Cycle skills training: cycling

Thinking about getting back on your bike? Did you know you can request a free session in the borough where you live, work or study? We sent Amy to a training session and here’s what she thought. 

Hi Amy, what led you to trying a ‘Cycle Skills’ training session?

Amy: As a child, I used to love cycling. Pedalling down the quiet country lanes of North Yorkshire was all about fun and freedom but, when I moved to London, I didn’t know my way around and the thought of cycling on busy roads made me think it wasn’t for me.

But after 7 years, I started to wonder whether I should re-think. I’d done the odd ride around local parks over the years, but I wanted more of a challenge. Cycling to work offered a healthier way of travelling, so I booked myself onto a free training session.

Sounds great! So, how did you get on?

Amy: Out-of-practice, anxious cyclists are their business, so it didn’t faze Niall, my trainer, when I arrived feeling a bit nervous. His friendly manner put me at ease straight away. Our initial conversation about my previous cycling experience meant he got a better idea about my ability and confidence and could customise the session accordingly.

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Where did you start with the training session?

Amy: The first thing Niall showed me was how to choose the right bike and adjust it to make it a comfortable fit. I’d borrowed a Bikeworks bike which meant adjusting the seat height before doing anything else.

Niall also taught me this one-minute ABCD safety check list that you should run through before heading out:

  • Air – give your tyres a squeeze to check they have enough air
  • Brakes – make sure front and back brakes are in full working order
  • Chain – if it’s not going round smoothly, something isn’t right
  • Direction (handlebars) – make sure they’re not loose before you go

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Brilliant! So were you ready to get started on your bike? 

I was and there’s nothing like a bit of off-road cycling to get you used to things! It was helpful to have the first part of the session dedicated to simple cycling and not having to worry about cars. Riding around in circles gets you used to the saddle and allows your trainer to show you how to stop and start in the ‘ready’ position. This is how you need to start when you’re at a set of traffic lights, for instance.

There’s no point in cycling if you don’t know how to stop, so it was handy to learn how to emergency brake. Most importantly, how to emergency brake without crying, flying over the handlebars or panicking! It was reassuring to know just how quickly and safely you can stop your bike if you need to.

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It sounds like you learned a lot. What came next?

Next up was something of a circus act. You are taught how to signal and do ‘lifesaver checks’ so that you know how and when to check for drivers and other cyclists near you, and also to let them know if you’re turning into another road. But it requires the ability to keep an arm outstretched, cycle in a straight line and not fall off. Fortunately, this was all done off-road and it didn’t take too long to get the hang of it.

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Great. So you were ready to hit the road?

Once you’re comfortable with everything you’ve learned, you’ll move onto a ‘real’ road. My road wasn’t very busy but it was still a road, which made a big difference. Niall explained the key rules of the road, like how to position myself when stationary and when moving off, and why. A few cars drove past as I cycled and I think I handled it well.

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How were you feeling by the end of the session?

Amy: By the end of the training I had gone from ‘Bikeability’ level 0.0 (no previous training completed), to 2.10 (making a U-turn), and I had a much calmer approach to cycling.

I completed a ‘Basic’ cycle skills session but there are more advanced sessions available too. The ‘Urban’ cycle skills sessions are for regular cyclists who want to improve their ability, and the ‘Advanced’ ones are for experienced cyclists who want to improve how they deal with challenging situations, such as complex junctions and cycling at night.

I’d definitely recommend trying out a session – not only was it fun but it has made me much more comfortable with the thought of road cycling. I’m not quite ready to commute to work, but I feel like I will be soon with a bit more practice.

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Many boroughs offer more than just a few hours free training too, meaning once you’ve mastered the basics you can move onto more challenging cycling.

You can find out more about ‘Cycle Skills’ training or request a free session in the borough where you live, work or study

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