothing and lights for darker evenings, it’s worth using a little set of LED-style lights during the day as well to increase visibility to motorists. Something as simple as these FWE lights will run for hours in flashing mode, just remember to charge them every now and again.

4. How do I work out the best places to cycle?

Cyclists are a helpful bunch and with a bit of research, you’ll find the internet is full of blogs, forums and apps (like Strava) filled with helpful tips and tricks to find the best routes. In the UK, we even have a national charity, Sustrans, devoted to sharing cycle routes.

5. How else can you make your bike ride more fun?

It’s a good idea to plan in a café/attraction stop along the way as it will give you the chance to stretch your legs off the bike or refuel and it will break the ride up into sections.

As you get more competitive, the use of a GPS-style computer or apps such as Strava can make the rides more interesting due to the incentive to improve your time or speed along certain parts of the ride, or even just beat your friends time on them.

6. How do I tackle hills?

Everyone finds hills hard and the key to getting over them is riding at your own pace. Find an easy gear to keep you pedalling and break the hill down. For example, pick a point partway up the climb that you can see ahead and aim for that. Then pick the next one and so on. These manageable sections will make the effort pass easier and before you know it, you’ll be over the summit.

7. I want to ride with the whole family, what do I need to know about carrying a toddler/child on my bike?

You have three options really for this – either a front mounted child seat, a rear mounted seat or a trailer you can tow behind your own bike. It’s worth popping into your local store to see which ones will fit your style of bike best, they all serve the same purpose, but some fit certain styles of bikes better and you may feel more comfortable with them. Your toddler may also have opinions of their own about which is the most fun!

8. And what do I need to know if my kids are old enough to ride a bike themselves, are there any safety precautions I need to take?

Pick a quiet route to start with for them to build confidence and also to eliminate any unneeded stress. Often a reward at the end, or halfway round, will incentivise them to keep going.

We’d recommend they wear helmets at all times, whether riding off-road or on. And keep them in front of you for your own visibility. Often, schools offer a cycling skills session to help them build their skill and confidence.

Thinking about commuting by bike? Read our expert guide on everything you need to cycle safely to and from work.