If it's been a while since you last rode a bike, here are my top tips for falling back in love with life on two wheels.
Grab your bike
The first thing to do when you unhook your bike down from the rack or get it out of the garage is to check that it’s in good working order. I would always advise anyone to take it to your local bike shop and get a general service to make sure everything is running smoothly and most importantly that it’s safe to ride. If you have been suffering from aches and pains when riding or you are generally uncomfortable, you could benefit from a bike fit to ensure the set up is optimal for your body. Ask your cycling friends or local bike shop for recommendations.
Start with small steps
Confidence is the next hurdle to get over. Take your time. Getting out on the road can feel daunting at first.
In 2014 I had a major accident on my bike when out training in South Wales. I was riding in a group on my regular Thursday winter ride when a rider in front of me hit a pothole that was covered in water. He crashed and unfortunately, I had nowhere to go so I ended up crashing myself. A third rider, a man weighing a hundred kilos, then rode into my back which ended up breaking 10 of my ribs and puncturing my lung.
When I hit the ground I thought I never wanted to ride a bike again. However, it didn't take long for this mentally to change. I knew I still wanted to be a full-time bike rider so I'd have to get back out eventually.
As a consequence of the crash, I was really nervous about getting on my bike so I took small steps to help build my confidence. The first thing I did when my body was safe to ride was to drive down to a road I was familiar with and then just simply ride up and down the same stretch. I then built up to longer rides, staying on quiet roads, before getting back to riding with others.
Taking this time really helped the process of getting my confidence back. Whether you stopped riding because of an accident like I did, or simply because life got in the way, I recommend that you start with short rides somewhere quiet and familiar and build up slowly. Riding with friends is another great way to build confidence by having fun and making it a social event rather than putting any pressure on yourself.
Don't worry if you don't look the part!
You don’t need lots of cycling kit to be able to ride a bike. Whatever's comfortable is fine.
As you start to build your mileage, a few key pieces will help you to enjoy riding without worrying about discomfort from chaffing seams or loose fabric flapping about. The best investment I would recommend for comfort is a pair of good quality padded shorts (p.s you don’t wear underwear with padded shorts).
I always wear a helmet, cycling shoes and glasses and I take a waterproof jacket with me as you can never predict the weather. dhb does a fantastic range of clothing and accessories for riders of all levels that I can’t recommend highly enough.
You don’t have to start with clip-in cycling shoes and I would always suggest starting with trainers to build confidence on the road. Once you're comfortable with riding on the roads, switching to cycling-specific shoes can make a huge difference in terms of being able to go faster more efficiently.
When you're getting used to clipping into your pedals, I recommend heading to a local park so you can practice on grass. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable you will fall off when practising with your new shoes and cleats. You won't be the first or last but it’s well worth persisting with.
Don't get stranded
A spare inner tube, tyre levers and a pump will get you out of trouble if you get a puncture. Ask a friendly cyclist or your local bike shop to show you how to change an inner tube so that you don't end up stranded if you get a flat tyre when you're out on your own.
I can’t tell you enough how amazing getting out on a bike is. There are so many benefits both physically and mentally! Now that I’ve retired from professional cycling I’m enjoying riding my bike more than ever. It helps me so much as it gets my endorphins going. Another massive benefit to cycling is that it’s a non-weight bearing sport so the chance of picking up an injury is extremely low.
I hope this helps and encourages you to get your bike out or to invest in a bike so you can discover what makes cycling the best sport in the world.