Cycling tips for beginners

Woman cycling with her two children on a family cycle

Meet Jacqui. 👋 She started cycling on her paper round at 10 year’s old. Today, she’s a London cycle instructor, cycle buddy, and runs free social rides for British Cycling’s Breeze program. Check out her tips for getting started, staying safe and feeling confident cycling in London. 🚲

My cycling journey

I came to London as a student, fell in love with the City and stayed. I’ve always cycled to commute and to take my family around London – when they were young, we had a fabulous family bike which had space for the baby on the front, my older one on the back, and still left room for the week’s shopping! 😮

After the 2012 Olympics, I got a place in the first Surrey 100 cycle ride – a 100-mile route through traffic-free London and Surrey. With six months to go, I was terrified and started cycling more to prepare. I happily completed the ride and loved the experience, so I trained to become a cycle instructor to share my passion and help others start their cycling journey safely. 👏

Woman and daughter at Ride London

So, if you’re ready to try cycling, follow these tips to start with confidence:

1. Do some cycle training

TfL offers free online Cycle Skills training for all levels. ✅

You can also try a cycle training session from your local council. You’ll build skills to help your decision-making on the roads and can use your instructor’s local knowledge to plan your routes. 🗺️

Wheels for Wellbeing also offer free training for children with mobility requirements and training sessions for adults for a small fee.

2. Try before you buy

Person cycling past a Santander Cycles docking station

You can start cycling with Santander Cycles. Find a local docking station, hire your cycle and off you go! 🟢

Many local councils also offer a three-month cycle trial, from £10 a month for kids, £20 for adult cycles, £50 for electric and £100 for cargo and accessible cycles. If you love your rented ride, you can buy it at a discounted rate after the trial. ❤️

You can also try a range of accessible cycle options with Wheels for Wellbeing.

Be sure to explore your options if you’re committed to buying a new or second-hand cycle. Trusted sellers should be able to answer all your questions and confirm that all the necessary checks have been performed. 🔧

3. Fit your helmet securely

Helmets aren’t compulsory, but I recommend that you wear one. You should be able to fit a couple of fingers between the strap and your chin. Most helmets can also be adjusted to fit your head securely and comfortably. Your helmet fits properly if it moves with you when you shake your head. 🚴

4. Look, signal, move

A top cycling tip – always cover your brakes with a couple of fingers so you’re ready to respond to any situation while cycling. Relax your arms and shoulders so you can stay light on the handlebars and ready to react.

Like driving, remember to look behind you before any manoeuvre. Signal with your arm and then move in your chosen direction.

5. Lock your cycle

Woman using a cycle parking hanger London

There are thousands of places to park your cycle in London. Whether you use parking at stations, or on or off-street parking, make sure you lock both wheels and the frame. Don’t forget to check that the structure you’re locking to is strong and secure too!

6. Take your time

Don’t try too much, too soon. Just like any sport, you should build up stamina gently. 🕰️

If you have a specific destination in mind, like cycling to work or school, give yourself time to practice the route to make sure you have a more relaxed first ride. 🔁

Cycle at your own pace but stay mindful of other road users and always slow down for corners.

7. Be visible

This is one of the most important cycling tips – wear reflective clothing when cycling after dark! This is so you can be seen by drivers and pedestrians. 👀

Remember to charge your lights or bring spare batteries – cycle lights are a legal requirement at night. You should have a white light at the front, a red light at the back, and reflectors. 💡

Keep lights on during the day too – rain, sleet, fog, snow and even just a low sun in the sky can all reduce how visible you are to others.

8. Look after your cycle

If you own your cycle, start out with good habits – remember to check it regularly and give it a wipe down after every ride. 🧽

Clean your cycle and dry it with a cloth or towel and use a spray of degreaser to remove any dirt or grime from the moving parts. Add lube to the chain and gears once a month to keep things moving smoothly. 💯

Get your cycle serviced every winter for total peace of mind. ❄️

9. Dress for the weather

It rains so much less than you think, and rarely when you’re cycling. If it does happen, increase your braking distance and take care with puddles as they could be deeper than you think. 💧

Plan for the weather with sunglasses or a waterproof – sometimes both! 😎 🌧️

10. Use the cycle lanes

Cyclists in a cycle lane alongside the River Thames

Find new cycling routes or research your current route using TfL’s cycle map. 📍

Transport for All is also a great resource for accessible cyclists, offering advice to help find the best route.

Official cycle routes can be quicker and quieter. They might be just one street over from your usual route but will help you avoid lights and traffic. I like to come back on a different route to the one I went out on – you’ll be amazed at how many options there are!

There’s a great route around Hyde Park and down Constitution Hill to the Houses of Parliament. You can also carry on to Tower Bridge if you want to. It’s fantastic to have a safe cycle route past some of the most iconic views of London! 🙌

11. Explore new areas

Alexandra Palace and trees in Alexandra Palace Park

A few years ago, I cycled to every London postcode to understand the City better. Each area has a different feel and cycling is a great way to explore and connect with the places that you pass through. There are endless opportunities to stop and take photos or visit somewhere new. 📸

Some of my favourite places to go cycling are:

Back to basics

Spare 5 minutes? Check out our video series with more quick tips to help you get started cycling.

Share your tips

Comment below and let us know your tips and advice for new cyclists! 💬👇