Simple advice to conquer the learning curve and make every ride easier. – By Brian Fiske
Susan McLucas has run a US-based bicycle riding school for roughly 30 years. In that time, she has taught thousands of people – from kids to adults who have never thrown a leg over a top tube. Here’s what she says all beginning cyclists should know before hitting the road.
You’re Going To Wobble
This will be especially true when you first get moving, so make sure there’s plenty of room around you. Don’t try to squeeze into tight spots, and be careful in traffic. “There’s nothing you can do to learn to ride straighter except ride more,” McLucas says.
You Need To Practice Braking
According to McLucas, braking is one of the hardest bike skills to master. “It’s amazing how often people totally forget about the brakes when they need to stop,” she says. Practice braking often, in diverse situations, until it becomes instinctual. When you’re first starting, engage your rear brakes more than your front—most of your stopping power comes from the front, but it’s possible to flip over your handlebars if you panic and slam the lever too hard.
It’s Okay To Set Your Own Pace
If you’re riding with a group, don’t force yourself to keep up—especially not at first. Instead, focus on simply riding your bike. “Tell people you’re riding with you might not keep up,” McLucas says. “They can deal with it. You can always pick a place to meet up later.” Some riding clubs offer “no drop” rides, which means people will wait for you no matter your pace.
You Can Raise Your Saddle Later
“It’s not a crime to want to put both feet flat on the ground,” McLucas says. As she points out, a low saddle might not be comfortable for long, and certainly won’t be the best choice once you start adding more miles. But if a low saddle eases your anxiety, go for it. You can always raise it later once you’ve gained more confidence.
You Should Always Check Behind You Before Passing
It sounds basic, but this is a big issue on bike paths and roads alike. Too often, new riders will swing passed a pedestrian or slower rider without checking behind them for cars or other cyclists. Always look ahead and behind before pulling out.