What you need to know before you get back on a bike

·4-min read
Photo credit: pixdeluxe - Getty Images
Photo credit: pixdeluxe - Getty Images

Cycling has always been a healthy and eco-friendly way to get around, but since the pandemic started, it's arguably been safer than public transport. It's no wonder then that more cyclists hit the road during lockdown, reaching 3.84 times the normal level on May 5, according to government statistics.

Women are said to have spearheaded this trend, with cycling app Strava seeing a 108% rise in uploads by women between the ages of 18 and 29.

Restrictions might be easing, but it's not too late to save money and enjoy the many health benefits cycling has to offer. We’ve put together a list of cycling Dos and Don’ts to help you get back in the saddle.

DO put time aside to choose the right bike

If you don’t already own a bike, think carefully about how – and where – you will use it before you settle on a new ride. Mountain bikes generally tend to be heavier with chunky tyres that make short work of rougher terrain. They’re a better choice if you’ll be riding along your local towpath or on off-road tracks. Road bikes are lighter, faster and have thinner tyres. They may suit you better if plan to do a lot of cycling on roads – on a commute to work, for instance. Hybrid bikes, as you might expect, combine elements of the two. If you’re unsure, ask for advice at your local bike shop.

Photo credit: Unsplash
Photo credit: Unsplash

DO spread the cost of buying a bike through a ‘cycle to work’ scheme

If your employer is signed up to a cycle to work scheme, you can pay for the cost of a new bike out of your salary before tax and National Insurance contributions are deducted. You can also spread the cost of a new bike by paying for it in monthly instalments taken out of your pay check as salary sacrifice payments.

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DON’T splash out on loads of flashy kit

If you want to deck yourself out in head-to-toe co-ordinated lycra, more power to you. But the reality is you don’t need much more than a bike and a helmet if you’re venturing back onto two wheels.

‘The great thing about cycling is that you don’t need lots of fancy kit or equipment,’ notes Christina Bengston from the charity Cycling UK. ‘There’s no need to whip out the lycra! Any clothing will do but bear in mind that baggy clothes can get caught in your bike chain. It’s also sensible to bring along a puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, a pump and some tyre levers.’

You can pick up a basic puncture repair kit and tyre levers for less than £5. A compact bike pump will set you back around £10. If you’ve no idea what you’d do with these if you did get a puncture, Cycling UK has a ‘how to’ guide that will show you how to deal with it well enough to get to the nearest bike shop.

If you’ll be riding in the dark, be sure to pick up some good bike lights. The more visible you are on the road, the safer you will be. Rechargeable ones are a good investment if you plan to cycle regularly.

DO pick up a few tips on bike maintenance

Cleaning your bike regularly will help to keep it working as it should. Again, the Cycling UK website has pointers. As well as a bucket and a sponge, you’ll need a degreaser to clean the bike chain such as Weldtite Pure Degreaser (£5.99 for 250ml), an old toothbrush or a cheap set of bike cleaning brushes like the Mobi 5 Piece Brush Set (£14.99) and chain lubricant such as Halford's Muc-Off Bike Lube (£9.99 for 120ml).

DO use an activity tracker to see how well you’re doing

For £129.99 you can buy the top-scoring activity tracker we’ve tested: the Fitbit Charge 3 (90/100). Alternatively, the Huawei Band 3 Pro is a more affordable option at £79.99 and scored 83/100 when we reviewed it.

DON’T get lost!

If you’re not going to be cycling the same route day-in, day-out, or you’re not confident about finding your way on two wheels, use your smartphone and Google Maps as a cycling satnav. You’ll need a bike mount for your phone, preferably one with a waterproof cover in case it rains on your pedal-powered parade. The Tigra Sport MountCase 2 (£22.95) comes with a rain guard and mounting bracket and is compatible with the iPhone X.

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