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

how to get cycling
How to return to cyclingTara Moore - Getty Images

Riding a bike is something they say you never forget. Still, if you haven't cycled in a few years, or you've taken a break from cycling during the colder months, you might be a little nervous about taking to two wheels again.

Maybe you're getting back into cycling to get fit or stay healthy. Maybe you're keen to save money on transport or do your bit for the planet by choosing an environmentally friendly way to get from A to B. Whatever your motivation, we've put together some DOs and DON'Ts to help you get back on your bike.

DO: put time aside to choose the right bike

A new bike is an investment, so make sure you think carefully about what you need.

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 you 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.

how to get cycling
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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.

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 £15. 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.

how to get cycling
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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 Degreaser, an old toothbrush or a cheap set of bike cleaning brushes like the Mobi 5 Piece Brush Set and chain lubricant such as Halford's Muc-Off Bike Lube.

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

For £114.90 you can buy the top-scoring activity tracker we’ve tested: the Fitbit Charge 4 Advanced Fitness Tracker. Alternatively, the Honor Band 5 is a more affordable option at £28.34 and scored 81/100 when we reviewed it. You can check out our reviews of the best fitness trackers we tested, too.

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 comes with a rain guard and mounting bracket and is compatible with the iPhone X.

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