Photograph of three cyclists in Cheddar, Somerset
Cycling in Cheddar.

Decision made..

Cycling beginners are rarely that! The majority of us experience some cycling when we are young. However, things change as we get older. Good for you, though, you have decided that you would like to ride a bike and try cycling.  Maybe, like lots of us, you used to cycle as a child and want to get back into it. That is great news! This is the first step to an enjoyable pastime, better fitness and a lot more besides. Cycling will open new doors in many ways but, where do you begin?

Be careful not to spend too much money early on!

Many of us have bikes when we are young, only to lose interest in cycling as we move into our teenage years and our early 20’s. However, a lot of people then take up cycling again later in life as a means of getting a bit fitter. There is often a temptation among those who decide that cycling is a great idea to go out and blow substantial amounts of cash. Mainly  on a new bike and all the kit to go with it. Our advice is don’t! Set yourself a sensible budget at the outset and stick to it. A few hundred pounds should be ample initially. For that, you will probably get a decent quality used bike and some basic kit. You really do not need massive amounts of expensive equipment to figure out whether cycling is for you.

Picture of different styles of bicycle.
Bike choices

What should you buy?

A bewildering array of bikes is now available for different uses/disciplines and not all will be suitable for your needs by any means. There are Mountain bikes, Road bikes, Hybrid bikes, Fixed gear bikes, Town bikes, Folding bikes, BMX bikes, and more besides. Frame sizes vary considerably between manufacturers too and are extremely important to consider. Pedals should also figure in your thoughts – whether or not you want SPD/SL pedals with cleats or flat pedals of some description. The best starting point is to decide what you will primarily be using the bike for. It may be that you are intending to commute to work but, even that isn’t straight-forward. If, like me, your commute is semi-rural, there will be a variety of possible bikes to fit the circumstances. Town or city commuting is different and will involve negotiating a lot more traffic. So, thinking about what type of cycling you will be doing is crucial. If in doubt, canvass other cyclist’s opinions, read articles, blogs and websites or speak to bike retailers. Remember, the journey you are about to embark on has already been travelled by many, many others so, don’t think you are alone!

Photograph of Brompton folding commuter bike
Folding commuter bike

Where to find your first bike.

Following on from our previous comment about not spending vast amounts of cash, we suggest visiting your local bike shops to see if they offer pre-owned bikes. The advantages of visiting physical shops include being able to ride the bikes and get advice on the style of bike and frame size that you will require. Not only will bike shops sell bikes, of course, they will also supply the basic kit that you will probably want. On-line selling sites such as Ebay or Gumtree normally have lots of relevant listings. This will enable you to see what is available at reasonable prices second-hand. It is surprising how often you can benefit from other people who have rushed-in to buy expensive bikes and equipment. When they have decided that they don’t really fancy cycling after all, a bargain may be available! Local cycling clubs will generally have lots of members who have a lot more than one bike (trust me, I know). Maybe one of those members may feel it is time to part with one of their bikes.

Should you choose to buy new, don’t forget the Cyclescheme. A lot of employers already participate but, if yours doesn’t, it may be worth asking if they would consider it. For most people, using the scheme means at least a 25% saving off the price of bike and accessories.

Photograph of Giro bike helmet
Giro bike helmet

What is meant by “basic kit”?

Unless you are immediately going to enter the Tour de France, we would, yet again, advise you not to go “overboard” with kit purchases. Some basics are advisable if not essential, however. A cycle helmet being our first choice. Since you will be exercising, a water bottle or two is going to be vital. If you will be using your bike at night, then decent lights are also an essential. We would recommend that taking a basic toolkit with you if you are riding more than a few miles from home is also sensible. This need not be more than a spare inner tube, a mini pump or compressed air canister and a cycle multi-tool. Basically, just enough to enable you to “bodge” a repair in the event of a puncture or breakdown. Clearly, with the advent of mobile technology, it is now much easier to get rescued in the event of problems but, you never know. Speaking of mobile technology, you also don’t need to rush out and buy expensive cycle computers to monitor your progress. Your mobile phone will do a similar job if you download an app such as Strava (other apps are available).

Photograph of cube road bike against a low wall with a coffee cup in the foreground
Coffee time

Pick your initial routes carefully.

Once you have your bike and basic kit, get out on the road! Your first outings should be prepared and thought through. For those whose confidence is a little lacking, it is probably better to begin with off-road rides. Canal towpaths, parks where cycling is allowed, and dedicated cycle routes are great for getting used to your bike. Building confidence is really important. Maybe join a local cycle club that offers beginners or social rides. There are increasing numbers of cycling groups that cater for women only and for social rides. Many of these groups offer other opportunities for those who wish to progress in terms of skill and performance. Once your levels of confidence increase, the world is your oyster. Whatever form your cycling takes, we only hope that you enjoy it – because that is what it is all about.

Some further resources for those new to cycling:

Cycling UK

British cycling

Audax UK



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