Something you need to know before getting on your bike
From the right kit to safety tips, bicycle expert Helen Pidd on everything you need to know before taking off on two wheels.
Work those thighs Cycling is great exercise, and saves you having to go to the gym. It will really firm your bottom and thighs. Sometimes women worry they’ll end up with big thunder thighs, but it’s unlikely unless you cycle 400 miles a week.
Find the right bike If you get a bike that doesn’t fit you, you won’t ride it. Take a bike-knowledgeable friend with you, so you don’t get pressured into buying something expensive. I live in a flat up two flights of stairs, and so I’ve got a bike that’s not too heavy – you need to think practically. Buy from your local bike shop, because if something goes wrong they’re always there
Get waterproofed Mudguards are essential. Not all bikes come with them already on, but you can get them fitted quite easily. Get a waterproof jacket – it doesn’t have to be luminous yellow and rustling. It just needs to cover your bottom
Plan your route Seek out quiet roads. Cycling can save so much time on your journey. I live four miles from my office and if I go on public transport it takes me up to an hour. Cycling takes me only 20 minutes. See cycle-route.com
What not to wear Are you in the Tour de France? If the answer is no, you don’t need Lycra. The main thing is to wear something breathable, and something that won’t expose your knickers. People are put off cycling by the hideous Lycra outfits, but when you get into a car you don’t wear a Michael Schumacher jumpsuit – so why dress like Lance Armstrong?
Carry on Avoid a rucksack because you’ll get a sweaty back. Get a rack fitted to the back of your bike so you can use panniers. Or an old-fashioned basket at the front – as long as you haven’t got drop handlebars – is a great idea. I just use a satchel; I like the old-school look
Safe cycling Cycle in a position on the road where drivers can see you. Nervous cyclists go right up to the kerb, but the golden rule is that if you’re behind a truck and can’t see their mirrors, they can’t see you. Never ever go up on the inside of a lorry. If you’re at a junction, they may turn left and hit you
Lock it Theft is an occupational hazard of owning a bike, but it’s not inevitable. You need to spend at least 10 per cent of the cost of your bike on a lock. Never leave your bike in the shadows. Bikes are normally stolen outside railways stations or cinemas. Go 100 yards down the road and lock your bike outside a restaurant
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