We’ve been seeing a big increase in the number of new cyclists out and about since the lockdown, which is absolutely fantastic. Here at G!RO, we believe the power of the bike to enable many things - a sustainable mode of transport, a freedom machine to let you see new places, through to the fast and furious sport of bike racing.
We teamed up with our good mate Francis Cade to create a video to highlight our Top 7 Tips for New Riders On The Road!
Since there are so many people new to the sport, or spending more time out on bikes than in the past, we thought we’d take this time to give you a few tips about getting out and enjoying riding as safely as possible. Believe it or not, there’s a National Standard for riding on the road (see here), so some of these tips are taken from there, while others are more based on group riding and from our experience on the roads.
In normal times, we’d be running development rides which cover a lot of this information, but they’re not really feasible in the current situation, so without further ado here are our top tips!
As a cyclist, you have many of the same rights as any road user, but you also have the same responsibilities. This means you are allowed to ride on most roads unless they specify no cycling (though towards the end we’ll recommend which roads are better than others).
One common misconception is bike lanes - you do not have to use these if you feel it’d be better to just ride in the road. Ever seen one of those bike lanes that’s just a painted line 30cm from the curb, with a bunch of parked cars in it? Legally, you don’t need to use that, and it might not be a great idea anyway!
However, we do have the same responsibilities. This means stopping at red lights, pedestrian crossings, obeying lane markings and speed limits etc.
There are two main positions you can ride in on the road. These are called primary and secondary. The secondary position is the ‘default’ position, where you ride closer to the left hand side of the lane (though not right in the curb). This is a great position to be in if you’re riding on a wider road where there’s plenty of room to overtake, or in a narrow country lane to give room for oncoming drivers.
The primary position is basically joining the flow of traffic, and most often this is in the middle of the lane (or if the road is very narrow, the middle of the road). This is where you want to be if you don’t want to be overtaken, for example before a road narrowing.
It’s all about seeing and being seen, and making sure other road users don’t do things like overtake when there isn’t time or space to do so. For more on this, check out this British Cycling video (in fact, the whole Commute Smart series is great).
This is probably the most important one. Too often I see cyclists change road position or turn without looking behind, or miss seeing a pothole or a car stopping ahead. It’s super key to look a long way ahead to anticipate things changing, but also to check behind you often, and certainly before you want to do anything like move from secondary to primary position, or turn, join a new road etc.
There are 3 main ways you can communicate your intentions to other people on the road. Road positioning can be used as described above, and the other two are hand signals and eye contact. Hand signals for turning left or right should be clear and direct, and are pretty self explanatory.
Eye contact is probably the most powerful tool you have as a cyclist. It means you can be sure that you have seen each other, but it also serves to humanise both you and the driver. You’re not just a bike, and they’re not just a car. Some eye contact and a smile goes a long way!
If you don’t feel confident taking your hands off the handlebars, eye contact and using your head can do the same job. For example, if you want to turn right, checking often over your right shoulder lets you see if there’s anyone there, but also lets them know you’re likely to want to turn right (and will change your road position accordingly).
According to the Highway Code, riding two abreast is absolutely fine (this may shock some motorists…) In fact, apart from it being nice to be able to chat while riding, it can be safer in some situations, as it makes you more visible to other road users, and easier to overtake, especially in groups. For example, a group of six cyclists in a single file requires twice the overtaking time than 6 cyclists in 3 pairs.
However, the Highway Code does say that you shouldn’t ride more than two abreast, and to ride in single file on narrow/busy roads and when going around bends. There’s no definition for what constitutes narrow or busy here, so a bit of common sense is required.
If there’d be plenty of room for a safe overtake riding single file, it’d be considerate to let drivers come past in that case, but if not, riding two abreast, or in primary position if by yourself is likely the better option.
This is much better done on video, so check out Francis’ video for these! Hand signals can be a good way to point out holes etc, without having a loud chorus of “HOLE” to wake up the locals on early bunch rides…
“But you just said use hand signals?!”
Calling hazards is sometimes the better option though, especially in a group and when moving at speed, or if you don’t want to take your hands off the bars. Remember to call the location (i.e. “hole Left”, “hole right”, “hole middle”). Loudness of call seems to indicate severity of hazard in most groups…
While you might have the right to ride on an A Road it's often not the most pleasant experience (I’m looking at you, people who ride on the A244 to Leatherhead), and can make other road users pretty grumpy if there’s a long line of slow moving traffic. We’re lucky int he UK that we have a huge variety of picturesque lanes to ride in, so hit up your riding buddies for ideas or check out our Local Loops section of our website. We’ll be adding to this regularly so come back for more! Route planners like Komoot are great, but always sense check the routes they spin out.
We hope this has been helpful, and as ever we encourage discussion! If you’ve got any more tips or questions, leave them in the comments of the video or on our instagram, or don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime , check out our how to Vids on YouTube :
Looking forward to seeing you at the cafe soon!
The team at G!RO xx